The microcirculation consists of blood vessels with diameters less than 150 µm. It makes up a large part of the circulatory system and plays an important role in maintaining cardiovascular health. The retina is a tissue that lines the interior of the eye and it is the only tissue that allows for a non-invasive analysis of the microvasculature. Nowadays, high-quality fundus images can be acquired using digital cameras. Retinal images can be collected in 5 min or less, even without dilatation of the pupils. This unobtrusive and fast procedure for visualizing the microcirculation is attractive to apply in epidemiological studies and to monitor cardiovascular health from early age up to old age.
Systemic diseases that affect the circulation can result in progressive morphological changes in the retinal vasculature. For example, changes in the vessel calibers of retinal arteries and veins have been associated with hypertension, atherosclerosis, and increased risk of stroke and myocardial infarction. The vessel widths are derived using image analysis software and the width of the six largest arteries and veins are summarized in the Central Retinal Arteriolar Equivalent (CRAE) and the Central Retinal Venular Equivalent (CRVE). The latter features have been shown useful to study the impact of modifiable lifestyle and environmental cardiovascular disease risk factors.
The procedures to acquire fundus images and the analysis steps to obtain CRAE and CRVE are described. Coefficients of variation of repeated measures of CRAE and CRVE are less than 2% and within-rater reliability is very high. Using a panel study, the rapid response of the retinal vessel calibers to short-term changes in particulate air pollution, a known risk factor for cardiovascular mortality and morbidity, is reported. In conclusion, retinal imaging is proposed as a convenient and instrumental tool for epidemiological studies to study microvascular responses to cardiovascular disease risk factors.
19 Related JoVE Articles!
Construction of Vapor Chambers Used to Expose Mice to Alcohol During the Equivalent of all Three Trimesters of Human Development
Institutions: University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.
Exposure to alcohol during development can result in a constellation of morphological and behavioral abnormalities that are collectively known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). At the most severe end of the spectrum is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), characterized by growth retardation, craniofacial dysmorphology, and neurobehavioral deficits. Studies with animal models, including rodents, have elucidated many molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of FASDs. Ethanol administration to pregnant rodents has been used to model human exposure during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. Third trimester ethanol consumption in humans has been modeled using neonatal rodents. However, few rodent studies have characterized the effect of ethanol exposure during the equivalent to all three trimesters of human pregnancy, a pattern of exposure that is common in pregnant women. Here, we show how to build vapor chambers from readily obtainable materials that can each accommodate up to six standard mouse cages. We describe a vapor chamber paradigm that can be used to model exposure to ethanol, with minimal handling, during all three trimesters. Our studies demonstrate that pregnant dams developed significant metabolic tolerance to ethanol. However, neonatal mice did not develop metabolic tolerance and the number of fetuses, fetus weight, placenta weight, number of pups/litter, number of dead pups/litter, and pup weight were not significantly affected by ethanol exposure. An important advantage of this paradigm is its applicability to studies with genetically-modified mice. Additionally, this paradigm minimizes handling of animals, a major confound in fetal alcohol research.
Medicine, Issue 89, fetal, ethanol, exposure, paradigm, vapor, development, alcoholism, teratogenic, animal, mouse, model
Determination of the Transport Rate of Xenobiotics and Nanomaterials Across the Placenta using the ex vivo Human Placental Perfusion Model
Institutions: University Hospital Zurich, EMPA Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, University of Bern.
Decades ago the human placenta was thought to be an impenetrable barrier between mother and unborn child. However, the discovery of thalidomide-induced birth defects and many later studies afterwards proved the opposite. Today several harmful xenobiotics like nicotine, heroin, methadone or drugs as well as environmental pollutants were described to overcome this barrier. With the growing use of nanotechnology, the placenta is likely to come into contact with novel nanoparticles either accidentally through exposure or intentionally in the case of potential nanomedical applications. Data from animal experiments cannot be extrapolated to humans because the placenta is the most species-specific mammalian organ 1
. Therefore, the ex vivo
dual recirculating human placental perfusion, developed by Panigel et al.
in 1967 2
and continuously modified by Schneider et al.
in 1972 3
, can serve as an excellent model to study the transfer of xenobiotics or particles.
