Laser-guided direct writing of living cells

David J. Odde, Michael J. Renn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

260 Scopus citations


To perform their myriad functions, tissues use specific cell-cell interactions that depend on the spatial ordering of multiple cell types. Recapitulating this spatial order in vitro will facilitate our understanding of function and failure in native and engineered tissue. One approach to achieving such high placement precision is to use optical forces to deposit cells directly. Toward this end, recent work with optical forces has shown that a wide range of particulate materials can be guided and deposited on surfaces to form arbitrary spatial patterns. Here we report that, when we use the light from a near-infrared diode laser focused through a low numerical aperture lens, individual embryonic chick spinal cord cells can be guided through culture medium and deposited on a glass surface to form small clusters of cells. In addition, we found that the laser light could be coupled into hollow optical fibers and that the cells could be guided inside the fibers over millimeter distances. The demonstration of fiber-based guidance extends by 2 orders of magnitude the distance over which optical manipulation can be performed with living cells. Cells guided into the fiber remained viable, as evidenced by normal cell adhesion and neurite outgrowth after exposure to the laser light. The results indicate that this particle deposition process, which we call 'laser-guided direct writing,' can be used to construct patterned arrays of tens to hundreds of cells using arbitrary numbers of cell types placed at arbitrary positions with micrometer-scale precision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-318
Number of pages7
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 5 2000


  • Cell patterning
  • Fiber optics
  • Microfabrication
  • Optical forces
  • Tissue engineering


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