Materials that can mimic the fibrillar architecture of native extracellular matrix (ECM) while allowing for independent regulation of viscoelastic properties may serve as ideal, artificial ECM (aECM) to regulate cell functions. Here we describe an interpenetrating network of click-functionalized alginate, crosslinked with a combination of ionic and covalent crosslinking, and fibrillar collagen type I. Varying the mode and magnitude of crosslinking enables tunable stiffness and viscoelasticity, while altering neither the hydrogel's microscale architecture nor diffusional transport of molecules with molecular weight relevant to typical nutrients. Further, appropriately timing sequential ionic and covalent crosslinking permits self-assembly of collagen into fibrillar structures within the network. Culture of human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in this mechanically-tunable ECM system revealed that MSC expression of immunomodulatory markers is differentially impacted by the viscoelasticity and stiffness of the matrix. Together, these results describe and validate a novel material system for investigating how viscoelastic mechanical properties of ECM regulate cellular behavior.
Persistence of inflammation, and associated limits in tissue regeneration, are believed to be due in part to the imbalance of M1 over M2 macrophages. Here, we hypothesized that providing a sustained source of an antiinflammatory polarizing cytokine would shift the balance of macrophages at a site of tissue damage to improve functional regeneration. Specifically, IL-4-conjugated gold nanoparticles (PA4) were injected into injured murine skeletal muscle, resulting in improved histology and an ∼40% increase in muscle force compared with mice treated with vehicle only. Macrophages were the predominant infiltrating immune cell, and treatment with PA4 resulted in an approximately twofold increase in the percentage of macrophages expressing the M2a phenotype and an approximately twofold decrease in M1 macrophages, compared with mice treated with vehicle only. Intramuscular injection of soluble IL-4 did not shift macrophage polarization or result in functional muscle improvements. Depletion of monocytes/macrophages eliminated the therapeutic effects of PA4, suggesting that improvement in muscle function was the result of M2-shifted macrophage polarization. The ability of PA4 to direct macrophage polarization in vivo may be beneficial in the treatment of many injuries and inflammatory diseases.
The past decade has witnessed the accelerating development of immunotherapies for cancer treatment. Immune checkpoint blockade therapies and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapies have demonstrated clinical efficacy against a variety of cancers. However, issues including life-threatening off-target side effects, long processing times, limited patient responses and high cost still limit the clinical utility of cancer immunotherapies. Biomaterial carriers of these therapies, though, enable one to troubleshoot the delivery issues, amplify immunomodulatory effects, integrate the synergistic effect of different molecules and, more importantly, home and manipulate immune cells in vivo. In this Review, we will analyse thus-far developed immunomaterials for targeted modulation of dendritic cells, T cells, tumour-associated macrophages, myeloid-derived suppressor cells, B cells and natural killer cells, and summarize the promises and challenges of cell-targeted immunomodulation for cancer treatment.
Diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs) are a major complication of diabetes, and there is a critical need to develop novel cell- and tissue-based therapies to treat these chronic wounds. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) offer a replenishing source of allogeneic and autologous cell types that may be beneficial to improve DFU wound-healing outcomes. However, the biologic potential of iPSC-derived cells to treat DFUs has not, to our knowledge, been investigated. Toward that goal, we have performed detailed characterization of iPSC-derived fibroblasts from both diabetic and nondiabetic patients. Significantly, gene array and functional analyses reveal that iPSC-derived fibroblasts from both patients with and those without diabetes are more similar to each other than were the primary cells from which they were derived. iPSC-derived fibroblasts showed improved migratory properties in 2-dimensional culture. iPSC-derived fibroblasts from DFUs displayed a unique biochemical composition and morphology when grown as 3-dimensional (3D), self-assembled extracellular matrix tissues, which were distinct from tissues fabricated using the parental DFU fibroblasts from which they were reprogrammed. In vivo transplantation of 3D tissues with iPSC-derived fibroblasts showed they persisted in the wound and facilitated diabetic wound closure compared with primary DFU fibroblasts. Taken together, our findings support the potential application of these iPSC-derived fibroblasts and 3D tissues to improve wound healing.-Kashpur, O., Smith, A., Gerami-Naini, B., Maione, A. G., Calabrese, R., Tellechea, A., Theocharidis, G., Liang, L., Pastar, I., Tomic-Canic, M., Mooney, D., Veves, A., Garlick, J. A. Differentiation of diabetic foot ulcer-derived induced pluripotent stem cells reveals distinct cellular and tissue phenotypes.
