bims-orenst Biomed News
on Organs-on-chips and engineered stem cell models
Issue of 2021‒01‒31
ten papers selected by
Joram Mooiweer
University of Groningen

  1. Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 26. 11(1): 2281
      In vitro neuronal models are essential for studying neurological physiology, disease mechanisms and potential treatments. Most in vitro models lack controlled vasculature, despite its necessity in brain physiology and disease. Organ-on-chip models offer microfluidic culture systems with dedicated micro-compartments for neurons and vascular cells. Such multi-cell type organs-on-chips can emulate neurovascular unit (NVU) physiology, however there is a lack of systematic data on how individual cell types are affected by culturing on microfluidic systems versus conventional culture plates. This information can provide perspective on initial findings of studies using organs-on-chip models, and further optimizes these models in terms of cellular maturity and neurovascular physiology. Here, we analysed the transcriptomic profiles of co-cultures of human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived neurons and rat astrocytes, as well as one-day monocultures of human endothelial cells, cultured on microfluidic chips. For each cell type, large gene expression changes were observed when cultured on microfluidic chips compared to conventional culture plates. Endothelial cells showed decreased cell division, neurons and astrocytes exhibited increased cell adhesion, and neurons showed increased maturity when cultured on a microfluidic chip. Our results demonstrate that culturing NVU cell types on microfluidic chips changes their gene expression profiles, presumably due to distinct surface-to-volume ratios and substrate materials. These findings inform further NVU organ-on-chip model optimization and support their future application in disease studies and drug testing.
  2. ACS Appl Bio Mater. 2021 Jan 18. 4(1): 669-681
      The performance of supramolecular nanocarriers as drug delivery systems depends on their stability in the complex and dynamic biological media. After administration, nanocarriers are challenged by physiological barriers such as shear stress and proteins present in blood, endothelial wall, extracellular matrix, and eventually cancer cell membrane. While early disassembly will result in a premature drug release, extreme stability of the nanocarriers can lead to poor drug release and low efficiency. Therefore, comprehensive understanding of the stability and assembly state of supramolecular carriers in each stage of delivery is the key factor for the rational design of these systems. One of the main challenges is that current 2D in vitro models do not provide exhaustive information, as they fail to recapitulate the 3D tumor microenvironment. This deficiency in the 2D model complexity is the main reason for the differences observed in vivo when testing the performance of supramolecular nanocarriers. Herein, we present a real-time monitoring study of self-assembled micelles stability and extravasation, combining spectral confocal microscopy and a microfluidic cancer-on-a-chip. The combination of advanced imaging and a reliable 3D model allows tracking of micelle disassembly by following the spectral properties of the amphiphiles in space and time during the crucial steps of drug delivery. The spectrally active micelles were introduced under flow and their position and conformation continuously followed by spectral imaging during the crossing of barriers, revealing the interplay between carrier structure, micellar stability, and extravasation. Integrating the ability of the micelles to change their fluorescent properties when disassembled, spectral confocal imaging and 3D microfluidic tumor blood vessel-on-a-chip resulted in the establishment of a robust testing platform suitable for real-time imaging and evaluation of supramolecular drug delivery carrier's stability.
  3. Biofabrication. 2021 Jan 29.
      Scalable fabrication concepts of 3D kidney tissue models are required to enable their application in pharmaceutical high-throughput screenings. Yet the reconstruction of complex tissue structures remains technologically challenging. We present a novel concept reducing the fabrication demands, by using controlled cellular self-assembly to achieve higher tissue complexities from significantly simplified construct designs. We used drop-on-demand bioprinting to fabricate locally confined patterns of renal epithelial cells embedded in a hydrogel matrix. These patterns provide defined local cell densities (cell count variance < 11 %) with high viability (92 ± 2 %). Based on these patterns, controlled self-assembly leads to the formation of renal spheroids and nephron-like tubules with a predefined size and spatial localization. With this, we fabricated scalable arrays of hollow epithelial spheroids. The spheroid sizes correlated with the initial cell count per unit and could be stepwise adjusted, ranging from Ø = 84, 104, 120 to 131 µm in diameter (size variance < 9 %). Furthermore, we fabricated scalable line-shaped patterns, which self-assembled to hollow cellular tubules (Ø = 105 ± 22 µm). These showed a continuous lumen with prescribed orientation, lined by an epithelial monolayer with tight junctions. Additionally, upregulated expression of kidney-specific functional genes compared to 2D cell monolayers indicated increased tissue functionality, as revealed by mRNA sequencing. Furthermore, our concept enabled the fabrication of hybrid tubules, which consisted of arranged subsections of different cell types, combining murine and human epithelial cells. Finally, we integrated the self-assembled fabrication into a microfluidic chip and achieved fluidic access to the lumen at the terminal sites of the tubules. With this, we realized flow conditions with a wall shear stress of 0.05 ± 0.02 dyne/cm² driven by hydrostatic pressure for scalable dynamic culture towards a nephron-on-chip model.
