Single cell-laden protease-sensitive microniches for long-term culture in 3D.
ABSTRACT: 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.
Project description:Cell-laden microgels with highly uniform sizes have significant potential in tissue engineering and cell therapy due to their capability to provide a physiologically relevant three-dimensional (3D) microenvironment for living cells. In this work, we present a simple and efficient microfluidic approach to produce monodisperse cell-laden microgels through the use of double emulsion drops with an ultra-thin oil shell as the sacrificial template. Specifically, the thin oil shell in double emulsion spontaneously dewets upon polymerization of the innermost precursor drop and subsequent transfer into an aqueous solution, resulting in direct dispersion of microgels in the aqueous phase. Compared to conventional single emulsion-based techniques for cell encapsulation, this one-step approach prevents prolonged exposure of cells to the oil phase, leading to high-throughput cell encapsulation in microgels without compromising the cell viability. Moreover, this approach allows us to culture cells within a 3D microgel which mimics the extracellular matrix, thus enabling long-term cell functionality. This microfluidic technique represents a significant step forward in high-throughput cell microencapsulation technology and offers a potentially viable option to produce cell-laden microgels for widespread applications in tissue engineering and cell therapies.
Project description:Geometrical cues have been shown to alter gene expression and differentiation on 2D substrates. However, little is known about how geometrical cues affect cell function in 3D. One major reason for this lack of understanding is rooted in the difficulties of controlling cell geometry in a complex 3D setting and for long periods of culture. Here, we present a robust method to control cell volume and shape of individual human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) inside 3D microniches with a range of different geometries (e.g., cylinder, triangular prism, cubic, and cuboid). We find that the actin filaments, focal adhesions, nuclear shape, YAP/TAZ localization, cell contractility, nuclear accumulation of histone deacetylase 3, and lineage selection are all sensitive to cell volume. Our 3D microniches enable fundamental studies on the impact of biophysical cues on cell fate, and have potential applications in investigating how multicellular architectures organize within geometrically well-defined 3D spaces.
Project description:The promise of cell therapy for repair and restoration of damaged tissues or organs relies on administration of large dose of cells whose healing benefits are still limited and sometimes irreproducible due to uncontrollable cell loss and death at lesion sites. Using a large amount of therapeutic cells increases the costs for cell processing and the risks of side effects. Optimal cell delivery strategies are therefore in urgent need to enhance the specificity, efficacy, and reproducibility of cell therapy leading to minimized cell dosage and side effects. Here, we addressed this unmet need by developing injectable 3D microscale cellular niches (microniches) based on biodegradable gelatin microcryogels (GMs). The microniches are constituted by in vitro priming human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) seeded within GMs resulting in tissue-like ensembles with enriched extracellular matrices and enhanced cell-cell interactions. The primed 3D microniches facilitated cell protection from mechanical insults during injection and in vivo cell retention, survival, and ultimate therapeutic functions in treatment of critical limb ischemia (CLI) in mouse models compared with free cell-based therapy. In particular, 3D microniche-based therapy with 10(5) hMSCs realized better ischemic limb salvage than treatment with 10(6) free-injected hMSCs, the minimum dosage with therapeutic effects for treating CLI in literature. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first convincing demonstration of injectable and primed cell delivery strategy realizing superior therapeutic efficacy for treating CLI with the lowest cell dosage in mouse models. This study offers a widely applicable cell delivery platform technology to boost the healing power of cell regenerative therapy.
