Enzymatically active biomimetic micropropellers for the penetration of mucin gels.
ABSTRACT: In the body, mucus provides an important defense mechanism by limiting the penetration of pathogens. It is therefore also a major obstacle for the efficient delivery of particle-based drug carriers. The acidic stomach lining in particular is difficult to overcome because mucin glycoproteins form viscoelastic gels under acidic conditions. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori has developed a strategy to overcome the mucus barrier by producing the enzyme urease, which locally raises the pH and consequently liquefies the mucus. This allows the bacteria to swim through mucus and to reach the epithelial surface. We present an artificial system of reactive magnetic micropropellers that mimic this strategy to move through gastric mucin gels by making use of surface-immobilized urease. The results demonstrate the validity of this biomimetic approach to penetrate biological gels, and show that externally propelled microstructures can actively and reversibly manipulate the physical state of their surroundings, suggesting that such particles could potentially penetrate native mucus.
Project description:Studying propulsion mechanisms in low Reynolds number fluid has implications for many fields, ranging from the biology of motile microorganisms and the physics of active matter to micromixing in catalysis and micro- and nanorobotics. The propulsion of magnetic micropropellers can be characterized by a dimensionless speed, which solely depends on the propeller geometry for a given axis of rotation. However, this dependence has so far been only investigated for helical propeller shapes, which were assumed to be optimal. In order to explore a larger variety of shapes, we experimentally studied the propulsion properties of randomly shaped magnetic micropropellers. Surprisingly, we found that their dimensionless speeds are high on average, comparable to previously reported nanofabricated helical micropropellers. The highest dimensionless speed we observed is higher than that of any previously reported propeller moving in a low Reynolds number fluid, proving that physical random shape generation can be a viable optimization strategy.
Project description:Mucus covers the epithelium found in all intestinal tracts, where it serves as an important protecting barrier, and pharmaceutical drugs administrated by the oral, rectal, vaginal, ocular, or nasal route need to penetrate the mucus in order to reach their targets. Furthermore, the diffusion in mucus as well as the viscosity of mucus in the eyes, nose and throat can change depending on the relative humidity of the surrounding air. In this study we have investigated how diffusion through gels of mucin, the main protein in mucus, is affected by changes in ambient relative humidity (i.e. water activity). Already a small decrease in water activity was found to give rise to a significant decrease in penetration rate through the mucin gel of the antibacterial drug metronidazole. We also show that a decrease in water activity leads to decreased diffusion rate in the mucin gel for the fluorophore fluorescein. This study shows that it is possible to alter transport rates of molecules through mucus by changing the water activity in the gel. It furthermore illustrates the importance of considering effects of the water activity in the mucosa during development of potential pharmaceuticals.
Project description:The ulcer-causing gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori is the only bacterium known to colonize the harsh acidic environment of the human stomach. H. pylori survives in acidic conditions by producing urease, which catalyzes hydrolysis of urea to yield ammonia thus elevating the pH of its environment. However, the manner in which H. pylori is able to swim through the viscoelastic mucus gel that coats the stomach wall remains poorly understood. Previous rheology studies on gastric mucin, the key viscoelastic component of gastric mucus, indicate that the rheology of this material is pH dependent, transitioning from a viscous solution at neutral pH to a gel in acidic conditions. Bulk rheology measurements on porcine gastric mucin (PGM) show that pH elevation by H. pylori induces a dramatic decrease in viscoelastic moduli. Microscopy studies of the motility of H. pylori in gastric mucin at acidic and neutral pH in the absence of urea show that the bacteria swim freely at high pH, and are strongly constrained at low pH. By using two-photon fluorescence microscopy to image the bacterial motility in an initially low pH mucin gel with urea present we show that the gain of translational motility by bacteria is directly correlated with a rise in pH indicated by 2',7'-Bis-(2-Carboxyethyl)-5-(and-6)-carboxyfluorescein (BCECF), a pH sensitive fluorescent dye. This study indicates that the helicoidal-shaped H. pylori does not bore its way through the mucus gel like a screw through a cork as has previously been suggested, but instead achieves motility by altering the rheological properties of its environment.
