bims-orenst Biomed News
on Organs-on-chips and engineered stem cell models
Issue of 2021‒03‒07
eleven papers selected by
Joram Mooiweer
University of Groningen

  1. Biosens Bioelectron. 2021 Feb 09. pii: S0956-5663(21)00117-2. [Epub ahead of print]179 113080
      In vitro model of the human cardiac tissues generated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) could facilitate drug discovery and patient-specific studies of physiology and disease. However, the immature state of hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) compared to adult myocardium is a key defect that must be overcome to enable the potential applications of hiPSC-CMs in drug testing. For this purpose, we developed a heart-on-a-chip device that contains microfluidic channels for long-term dynamic culture of cells, platinum wire electrodes for electrical stimulation of hiPSC-CMs, and gold electrode arrays as acquisition electrodes for real-time recording electrophysiological signals of cardiac tissues. Human iPSC-CMs cultured on biocompatible hydrogels in the chip chamber can be electrically stimulated to prompt the maturation of cardiomyocytes (CMs) and generate functional cardiac tissues. Drug tests were performed with calcium transient measurements to evaluate drug responsiveness of electrical stimulated and unstimulated cardiac tissues. The results show that only the electrical-stimulated cardiac tissues respond correctly to drug treatment of verapamil and isoprenaline, indicating the reliability of this engineered cardiac tissues for drug testing. The above integrated heart-on-a-chip device provides a promising platform for drug efficacy testing and cardiactoxicity.
    Keywords:  Cardiac tissue engineering; Heart-on-a-chip; Local field potentials; Stimulation and recording; hiPSC-CMs
  2. Nat Protoc. 2021 Mar 05.
      Advanced in vitro kidney models are of great importance to the study of renal physiology and disease. Kidney tubuloids can be established from primary cells derived from adult kidney tissue or urine. Tubuloids are three-dimensional multicellular structures that recapitulate tubular function and have been used to study infectious, malignant, metabolic, and genetic diseases. For tubuloids to more closely represent the in vivo kidney, they can be integrated into an organ-on-a-chip system that has a more physiological tubular architecture and allows flow and interaction with vasculature or epithelial and mesenchymal cells from other organs. Here, we describe a detailed protocol for establishing tubuloid cultures from tissue and urine (1-3 weeks), as well as for generating and characterizing tubuloid cell-derived three-dimensional tubular structures in a perfused microfluidic multi-chip platform (7 d). The combination of the two systems yields a powerful in vitro tool that better recapitulates the complexity of the kidney tubule with donor-specific properties.
  3. Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2020 ;8 611802
      Metastasis is the primary cause of a large number of cancer-associated deaths. By portraying the precise environment of the metastasis process in vitro, the microfluidic system provides useful insights on the mechanisms underlying cancer cell migration, invasion, colonization, and the procurement of supplemental nutrients. However, current in vitro metastasis models are biased in studying blood vessel-based metastasis pathways and thus the understanding of lymphatic metastasis is limited which is also closely related to the inflammatory system. To understand the effects of inflammatory cytokines in lymphatic metastasis, we developed a three-channel microfluidic system by mimicking the lymph vessel-tissue-blood vessel (LTB) structure. Based on the LTB chip, we successfully confirmed the inflammatory cytokine, interleukin 6 (IL-6), -mediated intercellular communication in the tumor microenvironment during lymphatic metastasis. The IL-6 exposure to different subtypes of breast cancer cells was induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and improved tissue invasion property (8-fold). And the growth of human vein endothelial cells toward the lymph vessel channel was observed by VEGF secretion from human lymphatic endothelial cells with IL-6 treatment. The proposed LTB chip can be applied to analyze the intercellular communication during the lymphatic metastasis process and be a unique tool to understand the intercellular communication in the cancer microenvironment under various extracellular stimuli such as inflammatory cytokines, stromal reactions, hypoxia, and nutrient deficiency.
    Keywords:  angiogenesis; cancer metastasis; circulating tumor cells; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; lymph vessel; microfluidics
  4. Biomicrofluidics. 2021 Jan;15(1): 014110
      Perfused three-dimensional (3D) cultures enable long-term in situ growth and monitoring of 3D organoids making them well-suited for investigating organoid development, growth, and function. One of the limitations of this long-term on-chip perfused 3D culture is unintended and disruptive air bubbles. To overcome this obstacle, we invented an imaging platform that integrates an innovative microfluidic bubble pocket for long-term perfused 3D culture of gastrointestinal (GI) organoids. We successfully applied 3D printing technology to create polymer molds that cast polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) culture chambers in addition to bubble pockets. Our developed platform traps unintended, or induced, air bubbles in an integrated PDMS pocket chamber, where the bubbles diffuse out across the gas permeable PDMS or an outlet tube. We demonstrated that our robust platform integrated with the novel bubble pocket effectively circumvents the development of bubbles into human and mouse GI organoid cultures during long-term perfused time-course imaging. Our platform with the innovative integrated bubble pocket is ideally suited for studies requiring long-term perfusion monitoring of organ growth and morphogenesis as well as function.
