bims-orenst Biomed News
on Organs-on-chips and engineered stem cell models
Issue of 2021‒04‒04
fourteen papers selected by
Joram Mooiweer
University of Groningen

  1. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021 ;11 638014
      Commensal bacteria within the gut microbiome contribute to development of host tolerance to infection, however, identifying specific microbes responsible for this response is difficult. Here we describe methods for developing microfluidic organ-on-a-chip models of small and large intestine lined with epithelial cells isolated from duodenal, jejunal, ileal, or colon organoids derived from wild type or transgenic mice. To focus on host-microbiome interactions, we carried out studies with the mouse Colon Chip and demonstrated that it can support co-culture with living gut microbiome and enable assessment of effects on epithelial adhesion, tight junctions, barrier function, mucus production, and cytokine release. Moreover, infection of the Colon Chips with the pathogenic bacterium, Salmonella typhimurium, resulted in epithelial detachment, decreased tight junction staining, and increased release of chemokines (CXCL1, CXCL2, and CCL20) that closely mimicked changes previously seen in mice. Symbiosis between microbiome bacteria and the intestinal epithelium was also recapitulated by populating Colon Chips with complex living mouse or human microbiome. By taking advantage of differences in the composition between complex microbiome samples cultured on each chip using 16s sequencing, we were able to identify Enterococcus faecium as a positive contributor to host tolerance, confirming past findings obtained in mouse experiments. Thus, mouse Intestine Chips may represent new experimental in vitro platforms for identifying particular bacterial strains that modulate host response to pathogens, as well as for investigating the cellular and molecular basis of host-microbe interactions.
    Keywords:  gut; infection; intestine; microbiome; microfluidic; tolerance
  2. Nat Protoc. 2021 Mar 31.
      Owing to their high spatiotemporal precision and adaptability to different host cells, organ-on-a-chip systems are showing great promise in drug discovery, developmental biology studies and disease modeling. However, many current micro-engineered biomimetic systems are limited in technological application because of culture media mixing that does not allow direct incorporation of techniques from stem cell biology, such as organoids. Here, we describe a detailed alternative method to cultivate millimeter-scale functional vascularized tissues on a biofabricated platform, termed 'integrated vasculature for assessing dynamic events', that enables facile incorporation of organoid technology. Utilizing the 3D stamping technique with a synthetic polymeric elastomer, a scaffold termed 'AngioTube' is generated with a central microchannel that has the mechanical stability to support a perfusable vascular system and the self-assembly of various parenchymal tissues. We demonstrate an increase in user familiarity and content analysis by situating the scaffold on a footprint of a 96-well plate. Uniquely, the platform can be used for facile connection of two or more tissue compartments in series through a common vasculature. Built-in micropores enable the studies of cell invasion involved in both angiogenesis and metastasis. We describe how this protocol can be applied to create both vascularized cardiac and hepatic tissues, metastatic breast cancer tissue and personalized pancreatic cancer tissue through incorporation of patient-derived organoids. Platform assembly to populating the scaffold with cells of interest into perfusable functional vascularized tissue will require 12-14 d and an additional 4 d if pre-polymer and master molds are needed.
  3. J Colloid Interface Sci. 2021 Mar 17. pii: S0021-9797(21)00346-5. [Epub ahead of print]594 409-423
      HYPOTHESIS: The selective permeation of molecules and nanomedicines across the diseased vasculature dictates the success of a therapeutic intervention. Yet, in vitro assays cannot recapitulate relevant differences between the physiological and pathological microvasculature. Here, a double-channel microfluidic device was engineered to comprise vascular and extravascular compartments connected through a micropillar membrane with tunable permeability.EXPERIMENTS: The vascular compartment was coated by endothelial cells to achieve permeability values ranging from ~0.1 μm/sec, following a cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) pre-treatment (25 μg/mL), up to ~2 μm/sec, upon exposure to Mannitol, Lexiscan or in the absence of cells. Fluorescent microscopy was used to monitor the vascular behavior of 250 kDa Dextran molecules, 200 nm polystyrene nanoparticles (PB), and 1,000 × 400 nm discoidal polymeric nanoconstructs (DPN), under different permeability and flow conditions.
    FINDINGS: In the proposed on-chip microvasculature, it was confirmed that permeation enhancers could favor the perivascular accumulation of ~200 nm, in a dose and time dependent fashion, while have no effect on larger particles. Moreover, the microfluidic device was used to interrogate the role of particle deformability in vascular dynamics. In the presence of a continuous endothelium, soft DPN attached to the vasculature more avidly at sub-physiological flows (100 μm/sec) than rigid DPN, whose deposition was larger at higher flow rates (1 mm/sec). The proposed double-channel microfluidic device can be efficiently used to systematically analyze the vascular behavior of drug delivery systems to enhance their tissue specific accumulation.
