bims-orenst Biomed News
on Organs-on-chips and engineered stem cell models
Issue of 2021‒03‒21
ten papers selected by
Joram Mooiweer
University of Groningen

  1. Biofabrication. 2021 Mar 18.
      Bone metastases occur in 65-80% advanced breast cancer patients. Although significant progresses have been made in understanding the biological mechanisms driving the bone metastatic cascade, traditional 2D in vitro models and animal studies are not effectively reproducing breast cancer cells (CCs) interactions with the bone microenvironment and suffer from species-specific differences, respectively. Moreover, simplified in vitro models cannot realistically estimate drug anti-tumoral properties and side effects, hence leading to pre-clinical testing frequent failures. To solve this issue, a 3D metastatic bone minitissue is designed with embedded human osteoblasts, osteoclasts, bone-resident macrophages, endothelial cells and breast CCs. This minitissue recapitulates key features of the bone metastatic niche, including the alteration of macrophage polarization and microvascular architecture, along with the induction of CC micrometastases and osteomimicry. The minitissue reflects breast CC organ-specific metastatization to bone compared to a muscle minitissue. Finally, two FDA approved drugs, doxorubicin and rapamycin, have been tested showing that the dose required to impair CC growth is significantly higher in the metastatic bone minitissue compared to a simpler CC monoculture minitissue. The metastatic bone minitissue allows the investigation of metastasis key biological features and represents a reliable tool to better predict drug effects on the metastatic bone microenvironment.
    Keywords:  3D in vitro models; bone metastases; bone-tumor interactions; breast cancer; drug efficacy
  2. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2021 Mar 19.
      The ability of cells to sense and respond to mechanical signals from their surrounding microenvironments is one of the key issues in tissue engineering and regeneration, yet a fundamental study of cells with both cell observation and mechanical stimulus is challenging and should be based upon an appropriate microdevice. Herein we designed and fabricated a two-layer microfluidic chip to enable simultaneous observation of live cells and cyclic stretching of an elastic polymer, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), with a modified surface for enhanced cell adhesion. Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) were examined with a series of frequencies from 0.00003 to 2 Hz and varied amplitudes of 2%, 5%, or 10%. The cells with an initial random orientation were confirmed to be reoriented perpendicular to the stretching direction at frequencies greater than a threshold value, which we term critical frequency (fc); additionally, the critical frequency fc was amplitude-dependent. We further introduced the concept of critical stretching rate (Rc) and found that this quantity can unify both frequency and amplitude dependences. The reciprocal value of Rc in this study reads 8.3 min, which is consistent with the turnover time of actin filaments reported in the literature, suggesting that the supramolecular relaxation in the cytoskeleton within a cell might be responsible for the underlying cell mechanotransduction. The theoretical calculation of cell reorientation based on a two-dimensional tensegrity model under uniaxial cyclic stretching is well consistent with our experiments. The above findings provide new insight into the crucial role of critical frequency and critical stretching rate in regulating cells on biomaterials under biomechanical stimuli.