Project description:In this study, the mobility of nanoparticles in mucus and similar hydrogels as model systems was assessed to elucidate the link between microscopic diffusion behavior and macroscopic penetration of such gels. Differences in particle adhesion to mucus components were strongly dependent on particle coating. Particles coated with 2 kDa PEG exhibited a decreased adhesion to mucus components, whereas chitosan strongly increased the adhesion. Despite such mucoinert properties of PEG, magnetic nanoparticles of both coatings did not penetrate through native respiratory mucus, resisting high magnetic forces (even for several hours). However, model hydrogels were, indeed, penetrated by both particles in dependency of particle coating, obeying the theory of particle mobility in an external force field. Comparison of penetration data with cryogenic scanning EM images of mucus and the applied model systems suggested particularly high rigidity of the mucin scaffold and a broad pore size distribution in mucus as reasons for the observed particle immobilization. Active probing of the rigidity of mucus and model gels with optical tweezers was used in this context to confirm such properties of mucus on the microscale, thus presenting the missing link between micro- and macroscopical observations. Because of high heterogeneity in the size of the voids and pores in mucus, on small scales, particle mobility will depend on adhesive or inert properties. However, particle translocation over distances larger than a few micrometers is restricted by highly rigid structures within the mucus mesh.
Project description:The protective barrier, lubricant, and clearance functions of mucus are intimately coupled to its microstructure and bulk rheology. Mucus gels consist of a network of mucin biopolymers along with lipids, salts, and other proteins and exhibit similar biochemical and physical properties across diverse mucosal surfaces. Nevertheless, mucus is exposed to a broad range of pH values throughout the human body. Protein functions are typically sensitive to small changes in pH, and prior investigations using reconstituted, purified mucin gels suggested mucus undergoes a transition from a low-viscosity liquid at neutral pH to a highly viscoelastic solid at low pH. We sought to determine whether those observations hold for fresh, minimally perturbed human mucus ex vivo by using different-sized muco-inert nanoparticles to probe microstructure and cone-and-plate rheometry to measure bulk rheology. We demonstrate that both the microstructure and bulk rheology of fresh, undiluted, and minimally perturbed cervicovaginal mucus exhibit relatively minor changes from pH 1-2 to 8-9, in marked contrast with the pH sensitivity of purified mucin gels. Our work also suggests additional components in mucus secretions, typically eliminated during mucin purification and reconstitution, may play an important role in maintaining the protective properties of mucus.
Project description:The intravitreal delivery of therapeutic agents promises major benefits in the field of ocular medicine. Traditional delivery methods rely on the random, passive diffusion of molecules, which do not allow for the rapid delivery of a concentrated cargo to a defined region at the posterior pole of the eye. The use of particles promises targeted delivery but faces the challenge that most tissues including the vitreous have a tight macromolecular matrix that acts as a barrier and prevents its penetration. Here, we demonstrate novel intravitreal delivery microvehicles-slippery micropropellers-that can be actively propelled through the vitreous humor to reach the retina. The propulsion is achieved by helical magnetic micropropellers that have a liquid layer coating to minimize adhesion to the surrounding biopolymeric network. The submicrometer diameter of the propellers enables the penetration of the biopolymeric network and the propulsion through the porcine vitreous body of the eye over centimeter distances. Clinical optical coherence tomography is used to monitor the movement of the propellers and confirm their arrival on the retina near the optic disc. Overcoming the adhesion forces and actively navigating a swarm of micropropellers in the dense vitreous humor promise practical applications in ophthalmology.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Gastric gland mucin is important for maintaining the basic function of the gastric mucosa, protecting it from foreign substances and reducing the occurrence of gastric diseases. Exploring the phenotype of gastric gland mucus changes during the progression of gastric disease is of great clinical significance.<h4>Methods</h4>A total of 483 patients with different gastric diseases were collected in this study, including 82 superficial gastritis (SG), 81 atrophic gastritis (AG), 168 dysplasia (GD), and 152 gastric cancer (GC). Mucin staining was performed using HID-ABpH2.5-PAS method and was further grouped according to the mucin coloration.<h4>Results</h4>The phenotypic characteristics of mucin during disease progression were divided into neutral, acidic, and mucus-free types. Furthermore, acidic mucus can be divided into type I, type II, and type III. The SG group was dominated by neutral mucus (100%), and the AG was dominated by acid mucus (81.48%), which gradually increased with the severity of atrophy (<i>P</i> < 0.05). The GD and GC groups were dominated by mucus-free (43.45%, 78.29%), and as the degree of GD worsened, neutral and acidic mucus gradually decreased and mucus-free increased (<i>P</i> < 0.001). From the SG, AG, GD, and GC progression, neutral and acidic mucus gradually decreased, and mucus- free gradually increased. Acidic mucin revealed that type III (red-brown black) mucin was predominant in AG, GD, and GC, and increased with the degree of AG, GD, as well as the biological behavior of GC. In the lesion adjacent to high-grade GD or GC, type III acid mucin is predominant.<h4>Conclusion</h4>There were three mucin phenotypes in the process of gastric diseases. With the disease progression, the trend of phenotypic change was that neutral and acidic mucus gradually decreased and mucus-free increased. The appearance of type III mucin suggested a relatively serious phase of gastric diseases and may be a more suitable candidate for follow-up monitoring of patients with GC risk.