    Keywords:  Bioprinting; Cellular Self-Assembly; Fluidic Integration; Nephron Tubules; Renal Cell Models; Scalable Fabrication; Spheroids
  4. Sci Adv. 2021 Jan;pii: eabd9749. [Epub ahead of print]7(5):
      Demyelinating diseases involve loss of myelin sheaths and eventually lead to neurological problems. Unfortunately, the precise mechanisms remain unknown, and there are no effective therapies. To overcome these limitations, a reliable and physiologically relevant in vitro model is required. Here, we present a three-dimensional peripheral nervous system (PNS) microfluidic platform that recapitulates the full spectrum of myelination, demyelination, and remyelination using primary Schwann cells (SCs) and motor neurons (MNs). The platform enables reproducible hydrogel patterning and long-term stable coculture of MNs and SCs over 40 days in vitro based on three distinct design factors. Furthermore, the on-demand detachable substrate allows in-depth biological analysis. We demonstrated the possibility of mimicking segmental demyelination by lysophosphatidylcholine, and recovery of myelin structure by application of two drugs: benzatropine or methylcobalamin. This 3D PNS disease-on-a-chip may serve as a potential platform for understanding the pathophysiology of demyelination and screening drugs for remyelination.
  5. APL Bioeng. 2021 Mar;5(1): 016102
      The formation of healthy vascularized granulation tissue is essential for rapid wound closure and the prevention of chronic wounds in humans, yet how endothelial cells and fibroblasts coordinate during this process has been difficult to study. Here, we have developed an in vitro system that reveals how human endothelial and stromal cells in a 3D matrix respond during wound healing and granulation tissue formation. By creating incisions in engineered cultures composed of human umbilical vein endothelial cells and human lung fibroblasts embedded within a 3D matrix, we observed that these tissues are able to close the wound within approximately 4 days. Live tracking of cells during wound closure revealed that the process is mediated primarily by fibroblasts. The fibroblasts migrate circumferentially around the wound edge during early phases of healing, while contracting the wound. The fibroblast-derived matrix is, then, deposited into the void, facilitating fibroblast migration toward the wound center and filling of the void. Interestingly, the endothelial cells remain at the periphery of the wound rather than actively sprouting into the healing region to restore the vascular network. This study captures the dynamics of endothelial and fibroblast-mediated closure of three-dimensional wounds, which results in the repopulation of the wound with the cell-derived extracellular matrix representative of early granulation tissue, thus presenting a model for future studies to investigate factors regulating vascularized granulation tissue formation.
  6. Adv Healthc Mater. 2021 Jan 29. e2001706
      Gradients in mechanical properties, physical architecture and biochemical composition exist in a variety of complex tissues, yet 3D in vitro models that enable investigation of these cues on cellular processes, especially those contributing to vascularization of engineered tissues are limited. Here, a photopolymerization approach to create cell-laden hydrogel biomaterials with decoupled and combined gradients in modulus, immobilized cell adhesive peptide (RGD) concentration, and proteolytic degradation enabling spatial encapsulation of vascular spheroids is reported to elucidate their impact on vascular sprouting in 3D culture. Vascular spheroids encapsulated in these gradient scaffolds exhibit spatial variations in total sprout length. Scaffolds presenting an immobilized RGD gradient promote biased vascular sprouting toward increasing RGD concentration. Importantly, biased sprouting is found to be dependent on immobilized RGD gradient characteristics, including magnitude and slope, with increases in these factors contributing to significant enhancements in biased sprouting responses. Conversely, reduction in biased sprouting responses is observed in combined gradient scaffolds possessing opposing gradients in RGD and modulus. The presented work is the first to demonstrate the use of a cell-laden biomaterial platform to systematically investigate the role of multiple scaffold gradients as well as gradient slope, magnitude and orientation on vascular sprouting responses in 3D culture.
