Although skeletal muscle can naturally regenerate in response to minor injuries, more severe damage and myopathies can cause irreversible loss of muscle mass and function. Cell therapies, while promising, have not yet demonstrated consistent benefit, likely due to poor survival of delivered cells. Biomaterials can improve muscle regeneration by presenting chemical and physical cues to muscle cells that mimic the natural cascade of regeneration. This brief review describes strategies for muscle repair utilizing biomaterials that can provide signals to either transplanted or host muscle cells. These strategies range from approaches that utilize biomaterials alone to those that combine biomaterials with exogenous growth factors, ex vivo cultured cells, and extensive culture time.
We discuss the state of the art and innovative micro- and nanoscale technologies that are finding niches and opening up new opportunities in medicine, particularly in diagnostic and therapeutic applications. We take the design of point-of-care applications and the capture of circulating tumor cells as illustrative examples of the integration of micro- and nanotechnologies into solutions of diagnostic challenges. We describe several novel nanotechnologies that enable imaging cellular structures and molecular events. In therapeutics, we describe the utilization of micro- and nanotechnologies in applications including drug delivery, tissue engineering, and pharmaceutical development/testing. In addition, we discuss relevant challenges that micro- and nanotechnologies face in achieving cost-effective and widespread clinical implementation as well as forecasted applications of micro- and nanotechnologies in medicine.
Dysfunctional T cells can mediate autoimmunity, but the inaccessibility of autoimmune tissues and the rarity of autoimmune T cells in the blood hinder their study. Here, we describe a method to enrich and harvest autoimmune T cells in vivo using a biomaterial scaffold loaded with protein antigens. In model antigen systems, we find that antigen-specific T cells become enriched within scaffolds containing their cognate antigens. When scaffolds containing lysates from an insulin-producing β-cell line were implanted subcutaneously in autoimmune diabetes prone NOD mice, β-cell reactive T cells homed to these scaffolds and became enriched. These T cells induced diabetes after adoptive transfer, indicating their pathogenicity. Furthermore, T cell receptor (TCR) sequencing identified many expanded TCRs within the β-cell scaffolds that were also expanded within the pancreases of NOD mice. These data demonstrate the utility of biomaterial scaffolds loaded with disease-specific antigens to identify and study rare, therapeutically important T cells.
DNA nanostructures have evoked great interest as potential therapeutics and diagnostics due to ease and robustness of programming their shapes, site-specific functionalizations and responsive behaviours. However, their utility in biological fluids can be compromised through denaturation induced by physiological salt concentrations and degradation mediated by nucleases. Here we demonstrate that DNA nanostructures coated by oligolysines to 0.5:1 N:P (ratio of nitrogen in lysine to phosphorus in DNA), are stable in low salt and up to tenfold more resistant to DNase I digestion than when uncoated. Higher N:P ratios can lead to aggregation, but this can be circumvented by coating instead with an oligolysine-PEG copolymer, enabling up to a 1,000-fold protection against digestion by serum nucleases. Oligolysine-PEG-stabilized DNA nanostructures survive uptake into endosomal compartments and, in a mouse model, exhibit a modest increase in pharmacokinetic bioavailability. Thus, oligolysine-PEG is a one-step, structure-independent approach that provides low-cost and effective protection of DNA nanostructures for in vivo applications.
Single cell-laden three-dimensional (3D) microgels that can serve to mimic stem cell niches in vitro, and are therefore termed microniches, can be efficiently fabricated by droplet-based microfluidics. In this technique an aqueous polymer solution along with a highly diluted cell solution is injected into a microfluidic device to create monodisperse pre-microgel droplets that are then solidified by a polymer crosslinking reaction to obtain monodisperse single cell-laden microniches. However, problems limiting this approach studying the fate of single cells include Poisson encapsulation statistics that result in mostly empty microniches, and cells egressing from the microniches during subsequent cell culture. Here, we present a strategy to bypass Poisson encapsulation statistics in synthetic microniches by selective crosslinking of only cell-laden pre-microgel droplets. Furthermore, we show that we can position cells in the center of the microniches, and that even in protease-sensitive microniches this greatly reduces cell egress. Collectively, we present the development of a versatile protocol that allows for unprecedented efficiency in creation of synthetic protease-sensitive microniches for probing single stem cell fate in 3D.
