Publications

2020
Zhang DKY, Cheung AS, Mooney DJ. Activation and expansion of human T cells using artificial antigen-presenting cell scaffolds. Nat Protoc. 2020;15 (3) :773-798.Abstract
Synthetic antigen-presenting cells (APCs) are used to mediate scalable ex vivo T-cell expansion for adoptive cell therapy. Recently, we developed APC-mimetic scaffolds (APC-ms), which present signals to T cells in a physiological manner to mediate rapid and controlled T-cell expansion. APC-ms are composed of individual high-aspect-ratio silica microrods loaded with soluble mitogenic cues and coated with liposomes of defined compositions, to form supported lipid bilayers. Membrane-bound ligands for stimulation and co-stimulation of T-cell receptors are presented via the fluid, synthetic membranes, while mitogenic cues are released slowly from the microrods. In culture, interacting T cells assemble the individual APC-ms microrods into a biodegradable 3D matrix. Compared to conventional methods, APC-ms facilitates several-fold greater polyclonal T-cell expansion and improved antigen-specific enrichment of rare T-cell subpopulations. Here we provide a detailed protocol for APC-ms synthesis and use for human T-cell activation, and discuss important considerations for material design and T-cell co-culture. This protocol describes the facile assembly of APC-ms in ~4 h and rapid expansion or enrichment of relevant T-cell clones in <2 weeks, and is applicable for T-cell manufacturing and assay development.
Garske DS, Schmidt-Bleek K, Ellinghaus A, Dienelt A, Gu L, Mooney DJ, Duda GN, Cipitria A. Alginate Hydrogels for Bone Regeneration: The Immune Competence of the Animal Model Matters. Tissue Eng Part A. 2020.Abstract
Biomaterials with tunable biophysical properties hold great potential for tissue engineering. The adaptive immune system plays an important role in bone regeneration. Our goal is to investigate the regeneration potential of cell-laden alginate hydrogels depending on the immune status of the animal model. Specifically, the regeneration potential of rat mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC)-laden, void-forming alginate hydrogels, with a stiffness optimized for osteogenic differentiation, is studied in 5-mm critical-sized femoral defects, in both T cell-deficient athymic Rowett Nude (RNU) rats and immunocompetent Sprague Dawley rats. Bone volume fraction, bone mineral density, and tissue mineral density are higher for athymic RNU nude rats 6 weeks postsurgery. In addition, these animals show a significantly higher number of total cells and cells with non-lymphocyte morphology at the defect site, while the number of cells with lymphocyte-like morphology is lower. Hydrogel degradation is slower and the remaining alginate fragments are surrounded by a thicker fibrous capsule. Ossification islands originating from alginate residues suggest that encapsulated MSCs differentiate into the osteogenic lineage and initiate the mineralization process. However, this effect is insufficient to fully bridge the bone defect in both animal models. Alginate hydrogels can be used to deliver MSCs and thereby recruit endogenous cells through paracrine signaling, but additional osteogenic stimuli are needed to regenerate critical-sized segmental femoral defects. Impact statement T cell-deficient athymic RNU nude rats are commonly used to evaluate the regeneration potential of biomaterials in combination with cells of human origin. In this study, we show that the effect of mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC)-laden alginate hydrogels on bone regeneration differs depending of the immune status of the animal model. Furthermore, while alginate hydrogels are interesting materials to investigate the effect tunable biophysical properties on cell response and regeneration, their use in combination with rat MSCs is insufficient to fully bridge critical-sized segmental femoral defects. For this purpose, additional osteogenic stimuli such as growth factor delivery are necessary.