    Keywords:  biomaterials; biomechanics; cell reorientation; cell−material interaction; cytoskeleton; microfluidics; polymer; supramolecular relaxation
  3. Acta Biomater. 2021 Mar 10. pii: S1742-7061(21)00145-8. [Epub ahead of print]
      Cardiac arrhythmias impact over 12 million people globally, with an increasing incidence of acquired arrhythmias. Although animal models have shed light onto fundamental arrhythmic mechanisms, species-specific differences and ethical concerns remain. Current human models using human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) either lack the higher order tissue organization of the heart or implement unreliable arrhythmia induction techniques. Our goal was to develop a robust model of acquired arrhythmia by disrupting cardiomyocyte cell-cell signaling - one of the hallmarks of complex arrhythmias. Human 3D microtissues were generated by seeding hydrogel-embedded hiPSC-CMs and cardiac fibroblasts into an established microwell system designed to enable active and passive force assessment. Cell-cell signaling was disrupted using methyl-beta cyclodextrin (MBCD), previously shown to disassemble cardiac gap junctions. We demonstrate that arrhythmias were progressive and present in all microtissues within 5 days of treatment. Arrhythmic tissues exhibited reduced conduction velocity, an increased number of distinct action potentials, and reduced action potential cycle length. Arrhythmic tissues also showed significant reduction in contractile force generation, increased beating frequency, and increased passive tension and collagen deposition, in line with fibrosis. A subset of tissues with more complex arrhythmias exhibited 3D spatial differences in action potential propagation. Pharmacological and electrical defibrillation was successful. Transcriptomic data indicated an enrichment of genes consistent with cardiac arrhythmias. MBCD removal reversed the arrhythmic phenotype, resulting in synchronicity despite not resolving fibrosis. This innovative & reliable human-relevant 3D acquired arrhythmia model shows potential for improving our understanding of arrhythmic action potential conduction and furthering therapeutic development. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: : This work describes a 3D human model of cardiac arrhythmia-on-a-chip with high reproducibility, fidelity, and extensive functional applicability. To mimic in vivo conditions, human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) and cardiac fibroblasts from healthy controls were combined in a biocompatible fibrin hydrogel and seeded between two deflectable polymeric rods. Using the innate functional properties of this 3D model as well as advanced optical imaging techniques we demonstrated dramatic changes in contraction rate, synchronicity, and electrophysiological conduction in arrhythmic tissues relative to controls. Taken together, these data demonstrate the distinctive potential of this new model for pathophysiological studies, and for arrhythmia drug testing applications.
    Keywords:  3D Optical mapping; Arrhythmia-on-a-Chip; Arrhythmogenic syndromes; Cardiac tissue engineering; Drug testing, Disease-in-a-dish; Induced pluripotent stem cells
  4. Adv Sci (Weinh). 2021 Mar;8(5): 2001100
      The generation of structurally standardized human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived neural embryonic tissues has the potential to model genetic and environmental mediators of early neurodevelopmental defects. Current neural patterning systems have so far focused on directing cell fate specification spatio-temporally but not morphogenetic processes. Here, the formation of a structurally reproducible and highly-organized neuroepithelium (NE) tissue is directed from hPSCs, which recapitulates morphogenetic cellular processes relevant to early neurulation. These include having a continuous, polarized epithelium and a distinct invagination-like folding, where primitive ectodermal cells undergo E-to-N-cadherin switching and apical constriction as they acquire a NE fate. This is accomplished by spatio-temporal patterning of the mesoendoderm, which guides the development and self-organization of the adjacent primitive ectoderm into the NE. It is uncovered that TGFβ signaling emanating from endodermal cells support tissue folding of the prospective NE. Evaluation of NE tissue structural dysmorphia, which is uniquely achievable in the model, enables the detection of apical constriction and cell adhesion dysfunctions in patient-derived hPSCs as well as differentiating between different classes of neural tube defect-inducing drugs.
    Keywords:  human pluripotent stem cells; micropatterning; morphogenesis; neurodevelopmental defects; neuroepithelium
  5. Commun Biol. 2021 Mar 19. 4(1): 361
      Radiation therapy for head and neck cancers causes salivary gland dysfunction leading to permanent xerostomia. Limited progress in the discovery of new therapeutic strategies is attributed to the lack of in vitro models that mimic salivary gland function and allow high-throughput drug screening. We address this limitation by combining engineered extracellular matrices with microbubble (MB) array technology to develop functional tissue mimetics for mouse and human salivary glands. We demonstrate that mouse and human salivary tissues encapsulated within matrix metalloproteinase-degradable poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogels formed in MB arrays are viable, express key salivary gland markers, and exhibit polarized localization of functional proteins. The salivary gland mimetics (SGm) respond to calcium signaling agonists and secrete salivary proteins. SGm were then used to evaluate radiosensitivity and mitigation of radiation damage using a radioprotective compound. Altogether, SGm exhibit phenotypic and functional parameters of salivary glands, and provide an enabling technology for high-content/throughput drug testing.