Biomaterial scaffolds that enrich and modulate immune cells in situ can form the basis for potent immunotherapies to elicit immunity or reëstablish tolerance. Here, the authors explore the potential of an injectable, porous hydrogel to induce a regulatory T cell (Treg) response by delivering a peptide antigen to dendritic cells in a noninflammatory context. Two methods are described for delivering the BDC peptide from pore-forming alginate gels in the nonobese diabetic mouse model of type 1 diabetes: encapsulation in poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLG) microparticles, or direct conjugation to the alginate polymer. While particle-based delivery leads to antigen-specific T cells responses in vivo, PLG particles alter the phenotype of the cells infiltrating the gels. Following gel-based peptide delivery, transient expansion of endogenous antigen-specific T cells is observed in the draining lymph nodes. Antigen-specific T cells accumulate in the gels, and, strikingly, ≈60% of the antigen-specific CD4(+) T cells in the gels are Tregs. Antigen-specific T cells are also enriched in the pancreatic islets, and administration of peptide-loaded gels does not accelerate diabetes. This work demonstrates that a noninflammatory biomaterial system can generate antigen-specific Tregs in vivo, which may enable the development of new therapies for the treatment of transplant rejection or autoimmune diseases.
There is much interest in form-fitting, low-modulus, implantable devices or soft robots that can mimic or assist in complex biological functions such as the contraction of heart muscle. We present a soft robotic sleeve that is implanted around the heart and actively compresses and twists to act as a cardiac ventricular assist device. The sleeve does not contact blood, obviating the need for anticoagulation therapy or blood thinners, and reduces complications with current ventricular assist devices, such as clotting and infection. Our approach used a biologically inspired design to orient individual contracting elements or actuators in a layered helical and circumferential fashion, mimicking the orientation of the outer two muscle layers of the mammalian heart. The resulting implantable soft robot mimicked the form and function of the native heart, with a stiffness value of the same order of magnitude as that of the heart tissue. We demonstrated feasibility of this soft sleeve device for supporting heart function in a porcine model of acute heart failure. The soft robotic sleeve can be customized to patient-specific needs and may have the potential to act as a bridge to transplant for patients with heart failure.
Existing techniques to encapsulate cells into microscale hydrogels generally yield high polymer-to-cell ratios and lack control over the hydrogel's mechanical properties. Here, we report a microfluidic-based method for encapsulating single cells in an approximately six-micrometre layer of alginate that increases the proportion of cell-containing microgels by a factor of ten, with encapsulation efficiencies over 90%. We show that in vitro cell viability was maintained over a three-day period, that the microgels are mechanically tractable, and that, for microscale cell assemblages of encapsulated marrow stromal cells cultured in microwells, osteogenic differentiation of encapsulated cells depends on gel stiffness and cell density. We also show that intravenous injection of singly encapsulated marrow stromal cells into mice delays clearance kinetics and sustains donor-derived soluble factors in vivo. The encapsulation of single cells in tunable hydrogels should find use in a variety of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications.
INTRODUCTION: Hyaluronic acid (HA)-based fillers are used for various cosmetic procedures. However, due to filler migration and degradation, reinjections of the fillers are often required. Methacrylated HA (MA-HA) can be made into injectable shape-memorizing fillers (three-dimensional [3D] MA-HA) aimed to address these issues. In this study, shape retention, firmness, and biocompatibility of 3D MA-HA injected subcutaneously in mice were evaluated.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Fifteen mice, each receiving two subcutaneous injections in their back, were divided into four groups receiving HA, MA-HA, 3D MA-HA, or saline, respectively. Digital imaging, scanning electron microscope (SEM) and in vivo imaging system (IVIS), durometry, and histology were utilized to evaluate in vitro/vivo degradation and migration, material firmness, and the angiogenic (CD31) and immunogenic (CD45) response of the host tissue toward the injected materials.
