Macrophages play crucial roles in various immune-related responses, such as host defense, wound healing, disease progression, and tissue regeneration. Macrophages perform distinct and dynamic functions in vivo, depending on their polarization states, such as the pro-inflammatory M1 phenotype and pro-healing M2 phenotype. Remote manipulation of the adhesion of host macrophages to the implants and their subsequent polarization in vivo can be an attractive strategy to control macrophage polarization-specific functions but has rarely been achieved. In this study, we grafted RGD ligand-bearing superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) to a planar matrix via a long flexible linker. We characterized the nanoscale motion of the RGD-bearing SPIONs grafted to the matrix, in real time by in situ magnetic scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) and in situ atomic force microscopy. The magnetic field was applied at various oscillation frequencies to manipulate the frequency-dependent ligand nano-oscillation speeds of the RGD-bearing SPIONs. We demonstrate that a low oscillation frequency of the magnetic field stimulated the adhesion and M2 polarization of macrophages, whereas a high oscillation frequency suppressed the adhesion of macrophages but promoted their M1 polarization, both in vitro and in vivo. Macrophage adhesion was also temporally regulated by switching between the low and high frequencies of the oscillating magnetic field. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of the remote manipulation of the adhesion and polarization phenotype of macrophages, both in vitro and in vivo. Our system offers the promising potential to manipulate host immune responses to implanted biomaterials, including inflammation or tissue reparative processes, by regulating macrophage adhesion and polarization.
Keywords: Ligand nano-oscillations; macrophage adhesion; macrophage polarization; remote manipulation; SPION