Shah NJ, Najibi AJ, Shih T-Y, Mao AS, Sharda A, Scadden DT, Mooney DJ. A biomaterial-based vaccine eliciting durable tumour-specific responses against acute myeloid leukaemia. Nat Biomed Eng. 2020;4 (1) :40-51.Abstract
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a malignancy of haematopoietic origin that has limited therapeutic options. The standard-of-care cytoreductive chemotherapy depletes AML cells to induce remission, but is infrequently curative. An immunosuppressive AML microenvironment in the bone marrow and the paucity of suitable immunotherapy targets limit the induction of effective immune responses. Here, in mouse models of AML, we show that a macroporous-biomaterial vaccine that delivers the cytokine granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), the Toll-like-receptor-9 agonist cytosine-guanosine oligodeoxynucleotide and one or multiple leukaemia antigens (in the form of a defined peptide antigen, cell lysates or antigens sourced from AML cells recruited in vivo) induces local immune-cell infiltration and activated dendritic cells, evoking a potent anti-AML response. The biomaterial-based vaccine prevented the engraftment of AML cells when administered as a prophylactic and when combined with chemotherapy, and eradicated established AML even in the absence of a defined vaccine antigen. Biomaterial-based AML vaccination can induce potent immune responses, deplete AML cells and prevent disease relapse.
Li Y, Mao AS, Seo BR, Zhao X, Gupta SK, Chen M, Han Y, Shih T-Y, Mooney DJ, Guo M. Compression-induced dedifferentiation of adipocytes promotes tumor progression. Sci Adv. 2020;6 (4) :eaax5611.Abstract
Dysregulated physical stresses are generated during tumorigenesis that affect the surrounding compliant tissues including adipocytes. However, the effect of physical stressors on the behavior of adipocytes and their cross-talk with tumor cells remain elusive. Here, we demonstrate that compression of cells, resulting from various types of physical stresses, can induce dedifferentiation of adipocytes via mechanically activating Wnt/β-catenin signaling. The compression-induced dedifferentiated adipocytes (CiDAs) have a distinct transcriptome profile, long-term self-renewal, and serial clonogenicity, but do not form teratomas. We then show that CiDAs notably enhance human mammary adenocarcinoma proliferation both in vitro and in a xenograft model, owing to myofibrogenesis of CiDAs in the tumor-conditioned environment. Collectively, our results highlight unique physical interplay in the tumor ecosystem; tumor-induced physical stresses stimulate de novo generation of CiDAs, which feedback to tumor growth.
Adu-Berchie K, Mooney DJ. Filmed over with CAR-T cells. Nat Biomed Eng. 2020;4 (2) :142-143.
de Lázaro I, Mooney DJ. A nanoparticle's pathway into tumours. Nat Mater. 2020;19 (5) :486-487.
Matoori S, Mooney DJ. Near-Infrared Fluorescence Hydrogen Peroxide Assay for Versatile Metabolite Biosensing in Whole Blood. Small. 2020 :e2000369.Abstract
In emergency medicine, blood lactate levels are commonly measured to assess the severity and response to treatment of hypoperfusion-related diseases (e.g., sepsis, trauma, cardiac arrest). Clinical blood lactate testing is conducted with laboratory analyzers, leading to a delay of 3 h between triage and lactate result. Here, a fluorescence-based blood lactate assay, which can be utilized for bedside testing, based on measuring the hydrogen peroxide generated by the enzymatic oxidation of lactate is described. To establish a hydrogen peroxide assay, near-infrared cyanine derivatives are screened and sulfo-cyanine 7 is identified as a new horseradish peroxidase (HRP) substrate, which loses its fluorescence in presence of HRP and hydrogen peroxide. As hydrogen peroxide is rapidly cleared by erythrocytic catalase and glutathione peroxidase, sulfo-cyanine 7, HRP, and lactate oxidase are encapsulated in a liposomal reaction compartment. In lactate-spiked bovine whole blood, the newly developed lactate assay exhibits a linear response in a clinically relevant range after 10 min. Substituting lactate oxidase with glucose and alcohol oxidase allows for blood glucose, ethanol, and methanol biosensing, respectively. This easy-to-use, rapid, and versatile assay may be useful for the quantification of a variety of enzymatically oxidizable metabolites, drugs, and toxic substances in blood and potentially other biological fluids.