  6. Food Chem Toxicol. 2021 Mar 12. pii: S0278-6915(21)00140-X. [Epub ahead of print] 112107
      Toxicant exposure can induce acute or chronic alterations in cellular numbers, morphology, and cell function. The quantification of these parameters can provide valuable information regarding a toxicant's effect and /or mechanism of action in organ-on-a-chip toxicity testing platforms. Unfortunately, manual quantification can be variable and time consuming. Additionally, the unique designs of Organ-Chips make automated imaging difficult as current microscopes were not specifically designed for Organ-Chip use. The development of semi-automated and automated imaging and quantification procedures greatly increases the quantity and quality of collected data. Using Emulate's transparent liver Organ-Chip (Liver-Chip) in combination with Keyence's bench-top BZ-X700 All-in-one fluorescence microscope we have developed semi-automated imaging and automated quantification methods for nuclei, mitochondrial viability, and apoptosis. The methods described here provide alternative imaging options to more costly and space consuming microscopes while still providing necessary features for Organ-Chip evaluation. We were able to detect significant decreases in nuclear number and mitochondrial membrane potential, and significant increases in apoptosis with a model hepatotoxic compound, benzbromarone. These methods have greatly reduced the time and increased the quality of cell number/function data acquisition and demonstrated that these automated quantification methods can detect changes resulting from chemical exposure.
    Keywords:  Benzbromarone exposure; Cytoplasmic quantification; Liver Organ-Chip; Nuclei quantification; Semi-automated imaging methods; bench top fluorescence microscope
  7. Methods Mol Biol. 2021 ;2294 111-132
      Cancer metastasis is a multistep process during which tumor cells leave the primary tumor mass and form distant secondary colonies that are lethal. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are transported by body fluids to reach distant organs, where they will extravasate and either remain dormant or form new tumor foci. Development of methods to study the behavior of CTCs at the late stages of the intravascular journey is thus required to dissect the molecular mechanisms at play. Using recently developed microfluidics approaches, we have demonstrated that CTCs arrest intravascularly, through a two-step process: (a) CTCs stop using low energy and rapidly activated adhesion receptors to form transient metastable adhesions and (b) CTCs stabilize their adhesions to the endothelial layer with high energy and slowly activated adhesion receptors. In this methods chapter, we describe these easy-to-implement quantitative methods using commercially available microfluidic channels. We detail the use of fast live imaging combined to fine-tuned perfusion to measure the adhesion potential of CTC depending on flow velocities. We document how rapidly engaged early metastable adhesion can be discriminated from slower activated stable adhesion using microfluidics. Finally, CTC extravasation potential can be assessed within this setup using long-term cell culture under flow. Altogether, this experimental pipeline can be adapted to probe the adhesion (to the endothelial layer) and extravasation potential of any circulating cell.
    Keywords:  Adhesion; Circulating tumor cells (CTCs); Extravasation; Live imaging; Metastasis; Microfluidics
  8. Brain Commun. 2020 ;2(2): fcaa139
      Recent meta-analyses of genome-wide association studies identified a number of genetic risk factors of Alzheimer's disease; however, little is known about the mechanisms by which they contribute to the pathological process. As synapse loss is observed at the earliest stage of Alzheimer's disease, deciphering the impact of Alzheimer's risk genes on synapse formation and maintenance is of great interest. In this article, we report a microfluidic co-culture device that physically isolates synapses from pre- and postsynaptic neurons and chronically exposes them to toxic amyloid β peptides secreted by model cell lines overexpressing wild-type or mutated (V717I) amyloid precursor protein. Co-culture with cells overexpressing mutated amyloid precursor protein exposed the synapses of primary hippocampal neurons to amyloid β1-42 molecules at nanomolar concentrations and induced a significant decrease in synaptic connectivity, as evidenced by distance-based assignment of postsynaptic puncta to presynaptic puncta. Treating the cells with antibodies that target different forms of amyloid β suggested that low molecular weight oligomers are the likely culprit. As proof of concept, we demonstrate that overexpression of protein tyrosine kinase 2 beta-an Alzheimer's disease genetic risk factor involved in synaptic plasticity and shown to decrease in Alzheimer's disease brains at gene expression and protein levels-selectively in postsynaptic neurons is protective against amyloid β1-42-induced synaptotoxicity. In summary, our lab-on-a-chip device provides a physiologically relevant model of Alzheimer's disease-related synaptotoxicity, optimal for assessing the impact of risk genes in pre- and postsynaptic compartments.