Degradable biomaterials aim to recapitulate the dynamic microenvironment that cells are naturally exposed to. By oxidizing the alginate polymer backbone, thereby rendering it susceptible to hydrolysis, and crosslinking it via norbornene-tetrazine click chemistry, we can control rheological, mechanical, and degradation properties of resulting hydrogels. Chemical modifications were confirmed by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and the resulting mechanical properties measured by rheology and unconfined compression testing, demonstrating that these are both a function of norbornene coupling and oxidation state. The degradation behavior was verified by tracking mechanical and swelling behavior over time, showing that degradation could be decoupled from initial mechanical properties. The cell compatibility was assessed in 2D and 3D using a mouse pre-osteoblast cell line and testing morphology, proliferation, and viability. Cells attached, spread and proliferated in 2D and retained a round morphology and stable number in 3D, while maintaining high viability in both contexts over 7 days. Finally, oxidized and unoxidized control materials were implanted subcutaneously into the backs of C57/Bl6 mice, and recovered after 8 weeks. Histological staining revealed morphological differences and fibrous tissue infiltration only in oxidized materials. These materials with tunable and decoupled mechanical and degradation behavior could be useful in many tissue engineering applications.
Variations in a multitude of material microenvironmental properties have been observed across tissues in vivo, and these have profound effects on cell phenotype. Phenomenological experiments have suggested that certain of these features of the physical microenvironment, such as stiffness, could sensitize cells to other features; meanwhile, mechanistic studies have detailed a number of biophysical mechanisms for this sensing. However, the broad molecular consequences of these potentially complex and nonlinear interactions bridging from biophysical sensing to phenotype have not been systematically characterized, limiting the overall understanding and rational deployment of these biophysical cues. Here, we explore these interactions by employing a 3D cell culture system that allows for the independent control of culture substrate stiffness, stress relaxation, and adhesion ligand density to systematically explore the transcriptional programs affected by distinct combinations of biophysical parameters using RNA-seq. In mouse mesenchymal stem cells and human cortical neuron progenitors, we find dramatic coupling among these substrate properties, and that the relative contribution of each property to changes in gene expression varies with cell type. Motivated by the bioinformatic analysis, the stiffness of hydrogels encapsulating mouse mesenchymal stem cells was found to regulate the secretion of a wide range of cytokines, and to accordingly influence hematopoietic stem cell differentiation in a Transwell coculture model. These results give insights into how biophysical features are integrated by cells across distinct tissues and offer strategies to synthetic biologists and bioengineers for designing responses to a cell's biophysical environment.
Substrate stiffness has been recognized as an important regulator of cell fate and function, but an understanding of the full extent of processes affected by stiffness is lacking as its transcriptome-wide effects have not been mapped. This limited understanding has restricted the contexts in which engineers can employ stiffness as an engineering design parameter. To address these limitations, we performed RNA-seq on mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) cultured in alginate hydrogels over a range of moduli to broadly map the transcriptome-wide changes associated with stiffness sensing. We found a large number of stiffness-sensitive genes, and that many genes respond to stiffness in nonlinear ways. Informed by these differential expression results, we explored a hypothesis related to current MSC clinical activity, and found that stiffness can regulate the expression of MSC immunomodulatory markers in response to cytokine stimulation. Overall, these results reveal previously unknown features of MSC stiffness response and demonstrate the value of coupling -omics approaches with biophysical experiments.
BACKGROUND: Dendritic cells (DC) induce adaptive responses against foreign antigens, and play an essential role in maintaining peripheral tolerance to self-antigens. Therefore they are involved in preventing fatal autoimmunity. Selective delivery of antigens to immature DC via the endocytic DEC-205 receptor on their surface promotes antigen-specific T cell tolerance, both by recessive and dominant mechanisms. We provide evidence that the induction of antigen-specific T cell tolerance is not a unique property of CD11cCD8DEC-205 DCs.
METHODS: We employed a fusion between αDCIR2 antibodies and the highly encephalitogenic peptide 139-151 of myelin-derived proteolipid protein (PLP), to target CD11c CD8 DCs with a DEC-205-DCIR2 phenotype in vivo, and to substantially improve clinical symptoms in the PLP-induced model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE).
