A novel technique for in situ uniaxial tests of self-assembled soft biomaterials.
ABSTRACT: We introduce a novel method to form 3D biomimetic tissues from a droplet of a cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) mixture on a sensor stage and to quantify tissue force and stiffness as a function of time under optical microscopes. This method exploits advances in micro-nano fabrication and capillarity for self-assembly and self-alignment of tissues on the stage. It allows simultaneous investigation of the microstructure of the tissue in situ while its mechanical response is quantified, thus linking tissue biophysics with physiology and revealing structural-functional properties of 3D tissues. We demonstrate the functionality of the stage by studying the mechanical behavior of different cell-collagen mixtures under mechanical, chemical and electrical stimulation. This includes force evolution in cell-free collagen during curing, myotubes differentiated from muscle cell-collagen/Matrigel ECM subjected to electrical stimulation, and fibroblast-collagen tissue subjected to cancer cell conditioned media (CM) and a Rho-kinase inhibitor, Y27632. Muscle contraction decreases with increasing frequency of electrical stimulation, and fibroblasts respond to CM by increasing contractility for a short time and completely relax in the presence of Y27632 but restore force with Y27632 washout.
Project description:Engineered skeletal muscles are inferior to natural muscles in terms of contractile force, hampering their potential use in practical applications. One major limitation is that the extracellular matrix (ECM) not only impedes the contraction but also ineffectively transmits the forces generated by myotubes to the load. In the present study, ECM remodelling improves contractile force in a short time, and a coordinated, combined electrical and mechanical stimulation induces the desired ECM remodelling. Notably, the application of single and combined stimulations to the engineered muscles remodels the structure of their ECM networks, which determines the mechanical properties of the ECM. Myotubes in the tissues are connected in parallel and in series to the ECM. The stiffness of the parallel ECM must be low not to impede contraction, while the stiffness of the serial ECM must be high to transmit the forces to the load. Both the experimental results and the mechanistic model suggest that the combined stimulation through coordination reorients the ECM fibres in such a way that the parallel ECM stiffness is reduced, while the serial ECM stiffness is increased. In particular, 3 and 20 minutes of alternating electrical and mechanical stimulations increase the force by 18% and 31%, respectively.
Project description:Engineered myocardial tissues can be used to elucidate fundamental features of myocardial biology, develop organotypic in vitro model systems, and as engineered tissue constructs for replacing damaged heart tissue in vivo. However, a key limitation is an inability to test the wide range of parameters (cell source, mechanical, soluble and electrical stimuli) that might impact the engineered tissue in a high-throughput manner and in an environment that mimics native heart tissue. Here we used microelectromechanical systems technology to generate arrays of cardiac microtissues (CMTs) embedded within three-dimensional micropatterned matrices. Microcantilevers simultaneously constrain CMT contraction and report forces generated by the CMTs in real time. We demonstrate the ability to routinely produce ~200 CMTs per million cardiac cells (<1 neonatal rat heart) whose spontaneous contraction frequency, duration, and forces can be tracked. Independently varying the mechanical stiffness of the cantilevers and collagen matrix revealed that both the dynamic force of cardiac contraction as well as the basal static tension within the CMT increased with boundary or matrix rigidity. Cell alignment is, however, reduced within a stiff collagen matrix; therefore, despite producing higher force, CMTs constructed from higher density collagen have a lower cross-sectional stress than those constructed from lower density collagen. We also study the effect of electrical stimulation on cell alignment and force generation within CMTs and we show that the combination of electrical stimulation and auxotonic load strongly improves both the structure and the function of the CMTs. Finally, we demonstrate the suitability of our technique for high-throughput monitoring of drug-induced changes in spontaneous frequency or contractility in CMTs as well as high-speed imaging of calcium dynamics using fluorescent dyes. Together, these results highlight the potential for this approach to quantitatively demonstrate the impact of physical parameters on the maturation, structure, and function of cardiac tissue and open the possibility to use high-throughput, low volume screening for studies on engineered myocardium.
Project description:We describe here a bioreactor capable of applying electrical field stimulation in conjunction with static strain and on-line force of contraction measurements. It consisted of a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) tissue chamber and a pneumatically driven stretch platform. The chamber contained eight tissue microwells (8.05 mm in length and 2.5 mm in width) with a pair of posts (2.78 mm in height and 0.8 mm in diameter) in each well to serve as fixation points and for measurements of contraction force. Carbon rods, stimulating electrodes, were placed into the PDMS chamber such that one pair stimulated four microwells. For feasibility studies, neonatal rat cardiomyocytes were seeded in collagen gels into the microwells. Following 3 days of gel compaction, electrical field stimulation at 3-4 V cm(-1) and 1 Hz, mechanical stimulation of 5% static strain or electromechanical stimulation (field stimulation at 3-4 V cm(-1), 1 Hz and 5% static strain) were applied for 3 days. Cardiac microtissues subjected to electromechanical stimulation exhibited elevated amplitude of contraction and improved sarcomere structure as evidenced by sarcomeric ?-actinin, actin and troponin T staining compared to microtissues subjected to electrical or mechanical stimulation alone or non-stimulated controls. The expression of atrial natriuretic factor and brain natriuretic peptide was also elevated in the electromechanically stimulated group.