  5. Cell Mol Bioeng. 2021 Feb;14(1): 89-99
      Introduction: Adipose tissue and adipocytes are primary regulators of insulin sensitivity and energy homeostasis. Defects in insulin sensitivity of the adipocytes predispose the body to insulin resistance (IR) that could lead to diabetes. However, the mechanisms mediating adipocyte IR remain elusive, which emphasizes the need to develop experimental models that can validate the insulin signaling pathways and discover new mechanisms in the search for novel therapeutics. Currently in vitro adipose organ-chip devices show superior cell function over conventional cell culture. However, none of these models represent disease states. Only when these in vitro models can represent both healthy and disease states, they can be useful for developing therapeutics. Here, we establish an organ-on-chip model of insulin-resistant adipocytes, as well as characterization in terms of insulin signaling pathway and lipid metabolism.Methods: We differentiated, maintained, and induced insulin resistance into primary adipocytes in a microfluidic organ-on-chip. We then characterized IR by looking at the insulin signaling pathway and lipid metabolism, and validated by studying a diabetic drug, rosiglitazone.
    Results: We confirmed the presence of insulin resistance through reduction of Akt phosphorylation, Glut4 expression, Glut4 translocation and glucose uptake. We also confirmed defects of disrupted insulin signaling through reduction of lipid accumulation from fatty acid uptake and elevation of glycerol secretion. Testing with rosiglitazone showed a significant improvement in insulin sensitivity and fatty acid metabolism as suggested by previous reports.
    Conclusions: The adipose-chip exhibited key characteristics of IR and can serve as model to study diabetes and facilitate discovery of novel therapeutics.
    Keywords:  Adipocytes; Diabetes; Glucose metabolism; Insulin resistance; Lipolysis; Microfluidics; Organ on chips
  6. Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 01. 11(1): 4920
      A novel, integrated, in vitro gastrointestinal (GI) system is presented to study oral bioavailability parameters of small molecules. Three compartments were combined into one hyphenated, flow-through set-up. In the first compartment, a compound was exposed dynamically to enzymatic digestion in three consecutive microreactors, mimicking the processes of the mouth, stomach, and intestine. The resulting solution (chyme) continued to the second compartment, a flow-through barrier model of the intestinal epithelium allowing absorption of the compound and metabolites thereof. The composition of the effluents from the barrier model were analysed either offline by electrospray-ionisation-mass spectrometry (ESI-MS), or online in the final compartment using chip-based ESI-MS. Two model drugs, omeprazole and verapamil, were used to test the integrated model. Omeprazole was shown to be broken down upon treatment with gastric acid, but reached the cell barrier unharmed when introduced to the system in a manner emulating an enteric-coated formulation. In contrast, verapamil was unaffected by digestion. Finally, a reduced uptake of verapamil was observed when verapamil was introduced to the system dissolved in apple juice, a simple food matrix. It is envisaged that this integrated, compartmentalised GI system has potential for enabling future research in the fields of pharmacology, toxicology, and nutrition.
  7. ACS Sens. 2021 Mar 03.
      Various cancer metastasis models based on organ-on-a-chip platforms have been established to study molecular mechanisms and screen drugs. However, current platforms can neither reveal hypoxia-induced cancer metastasis mechanisms nor allow drug screening under a hypoxia environment on a multiorgan level. We have developed a three-dimensional-culture multiorgan microfluidic (3D-CMOM) platform in which the dissolved oxygen concentration can be precisely controlled. An organ-level lung cancer and liver linkage model was established under normoxic/hypoxic conditions. A transcriptomics analysis of the hypoxia-induced lung cancer cells (A549 cells) on the platform indicated that the hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) pathway could elevate epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) transcription factors (Snail 1 and Snail 2), which could promote cancer metastasis. Then, protein detection demonstrated that HIF-1α and EMT transcription factor expression levels were positively correlated with the secretion of cancer metastasis damage factors alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (γ-GT) from liver cells. Furthermore, the cancer treatment effects of HIF-1α inhibitors (tirapazamine, SYP-5, and IDF-11774) were evaluated using the platform. The treatment effect of SYP-5 was enhanced under the hypoxic conditions with fewer side effects, similar to the findings of TPZ. We can envision its wide application in future investigations of cancer metastasis and screening of drugs under hypoxic conditions with the potential to replace animal experiments.