    Keywords:  Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid β; co-culture; microfluidics; synapses
  9. Cells Tissues Organs. 2021 Mar 18. 1-11
      Human neutrophils are highly sensitive to the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), the agent of Lyme disease (LD), in tissues. Although Bb is also found in the blood of LD patients, far less is known about how neutrophils respond to Bb in the presence of blood. In this study, we employed microfluidic tools to probe the interaction between human neutrophils and Bb and measured the activation of human neutrophils in blood samples from patients. We found that neutrophils migrate vigorously toward Bb in the presence of serum, and this process was complement-dependent. Preventing complement factor 5 cleavage or blocking complement receptors decreased neutrophil's ability to interact with Bb. We also found that spiking Bb directly into the blood from healthy donors induced spontaneous neutrophil motility. This response to Bb was also complement-dependent. Preventing complement factor 5 cleavage decreased spontaneous neutrophil motility in Bb-spiked blood. Moreover, we found that neutrophils in blood samples from acute LD patients displayed spontaneous motility patterns similar to those observed in Bb-spiked samples. Neutrophil motility was more robust in blood samples from LD patients than that measured in healthy and ill controls, validating the utility of the microfluidic assay for the study of neutrophil-Bb interactions in the presence of blood.
    Keywords:  Borrelia burgdorferi; Complement; Lyme disease; Microfluidic; Neutrophil; Oscillation; Phagocytosis; Positive feed-back; Spontaneous migration
  10. Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2021 ;9 639070
      Microfluidic technology enables recapitulation of organ-level physiology to answer pertinent questions regarding biological systems that otherwise would remain unanswered. We have previously reported on the development of a novel product consisting of human placental cells (PLC) engineered to overexpress a therapeutic factor VIII (FVIII) transgene, mcoET3 (PLC-mcoET3), to treat Hemophilia A (HA). Here, microfluidic devices were manufactured to model the physiological shear stress in liver sinusoids, where infused PLC-mcoET3 are thought to lodge after administration, to help us predict the therapeutic outcome of this novel biological strategy. In addition to the therapeutic transgene, PLC-mcoET3 also constitutively produce endogenous FVIII and von Willebrand factor (vWF), which plays a critical role in FVIII function, immunogenicity, stability, and clearance. While vWF is known to respond to flow by changing conformation, whether and how shear stress affects the production and secretion of vWF and FVIII has not been explored. We demonstrated that exposure of PLC-mcoET3 to physiological levels of shear stress present within the liver sinusoids significantly reduced mRNA levels and secreted FVIII and vWF when compared to static conditions. In contrast, mRNA for the vector-encoded mcoET3 was unaltered by flow. To determine the mechanism responsible for the observed decrease in FVIII and vWF mRNA, PCR arrays were performed to evaluate expression of genes involved in shear mechanosensing pathways. We found that flow conditions led to a significant increase in KLF2, which induces miRNAs that negatively regulate expression of FVIII and vWF, providing a mechanistic explanation for the reduced expression of these proteins in PLC under conditions of flow. In conclusion, microfluidic technology allowed us to unmask novel pathways by which endogenous FVIII and vWF are affected by shear stress, while demonstrating that expression of the therapeutic mcoET3 gene will be maintained in the gene-modified PLCs upon transplantation, irrespective of whether they engraft within sites that expose them to conditions of shear stress.
    Keywords:  FVIII; gene therapy; mRNA; miRNA; microfluidics; shear stress; vWF