Project description:The complex network of biochemical and biophysical cues in the pancreatic desmoplasia not only presents challenges to the fundamental understanding of tumor progression, but also hinders the development of therapeutic strategies against pancreatic cancer. Residing in the desmoplasia, pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) are the major stromal cells affecting the growth and metastasis of pancreatic cancer cells by means of paracrine effects and extracellular matrix protein deposition. PSCs remain in a quiescent/dormant state until they are 'activated' by various environmental cues. While the mechanisms of PSC activation are increasingly being described in literature, the influence of matrix stiffness on PSC activation is largely unexplored. To test the hypothesis that matrix stiffness affects myofibroblastic activation of PSCs, we have prepared cell-laden hydrogels capable of being dynamically stiffened through an enzymatic reaction. The stiffening of the microenvironment was created by using a peptide linker with additional tyrosine residues, which were susceptible to tyrosinase-mediated crosslinking. Tyrosinase catalyzes the oxidation of tyrosine into dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA), DOPA quinone, and finally into DOPA dimer. The formation of DOPA dimer led to additional crosslinks and thus stiffening the cell-laden hydrogel. In addition to systematically studying the various parameters relevant to the enzymatic reaction and hydrogel stiffening, we also designed experiments to probe the influence of dynamic matrix stiffening on cell fate. Protease-sensitive peptides were used to crosslink hydrogels, whereas integrin-binding ligands (e.g., RGD motif) were immobilized in the network to afford cell-matrix interaction. PSC-laden hydrogels were placed in media containing tyrosinase for 6h to achieve in situ gel stiffening. We found that PSCs encapsulated and cultured in a stiffened matrix expressed higher levels of ?SMA and hypoxia-inducible factor 1? (HIF-1?), suggestive of a myofibroblastic phenotype. This hydrogel platform offers a facile means of in situ stiffening of cell-laden matrices and should be valuable for probing cell fate process dictated by dynamic matrix stiffness.Hydrogels with spatial-temporal controls over crosslinking kinetics (i.e., dynamic hydrogel) are increasingly being developed for studying mechanobiology in 3D. The general principle of designing dynamic hydrogel is to perform cell encapsulation within a hydrogel network that allows for postgelation modification in gel crosslinking density. The enzyme-mediated in situ gel stiffening is innovative because of the specificity and efficiency of enzymatic reaction. Although tyrosinase has been used for hydrogel crosslinking and in situ cell encapsulation, to the best of our knowledge tyrosinase-mediated DOPA formation has not been explored for in situ stiffening of cell-laden hydrogels. Furthermore, the current work provides a gradual matrix stiffening strategy that may more closely mimic the process of tumor development.
Project description:An attractive option for tissue engineering is to use of multicellular spheroids as microtissues, particularly with stem cell spheroids. Conventional approaches of fabricating spheroids suffer from low throughput and polydispersity in size, and fail to supplement cues from extracellular matrix (ECM) for enhanced differentiation. In this study, we report the application of microfluidics-generated water-in-oil-in-water (w/o/w) double-emulsion (DE) droplets as pico-liter sized bioreactor for rapid cell assembly and well-controlled microenvironment for spheroid culture. Cells aggregated to form size-controllable (30-80 ?m) spheroids in DE droplets within 150 min and could be retrieved via a droplet-releasing agent. Moreover, precursor hydrogel solution can be adopted as the inner phase to produce spheroid-encapsulated microgels after spheroid formation. As an example, the encapsulation of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) spheroids in alginate and alginate-arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (-RGD) microgel was demonstrated, with enhanced osteogenic differentiation further exhibited in the latter case.
Project description:In the past five years, droplet microfluidic techniques have unlocked new opportunities for the high-throughput genome-wide analysis of single cells, transforming our understanding of cellular diversity and function. However, the field lacks an accessible method to screen and sort droplets based on cellular phenotype upstream of genetic analysis, particularly for large and complex cells. To meet this need, we developed Dropception, a robust, easy-to-use workflow for precise single-cell encapsulation into picoliter-scale double emulsion droplets compatible with high-throughput screening via fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). We demonstrate the capabilities of this method by encapsulating five standardized mammalian cell lines of varying sizes and morphologies as well as a heterogeneous cell mixture of a whole dissociated flatworm (5-25 ?m in diameter) within highly monodisperse double emulsions (35 ?m in diameter). We optimize for preferential encapsulation of single cells with extremely low multiple-cell loading events (<2% of cell-containing droplets), thereby allowing direct linkage of cellular phenotype to genotype. Across all cell lines, cell loading efficiency approaches the theoretical limit with no observable bias by cell size. FACS measurements reveal the ability to discriminate empty droplets from those containing cells with good agreement to single-cell occupancies quantified via microscopy, establishing robust droplet screening at single-cell resolution. High-throughput FACS screening of cellular picoreactors has the potential to shift the landscape of single-cell droplet microfluidics by expanding the repertoire of current nucleic acid droplet assays to include functional phenotyping.