    Keywords:  3D culture; cancer metastasis; drug screen; hypoxia; microfluidic chip
  8. Materials (Basel). 2021 Feb 16. pii: 935. [Epub ahead of print]14(4):
      The movement of collective cells is affected through changes in physical interactions of cells in response to external mechanical stimuli, including fluid flow. Most tissues are affected by fluid flow at the interstitial level, but few studies have investigated the physical effects in collective cells affected by a low flow rate. In this study, collective cell migration of Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cells was investigated under static or interstitial flow (0, 0.1, and 1 μL/min) using a traction microfluidic device. The optimization of calculation of cellular traction forces was first achieved by changing interrogation window size from the fluorescent bead images. Migration analysis of cell collectives patterned with a 700 μm circular shape reveals that cells under the slow flow (0.1 and 1 μL/min) showed the inhibitory migration by decreasing cell island size and cellular speed compared to that of static condition. Analysis of cellular forces shows that level of traction forces was lower in the slow flow condition (~20 Pa) compared to that of static condition (~50 Pa). Interestingly, the standard deviation of traction force of cells was dramatically decreased as the flow rate increased from 0 to 1 μL/min, which indicates that flow affects the distribution of cellular traction forces among cell collectives. Cellular tension was increased by 50% in the cells under the fluid flow rate of 1 μL/min. Treatment of calcium blocker increased the migratory speed of cells under the flow condition, whereas there is little change of cellular forces. In conclusion, it has been shown that the interstitial flow inhibited the collective movement of epithelial cells by decreasing and re-distributing cellular forces. These findings provide insights into the study of the effect of interstitial flow on cellular behavior, such as development, regeneration, and morphogenesis.
    Keywords:  MDCK; collective cell migration; fluid flow; microfluidics; monolayer stress microscopy; traction force microscopy
  9. Micromachines (Basel). 2021 Feb 12. pii: 184. [Epub ahead of print]12(2):
      The transport and deposition of micro/nanoparticles in the lungs under respiration has an important impact on human health. Here, we presented a real-scale alveolar chip with movable alveolar walls based on the microfluidics to experimentally study particle transport in human lung alveoli under rhythmical respiratory. A new method of mixing particles in aqueous solution, instead of air, was proposed for visualization of particle transport in the alveoli. Our novel design can track the particle trajectories under different force conditions for multiple periods. The method proposed in this study gives us better resolution and clearer images without losing any details when mapping the particle velocities. More detailed particle trajectories under multiple forces with different directions in an alveolus are presented. The effects of flow patterns, drag force, gravity and gravity directions are evaluated. By tracing the particle trajectories in the alveoli, we find that the drag force contributes to the reversible motion of particles. However, compared to drag force, the gravity is the decisive factor for particle deposition in the alveoli.
    Keywords:  alveolar chip; dynamic similarity; high-speed camera; microfluidics; particle tracking
  10. Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 01. 11(1): 4876
      Jawbone differs from other bones in many aspects, including its developmental origin and the occurrence of jawbone-specific diseases like MRONJ (medication-related osteonecrosis of the jaw). Although there is a strong need, adequate in vitro models of this unique environment are sparse to date. While previous approaches are reliant e.g. on scaffolds or spheroid culture, 3D bioprinting enables free-form fabrication of complex living tissue structures. In the present work, production of human jawbone models was realised via projection-based stereolithography. Constructs were bioprinted containing primary jawbone-derived osteoblasts and vasculature-like channel structures optionally harbouring primary endothelial cells. After 28 days of cultivation in growth medium or osteogenic medium, expression of cell type-specific markers was confirmed on both the RNA and protein level, while prints maintained their overall structure. Survival of endothelial cells in the printed channels, co-cultured with osteoblasts in medium without supplementation of endothelial growth factors, was demonstrated. Constructs showed not only mineralisation, being one of the characteristics of osteoblasts, but also hinted at differentiation to an osteocyte phenotype. These results indicate the successful biofabrication of an in vitro model of the human jawbone, which presents key features of this special bone entity and hence appears promising for application in jawbone-specific research.
  11. Anal Methods. 2021 Mar 01.
      Ex vivo brain slice cultures are utilized as analytical models for studying neurophysiology. Common approaches to maintaining slice cultures include roller tube and membrane interface techniques. The rise of organ-on-chip technologies has demonstrated the value of microfluidic perfusion culture systems for sampling and analysis of complex biology under well-controlled in vitro or ex vivo conditions. A number of approaches to microfluidic brain slice culture have been developed, however these typically involve complex design, fabrication, or operational parameters in order to meet the high oxygen demands of brain slices. Here, we present proof-of-principle for a novel approach to microfluidic brain slice culture. In this system, which we term a microfluidic bubble perfusion device, principles of droplet microfluidics were employed to generate droplets of perfusion media dispersed between bubbles of carbogen gas, and brain tissue slices were perfused with the resulting monodispersed droplets and bubbles. The challenge of tissue immobilization in the flow system was addressed using a two-part cytocompatible carbohydrate-based tissue adhesive. Best practices are discussed for perfusion chamber designs that maintain segmented flow throughout the course of perfusion. Control of droplet and bubble volumes was possible across the range of ca. 4-15 μL, bubble generation frequency was well controlled in the range ca. 1-7 bubbles per min, and bubble duty cycle was well controlled across the range ca. 20-80%. Murine hypothalamic tissue slices containing the suprachiasmatic nuclei were successfully maintained for durations of 8-10 hours, with tissue remaining viable for the duration of perfusion as assessed by Ca2+ imaging and propidium iodide (PI) staining.