    Keywords:  Microfluidic; Nanoparticles; Permeability; Vascular adhesion
  4. Micromachines (Basel). 2021 Mar 23. pii: 346. [Epub ahead of print]12(3):
      Microfluidics is an essential technique used in the development of in vitro models for mimicking complex biological systems. The microchip with microfluidic flows offers the precise control of the microenvironment where the cells can grow and structure inside channels to resemble in vivo conditions allowing a proper cellular response investigation. Hence, this study aimed to develop low-cost, simple microchips to simulate the shear stress effect on the human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC). Differentially from other biological microfluidic devices described in the literature, we used readily available tools like heat-lamination, toner printer, laser cutter and biocompatible double-sided adhesive tapes to bind different layers of materials together, forming a designed composite with a microchannel. In addition, we screened alternative substrates, including polyester-toner, polyester-vinyl, glass, Permanox® and polystyrene to compose the microchips for optimizing cell adhesion, then enabling these microdevices when coupled to a syringe pump, the cells can withstand the fluid shear stress range from 1 to 4 dyne cm2. The cell viability was monitored by acridine orange/ethidium bromide (AO/EB) staining to detect live and dead cells. As a result, our fabrication processes were cost-effective and straightforward. The materials investigated in the assembling of the microchips exhibited good cell viability and biocompatibility, providing a dynamic microenvironment for cell proliferation. Therefore, we suggest that these microchips could be available everywhere, allowing in vitro assays for daily laboratory experiments and further developing the organ-on-a-chip concept.
    Keywords:  HUVEC- human umbilical vein endothelial cell line; glass; organ-on-chip; polyester-toner; polyester-vinyl; polystyrene; shear stress
  5. Acta Biomater. 2021 Mar 27. pii: S1742-7061(21)00196-3. [Epub ahead of print]
      The reliability of conventional cell culture studies to evaluate biomaterials is often questioned, as in vitro outcomes may contradict results obtained through in vivo assays. Microfluidics technology has the potential to reproduce complex physiological conditions by allowing for fine control of microscale features such as cell confinement and flow rate. Having a continuous flow during cell culture is especially advantageous for bioactive biomaterials such as calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite (HA), which may otherwise alter medium composition and jeopardize cell viability, potentially producing false negative results in vitro. In this work, HA was integrated into a microfluidics-based platform (HA-on-chip) and the effect of varied flow rates (2, 8 and 14 µl/min, corresponding to 0.002, 0.008 and 0.014 dyn/cm2, respectively) was evaluated. A HA sample placed in a well plate (HA-static) was included as a control. While substantial calcium depletion and phosphate release occurred in static conditions, the concentration of ions in HA-on-chip samples remained similar to those of fresh medium, particularly at higher flow rates. Pre-osteoblast-like cells (MC3T3-E1) exhibited a significantly higher degree of proliferation on HA-on-chip (8 μl/min flow rate) as compared to HA-static. However, cell differentiation, analysed by alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, showed low values in both conditions. This study indicates that cells respond differently when cultured on HA under flow compared to static conditions, which indicates the need for more physiologically relevant methods to increase the predictive value of in vitro studies used to evaluate biomaterials. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: There is a lack of correlation between the results obtained when testing some biomaterials under cell culture as opposed to animal models. To address this issue, a cell culture method with slightly enhanced physiological relevance was developed by incorporating a biomaterial, known to regenerate bone, inside of a microfluidic platform that enabled a continuous supply of cell culture medium. Since the utilized biomaterial interacts with surrounding ions, the perfusion of medium allowed for shielding of these changes similarly as would happen in the body. The experimental outcomes observed in the dynamic platform were different than those obtained with standard static cell culture systems, proving the key role of the platform in the assessment of biomaterials.