RESULTS: Consistent with previous studies targeting other cell surface receptors, EAE protection mediated by αDCIR2-PLP fusion antibody (Ab) depended on an immature state of targeted DCIR2 DCs. The mechanism of αDCIR2-PLP mAb function included the deletion of IL-17- and IFN-γ-producing pathogenic T cells, as well as the enhancement of regulatory T (Treg) cell activity. In contrast to the effect of αDEC-205 fusion antibodies, which involves extrathymic induction of a Foxp3 Treg cell phenotype in naïve CD4Foxp3 T cells, treatment of animals with DCIR2 fusion antibodies resulted in antigen-specific activation and proliferative expansion of natural Foxp3 Treg cells.
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that multiple mechanisms can lead to the expansion of the Treg population, depending on the DC subset and receptor targeted.
Ischemic diseases, such as peripheral artery disease, affect millions of people worldwide. While CD4 T-cells regulate angiogenesis and myogenesis, it is not understood how the phenotype of these adaptive immune cells regulate these regenerative processes. The secreted factors from different types of CD4 T-cells (Th1, Th2, Th17, and Treg) were utilized in a series of in vitro assays and delivered from an injectable alginate biomaterial into a murine model of ischemia to study their effects on vascular and skeletal muscle regeneration. Conditioned medium from Th2 and Th17 T-cells enhanced angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo, in part by directly stimulating endothelial sprouting. Th1 conditioned medium induced vascular regression in vitro and provided no benefit to angiogenesis in vivo. Th1, Th2, and Th17 conditioned medium, to varying extents, enhanced muscle precursor cell proliferation and inhibited their differentiation in vitro, and prolonged early stages of muscle regeneration in vivo. Treg conditioned medium had a moderate or no effect on these processes in vitro and no discernible effect in vivo. These findings suggest that Th2 and Th17 T-cells may enhance angiogenesis and myogenesis in ischemic injuries, which may be useful in the design of immunomodulatory biomaterials to treat these diseases.
In calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD), microcalcifications originating from nanoscale calcifying vesicles disrupt the aortic valve (AV) leaflets, which consist of three (biomechanically) distinct layers: the fibrosa, spongiosa, and ventricularis. CAVD has no pharmacotherapy and lacks in vitro models as a result of complex valvular biomechanical features surrounding resident mechanosensitive valvular interstitial cells (VICs). We measured layer-specific mechanical properties of the human AV and engineered a three-dimensional (3D)-bioprinted CAVD model that recapitulates leaflet layer biomechanics for the first time. Human AV leaflet layers were separated by microdissection, and nanoindentation determined layer-specific Young’s moduli. Methacrylated gelatin (GelMA)/methacrylated hyaluronic acid (HAMA) hydrogels were tuned to duplicate layer-specific mechanical characteristics, followed by 3D-printing with encapsulated human VICs. Hydrogels were exposed to osteogenic media (OM) to induce microcalcification, and VIC pathogenesis was assessed by near infrared or immunofluorescence microscopy. Median Young’s moduli of the AV layers were 37.1, 15.4, and 26.9 kPa (fibrosa/spongiosa/ventricularis, respectively). The fibrosa and spongiosa Young’s moduli matched the 3D 5% GelMa/1% HAMA UV-crosslinked hydrogels. OM stimulation of VIC-laden bioprinted hydrogels induced microcalcification without apoptosis. We report the first layer-specific measurements of human AV moduli and a novel 3D-bioprinted CAVD model that potentiates microcalcification by mimicking the native AV mechanical environment. This work sheds light on valvular mechanobiology and could facilitate high-throughput drug-screening in CAVD.
The goal of this study was to examine the effects of early and limited exposure of perivascular cells expressing α (αSMA) to fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) in vivo. We performed in vivo fate mapping by inducible Cre-loxP and experimental pulp injury in molars to induce reparative dentinogenesis. Our results demonstrate that early delivery of exogenous FGF2 to exposed pulp led to proliferative expansion of αSMA-tdTomato cells and their accelerated differentiation into odontoblasts. In vivo lineage-tracing experiments showed that the calcified bridge/reparative dentin in FGF2-treated pulps were lined with an increased number of Dspp odontoblasts and devoid of BSP osteoblasts. The increased number of odontoblasts derived from αSMA-tdTomato cells and the formation of reparative dentin devoid of osteoblasts provide in vivo evidence for the stimulatory effects of FGF signaling on odontoblast differentiation from early progenitors in dental pulp.