Project description:The field of synthetic microswimmers, micro-robots moving in aqueous environments, has evolved significantly in the last years. Micro-robots actuated and steered by external magnetic fields are of particular interest because of the biocompatibility of this energy source and the possibility of remote control, features suited for biomedical applications. While initial work has mostly focused on helical shapes, the design space under consideration has widened considerably with recent works, opening up new possibilities for optimization of propellers to meet specific requirements. Understanding the relation between shape on the one hand and targeted actuation and steerability on the other hand requires an understanding of their propulsion behavior. Here we propose hydrodynamic simulations for the characterization of rigid micropropellers of any shape, actuated by rotating external magnetic fields. The method consists of approximating the propellers by rigid clusters of spheres. We characterize the influence of model parameters on the swimming behavior to identify optimal simulation parameters using helical propellers as a test system. We then explore the behavior of randomly shaped propellers that were recently characterized experimentally. The simulations show that the orientation of the magnetic moment with respect to the propeller's internal coordinate system has a strong impact on the propulsion behavior and has to be known with a precision of ? 5° to predict the propeller's velocity-frequency curve. This result emphasizes the importance of the magnetic properties of the micropropellers for the design of desired functionalities for potential biomedical applications, and in particular the importance of their orientation within the propeller's structure.
Project description:The details of how a mucus hydrogel forms from its primary structural component, mucin polymers, remain incompletely resolved. To explore this, we use a combination of macrorheology and single-particle tracking to investigate the bulk and microscopic mechanical properties of reconstituted MUC5AC mucin gels. We find that analyses of thermal fluctuations on the length scale of the micrometer-sized particles are not predictive of the linear viscoelastic response of the mucin gels, and that taken together, the results from both techniques help to provide complementary insight into the structure of the network. In particular, we show that macroscopic stiffening of MUC5AC gels can be brought about in different ways by targeting specific associations within the network using environmental triggers such as modifications to the pH, surfactant, and salt concentration. Our work may be important for understanding how environmental factors, including pathogens and therapeutic agents, alter the mechanical properties of fully constituted mucus.
Project description:Intestinal mucus is the first line of defense against intestinal pathogens. It acts as a physical barrier between epithelial tissues and the lumen that enteropathogens must overcome to establish a successful infection. We investigated the motile behavior of two <i>Vibrio cholerae</i> strains (El Tor C6706 and Classical O395) in mucus using single-cell tracking in unprocessed porcine intestinal mucus. We determined that <i>V. cholerae</i> can penetrate mucus using flagellar motility and that alkaline pH increases swimming speed and, consequently, improves mucus penetration. Microrheological measurements indicate that changes in pH between 6 and 8 (the physiological range for the human small intestine) had little effect on the viscoelastic properties of mucus. Finally, we determined that acidic pH promotes surface attachment by activating the mannose-sensitive hemagglutinin (MshA) pilus in <i>V. cholerae</i> El Tor C6706 without a measurable change in the total cellular concentration of the secondary messenger cyclic dimeric GMP (c-di-GMP). Overall, our results support the hypothesis that pH is an important factor affecting the motile behavior of <i>V. cholerae</i> and its ability to penetrate mucus. Therefore, changes in pH along the human small intestine may play a role in determining the preferred site for <i>V. cholerae</i> during infection.<b>IMPORTANCE</b> The diarrheal disease cholera is still a burden for populations in developing countries with poor sanitation. To develop effective vaccines and prevention strategies against <i>Vibrio cholerae</i>, we must understand the initial steps of infection leading to the colonization of the small intestine. To infect the host and deliver the cholera toxin, <i>V. cholerae</i> has to penetrate the mucus layer protecting the intestinal tissues. However, the interaction of <i>V. cholerae</i> with intestinal mucus has not been extensively investigated. In this report, we demonstrated using single-cell tracking that <i>V. cholerae</i> can penetrate intestinal mucus using flagellar motility. In addition, we observed that alkaline pH improves the ability of <i>V. cholerae</i> to penetrate mucus. This finding has important implications for understanding the dynamics of infection, because pH varies significantly along the small intestine, between individuals, and between species. Blocking mucus penetration by interfering with flagellar motility in <i>V. cholerae</i>, reinforcing the mucosa, controlling intestinal pH, or manipulating the intestinal microbiome will offer new strategies to fight cholera.