Here, we focus on the ex vivo
dual recirculating human placental perfusion protocol and its further development to acquire reproducible results.
The placentae were obtained after informed consent of the mothers from uncomplicated term pregnancies undergoing caesarean delivery. The fetal and maternal vessels of an intact cotyledon were cannulated and perfused at least for five hours. As a model particle fluorescently labelled polystyrene particles with sizes of 80 and 500 nm in diameter were added to the maternal circuit. The 80 nm particles were able to cross the placental barrier and provide a perfect example for a substance which is transferred across the placenta to the fetus while the 500 nm particles were retained in the placental tissue or maternal circuit. The ex vivo
human placental perfusion model is one of few models providing reliable information about the transport behavior of xenobiotics at an important tissue barrier which delivers predictive and clinical relevant data.
Biomedical Engineering, Issue 76, Medicine, Bioengineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Pharmacology, Obstetrics, Nanotechnology, Placenta, Pharmacokinetics, Nanomedicine, humans, ex vivo perfusion, perfusion, biological barrier, xenobiotics, nanomaterials, clinical model
Assessment and Evaluation of the High Risk Neonate: The NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale
Institutions: Brown University, Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, University of Massachusetts, Boston.
There has been a long-standing interest in the assessment of the neurobehavioral integrity of the newborn infant. The NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale (NNNS) was developed as an assessment for the at-risk infant. These are infants who are at increased risk for poor developmental outcome because of insults during prenatal development, such as substance exposure or prematurity or factors such as poverty, poor nutrition or lack of prenatal care that can have adverse effects on the intrauterine environment and affect the developing fetus. The NNNS assesses the full range of infant neurobehavioral performance including neurological integrity, behavioral functioning, and signs of stress/abstinence. The NNNS is a noninvasive neonatal assessment tool with demonstrated validity as a predictor, not only of medical outcomes such as cerebral palsy diagnosis, neurological abnormalities, and diseases with risks to the brain, but also of developmental outcomes such as mental and motor functioning, behavior problems, school readiness, and IQ. The NNNS can identify infants at high risk for abnormal developmental outcome and is an important clinical tool that enables medical researchers and health practitioners to identify these infants and develop intervention programs to optimize the development of these infants as early as possible. The video shows the NNNS procedures, shows examples of normal and abnormal performance and the various clinical populations in which the exam can be used.
Behavior, Issue 90, NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale, NNNS, High risk infant, Assessment, Evaluation, Prediction, Long term outcome
Accurate and Simple Measurement of the Pro-inflammatory Cytokine IL-1β using a Whole Blood Stimulation Assay
Institutions: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
Inflammatory processes resulting from the secretion of soluble mediators by immune cells, lead to various manifestations in skin, joints and other tissues as well as altered cytokine homeostasis. The innate immune system plays a crucial role in recognizing pathogens and other endogenous danger stimuli. One of the major cytokines released by innate immune cells is Interleukin (IL)-1. Therefore, we utilize a whole blood stimulation assay in order to measure the secretion of inflammatory cytokines and specifically of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1β 1, 2, 3
Patients with genetic dysfunctions of the innate immune system causing autoinflammatory syndromes show an exaggerated release of mature IL-1β upon stimulation with LPS alone. In order to evaluate the innate immune component of patients who present with inflammatory-associated pathologies, we use a specific immunoassay to detect cellular immune responses to pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), such as the gram-negative bacterial endotoxin, lipopolysaccharide (LPS). These PAMPs are recognized by pathogen recognition receptors (PRRs), which are found on the cells of the innate immune system 4, 5, 6, 7
. A primary signal, LPS, in conjunction with a secondary signal, ATP, is necessary for the activation of the inflammasome, a multiprotein complex that processes pro-IL-1β to its mature, bioactive form 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10
The whole blood assay requires minimal sample manipulation to assess cytokine production when compared to other methods that require labor intensive isolation and culturing of specific cell populations. This method differs from other whole blood stimulation assays; rather than diluting samples with a ratio of RPMI media, we perform a white blood cell count directly from diluted whole blood and therefore, stimulate a known number of white blood cells in culture 2
. The results of this particular whole blood assay demonstrate a novel technique useful in elucidating patient cohorts presenting with autoinflammatory pathophysiologies.