    Keywords:  Calcium phosphate cement; flow; in vitro; on-chip; shear stress
  6. Stem Cells Dev. 2021 Mar 31.
      Directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC) use a growing number of small molecules and growth factors required for in vitro generation of renal lineage cells. Although current protocols are relatively inefficient and require expensive agents. The first objective of the present work was to establish a new differentiation protocol for generating renal precursors. We sought to determine if inducer of definite endoderm 1 (IDE1), a cost-effective small molecule, can be used to replace activin¬¬ A. Gene expression data showed significantly increased expressions of nephrogenic markers in cells differentiated with 20 nM IDE1 compared with cells differentiated with activin A. Thus, renal lineage cells could be generated by this alternative approach. Afterward, we determined whether co-culture of endothelial and mesenchymal cells could increase the maturation of three dimensional (3D) renal structures. For this purpose, we employed a 3D co-culture system in which hPSC-derived kidney precursors were co-cultured with endothelial cells (ECs) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), hereafter named RMEM. hPSC-derived kidney precursors were cultured either alone (renal micro-tissue [RM]) or in co-culture with human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hBMMSCs) at an approximate ratio of 10:7:2, respectively. Immunofluorescent staining showed expressions of kidney specific markers synaptopodin, LTL, and E-cadherin, as well as CD31+ ECs that were distributed throughout the RMEMs. qRT- PCR analysis confirmed a significant increase in gene expressions of the renal-specific markers in RMEMs compared with RMs. These findings demonstrated that renal precursors co-cultured with endothelial and MSCs showed greater maturity compared with RMs. Moreover, ex ovo transplantation induced further maturation in the RMEM constructs. Our novel approach enabled the generation of RMEM that could potentially be used in high-throughput drug screening and nephrotoxicology studies.
  7. Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2021 ;9 647031
      The stromal microenvironment of breast tumors, namely the vasculature, has a key role in tumor development and metastatic spread. Tumor angiogenesis is a coordinated process, requiring the cooperation of cancer cells, stromal cells, such as fibroblasts and endothelial cells, secreted factors and the extracellular matrix (ECM). In vitro models capable of capturing such complex environment are still scarce, but are pivotal to improve success rates in drug development and screening. To address this challenge, we developed a hybrid alginate-based 3D system, combining hydrogel-embedded mammary epithelial cells (parenchymal compartment) with a porous scaffold co-seeded with fibroblasts and endothelial cells (vascularized stromal compartment). For the stromal compartment, we used porous alginate scaffolds produced by freeze-drying with particle leaching, a simple, low-cost and non-toxic approach that provided storable ready-to-use scaffolds fitting the wells of standard 96-well plates. Co-seeded endothelial cells and fibroblasts were able to adhere to the surface, spread and organize into tubular-like structures. For the parenchymal compartment, a designed alginate gel precursor solution load with mammary epithelial cells was added to the pores of pre-vascularized scaffolds, forming a hydrogel in situ by ionic crosslinking. The 3D hybrid system supports epithelial morphogenesis in organoids/tumoroids and endothelial tubulogenesis, allowing heterotypic cell-cell and cell-ECM interactions, while presenting excellent experimental tractability for whole-mount confocal microscopy, histology and mild cell recovery for down-stream analysis. It thus provides a unique 3D in vitro platform to dissect epithelial-stromal interactions and tumor angiogenesis, which may assist in the development of selective and more effective anticancer therapies.
    Keywords:  alginate; angiogenesis; hydrogel; organoid; outgrowth endothelial cells; tissue engineering; vascularized stroma
  8. Mol Cancer Ther. 2021 Mar 30. pii: molcanther.0880.2020. [Epub ahead of print]
      Disease models, including in vitro cell culture and animal models, have contributed significantly to developing diagnostics and treatments over the past several decades. The successes of traditional drug screening methods were generally hampered by not adequately mimicking critical in vivo features, such as a 3D microenvironment and dynamic drug diffusion through the extracellular matrix (ECM). To address these issues, we developed a 3D dynamic drug delivery system for cancer drug screening that mimicks drug dissemination through the tumor vasculature and the ECM by creating collagen-embedded microfluidic channels. Using this novel 3D ECM microsystem, we compared viability of tumor pieces to traditionally used 2D methods in response to 3 different drug combinations. Drug diffusion profiles were evaluated by simulation methods and tested in the 3D ECM microsystem and a 2D 96 well set up. Compared to the 2D control, the 3D ECM microsystem produced reliable data on viability, drug ratios and combination indeces. This novel approach enables higher throughput and sets the stage for future applications utilizing drug sensitivity predicting algorithms based on dynamic diffusion profiles requiring only minimal patient tissue. Our findings moved drug sensitivity screening closer to clinical implications with a focus on testing combinatorial drug effects - an option often limited by the amount of available patient tissues.