Project description:Despite the crucial role of extracellular matrix (ECM) in directing cell fate in healthy and diseased tissues--particularly in development, wound healing, tissue regeneration and cancer--the mechanisms that direct the assembly and regulate hierarchical architectures of ECM are poorly understood. Collagen I matrix assembly in vivo requires active fibronectin (Fn) fibrillogenesis by cells. Here we exploit Fn-FRET probes as mechanical strain sensors and demonstrate that collagen I fibres preferentially co-localize with more-relaxed Fn fibrils in the ECM of fibroblasts in cell culture. Fibre stretch-assay studies reveal that collagen I's Fn-binding domain is responsible for the mechano-regulated interaction. Furthermore, we show that Fn-collagen interactions are reciprocal: relaxed Fn fibrils act as multivalent templates for collagen assembly, but once assembled, collagen fibres shield Fn fibres from being stretched by cellular traction forces. Thus, in addition to the well-recognized, force-regulated, cell-matrix interactions, forces also tune the interactions between different structural ECM components.
Project description:Engineered 3D cardiac tissue constructs (ECTCs) can replicate complex cardiac physiology under normal and pathological conditions. Currently, most measurements of ECTC contractility are either made isometrically, with fixed length and without control of the applied force, or auxotonically against a variable force, with the length changing during the contraction. The "I-Wire" platform addresses the unmet need to control the force applied to ECTCs while interrogating their passive and active mechanical and electrical characteristics. A six-well plate with inserted PDMS casting molds containing neonatal rat cardiomyocytes cultured with fibrin for 13-15days is mounted on the motorized mechanical stage of an inverted microscope equipped with a fast sCMOS camera. A calibrated flexible probe provides strain load of the ECTC via lateral displacement, and the microscope detects the deflections of both the probe and the ECTC. The ECTCs exhibited longitudinally aligned cardiomyocytes with well-developed sarcomeric structure, recapitulated the Frank-Starling force-tension relationship, and demonstrated expected transmembrane action potentials, electrical and mechanical restitutions, and responses to both ?-adrenergic stimulation and blebbistatin. The I-Wire platform enables creation and mechanical and electrical characterization of ECTCs, and hence can be valuable in the study of cardiac diseases, drug screening, drug development, and the qualification of cells for tissue-engineered regenerative medicine.There is a growing interest in creating engineered heart tissue constructs for basic cardiac research, applied research in cardiac pharmacology, and repair of damaged hearts. We address an unmet need to characterize fully the performance of these tissues with our simple "I-Wire" assay that allows application of controlled forces to three-dimensional cardiac fiber constructs and measurement of both the electrical and mechanical properties of the construct. The advantage of I-Wire over other approaches is that the constructs being measured are truly three-dimensional, rather than a single layer of cells grown within a microfluidic device. We anticipate that the I-Wire will be extremely useful for the evaluation of myocardial constructs created using cardiomyocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells.
Project description:The structural integrity of human skin is largely dependent on the quality of the dermal extracellular matrix (ECM), which is produced, organized, and maintained by dermal fibroblasts. Normally, fibroblasts attach to the ECM and thereby achieve stretched, elongated morphology. A prominent characteristic of dermal fibroblasts in aged skin is reduced size, with decreased elongation and a more rounded, collapsed morphology. Here, we show that reduced size of fibroblasts in mechanically unrestrained three-dimensional collagen lattices coincides with reduced mechanical force, measured by atomic force microscopy. Reduced size/mechanical force specifically down-regulates TGF-? type II receptor (T?RII) and thus impairs TGF-?/Smad signaling pathway. Both T?RII mRNA and protein were decreased, resulting in 90% loss of TGF-? binding to fibroblasts. Down-regulation of T?RII was associated with significantly decreased phosphorylation, DNA-binding, and transcriptional activity of its key downstream effector Smad3 and reduced expression of Smad3-regulated essential ECM components type I collagen, fibronectin, and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2). Restoration of T?RII significantly increased TGF-? induction of Smad3 phosphorylation and stimulated expression of ECM components. Reduced expression of T?RII and ECM components in response to reduced fibroblast size/mechanical force was fully reversed by restoring size/mechanical force. Reduced fibroblast size was associated with reduced expression of T?RII and diminished ECM production, in aged human skin. Taken together, these data reveal a novel mechanism that provides a molecular basis for loss of dermal ECM, with concomitant increased fragility, which is a prominent feature of human skin aging.