Immunology, Issue 49, Interleukin-1 beta, autoinflammatory, whole blood stimulation, lipopolysaccharide, ATP, cytokine production, pattern-recognition receptors, pathogen-associated molecular patterns
Isolation of Mouse Respiratory Epithelial Cells and Exposure to Experimental Cigarette Smoke at Air Liquid Interface
Institutions: Harvard Medical School, University of Pittsburgh.
Pulmonary epithelial cells can be isolated from the respiratory tract of mice and cultured at air-liquid interface (ALI) as a model of differentiated respiratory epithelium. A protocol is described for isolating and exposing these cells to mainstream cigarette smoke (CS), in order to study epithelial cell responses to CS exposure. The protocol consists of three parts: the isolation of airway epithelial cells from mouse trachea, the culturing of these cells at air-liquid interface (ALI) as fully differentiated epithelial cells, and the delivery of calibrated mainstream CS to these cells in culture. The ALI culture system allows the culture of respiratory epithelia under conditions that more closely resemble their physiological setting than ordinary liquid culture systems. The study of molecular and lung cellular responses to CS exposure is a critical component of understanding the impact of environmental air pollution on human health. Research findings in this area may ultimately contribute towards understanding the etiology of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other tobacco-related diseases, which represent major global health problems.
Medicine, Issue 48, Air-Liquid Interface, Cell isolation, Cigarette smoke, Epithelial cells
Long-term Lethal Toxicity Test with the Crustacean Artemia franciscana
Institutions: Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, Regional Agency for Environmental Protection in Emilia-Romagna.
Our research activities target the use of biological methods for the evaluation of environmental quality, with particular reference to saltwater/brackish water and sediment. The choice of biological indicators must be based on reliable scientific knowledge and, possibly, on the availability of standardized procedures. In this article, we present a standardized protocol that used the marine crustacean Artemia
to evaluate the toxicity of chemicals and/or of marine environmental matrices. Scientists propose that the brine shrimp (Artemia
) is a suitable candidate for the development of a standard bioassay for worldwide utilization. A number of papers have been published on the toxic effects of various chemicals and toxicants on brine shrimp (Artemia
). The major advantage of this crustacean for toxicity studies is the overall availability of the dry cysts; these can be immediately used in testing and difficult cultivation is not demanded1,2
. Cyst-based toxicity assays are cheap, continuously available, simple and reliable and are thus an important answer to routine needs of toxicity screening, for industrial monitoring requirements or for regulatory purposes3
. The proposed method involves the mortality as an endpoint. The numbers of survivors were counted and percentage of deaths were calculated. Larvae were considered dead if they did not exhibit any internal or external movement during several seconds of observation4
. This procedure was standardized testing a reference substance (Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate); some results are reported in this work. This article accompanies a video that describes the performance of procedural toxicity testing, showing all the steps related to the protocol.
Chemistry, Issue 62, Artemia franciscana, bioassays, chemical substances, crustaceans, marine environment
Isolation of Cortical Microglia with Preserved Immunophenotype and Functionality From Murine Neonates
Institutions: Georgetown University Medical Center.
Isolation of microglia from CNS tissue is a powerful investigative tool used to study microglial biology ex vivo
. The present method details a procedure for isolation of microglia from neonatal murine cortices by mechanical agitation with a rotary shaker. This microglia isolation method yields highly pure cortical microglia that exhibit morphological and functional characteristics indicative of quiescent microglia in normal, nonpathological conditions in vivo
. This procedure also preserves the microglial immunophenotype and biochemical functionality as demonstrated by the induction of morphological changes, nuclear translocation of the p65 subunit of NF-κB (p65), and secretion of the hallmark proinflammatory cytokine, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), upon lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and Pam3
(Pam) challenges. Therefore, the present isolation procedure preserves the immunophenotype of both quiescent and activated microglia, providing an experimental method of investigating microglia biology in ex vivo
Immunology, Issue 83, neuroinflammation, Cytokines, neurodegeneration, LPS, Pam3CSK4, TLRs, PAMPs, DAMPs
Activation and Measurement of NLRP3 Inflammasome Activity Using IL-1β in Human Monocyte-derived Dendritic Cells
Institutions: New York University School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Inflammatory processes resulting from the secretion of Interleukin (IL)-1 family cytokines by immune cells lead to local or systemic inflammation, tissue remodeling and repair, and virologic control1,2
. Interleukin-1β is an essential element of the innate immune response and contributes to eliminate invading pathogens while preventing the establishment of persistent infection1-5
Inflammasomes are the key signaling platform for the activation of interleukin 1 converting enzyme (ICE or Caspase-1). The NLRP3 inflammasome requires at least two signals in DCs to cause IL-1β secretion6
. Pro-IL-1β protein expression is limited in resting cells; therefore a priming signal is required for IL-1β transcription and protein expression. A second signal sensed by NLRP3 results in the formation of the multi-protein NLRP3 inflammasome. The ability of dendritic cells to respond to the signals required for IL-1β secretion can be tested using a synthetic purine, R848, which is sensed by TLR8 in human monocyte derived dendritic cells (moDCs) to prime cells, followed by activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome with the bacterial toxin and potassium ionophore, nigericin.
