Grolman JM, Weinand P, Mooney DJ. Extracellular matrix plasticity as a driver of cell spreading. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020;117 (42) :25999-26007.Abstract
Mammalian cell morphology has been linked to the viscoelastic properties of the adhesion substrate, which is particularly relevant in biological processes such as wound repair and embryonic development where cell spreading and migration are critical. Plastic deformation, degradation, and relaxation of stress are typically coupled in biomaterial systems used to explore these effects, making it unclear which variable drives cell behavior. Here we present a nondegradable polymer architecture that specifically decouples irreversible creep from stress relaxation and modulus. We demonstrate that network plasticity independently controls mesenchymal stem cell spreading through a biphasic relationship dependent on cell-intrinsic forces, and this relationship can be shifted by inhibiting actomyosin contractility. Kinetic Monte Carlo simulations also show strong correlation with experimental cell spreading data as a function of the extracellular matrix (ECM) plasticity. Furthermore, plasticity regulates many ECM adhesion and remodeling genes. Altogether, these findings confirm a key role for matrix plasticity in stem cell biophysics, and we anticipate this will have ramifications in the design of biomaterials to enhance therapeutic applications of stem cells.
Wang H, Mooney DJ. Metabolic glycan labelling for cancer-targeted therapy. Nat Chem. 2020;12 (12) :1102-1114.Abstract
Metabolic glycoengineering with unnatural sugars provides a powerful tool to label cell membranes with chemical tags for subsequent targeted conjugation of molecular cargos via efficient chemistries. This technology has been widely explored for cancer labelling and targeting. However, as this metabolic labelling process can occur in both cancerous and normal cells, cancer-selective labelling needs to be achieved to develop cancer-targeted therapies. Unnatural sugars can be either rationally designed to enable preferential labelling of cancer cells, or specifically delivered to cancerous tissues. In this Review Article, we will discuss the progress to date in design and delivery of unnatural sugars for metabolic labelling of tumour cells and subsequent development of tumour-targeted therapy. Metabolic cell labelling for cancer immunotherapy will also be discussed. Finally, we will provide a perspective on future directions of metabolic labelling of cancer and immune cells for the development of potent, clinically translatable cancer therapies.
Gonzalez-Pujana A, Vining KH, Zhang DKY, Santos-Vizcaino E, Igartua M, Hernandez RM, Mooney DJ. Multifunctional biomimetic hydrogel systems to boost the immunomodulatory potential of mesenchymal stromal cells. Biomaterials. 2020;257 :120266.Abstract
Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) hold great therapeutic potential, in part because of their immunomodulatory properties. However, these properties can be transient and depend on multiple factors. Here, we developed a multifunctional hydrogel system to synergistically enhance the immunomodulatory properties of MSCs, using a combination of sustained inflammatory licensing and three-dimensional (3D) encapsulation in hydrogels with tunable mechanical properties. The immunomodulatory extracellular matrix hydrogels (iECM) consist of an interpenetrating network of click functionalized-alginate and fibrillar collagen, in which interferon γ (IFN-γ) loaded heparin-coated beads are incorporated. The 3D microenvironment significantly enhanced the expression of a wide panel of pivotal immunomodulatory genes in bone marrow-derived primary human MSCs (hMSCs), compared to two-dimensional (2D) tissue culture. Moreover, the inclusion of IFN-γ loaded heparin-coated beads prolonged the expression of key regulatory genes upregulated upon licensing, including indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) and galectin-9 (GAL9). At a protein level, iECM hydrogels enhanced the secretion of the licensing responsive factor Gal-9 by hMSCs. Its presence in hydrogel conditioned media confirmed the correct release and diffusion of the factors secreted by hMSCs from the system. Furthermore, co-culture of iECM-encapsulated hMSCs and activated human T cells resulted in suppressed proliferation, demonstrating direct regulation on immune cells. These data highlight the potential of iECM hydrogels to enhance the immunomodulatory properties of hMSCs in cell therapies.
McNamara SL, Brudno Y, Miller AB, Ham HO, Aizenberg M, Chaikof EL, Mooney DJ. Regenerating Antithrombotic Surfaces through Nucleic Acid Displacement. ACS Biomater Sci Eng. 2020;6 (4) :2159-2166.Abstract
Blood-contacting devices are commonly coated with antithrombotic agents to prevent clot formation and to extend the lifespan of the device. However, in vivo degradation of these bioactive surface agents ultimately limits device efficacy and longevity. Here, a regenerative antithrombotic catheter surface treatment is developed using oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) toehold exchange. ODN strands modified to carry antithrombotic payloads can inhibit the thrombin enzyme when bound to a surface and exchange with rapid kinetics over multiple cycles, even while carrying large payloads. The surface-bound ODNs inhibit thrombin activity to significantly reduce fibrinogen cleavage and fibrin formation, and this effect is sustained after ODN exchange of the surface-bound strands with a fresh antithrombotic payload. This study presents a unique strategy for achieving a continuous antithrombotic state for blood-contacting devices using an ODN-based regeneration method.