Wong SW, Lenzini S, Cooper MH, Mooney DJ, Shin J-W. Soft extracellular matrix enhances inflammatory activation of mesenchymal stromal cells to induce monocyte production and trafficking. Sci Adv. 2020;6 (15) :eaaw0158.Abstract
Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) modulate immune cells to ameliorate multiple inflammatory pathologies. Biophysical signals that regulate this process are poorly defined. By engineering hydrogels with tunable biophysical parameters relevant to bone marrow where MSCs naturally reside, we show that soft extracellular matrix maximizes the ability of MSCs to produce paracrine factors that have been implicated in monocyte production and chemotaxis upon inflammatory stimulation by tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα). Soft matrix increases clustering of TNF receptors, thereby enhancing NF-κB activation and downstream gene expression. Actin polymerization and lipid rafts, but not myosin-II contractility, regulate mechanosensitive activation of MSCs by TNFα. We functionally demonstrate that human MSCs primed with TNFα in soft matrix enhance production of human monocytes in marrow of xenografted mice and increase trafficking of monocytes via CCL2. The results suggest the importance of biophysical signaling in tuning inflammatory activation of stromal cells to control the innate immune system.
Wang H, Sobral MC, Snyder T, Brudno Y, Gorantla VS, Mooney DJ. Clickable, acid labile immunosuppressive prodrugs for in vivo targeting. Biomater Sci. 2020;8 (1) :266-277.Abstract
Allotransplantation offers the potential to restore the anatomy and function of injured tissues and organs, but typically requires life-long, systemic administration of immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection, which can result in serious complications. Targeting the immunosuppressive drug to the graft favors local tissue concentration versus systemic drug exposure and end-organ toxicity. This could reduce the overall dose and dosing frequency of immunosuppressive drugs, and improve the safety and efficacy of treatment. Here, we developed dibenzocyclooctyne (DBCO)-modified prodrugs of the immunosuppressive drugs tacrolimus, rapamycin and mycophenolic acid, and demonstrated their targeted conjugation both in vitro and in vivo to azido-modified hydrogels via Click chemistry. Such azido-modified hydrogels placed in transplanted tissues enable sustained local release of drugs, and could be repeatedly refilled with systemically administered acid-labile prodrugs after drug exhaustion. Thus, clickable prodrugs with degradable linkers provide new possibilities for graft targeted immunosuppression in the context of allotransplantation.
Qazi TH, Mooney DJ, Duda GN, Geissler S. Niche-mimicking interactions in peptide-functionalized 3D hydrogels amplify mesenchymal stromal cell paracrine effects. Biomaterials. 2020;230 :119639.Abstract
Cells encounter complex environments in vivo where they interact with the extracellular matrix, neighboring cells, and soluble cues, which together influence their fate and function. However, the interplay of these interactions and their collective impact on the regenerative effects of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) remains insufficiently explored. Here, we show that 3D culture in microporous (~125 μm) hydrogels that passively promote cell-cell interactions sensitizes MSCs to growth factors, particularly to IGF-1. IGF-1 enhances MSC paracrine secretion activity, and application of secreted factors to myoblasts potently stimulates their migration and differentiation. In contrast, the paracrine activity of MSCs encapsulated in nanoporous (~10 nm) hydrogels remain unchanged. Blocking N-cadherin on MSCs abrogates the stimulatory effects of IGF-1 in microporous but not nanoporous hydrogels. The role of N-cadherin in regulating MSC function is further clarified by functionalizing alginates with the HAVDI peptide sequence that is derived from the extracellular domain of N-cadherin and that acts to mimic cell-cell interactions. MSCs encapsulated in nanoporous HAVDI-gels, but not in gels functionalized with a scrambled sequence, show heightened paracrine activity in response to IGF-1. These findings reveal how interactions with the matrix, neighboring cells, and soluble factors impact and maximize the regenerative potential of MSCs.
2019
Kwee BJ, Seo BR, Najibi AJ, Li AW, Shih T-Y, White D, Mooney DJ. Treating ischemia via recruitment of antigen-specific T cells. Sci Adv. 2019;5 (7) :eaav6313.Abstract
Ischemic diseases are a leading cause of mortality and can result in autoamputation of lower limbs. We explored the hypothesis that implantation of an antigen-releasing scaffold, in animals previously vaccinated with the same antigen, can concentrate T2 T cells and enhance vascularization of ischemic tissue. This approach may be clinically relevant, as all persons receiving childhood vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have vaccines that contain aluminum, a T2 adjuvant. To test the hypothesis, mice with hindlimb ischemia, previously vaccinated with ovalbumin (OVA) and aluminum, received OVA-releasing scaffolds. Vaccinated mice receiving OVA-releasing scaffolds locally concentrated antigen-specific T2 T cells in the surrounding ischemic tissue. This resulted in local angiogenesis, increased perfusion in ischemic limbs, and reduced necrosis and enhanced regenerating myofibers in the muscle. These findings support the premise that antigen depots may provide a treatment for ischemic diseases in patients previously vaccinated with aluminum-containing adjuvants.
