Tissue engineering and cell transplantation therapy have become promising therapies for intractable diseases. These approaches require cell separation technology without cell modification. Accordingly, in this study, we developed a novel cell separation method using a thermoresponsive block copolymer brush with an affinity peptide. A block copolymer brush with bottom poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate [HEMA]-co-propargyl acrylate) and top poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-co-HEMA) segments was prepared through two steps of atom transfer radical polymerization. Then, cell affinity peptides were conjugated to the bottom segment of the copolymer brush through a click reaction. Using cRGD as a cell-Affinity peptide, enhancement of cell adhesion with rapid adhesion on the copolymer brush was observed at 37 °C, whereas the copolymer brush without cRGD did not exhibit cell adhesion. Temperature-modulated cell adhesion and detachment were performed with a relatively long upper segment because the affinity between peptides and cells was modulated by the swelling and shrinking of the upper thermoresponsive segment. Selective endothelial cell adhesion was performed at 37 °C using GGGREDV as an affinity peptide. Smooth muscle cells and fibroblasts did not adhere to the copolymer brush. Adhered human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were successfully recovered by reducing the temperature to 20 °C. Based on the properties of the copolymer brush, HUVECs could be purified using a mixture of cells simply by changing the temperature. These results demonstrated that the prepared copolymer brush with cell affinity peptides could be a useful cell separation tool because the cells could be separated with specificity and without cell modification using a simple procedure.
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