Local drug presentation made possible by drug-eluting depots has demonstrated benefits in a vast array of diseases, including in cancer, microbial infection and in wound healing. However, locally-eluting depots are single-use systems that cannot be refilled or reused after implantation at inaccessible sites, limiting their clinical utility. New strategies to noninvasively refill drug-eluting depots could dramatically enhance their clinical use. In this report we present a refillable hydrogel depot system based on bioorthogonal click chemistry. The click-modified hydrogel depots capture prodrug refills from the blood and subsequently release active drugs locally in a sustained manner. Capture of the systemically-administered refills serves as an efficient and non-toxic method to repeatedly refill depots. Refillable depots in combination with prodrug refills achieve sustained release at precancerous tumor sites to improve cancer therapy while eliminating systemic side effects. The ability to target tissues without enhanced permeability could allow the use of refillable depots in cancer and many other medical applications.
Efficient coupling of soft robotic cardiac assist devices to the external surface of the heart is crucial to augment cardiac function and represents a hurdle to translation of this technology. In this work, we compare various fixation strategies for local and global coupling of a direct cardiac compression sleeve to the heart. For basal fixation, we find that a sutured Velcro band adheres the strongest to the epicardium. Next, we demonstrate that a mesh-based sleeve coupled to the myocardium improves function in an acute porcine heart failure model. Then, we analyze the biological integration of global interface material candidates (medical mesh and silicone) in a healthy and infarcted murine model and show that a mesh interface yields superior mechanical coupling via pull-off force, histology, and microcomputed tomography. These results can inform the design of a therapeutic approach where a mesh-based soft robotic DCC is implanted, allowed to biologically integrate with the epicardium, and actuated for active assistance at a later timepoint. This strategy may result in more efficient coupling of extracardiac sleeves to heart tissue, and lead to increased augmentation of heart function in end-stage heart failure patients.
The tumor microenvironment (TME) is gaining increasing attention in oncology, as it is recognized to be functionally important during tumor development and progression. Tumors are heterogeneous tissues that, in addition to tumor cells, contain tumor-associated cell types such as immune cells, fibroblasts, and endothelial cells. These other cells, together with the specific extracellular matrix (ECM), create a permissive environment for tumor growth. While the influence of tumor-infiltrating cells and mechanical properties of the ECM in tumor invasion and progression have been studied separately, their interaction within the complex TME and the epithelial -to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is still unclear. In this work, we develop a 3D co-culture model of lung adenocarcinoma cells and macrophages in an interpenetrating network hydrogel, to investigate the influence of the macrophage phenotype and ECM stiffness in the induction of EMT. Rising ECM stiffness increases both tumor cell proliferation and invasiveness. The presence of tumor-associated macrophages and the ECM stiffness jointly contribute to an invasive phenotype, and modulate the expression of key EMT-related markers. Overall, these findings support the utility of in vitro 3D cancer models that allow one to study interactions among key components of the TME.
Short peptides are the minimal modality of antigen recognized by cellular immunity and are therefore considered a safe and highly specific source of antigen for vaccination. Nevertheless, successful peptide immunotherapy is limited by the short half-life of peptide antigens in vivo as well as their weak immunogenicity. We recently reported a vaccine strategy based on dendritic cell-recruiting Mesoporous Silica Rod (MSR) scaffolds to enhance T-cell responses against subunit antigen. In this study, we investigated the effect of covalently conjugating peptide antigens to MSRs to increase their retention in the scaffolds. Using both stable thioether and reducible disulfide linkages, peptide conjugation greatly increased peptide loading compared to passive adsorption. In vitro, Bone Marrow derived Dendritic Cells (BMDCs) could present Ovalbumin (OVA)-derived peptides conjugated to MSRs and induce antigen-specific T-cell proliferation. Stable conjugation decreased presentation in vitro while reducible conjugation maintained levels of presentation as high as soluble peptide. Compared to soluble peptide, in vitro, expansion of OT-II T-cells was not affected by adsorption or stable conjugation to MSRs but was enhanced with reversible conjugation to MSRs. Both conjugation schemes increased peptide residence time in MSR scaffolds in vivo compared to standard bolus injections or a simple adsorption method. When MSR scaffolds loaded with GM-CSF and CpG-ODN were injected subcutaneously, recruited dendritic cells could present antigen in situ with the stable conjugation increasing presentation capacity. Overall, this simple conjugation approach could serve as a versatile platform to efficiently incorporate peptide antigens in MSR vaccines and potentiate cellular responses.