Grolman JM, Singh M, Mooney DJ, Eriksson E, Nuutila K. Antibiotic containing agarose hydrogel for wound and burn care. J Burn Care Res. 2019.Abstract
Wound infections cause inflammation, tissue damage and delayed healing that can lead to invasive infection and even death. The efficacy of systemic antibiotics is limited due to poor tissue penetration that is especially a problem in burn and blast wounds where the microcirculation is disrupted. Topical administration of antimicrobials is an attractive approach because it prevents infection and avoids systemic toxicity, while hydrogels are an appealing vehicle for topical drug delivery. They are easy to apply to the wound site by being injectable, the drug release properties can be controlled and their many characteristics, such as biodegradation, mechanical strength, and chemical and biological response to stimuli can be tailored. Hydrogels also create a moist wound environment that is beneficial for healing. The purpose of this study was to formulate an agarose hydrogel that contains high concentrations of minocycline or gentamicin and study its characteristics. Subsequently, the minocycline agarose hydrogel was tested in a porcine burn model and its effect as a prophylactic treatment was studied. The results demonstrated that 0.5 % agarose in water was the optimal concentration in terms of viscosity and pH. Bench testing at room temperature demonstrated that both antibiotics remained stable in the hydrogel for at least 7 days and both antibiotics demonstrated sustained release over the time of the experiment. The porcine burn experiment showed that prophylactic treatment with the agarose minocycline hydrogel decreased the burn depth and reduced the number of bacteria as efficiently as the commonly used silver sulfadiazine cream.
Blacklow SO, Li J, Freedman BR, Zeidi M, Chen C, Mooney DJ. Bioinspired mechanically active adhesive dressings to accelerate wound closure. Sci Adv. 2019;5 (7) :eaaw3963.Abstract
Inspired by embryonic wound closure, we present mechanically active dressings to accelerate wound healing. Conventional dressings passively aid healing by maintaining moisture at wound sites. Recent developments have focused on drug and cell delivery to drive a healing process, but these methods are often complicated by drug side effects, sophisticated fabrication, and high cost. Here, we present novel active adhesive dressings consisting of thermoresponsive tough adhesive hydrogels that combine high stretchability, toughness, tissue adhesion, and antimicrobial function. They adhere strongly to the skin and actively contract wounds, in response to exposure to the skin temperature. In vitro and in vivo studies demonstrate their efficacy in accelerating and supporting skin wound healing. Finite element models validate and refine the wound contraction process enabled by these active adhesive dressings. This mechanobiological approach opens new avenues for wound management and may find broad utility in applications ranging from regenerative medicine to soft robotics.
Lueckgen A, Garske DS, Ellinghaus A, Mooney DJ, Duda GN, Cipitria A. Enzymatically-degradable alginate hydrogels promote cell spreading and in vivo tissue infiltration. Biomaterials. 2019;217 :119294.Abstract
Enzymatically-degradable materials recapitulate the dynamic and reciprocal interactions between cells and their native microenvironment by allowing cells to actively shape the degradation process. In order to engineer a synthetic 3D environment enabling cells to orchestrate the degradation of the surrounding material, norbornene-modified alginate was crosslinked with two different peptide crosslinkers susceptible to cleavage by matrix metalloproteinases using UV-initiated thiol-ene chemistry. Resulting hydrogels were characterized for their initial mechanical and rheological properties, and their degradation behavior was measured by tracking changes in wet weight upon enzyme incubation. This process was found to be a function of the crosslinker type and enzyme concentration, indicating that degradation kinetics could be controlled and tuned. When mouse embryonic fibroblasts were encapsulated in 3D, cell number remained constant and viability was high in all materials, while cell spreading and extensive filopodia formation was observed only in the degradable gels, not in non-degradable controls. After implanting hydrogels into the backs of C57/Bl6 mice for 8 weeks, histological stainings of recovered gel remnants and surrounding tissue revealed higher tissue and cell infiltration into degradable materials compared to non-degradable controls. This alginate-based material platform with cell-empowered enzymatic degradation could prove useful in diverse tissue engineering contexts, such as regeneration and drug delivery.