RESULTS: Digital imaging, SEM, and IVIS revealed that 3D MA-HA fillers maintained their predetermined shape for at least 30 days in vitro and in vivo. Little volume effects were noted in the saline and other control groups. There were no differences in skin firmness between the groups or over time. Histology showed intact skin architecture in all groups. Three-dimensional MA-HA maintained its macroporous structure with significant angiogenesis at the 3D MA-HA/skin interfaces and throughout the 3D MA-HA. There was no significant inflammatory response to any of the injected materials.
CONCLUSION: 3D MA-HA showed remarkable tissue compatibility, compliance, and shape predictability, as well as retention, and thus might be suitable for various skin sculpting and soft tissue reconstruction purposes.
Extracellular matrix stiffness influences biological functions of some tumors. However, it remains unclear how cancer subtypes with different oncogenic mutations respond to matrix stiffness. In addition, the relevance of matrix stiffness to in vivo tumor growth kinetics and drug efficacy remains elusive. Here, we designed 3D hydrogels with physical parameters relevant to hematopoietic tissues and adapted them to a quantitative high-throughput screening format to facilitate mechanistic investigations into the role of matrix stiffness on myeloid leukemias. Matrix stiffness regulates proliferation of some acute myeloid leukemia types, including MLL-AF9(+) MOLM-14 cells, in a biphasic manner by autocrine regulation, whereas it decreases that of chronic myeloid leukemia BCR-ABL(+) K-562 cells. Although Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) integrin ligand and matrix softening confer resistance to a number of drugs, cells become sensitive to drugs against protein kinase B (PKB or AKT) and rapidly accelerated fibrosarcoma (RAF) proteins regardless of matrix stiffness when MLL-AF9 and BCR-ABL are overexpressed in K-562 and MOLM-14 cells, respectively. By adapting the same hydrogels to a xenograft model of extramedullary leukemias, we confirm the pathological relevance of matrix stiffness in growth kinetics and drug sensitivity against standard chemotherapy in vivo. The results thus demonstrate the importance of incorporating 3D mechanical cues into screening for anticancer drugs.
Polydiacetylene (PDA) liposomes were prepared to selectively capture target released from bacteria. Specific interplay between released-surfactin and PDA resulted in a conformal change in the structure of PDA, highlighting the potential of indirect interactions between bacteria and PDA in the construction of new label-free bacterial sensors.
We report a microfluidic approach for one-step fabrication of polyelectrolyte microcapsules in aqueous conditions. Using two immiscible aqueous polymer solutions, we generate transient water-in-water-in-water double emulsion droplets and use them as templates to fabricate polyelectrolyte microcapsules. The capsule shell is formed by the complexation of oppositely charged polyelectrolytes at the immiscible interface. We find that attractive electrostatic interactions can significantly prolong the release of charged molecules. Moreover, we demonstrate the application of these microcapsules in encapsulation and release of proteins without impairing their biological activities. Our platform should benefit a wide range of applications that require encapsulation and sustained release of molecules in aqueous environments.
The microenvironment is increasingly recognized to have key roles in cancer, and biomaterials provide a means to engineer microenvironments both in vitro and in vivo to study and manipulate cancer. In vitro cancer models using 3D matrices recapitulate key elements of the tumour microenvironment and have revealed new aspects of cancer biology. Cancer vaccines based on some of the same biomaterials have, in parallel, allowed for the engineering of durable prophylactic and therapeutic anticancer activity in preclinical studies, and some of these vaccines have moved to clinical trials. The impact of biomaterials engineering on cancer treatment is expected to further increase in importance in the years to come.
Severe skeletal muscle injuries are common and can lead to extensive fibrosis, scarring, and loss of function. Clinically, no therapeutic intervention exists that allows for a full functional restoration. As a result, both drug and cellular therapies are being widely investigated for treatment of muscle injury. Because muscle is known to respond to mechanical loading, we investigated instead whether a material system capable of massage-like compressions could promote regeneration. Magnetic actuation of biphasic ferrogel scaffolds implanted at the site of muscle injury resulted in uniform cyclic compressions that led to reduced fibrous capsule formation around the implant, as well as reduced fibrosis and inflammation in the injured muscle. In contrast, no significant effect of ferrogel actuation on muscle vascularization or perfusion was found. Strikingly, ferrogel-driven mechanical compressions led to enhanced muscle regeneration and a ∼threefold increase in maximum contractile force of the treated muscle at 2 wk compared with no-treatment controls. Although this study focuses on the repair of severely injured skeletal muscle, magnetically stimulated bioagent-free ferrogels may find broad utility in the field of regenerative medicine.
