bims-orenst Biomed News
on Organs-on-chips and engineered stem cell models
Issue of 2021‒05‒09
seven papers selected by
Joram Mooiweer
University of Groningen

  1. Nat Biomed Eng. 2021 May 03.
      The rapid repurposing of antivirals is particularly pressing during pandemics. However, rapid assays for assessing candidate drugs typically involve in vitro screens and cell lines that do not recapitulate human physiology at the tissue and organ levels. Here we show that a microfluidic bronchial-airway-on-a-chip lined by highly differentiated human bronchial-airway epithelium and pulmonary endothelium can model viral infection, strain-dependent virulence, cytokine production and the recruitment of circulating immune cells. In airway chips infected with influenza A, the co-administration of nafamostat with oseltamivir doubled the treatment-time window for oseltamivir. In chips infected with pseudotyped severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), clinically relevant doses of the antimalarial drug amodiaquine inhibited infection but clinical doses of hydroxychloroquine and other antiviral drugs that inhibit the entry of pseudotyped SARS-CoV-2 in cell lines under static conditions did not. We also show that amodiaquine showed substantial prophylactic and therapeutic activities in hamsters challenged with native SARS-CoV-2. The human airway-on-a-chip may accelerate the identification of therapeutics and prophylactics with repurposing potential.
  2. APL Bioeng. 2021 Jun;5(2): 026103
      Organ-on-a-Chip platforms provide rich opportunities to observe interactions between different cell types under in vivo-like conditions, i.e., in the presence of flow. Yet, the costs and know-how required for the fabrication and implementation of these platforms restrict their accessibility. This study introduces and demonstrates a novel Insert-Chip: a microfluidic device that provides the functionality of an Organ-on-a-Chip platform, namely, the capacity to co-culture cells, expose them to flow, and observe their interactions-yet can easily be integrated into standard culture systems (e.g., well plates or multi-electrode arrays). The device is produced using stereolithograpy 3D printing and is user-friendly and reusable. Moreover, its design features overcome some of the measurement and imaging challenges characterizing standard Organ-on-a-Chip platforms. We have co-cultured endothelial and epithelial cells under flow conditions to demonstrate the functionality of the device. Overall, this novel microfluidic device is a promising platform for the investigation of biological functions, cell-cell interactions, and response to therapeutics.
  3. Lab Chip. 2021 May 04. 21(9): 1738-1751
      Endothelial mechanobiology is a key consideration in the progression of vascular dysfunction, including atherosclerosis. However mechanistic connections between the clinically associated physical stimuli, vessel stiffness and shear stress, and how they interact to modulate plaque progression remain incompletely characterized. Vessel-chip systems are excellent candidates for modeling vascular mechanobiology as they may be engineered from the ground up, guided by the mechanical parameters present in human arteries and veins, to recapitulate key features of the vasculature. Here, we report extensive validation of a vessel-chip model of endothelial yes-associated protein (YAP) mechanobiology, a protein sensitive to both matrix stiffness and shearing forces and, importantly, implicated in atherosclerotic progression. Our model captures the established endothelial mechanoresponse, with endothelial alignment, elongation, reduction of adhesion molecules, and YAP cytoplasmic retention under high laminar shear. Conversely, we observed disturbed morphology, inflammation, and nuclear partitioning under low, high, and high oscillatory shear. Examining targets of YAP transcriptional co-activation, connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is strongly downregulated by high laminar shear, whereas it is strongly upregulated by low shear or oscillatory flow. Ankyrin repeat domain 1 (ANKRD1) is only upregulated by high oscillatory shear. Verteporfin inhibition of YAP reduced the expression of CTGF but did not affect ANKRD1. Lastly, substrate stiffness modulated the endothelial shear mechanoresponse. Under high shear, softer substrates showed the lowest nuclear localization of YAP whereas stiffer substrates increased nuclear localization. Low shear strongly increased nuclear localization of YAP across stiffnesses. Together, we have validated a model of endothelial mechanobiology and describe a clinically relevant biological connection between matrix stiffness, shear stress, and endothelial activation via YAP mechanobiology.
  4. Front Pharmacol. 2021 ;12 639716
      Intestinal inflammation is the collective term for immune system-mediated diseases of unknown, multifactorial etiology, with often complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors. To mechanistically investigate the effect of treatment with compounds possessing immunomodulating properties in the context of intestinal inflammation, we developed an immunocompetent in vitro triculture intestinal model consisting of a differentiated intestinal epithelial layer (Caco-2/HT29-MTX) and immunocompetent cells (differentiated THP-1). The triculture mimicked a healthy intestine with stable barrier integrity. Lipopolysaccharide treatment triggered a controlled and reversible inflammatory state, resulting in significant impairment of barrier integrity and release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, which are known hallmarks of intestinal inflammation. Treatment with known anti-inflammatory reference compounds (TPCA-1 and budenoside) prevented the induction of an inflammatory state; the decreasing triculture responses to this treatment measured by cytokine release, transepithelial electric resistance (TEER), and epithelial layer permeability proved the suitability of the intestinal model for anti-inflammatory drug screening. Finally, selected tobacco alkaloids (nicotine and anatabine (R/S and S forms)) were tested in the in vitro triculture for their potential anti-inflammatory properties. Indeed, naturally occurring alkaloids, such as tobacco-derived alkaloids, have shown substantial anti-inflammatory effects in several in vitro and in vivo models of inflammation, gaining increasing interest. Similar to the anti-inflammatory reference compounds, one of the tobacco alkaloids under investigation partially prevented the decrease in the TEER and increase in permeability and reduced the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Taken together, these data confirm that our in vitro model is suitable for screening potential anti-inflammatory compounds in the context of intestinal inflammation.