Monocyte derived DCs are easily produced in culture and provide significantly more cells than purified human myeloid DCs. The method presented here differs from other inflammasome assays in that it uses in vitro
human, instead of mouse derived, DCs thus allowing for the study of the inflammasome in human disease and infection.
Immunology, Issue 87, NLRP3, inflammasome, IL-1beta, Interleukin-1 beta, dendritic, cell, Nigericin, Toll-Like Receptor 8, TLR8, R848, Monocyte Derived Dendritic Cells
Quantitative Autonomic Testing
Institutions: University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Disorders associated with dysfunction of autonomic nervous system are quite common yet frequently unrecognized. Quantitative autonomic testing can be invaluable tool for evaluation of these disorders, both in clinic and research. There are number of autonomic tests, however, only few were validated clinically or are quantitative. Here, fully quantitative and clinically validated protocol for testing of autonomic functions is presented. As a bare minimum the clinical autonomic laboratory should have a tilt table, ECG monitor, continuous noninvasive blood pressure monitor, respiratory monitor and a mean for evaluation of sudomotor domain. The software for recording and evaluation of autonomic tests is critical for correct evaluation of data. The presented protocol evaluates 3 major autonomic domains: cardiovagal, adrenergic and sudomotor. The tests include deep breathing, Valsalva maneuver, head-up tilt, and quantitative sudomotor axon test (QSART). The severity and distribution of dysautonomia is quantitated using Composite Autonomic Severity Scores (CASS). Detailed protocol is provided highlighting essential aspects of testing with emphasis on proper data acquisition, obtaining the relevant parameters and unbiased evaluation of autonomic signals. The normative data and CASS algorithm for interpretation of results are provided as well.
Medicine, Issue 53, Deep breathing, Valsalva maneuver, tilt test, sudomotor testing, Composite Autonomic Severity Score, CASS
Experimental Methods for Testing the Effects of Neurotrophic Peptide, ADNF-9, Against Alcohol-induced Apoptosis during Pregnancy in C57BL/6 Mice
Institutions: University of Toledo .
Experimental designs for investigating the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure during early embryonic stages in fetal brain growth are challenging. This is mostly due to the difficulty of microdissection of fetal brains and their sectioning for determination of apoptotic cells caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. The experiments described here provide visualized techniques from mice breeding to the identification of cell death in fetal brain tissue. This study used C57BL/6 mice as the animal model for studying fetal alcohol exposure and the role of trophic peptide against alcohol-induced apoptosis. The breeding consists of a 2-hr matting window to determine the exact stage of embryonic age. An established fetal alcohol exposure model has been used in this study to determine the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure in fetal brains. This involves free access to alcohol or pair-fed liquid diets as the sole source of nutrients for the pregnant mice.
The techniques involving dissection of fetuses and microdissection of fetal brains are described carefully, since the latter can be challenging. Microdissection requires a stereomicroscope and ultra-fine forceps. Step-by-step procedures for dissecting the fetal brains are provided visually. The fetal brains are dissected from the base of the primordium olfactory bulb to the base of the metencephalon.
For investigating apoptosis, fetal brains are first embedded in gelatin using a peel-away mold to facilitate their sectioning with a vibratome apparatus. Fetal brains embedded and fixed in paraformaldehyde are easily sectioned, and the free floating sections can be mounted in superfrost plus slides for determination of apoptosis or cell death.