  9. Biomaterials. 2021 Mar 22. pii: S0142-9612(21)00129-0. [Epub ahead of print]272 120773
      The generation of engineered models of the osteochondral complex to study its pathologies and develop possible treatments is hindered by the distinctly different properties of articular cartilage and subchondral bone, with the latter characterized by vascularization. In vitro models of the osteochondral complex have been mainly engineered as biphasic constructs containing just cartilage and bone cells, a condition very dissimilar from the in vivo environment. The different cellular components of the osteochondral complex are governed by interacting biochemical signaling; hence, to study the crosstalk among chondrocytes, osteoblasts, and endothelial cells, we have developed a novel triphasic model of the osteochondral tissue interface. Wet-spun poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) and PCL/hydroxyapatite (HA) scaffolds in combination with a methacrylated gelatin (gelMA) hydrogel were used as the polymeric backbone of the constructs. The scaffold components were engineered with human bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), and differentiated using a dual chamber microphysiological system (MPS) bioreactor that allows the simultaneous, separate flow of media of different compositions for induced differentiation of each compartment towards a cartilaginous or osseous lineage. Within the engineered Microphysiological Vascularized Osteochondral System, hMSCs showed spatially distinct chondrogenic and osteogenic markers in terms of histology and gene expression. HUVECs formed a stable capillary-like network in the engineered bone compartment and enhanced both chondrogenic and osteogenic differentiation of hMSCs, resulting in the generation of an in vitro system that mimics a vascularized osteochondral interface tissue.
    Keywords:  Bioreactor; Endothelial cells; Mesenchymal stem cells; Methacrylated gelatin; Osteochondral tissue engineering; Triphasic scaffold; Vascularized bone; poly(ε-caprolactone)
  10. Micromachines (Basel). 2021 Mar 04. pii: 261. [Epub ahead of print]12(3):
      We hypothesized that the creation of a 3-dimensional ovarian follicle, with embedded granulosa and theca cells, would better mimic the environment necessary to support early oocytes, both structurally and hormonally. Using a microfluidic system with controlled flow rates, 3-dimensional two-layer (core and shell) capsules were created. The core consists of murine granulosa cells in 0.8 mg/mL collagen + 0.05% alginate, while the shell is composed of murine theca cells suspended in 2% alginate. Somatic cell viability tests and hormonal assessments (estradiol, progesterone, and androstenedione) were performed on days 1, 6, 13, 20, and 27. Confocal microscopy confirmed appropriate compartmentalization of fluorescently-labeled murine granulosa cells to the inner capsule and theca cells to the outer shell. Greater than 78% of cells present in capsules were alive up to 27 days after collection. Artificially constructed ovarian follicles exhibited intact endocrine function as evidenced by the production of estradiol, progesterone, and androstenedione. Oocytes from primary and early secondary follicles were successfully encapsulated, which maintained size and cellular compartmentalization. This novel microfluidic system successfully encapsulated oocytes from primary and secondary follicles, recapitulating the two-compartment system necessary for the development of the mammalian oocyte. Importantly, this microfluidic system can be easily adapted for sterile, high throughput applications.
    Keywords:  3D in vitro culture; alginate; granulosa cell; microfluidics; ovarian follicle; theca cell
  11. Biomaterials. 2021 Mar 18. pii: S0142-9612(21)00120-4. [Epub ahead of print]272 120764
      Cardiomyocytes differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) offer tremendous potential when used to engineer human tissues for drug screening and disease modeling; however, phenotypic immaturity reduces assay reliability when translating in vitro results to clinical studies. To address this, we have developed hybrid hydrogels comprised of decellularized porcine myocardial extracellular matrix (dECM) and reduced graphene oxide (rGO) to provide a more instructive microenvironment for proper cell and tissue development. A tissue-specific protein profile was preserved post-decellularization, and through the modulation of rGO content and degree of reduction, the mechanical and electrical properties of the hydrogels could be tuned. Engineered heart tissues (EHTs) generated using dECM-rGO hydrogel scaffolds and hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes exhibited significantly increased twitch forces and had increased expression of genes that regulate contractile function. Improvements in various aspects of electrophysiological function, such as calcium-handling, action potential duration, and conduction velocity, were also induced by the hybrid biomaterial. dECM-rGO hydrogels could also be used as a bioink to print cardiac tissues in a high-throughput manner, and these tissues were utilized to assess the proarrhythmic potential of cisapride. Action potential prolongation and beat interval irregularities was observed in dECM-rGO tissues at clinical doses of cisapride, indicating that the enhanced electrophysiological function of these tissues corresponded well with a capability to produce physiologically relevant drug responses.