Existing strategies to enhance peptide immunogenicity for cancer vaccination generally require direct peptide alteration, which, beyond practical issues, may impact peptide presentation and result in vaccine variability. Here, we report a simple adsorption approach using polyethyleneimine (PEI) in a mesoporous silica microrod (MSR) vaccine to enhance antigen immunogenicity. The MSR-PEI vaccine significantly enhanced host dendritic cell activation and T-cell response over the existing MSR vaccine and bolus vaccine formulations. Impressively, a single injection of the MSR-PEI vaccine using an E7 peptide completely eradicated large, established TC-1 tumours in about 80% of mice and generated immunological memory. When immunized with a pool of B16F10 or CT26 neoantigens, the MSR-PEI vaccine eradicated established lung metastases, controlled tumour growth and synergized with anti-CTLA4 therapy. Our findings from three independent tumour models suggest that the MSR-PEI vaccine approach may serve as a facile and powerful multi-antigen platform to enable robust personalized cancer vaccination.
A covalently crosslinked methacrylated (MA)-alginate cryogel vaccine has been previously shown to generate a potent response against murine melanoma, but is not mechanically robust and requires a large 16G needle for delivery. Here, covalent and ionic crosslinking of cryogels are combined with the hypothesis that this will result in a tough MA-alginate cryogel with improved injectability. All tough cryogels can be injected through a smaller, 18G needle without sustaining any damage, while covalently crosslinked-only cryogels break after injection. Cytosine-phosphodiester-guanine (CpG)-delivering tough cryogels effectively activate dendritic cells (DCs). Granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor releasing tough cryogels recruit four times more DCs than blank gels by day 7 in vivo. The tough cryogel vaccine induces strong antigen-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte and humoral responses. These vaccines prevent tumor formation in 80% of mice inoculated with HER2/neu-overexpressing DD breast cancer cells. The MA-alginate tough cryogels provide a promising minimally invasive delivery platform for cancer vaccinations.
We present a novel ligand, 5-norbornene-2-nonanoic acid, which can be directly added during established quantum dot (QD) syntheses in organic solvents to generate "clickable" QDs at a few hundred nmol scale. This ligand has a carboxyl group at one terminus to bind to the surface of QDs and a norbornene group at the opposite end that enables straightforward phase transfer of QDs into aqueous solutions via efficient norbornene/tetrazine click chemistry. Our ligand system removes the traditional ligand-exchange step and can produce water-soluble QDs with a high quantum yield and a small hydrodynamic diameter of approximately 12 nm at an order of magnitude higher scale than previous methods. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach by incubating azido-functionalized CdSe/CdS QDs with 4T1 cancer cells that are metabolically labeled with a dibenzocyclooctyne-bearing unnatural sugar. The QDs exhibit high targeting efficiency and minimal nonspecific binding.
Controlled encapsulation and pairing of single cells within a confined 3D matrix can enable the replication of the highly ordered cellular structure of human tissues. Microgels with independently controlled compartments that can encapsulate cells within separately confined hydrogel matrices would provide precise control over the route of pairing single cells. Here, a one-step microfluidic method is presented to generate monodisperse multicompartment microgels that can be used as a 3D matrix to pair single cells in a highly biocompatible manner. A method is presented to induce microgels formation on chip, followed by direct extraction of the microgels from oil phase, thereby avoiding prolonged exposure of the microgels to the oil. It is further demonstrated that by entrapping stem cells with niche cells within separate but adjacent compartments of the microgels, it can create complex stem cell niche microenvironments in a controlled manner, which can serve as a useful tool for the study of cell-cell interactions. This microfluidic technique represents a significant step toward high-throughput single cells encapsulation and pairing for the study of intercellular communications at single cell level, which is of significant importance for cell biology, stem cell therapy, and tissue engineering.