    Keywords:  gradient materials; hydrogels; poly(ethylene glycol); spheroids; vascularization
  7. Med (N Y). 2021 Jan 15. 2(1): 74-98.e9
      Background: The gut microbiome plays an important role in human health and disease. Gnotobiotic animal and in vitro cell-based models provide some informative insights into mechanistic crosstalk. However, there is no existing system for a long-term co-culture of a human colonic mucosal barrier with super oxygen-sensitive commensal microbes, hindering the study of human-microbe interactions in a controlled manner.Methods: Here, we investigated the effects of an abundant super oxygen-sensitive commensal anaerobe, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, on a primary human mucosal barrier using a Gut-MIcrobiome (GuMI) physiome platform that we designed and fabricated.
    Findings: Long-term continuous co-culture of F. prausnitzii for two days with colon epithelia, enabled by continuous flow of completely anoxic apical media and aerobic basal media, resulted in a strictly anaerobic apical environment fostering growth of and butyrate production by F. prausnitzii, while maintaining a stable colon epithelial barrier. We identified elevated differentiation and hypoxia-responsive genes and pathways in the platform compared with conventional aerobic static culture of the colon epithelia, attributable to a combination of anaerobic environment and continuous medium replenishment. Furthermore, we demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects of F. prausnitzii through HDAC and the TLR-NFKB axis. Finally, we identified that butyrate largely contributes to the anti-inflammatory effects by downregulating TLR3 and TLR4.
    Conclusions: Our results are consistent with some clinical observations regarding F. prausnitzii, thus motivating further studies employing this platform with more complex engineered colon tissues for understanding the interaction between the human colonic mucosal barrier and microbiota, pathogens, or engineered bacteria.
  8. Small. 2021 Jan 27. e2006050
      Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most lethal primary brain tumor characterized by high cellular and molecular heterogeneity, hypervascularization, and innate drug resistance. Cellular components and extracellular matrix (ECM) are the two primary sources of heterogeneity in GBM. Here, biomimetic tri-regional GBM models with tumor regions, acellular ECM regions, and an endothelial region with regional stiffnesses patterned corresponding to the GBM stroma, pathological or normal brain parenchyma, and brain capillaries, are developed. Patient-derived GBM cells, human endothelial cells, and hyaluronic acid derivatives are used to generate a species-matched and biochemically relevant microenvironment. This in vitro study demonstrates that biophysical cues are involved in various tumor cell behaviors and angiogenic potentials and promote different molecular subtypes of GBM. The stiff models are enriched in the mesenchymal subtype, exhibit diffuse invasion of tumor cells, and induce protruding angiogenesis and higher drug resistance to temozolomide. Meanwhile, the soft models demonstrate enrichment in the classical subtype and support expansive cell growth. The three-dimensional bioprinting technology utilized in this study enables rapid, flexible, and reproducible patient-specific GBM modeling with biophysical heterogeneity that can be employed by future studies as a tunable system to interrogate GBM disease mechanisms and screen drug compounds.
    Keywords:  3D printing; angiogenesis; biophysical regulation; glioblastoma; stiffness
  9. Small. 2021 Jan 27. e2004282
      Cancer immunotherapies, including immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI)-based therapies, have revolutionized cancer treatment. However, patient response to ICIs is highly variable, necessitating the development of methods to quickly assess efficacy. In this study, an array of miniaturized bioreactors has been developed to model tumor-immune interactions. This immunotherapeutic high-throughput observation chamber (iHOC) is designed to test the effect of anti-PD-1 antibodies on cancer spheroid (MDA-MB-231, PD-L1+) and T cell (Jurkat) interactions. This system facilitates facile monitoring of T cell inhibition and reactivation using metrics such as tumor infiltration and interleukin-2 (IL-2) secretion. Status of the tumor-immune interactions can be easily captured within the iHOC by measuring IL-2 concentration using a micropillar array where sensitive, quantitative detection is allowed after antibody coating on the surface of array. The iHOC is a platform that can be used to model and monitor cancer-immune interactions in response to immunotherapy in a high-throughput manner.
    Keywords:  cancer immunotherapy; cancer-on-a-chip; drug screening; high-throughput observation chamber; immune checkpoint inhibitors
  10. Lab Chip. 2021 Jan 25.
      Label-free, three-dimensional (3D) quantitative observations of on-chip vasculogenesis were achieved using optical diffraction tomography. Exploiting 3D refractive index maps as an intrinsic imaging contrast, the vascular structures, multicellular activities, and subcellular organelles of endothelial cells were imaged and analysed throughout vasculogenesis to characterise mature vascular networks without exogenous labelling.