    Keywords:  Bioprinting; Cardiac tissue engineering; Decellularized extracellular matrix; Graphene oxide; Hybrid materials
  12. Food Chem Toxicol. 2021 Mar 25. pii: S0278-6915(21)00188-5. [Epub ahead of print] 112155
      Several studies have reported a correlation between pesticides exposure and metabolic disorders. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and permethrin (PMT), two pesticides highly prevalent in the environment, have been associated to dysregulation of liver lipids and glucose metabolisms and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). However, the effects of DDT/PMT mixtures and mechanisms mediating their action remain unclear. Here, we used multi-omic to investigate the liver damage induced by DDT, PMT and their mixture in rat liver organ-on-chip. Organ-on-chip allow the reproduction of in vivo-like micro-environment. Two concentrations, 15 and 150μM, were used to expose the hepatocytes for 24h under perfusion. The transcriptome and metabolome analysis suggested a dose-dependent effect for all conditions, with a profile close to control for pesticides low-doses. The comparison between control and high-doses detected 266/24, 256/24 and 1349/30 genes/metabolites differentially expressed for DDT150, PMT150 and Mix150 (DDT150/PMT150). Transcriptome modulation reflected liver inflammation, steatosis, necrosis, PPAR signaling and fatty acid metabolism. The metabolome analysis highlighted common signature of three treatments including lipid and carbohydrates production, and a decrease in amino acids and krebs cycle intermediates. Our study illustrates the potential of organ-on-chip coupled to multi-omics for toxicological studies and provides new tools for chemical risk assessment.
    Keywords:  liver; metabolomic; organ on chip; pesticides; steatosis; transcriptomic
  13. Cell Stem Cell. 2021 Mar 29. pii: S1934-5909(21)00056-4. [Epub ahead of print]
      The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)-choriocapillaris (CC) complex in the eye is compromised in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and related macular dystrophies (MDs), yet in vitro models of RPE-CC complex that enable investigation of AMD/MD pathophysiology are lacking. By incorporating iPSC-derived cells into a hydrogel-based extracellular matrix, we developed a 3D RPE-CC model that recapitulates key features of both healthy and AMD/MD eyes and provides modular control over RPE and CC layers. Using this 3D RPE-CC model, we demonstrated that both RPE- and mesenchyme-secreted factors are necessary for the formation of fenestrated CC-like vasculature. Our data show that choroidal neovascularization (CNV) and CC atrophy occur in the absence of endothelial cell dysfunction and are not necessarily secondary to drusen deposits underneath RPE cells, and CC atrophy and/or CNV can be initiated systemically by patient serum or locally by mutant RPE-secreted factors. Finally, we identify FGF2 and matrix metalloproteinases as potential therapeutic targets for AMD/MDs.
    Keywords:  Sorsby's fundus dystrophy; age-related macular degeneration; choriocapillaris; choroidal neovascularization; hydrogel; induced pluripotent stem cell; macular dystrophy; retinal pigment epithelium; tissue engineering
  14. SLAS Technol. 2021 Mar 30. 24726303211000688
      There is an increasing interest in using three-dimensional (3D) cell structures for modeling tumors, organs, and tissue to accelerate translational research. We describe here a novel automated organoid assay system (the Pu·MA System) combined with microfluidic-based flowchips that can facilitate 3D cell-based assays. The flowchip is composed of sample wells, which contain organoids, connected to additional multiple wells that can hold various assay reagents. Organoids are positioned in a protected chamber in sample wells, and fluids are exchanged from side reservoirs using pressure-driven flow. Media exchange, sample staining, wash steps, and other processes can be performed without disruption to or loss of 3D sample. The bottom of the sample chamber is thin, optically clear plastic compatible with high-content imaging (HCI). The whole system can be kept in an incubator, allowing long-term cellular assays to be performed. We present two examples of use of the system for biological research. In the first example, cytotoxicity effects of anticancer drugs were evaluated on HeLa and HepG2 spheroids using HCI and vascular endothelial growth factor expression. In the second application, the flowchip system was used for the functional evaluation of Ca2+ oscillations in neurospheroids. Neurospheres were incubated with neuroactive compounds, and neuronal activity was assessed using Ca2+-sensitive dyes and fast kinetic fluorescence imaging. This novel assay system using microfluidics enables automation of 3D cell-based cultures that mimic in vivo conditions, performs multidosing protocols and multiple media exchanges, provides gentle handling of spheroids and organoids, and allows a wide range of assay detection modalities.
    Keywords:  3D cell-based models; high-content imaging; microfluidics; organoids; toxicity