Mao AS, Özkale B, Shah NJ, Vining KH, Descombes T, Zhang L, Tringides CM, Wong S-W, Shin J-W, Scadden DT, et al. Programmable microencapsulation for enhanced mesenchymal stem cell persistence and immunomodulation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019;116 (31) :15392-15397.Abstract
Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapies demonstrate particular promise in ameliorating diseases of immune dysregulation but are hampered by short in vivo cell persistence and inconsistencies in phenotype. Here, we demonstrate that biomaterial encapsulation into alginate using a microfluidic device could substantially increase in vivo MSC persistence after intravenous (i.v.) injection. A combination of cell cluster formation and subsequent cross-linking with polylysine led to an increase in injected MSC half-life by more than an order of magnitude. These modifications extended persistence even in the presence of innate and adaptive immunity-mediated clearance. Licensing of encapsulated MSCs with inflammatory cytokine pretransplantation increased expression of immunomodulatory-associated genes, and licensed encapsulates promoted repopulation of recipient blood and bone marrow with allogeneic donor cells after sublethal irradiation by a ∼2-fold increase. The ability of microgel encapsulation to sustain MSC survival and increase overall immunomodulatory capacity may be applicable for improving MSC therapies in general.
Raimondo TM, Li H, Kwee BJ, Kinsley S, Budina E, Anderson EM, Doherty EJ, Talbot SG, Mooney DJ. Combined delivery of VEGF and IGF-1 promotes functional innervation in mice and improves muscle transplantation in rabbits. Biomaterials. 2019;216 :119246.Abstract
Microvascular muscle transfer is the gold standard for reanimation following chronic facial nerve paralysis, however, despite the regenerative capacity of peripheral motor axons, poor reinnervation often results in sub-optimal function. We hypothesized that injection of alginate hydrogels releasing growth factors directly into donor tissue would promote reinnervation, muscle regeneration, and function. A murine model of sciatic nerve ligation and neurorrhaphy was first used to assess the ability of gel delivery of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) to promote functional reinnervation. VEGF + IGF-1 gel delivery to aged mice resulted in prolonged ability to control toe movement, increased toe spreading, and improved static sciatic index score, indicative of improved sciatic nerve and neuromuscular junction function. Further, a 26% increase in muscle fiber area, and 2.8 and 3.0-fold increases in muscle contraction force and velocity, respectively, were found compared to blank alginate in the murine model. This strategy was subsequently tested in a rabbit model of craniofacial gracilis muscle transplantation. Electromyography demonstrated a 71% increase in compound muscle action potential 9 weeks after transplantation following treatment with VEGF + IGF-1 alginate, compared to blank alginate in the rabbit model. Improving functional innervation in transplanted muscle via a hydrogel source of growth factors may enhance the therapeutic outcomes of facial palsy treatments and, more broadly, muscle transplantations.
Yang J, Bai R, Li J, Yang CH, Yao X, Liu Q, Vlassak JJ, Mooney DJ, Suo Z. Design molecular topology for wet-dry adhesion. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2019.Abstract
Recent innovations highlight the integration of diverse materials with synthetic and biological hydrogels. Examples include brain-machine interfaces, tissue regeneration, and soft ionic devices. Existing methods of strong adhesion mostly focus on the chemistry of bonds and the mechanics of dissipation, but largely overlook the molecular topology of connection. Here, we highlight the significance of molecular topology by designing a specific bond-stitch topology. The bond-stitch topology achieves strong adhesion between preformed hydrogels and various materials, where the hydrogels have no functional groups for chemical coupling, and the adhered materials have functional groups on the surface. The adhesion principle requires a species of polymer chains to form bond with a material through complementary functional groups, and form a network in situ that stitches with the polymer network of a hydrogel. We study the physics and chemistry of this topology, and describe its potential applications in medicine and engineering.