Injectable gelatin hydrogels formed with bioorthogonal click chemistry (ClickGel) are cell-responsive ECM mimics for in vitro and in vivo biomaterials applications. Gelatin polymers with pendant norbornene (GelN) or tetrazine (GelT) groups can quickly and spontaneously crosslink upon mixing, allowing for high viability of encapsulated cells, establishment of 3D elongated cell morphologies, and biodegradation when injected in vivo.
Biomaterial scaffold based vaccines show significant potential in generating potent antigen-specific immunity. However, the role of the scaffold surface chemistry in initiating and modulating the immune response is not well understood. In this study, a mesoporous silica micro-rod (MSR) scaffold was modified with PEG, PEG-RGD and PEG-RDG groups. PEG modification significantly enhanced BMDC activation marker up-regulation and IL-1β production in vitro, and innate immune cell infiltration in vivo. PEG-RGD MSRs and PEG-RDG MSRs displayed decreased inflammation compared to PEG MSRs, and the effect was not RGD specific. Finally, the Nlrp3 inflammasome was found to be necessary for MSR stimulated IL-1β production in vitro and played a key role in regulating immune cell infiltration in vivo. These findings suggest that simply modulating the surface chemistry of a scaffold can regulate its immune cell infiltration profile and have implications for the design and development of new material based vaccines.
In recent years, it has become clear that mechanical cues play an integral role in maintaining stem cell functions. Here we discuss how integrating physical approaches and engineering principles in stem cell biology, including culture systems, preclinical models, and functional assessment, may improve clinical application in regenerative medicine.
We demonstrate that a poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLG) cancer vaccine can be used in combination with immune checkpoint antibodies, anti-CTLA-4 or anti-PD-1, to enhance cytotoxic T-cell (CTL) activity and induce the regression of solid B16 tumors in mice. Combination therapy obviated the need for vaccine boosting and significantly skewed intratumoral reactions toward CTL activity, resulting in the regression of B16 tumors up to 50 mm(2) in size and 75% survival rates. These data suggest that combining material-based cancer vaccines with checkpoint antibodies has the potential to mediate tumor regression in humans.
Targeted subunit vaccines for cancer immunotherapy do not capture tumor antigenic complexity, and approaches employing tumor lysate are often limited by inefficient antigen uptake and presentation, and low immunogenicity. Here, whole cancer cells are processed to generate antigen-rich, membrane-enclosed subcellular particles, termed "reduced cancer cells", that reflect the diversity and breadth of the parent cancer cell antigen repertoire, and can be loaded with disparate adjuvant payloads. These vesicular particles enhance the uptake of the adjuvant payload, and potentiate the activation of primary dendritic cells in vitro. Similarly, reduced cancer cell-associated antigens are more efficiently presented by primary dendritic cells in vitro than their soluble counterparts or lysate control. In mice, vaccination using adjuvant-loaded reduced cancer cells facilitates the induction of antigen-specific cellular and humoral immune responses. Taken together, these observations demonstrate that adjuvant-loaded reduced cancer cells could be utilized in cancer vaccines as an alternative to lysate.
Therapeutic cancer vaccines aim to induce durable antitumor immunity that is capable of systemic protection against tumor recurrence or metastatic disease. Many approaches to therapeutic cancer vaccines have been explored, with varying levels of success. However, with the exception of Sipuleucel T, an ex vivo dendritic cell vaccine for prostate cancer, no therapeutic cancer vaccine has yet shown clinical efficacy in phase 3 randomized trials. Though disappointing, lessons learned from these studies have suggested new strategies to improve cancer vaccines. The clinical success of checkpoint blockade has underscored the role of peripheral tolerance mechanisms in limiting vaccine responses and highlighted the potential for combination therapies. Recent advances in transcriptome sequencing, computational modeling, and material engineering further suggest new opportunities to intensify cancer vaccines. This review will discuss the major approaches to therapeutic cancer vaccination and explore recent advances that inform the design of the next generation of cancer vaccines.