Sands WR, Tabansky I, Verbeke CS, Keskin D, Michel S, Stern J, Mooney DJ. Steroid-Peptide Immunoconjugates for Attenuating T Cell Responses in an Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis Murine Model of Multiple Sclerosis. Bioconjug Chem. 2020;31 (12) :2779-2788.Abstract
Diseases of immunity, including autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, transplantation graft rejection, allergy, and asthma, are prevalent and increasing in prevalence. They contribute to significant morbidity and mortality; however, few if any curative therapies exist, and those that are available lack either potency or specificity. Dendritic cells (DCs) are sentinels of the immune system that connect the innate and adaptive immune system and are critical regulators of both immunity and tolerance. We posited that the tolerogenic potential of DC could be harnessed to develop more specific and potent therapies for diseases of immunity by delivering autoantigen to a sufficient number of tolerogenic DCs in situ that could then inhibit pathogenic effector T cell responses. Specifically, we hypothesized that the steroid dexamethasone covalently coupled to a peptide antigen could be processed by DCs, induce tolerogenic DCs, and attenuate antigen-specific pathogenic T cell responses. To test this hypothesis, we synthesized a series of dexamethasone-peptide immunoconjugates by standard solid-phase peptide synthesis. The antigenic portion of the immunoconjugate could be presented by DCs, and the immunoconjugate induced a tolerogenic phenotype in DCs that then inhibited antigen-specific T cell proliferation in vitro. When the immunoconjugate was administered prophylactically in the murine experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis model of multiple sclerosis, disease was attenuated compared to dexamethasone and peptide delivered as uncoupled components. Together, this work demonstrates the utility of immunoconjugates for inducing tolerance while establishing the foundation for future studies exploring methods to enrich and target DCs for tolerogenic therapies.
Ledo AM, Vining KH, Alonso MJ, Garcia-Fuentes M, Mooney DJ. Extracellular matrix mechanics regulate transfection and SOX9-directed differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells. Acta Biomater. 2020;110 :153-163.Abstract
Gene delivery within hydrogel matrices can potentially direct mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) towards a chondrogenic fate to promote regeneration of cartilage. Here, we investigated whether the mechanical properties of the hydrogel containing the gene delivery systems could enhance transfection and chondrogenic programming of primary human bone marrow-derived MSCs. We developed collagen-I-alginate interpenetrating polymer network hydrogels with tunable stiffness and adhesion properties. The hydrogels were activated with nanocomplexed SOX9 polynucleotides to direct chondrogenic differentiation of MSCs. MSCs transfected within the hydrogels showed higher expression of chondrogenic markers compared to MSCs transfected in 2D prior to encapsulation. The nanocomplex uptake and resulting expression of transfected SOX9 were jointly enhanced by increased stiffness and cell-adhesion ligand density in the hydrogels. Further, transfection of SOX9 effectively induced MSCs chondrogenesis and reduced markers of hypertrophy compared to control matrices. These findings highlight the importance of matrix stiffness and adhesion as design parameters in gene-activated matrices for regenerative medicine. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Gene-activated matrices (GAMs) are biodegradable polymer networks integrating gene therapies, and they are promising technologies for supporting tissue regeneration. Despite this interest, there is still limited information on how to rationally design these systems. Here, we provide a systematic study of the effect of matrix stiffness and cell adhesion ligands on gene transfer efficiency. We show that high stiffness and the presence of cell-binding sites promote transfection efficiency and that this result is related to more efficient internalization and trafficking of the gene therapies. GAMs with optimized mechanical properties can induce cartilage formation and result in tissues with better characteristics for articular cartilage tissue engineering as compared to previously described standard methods.
Wang H, Sobral MC, Zhang DKY, Cartwright AN, Li AW, Dellacherie MO, Tringides CM, Koshy ST, Wucherpfennig KW, Mooney DJ. Metabolic labeling and targeted modulation of dendritic cells. Nat Mater. 2020;19 (11) :1244-1252.Abstract
Targeted immunomodulation of dendritic cells (DCs) in vivo will enable manipulation of T-cell priming and amplification of anticancer immune responses, but a general strategy has been lacking. Here we show that DCs concentrated by a biomaterial can be metabolically labelled with azido groups in situ, which allows for their subsequent tracking and targeted modulation over time. Azido-labelled DCs were detected in lymph nodes for weeks, and could covalently capture dibenzocyclooctyne (DBCO)-bearing antigens and adjuvants via efficient Click chemistry for improved antigen-specific CD8+ T-cell responses and antitumour efficacy. We also show that azido labelling of DCs allowed for in vitro and in vivo conjugation of DBCO-modified cytokines, including DBCO-IL-15/IL-15Rα, to improve priming of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells. This DC labelling and targeted modulation technology provides an unprecedented strategy for manipulating DCs and regulating DC-T-cell interactions in vivo.
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;26 (15-16) :852-862.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.
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;16 (20) :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.
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.