Project description:Mechanical conditioning of engineered tissue constructs is widely recognized as one of the most relevant methods to enhance tissue accretion and microstructure, leading to improved mechanical behaviors. The understanding of the underlying mechanisms remains rather limited, restricting the development of in silico models of these phenomena, and the translation of engineered tissues into clinical application. In the present study, we examined the role of large strip-biaxial strains (up to 50%) on ECM synthesis by vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) micro-integrated into electrospun polyester urethane urea (PEUU) constructs over the course of 3 weeks. Experimental results indicated that VSMC biosynthetic behavior was quite sensitive to tissue strain maximum level, and that collagen was the primary ECM component synthesized. Moreover, we found that while a 30% peak strain level achieved maximum ECM synthesis rate, further increases in strain level lead to a reduction in ECM biosynthesis. Subsequent mechanical analysis of the formed collagen fiber network was performed by removing the scaffold mechanical responses using a strain-energy based approach, showing that the denovo collagen also demonstrated mechanical behaviors substantially better than previously obtained with small strain training and comparable to mature collagenous tissues. We conclude that the application of large deformations can play a critical role not only in the quantity of ECM synthesis (i.e. the rate of mass production), but also on the modulation of the stiffness of the newly formed ECM constituents. The improved understanding of the process of growth and development of ECM in these mechano-sensitive cell-scaffold systems will lead to more rational design and manufacturing of engineered tissues operating under highly demanding mechanical environments.
Project description:Skeletal muscle can adapt to increased mechanical loads by undergoing hypertrophy. Transient reductions in whole muscle force production have been reported during the onset of hypertrophy, but contractile changes in individual muscle fibers have not been previously studied. Additionally, the extracellular matrix (ECM) stores and transmits forces from muscle fibers to tendons and bones, and determining how the ECM changes during hypertrophy is important in understanding the adaptation of muscle tissue to mechanical loading. Using the synergist ablation model, we sought to measure changes in muscle fiber contractility, collagen content, and cross-linking, and in the expression of several genes and activation of signaling proteins that regulate critical components of myogenesis and ECM synthesis and remodeling during muscle hypertrophy. Tissues were harvested 3, 7, and 28 days after induction of hypertrophy, and nonoverloaded rats served as controls. Muscle fiber specific force (sFo), which is the maximum isometric force normalized to cross-sectional area, was reduced 3 and 7 days after the onset of mechanical overload, but returned to control levels by 28 days. Collagen abundance displayed a similar pattern of change. Nearly a quarter of the transcriptome changed over the course of overload, as well as the activation of signaling pathways related to hypertrophy and atrophy. Overall, this study provides insight into fundamental mechanisms of muscle and ECM growth, and indicates that although muscle fibers appear to have completed remodeling and regeneration 1 mo after synergist ablation, the ECM continues to be actively remodeling at this time point.NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study utilized a rat synergist ablation model to integrate changes in single muscle fiber contractility, extracellular matrix composition, activation of important signaling pathways in muscle adaption, and corresponding changes in the muscle transcriptome to provide novel insight into the basic biological mechanisms of muscle fiber hypertrophy.
Project description:In this study, we present a quantitative approach to construct effective 3D muscle tissues through shape optimization and load impedance matching with electrical and optical stimulation. We have constructed long, thin, fascicle-like skeletal muscle tissue and optimized its form factor through mechanical characterization. A new apparatus was designed and built, which allowed us to measure force-displacement characteristics with diverse load stiffnesses. We have found that (1) there is an optimal form factor that maximizes the muscle stress, (2) the energy transmitted to the load can be maximized with matched load stiffness, and (3) optical stimulation using channelrhodopsin2 in the muscle tissue can generate a twitch force as large as its electrical counterpart for well-developed muscle tissue. Using our tissue construct method, we found that an optimal initial diameter of 500??m outperformed tissues using 250??m by more than 60% and tissues using 760??m by 105%. Using optimal load stiffness, our tissues have generated 12 pJ of energy per twitch at a peak generated stress of 1.28?kPa. Additionally, the difference in optically stimulated twitch performance versus electrically stimulated is a function of how well the overall tissue performs, with average or better performing strips having less than 10% difference. The unique mechanical characterization method used is generalizable to diverse load conditions and will be used to match load impedance to muscle tissue impedance for a wide variety of applications.
Project description:The dermal extracellular matrix (ECM) provides strength and resiliency to skin. The ECM consists mostly of type I collagen fibrils, which are produced by fibroblasts. Binding of fibroblasts to collagen fibrils generates mechanical forces, which regulate cellular morphology and function. With aging, collagen fragmentation reduces fibroblast-ECM binding and mechanical forces, resulting in fibroblast shrinkage and reduced function, including collagen production. Here, we report that these age-related alterations are largely reversed by enhancing the structural support of the ECM. Injection of dermal filler, cross-linked hyaluronic acid, into the skin of individuals over 70 years of age stimulates fibroblasts to produce type I collagen. This stimulation is associated with localized increase in mechanical forces, indicated by fibroblast elongation/spreading, and mediated by upregulation of type II TGF-? receptor and connective tissue growth factor. Interestingly, enhanced mechanical support of the ECM also stimulates fibroblast proliferation, expands vasculature, and increases epidermal thickness. Consistent with our observations in human skin, injection of filler into dermal equivalent cultures causes elongation of fibroblasts, coupled with type I collagen synthesis, which is dependent on the TGF-? signaling pathway. Thus, fibroblasts in aged human skin retain their capacity for functional activation, which is restored by enhancing structural support of the ECM.