Zohar B, Blinder Y, Epshtein M, Szklanny AA, Kaplan B, Korin N, Mooney DJ, Levenberg S. Multi-flow channel bioreactor enables real-time monitoring of cellular dynamics in 3D engineered tissue. Commun Biol. 2019;2 :158.Abstract
The key to understanding, harnessing, and manipulating natural biological processes for the benefit of tissue engineering lies in providing a controllable dynamic environment for tissue development in vitro while being able to track cell activity in real time. This work presents a multi-channel bioreactor specifically designed to enable on-line imaging of fluorescently labeled cells embedded in replicated 3D engineered constructs subjected to different flow conditions. The images are acquired in 3D using a standard upright confocal microscope and further analyzed and quantified by computer vision. The platform is used to characterize and quantify the pace and directionality of angiogenic processes induced by flow. The presented apparatus bears considerable potential to advance scientific research, from basic research pursuing the effect of flow versus static conditions on 3D scaffolds and cell types, to clinically oriented modeling in drug screening and cytotoxicity assays.
Dharmaraj N, Piotrowski SL, Huang C, Newton JM, Golfman LS, Hanoteau A, Koshy ST, Li AW, Pulikkathara MX, Zhang B, et al. Anti-tumor immunity induced by ectopic expression of viral antigens is transient and limited by immune escape. Oncoimmunology. 2019;8 (4) :e1568809.Abstract
Immunotherapeutic treatments in head and neck cancer clinical trials include cancer vaccines targeting foreign viral antigens or mutational neoantigens derived from cancer-expressed proteins. Anti-tumor immune responses place cancer cells under selective pressure to lose or downregulate target antigens; therefore, vaccination against virus- or host- "driver" oncogenes are proposed as a strategy to overcome immune escape. Herein, we demonstrate the impact of immunogenic viral antigens on anti-tumor response and immune editing in MOC2-E6E7, a syngeneic murine oral cancer cell line expressing HPV-16 E6 and E7 oncoproteins. Using orthotopic syngeneic models, we observed tumor growth kinetics of MOC2-E6E7 is delayed in immunocompetent mice compared to parental MOC2 tumors. In contrast, tumor growth remained similar in mice lacking adaptive immunity. MOC2-E6E7 tumors demonstrated an "inflamed" or immune-activated tumor microenvironment and greater infiltration of CD8 T cells compared to MOC2. By real-time PCR, we detected downregulation of and genes in MOC2-E6E7 tumors only in immunocompetent mice, suggesting the loss of ectopic viral antigen expression due to immune editing. We then assessed the efficacy of a biomaterials-based mesoporous silica rod (MSR) cancer vaccine targeting HPV-16 E7 in our model. Vaccination induced robust infiltration of antigen-specific CD8 T cells, which led to tumor growth delay and modestly prolonged survival in MOC2-E6E7 tumors. Increased efficacy was seen in a separate head and neck cancer tumor model, mEER, which obligately expresses E7 antigen. Collectively, our data highlight the need for both immunogenicity and 'driver' status of target antigens to be considered in cancer vaccine design.
Freedman BR, Mooney DJ. Biomaterials to Mimic and Heal Connective Tissues. Adv Mater. 2019 :e1806695.Abstract
Connective tissue is one of the four major types of animal tissue and plays essential roles throughout the human body. Genetic factors, aging, and trauma all contribute to connective tissue dysfunction and motivate the need for strategies to promote healing and regeneration. The goal here is to link a fundamental understanding of connective tissues and their multiscale properties to better inform the design and translation of novel biomaterials to promote their regeneration. Major clinical problems in adipose tissue, cartilage, dermis, and tendon are discussed that inspire the need to replace native connective tissue with biomaterials. Then, multiscale structure-function relationships in native soft connective tissues that may be used to guide material design are detailed. Several biomaterials strategies to improve healing of these tissues that incorporate biologics and are biologic-free are reviewed. Finally, important guidance documents and standards (ASTM, FDA, and EMA) that are important to consider for translating new biomaterials into clinical practice are highligted.

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