    Keywords:  anatabine; immune competent cells; in vitro co-culture; inflamed intestine; inflammatory bowel disease; intestinal inflammation; nicotine; tobacco alkaloids
  5. Front Cell Dev Biol. 2021 ;9 670504
      Engineered cardiac tissues fabricated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) show promise for ameliorating damage from myocardial infarction, while also restoring function to the damaged left ventricular (LV) myocardium. For these constructs to reach their clinical potential, they need to be of a clinically relevant volume and thickness, and capable of generating synchronous and forceful contraction to assist the pumping action of the recipient heart. Design prerequisites include a structure thickness sufficient to produce a beneficial contractile force, prevascularization to overcome diffusion limitations and sufficient structural development to allow for maximal cell communication. Previous attempts to meet these prerequisites have been hindered by lack of oxygen and nutrient transport due to diffusion limits (100-200 μm) resulting in necrosis. This study employs a layer-by-layer (LbL) fabrication method to produce cardiac tissue constructs that meet these design prerequisites and mimic normal myocardium in form and function. Thick (>2 mm) cardiac tissues created from hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes, -endothelial cells (ECs) and -fibroblasts (FBs) were assessed, in vitro, over a 4-week period for viability (<6% necrotic cells), cell morphology and functionality. Functional performance assessment showed enhanced t-tubule network development, gap junction communication as well as previously unseen, physiologically relevant conduction velocities (CVs) (>30 cm/s). These results demonstrate that LbL fabrication can be utilized successfully to create prevascularized, functional cardiac tissue constructs from hiPSCs for potential therapeutic applications.
    Keywords:  hearts; layer-by-layer fabrication; stem cell; superior electrophysiology; tissue engineering
  6. Arch Toxicol. 2021 May 07.
      Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) are a promising therapeutic modality. However, failure to predict acute kidney injury induced by SPC5001 ASO observed in a clinical trial suggests the need for additional preclinical models to complement the preceding animal toxicity studies. To explore the utility of in vitro systems in this space, we evaluated the induction of nephrotoxicity and kidney injury biomarkers by SPC5001 in human renal proximal tubule epithelial cells (HRPTEC), cultured in 2D, and in a recently developed kidney proximal tubule-on-a-chip. 2D HRPTEC cultures were exposed to the nephrotoxic ASO SPC5001 or the safe control ASO 556089 (0.16-40 µM) for up to 72 h, targeting PCSK9 and MALAT1, respectively. Both ASOs induced a concentration-dependent downregulation of their respective mRNA targets but cytotoxicity (determined by LDH activity) was not observed at any concentration. Next, chip-cultured HRPTEC were exposed to SPC5001 (0.5 and 5 µM) and 556089 (1 and 10 µM) for 48 h to confirm downregulation of their respective target transcripts, with 74.1 ± 5.2% for SPC5001 (5 µM) and 79.4 ± 0.8% for 556089 (10 µM). During extended exposure for up to 20 consecutive days, only SPC5001 induced cytotoxicity (at the higher concentration; 5 µM), as evaluated by LDH in the perfusate medium. Moreover, perfusate levels of biomarkers KIM-1, NGAL, clusterin, osteopontin and VEGF increased 2.5 ± 0.2-fold, 3.9 ± 0.9-fold, 2.3 ± 0.6-fold, 3.9 ± 1.7-fold and 1.9 ± 0.4-fold respectively, in response to SPC5001, generating distinct time-dependent profiles. In conclusion, target downregulation, cytotoxicity and kidney injury biomarkers were induced by the clinically nephrotoxic ASO SPC5001, demonstrating the translational potential of this kidney on-a-chip.
    Keywords:  Antisense oligonucleotides; Drug-induced toxicity; Human renal proximal tubule epithelial cells; Kidney injury biomarkers; Kidney proximal tubule-on-a-chip
  7. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 05 11. pii: e2016146118. [Epub ahead of print]118(19):
      Here, we present a physiologically relevant model of the human pulmonary alveoli. This alveolar lung-on-a-chip platform is composed of a three-dimensional porous hydrogel made of gelatin methacryloyl with an inverse opal structure, bonded to a compartmentalized polydimethylsiloxane chip. The inverse opal hydrogel structure features well-defined, interconnected pores with high similarity to human alveolar sacs. By populating the sacs with primary human alveolar epithelial cells, functional epithelial monolayers are readily formed. Cyclic strain is integrated into the device to allow biomimetic breathing events of the alveolar lung, which, in addition, makes it possible to investigate pathological effects such as those incurred by cigarette smoking and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 pseudoviral infection. Our study demonstrates a unique method for reconstitution of the functional human pulmonary alveoli in vitro, which is anticipated to pave the way for investigating relevant physiological and pathological events in the human distal lung.
    Keywords:  alveoli; distal lung; inverse opal; lung-on-a-chip; three-dimensional