Project description:We present a bottom-up approach to direct the assembly of cell-laden microgels to generate tissue constructs with tunable microarchitecture and complexity. This assembly process is driven by the tendency of multiphase liquid-liquid systems to minimize the surface area and the resulting surface free energy between the phases. We demonstrate that shape-controlled microgels spontaneously assemble within multiphase reactor systems into predetermined geometric configurations. Furthermore, we characterize the parameters that influence the assembly process, such as external energy input, surface tension, and microgel dimensions. Finally, we show that multicomponent cell-laden constructs could be generated by assembling microgel building blocks and performing a secondary cross-linking reaction. This bottom-up approach for the directed assembly of cell-laden microgels provides a powerful and highly scalable approach to form biomimetic 3D tissue constructs and opens a paradigm for directing the assembly of mesoscale materials.
Project description:Deposition of particulate organic matter (POM) induces diagenetic hot spots at the sediment-water interface (SWI). Here we explore the effects of intensive POM degradation for metal mobilization at the SWI. By using a combined planar optode-DGT (diffusive gradient in thin-films) sensor we obtained simultaneous measurements of dissolved O2 and trace metal dynamics around an aggregate of reactive organic matter placed on the SWI of a sediment mesocosm. The aggregate induced a rapid, highly localized, decrease in O2 concentration, resulting in an anoxic feature at the SWI. Co-located with this feature, we observed intense Fe and Mn mobilization, removal of Co, Ni and Zn and found evidence for the concurrent release and precipitation of Pb within a small confined volume. We also identified two small microniches in the anoxic sediment below the SWI, defined by elevated trace metal mobilization. Differences between the metal release rates in these two microniches indicate that they were formed by the mineralisation of different types of organic matter buried in the sediment. Our results provide direct empirical evidence for the potential importance of POM-induced reactive microniches when considering the fluxes of metals from and within aquatic sediments, and suggest that other elements' cycles may also be affected.
Project description:Multiple Emulsions (MEs) contain a drop laden with many micro-droplets. A single-step microfluidic-based synthesis process of MEs is presented to provide a rapid and controlled generation of monodisperse MEs. The design relies on the interaction of three immiscible fluids with each other in subsequent droplet formation steps to generate monodisperse ME constructs. The design is within a microchannel consists of two compartments of cross-junction and T-junction. The high shear stress at the cross-junction creates a stagnation point that splits the first immiscible phase to four jet streams each of which are sprayed to micrometer droplets surrounded by the second phase. The resulted structure is then supported by the third phase at the T-junction to generate and transport MEs. The ME formation within microfluidics is numerically simulated and the effects of several key parameters on properties of MEs are investigated. The dimensionless modeling of ME formation enables to change only one parameter at the time and analyze the sensitivity of the system to each parameter. The results demonstrate the capability of highly controlled and high-throughput MEs formation in a one-step synthesis process. The consecutive MEs are monodisperse in size which open avenues for the generation of controlled MEs for different applications.
Project description:Formation of multifunctional, heterogeneous, and encoded hydrogel building blocks, or microgels, by crosslinking and assembly of microgels are two essential steps in establishing hierarchical, complicated, and three-dimensional (3D) hydrogel architectures that recapitulate natural and biological structures or originate new materials by design. However, for the variety of the hydrogel materials crosslinked differently and for the varied scales of microgels and architectures, the formation and assembly processes are usually performed separately, which increases the manufacturing complexity of designed hydrogel materials. We show the construction of hydrogel architectures through programmable formation and assembly on an electromicrofluidic platform, adopting two reciprocal electric manipulations (electrowetting and dielectrophoresis) to manipulate varied objects (i) in multiple phases, including prepolymer liquid droplets and crosslinked microgels, (ii) on a wide range of scales from micrometer functional particles or cells to millimeter-assembled hydrogel architectures, and (iii) with diverse properties, such as conductive and dielectric droplets that are photocrosslinkable, chemically crosslinkable, or thermally crosslinkable. Prepolymer droplets, particles, and dissolved molecules are electrically addressable to adjust the properties of the microgel building blocks in liquid phase that subsequently undergo crosslinking and assembly in a flexible sequence to accomplish heterogeneous and seamless hydrogel architectures. We expect the electromicrofluidic platform to become a general technique to obtain 3D complex architectures.