TUNEL (TdT-mediated dUTP Nick End Labeling; TdT: terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase) assay has been used to identify cell death or apoptotic cells. It is noteworthy that apoptosis and cell-mediated cytotoxicity are characterized by DNA fragmentation. Thus, the visualized TUNEL-positive cells are indicative of cell death or apoptotic cells.
The experimental designs here provide information about the use of an established liquid diet for studying the effects of alcohol and the role of neurotrophic peptides during pregnancy in fetal brains. This involves breeding and feeding pregnant mice, microdissecting fetal brains, and determining apoptosis. Together, these visual and textual techniques might be a source for investigating prenatal exposure of harmful agents in fetal brains.
Neuroscience, Issue 74, Developmental Biology, Neurobiology, Anatomy, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biochemsitry, Biomedical Engineering, Pharmacology, Embryonic Structures, Nervous System, Nervous System Diseases, Neurotrophic Peptides, TUNEL, Apoptosis, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Neuroprotection, fetal brain sections, transgenic mice, animal model, assay
The FlyBar: Administering Alcohol to Flies
Institutions: Florida State University, University of Houston.
Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster
) are an established model for both alcohol research and circadian biology. Recently, we showed that the circadian clock modulates alcohol sensitivity, but not the formation of tolerance. Here, we describe our protocol in detail. Alcohol is administered to the flies using the FlyBar. In this setup, saturated alcohol vapor is mixed with humidified air in set proportions, and administered to the flies in four tubes simultaneously. Flies are reared under standardized conditions in order to minimize variation between the replicates. Three-day old flies of different genotypes or treatments are used for the experiments, preferably by matching flies of two different time points (e.g.
, CT 5 and CT 17) making direct comparisons possible. During the experiment, flies are exposed for 1 hr to the pre-determined percentage of alcohol vapor and the number of flies that exhibit the Loss of Righting reflex (LoRR) or sedation are counted every 5 min. The data can be analyzed using three different statistical approaches. The first is to determine the time at which 50% of the flies have lost their righting reflex and use an Analysis of the Variance (ANOVA) to determine whether significant differences exist between time points. The second is to determine the percentage flies that show LoRR after a specified number of minutes, followed by an ANOVA analysis. The last method is to analyze the whole times series using multivariate statistics. The protocol can also be used for non-circadian experiments or comparisons between genotypes.
Neuroscience, Issue 87, neuroscience, alcohol sensitivity, Drosophila, Circadian, sedation, biological rhythms, undergraduate research
A Microplate Assay to Assess Chemical Effects on RBL-2H3 Mast Cell Degranulation: Effects of Triclosan without Use of an Organic Solvent
Institutions: University of Maine, Orono, University of Maine, Orono.
Mast cells play important roles in allergic disease and immune defense against parasites. Once activated (e.g.
by an allergen), they degranulate, a process that results in the exocytosis of allergic mediators. Modulation of mast cell degranulation by drugs and toxicants may have positive or adverse effects on human health. Mast cell function has been dissected in detail with the use of rat basophilic leukemia mast cells (RBL-2H3), a widely accepted model of human mucosal mast cells3-5
. Mast cell granule component and the allergic mediator β-hexosaminidase, which is released linearly in tandem with histamine from mast cells6
, can easily and reliably be measured through reaction with a fluorogenic substrate, yielding measurable fluorescence intensity in a microplate assay that is amenable to high-throughput studies1
. Originally published by Naal et al.1
, we have adapted this degranulation assay for the screening of drugs and toxicants and demonstrate its use here.
Triclosan is a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent that is present in many consumer products and has been found to be a therapeutic aid in human allergic skin disease7-11
, although the mechanism for this effect is unknown. Here we demonstrate an assay for the effect of triclosan on mast cell degranulation. We recently showed that triclosan strongly affects mast cell function2
. In an effort to avoid use of an organic solvent, triclosan is dissolved directly into aqueous buffer with heat and stirring, and resultant concentration is confirmed using UV-Vis spectrophotometry (using ε280
= 4,200 L/M/cm)12
. This protocol has the potential to be used with a variety of chemicals to determine their effects on mast cell degranulation, and more broadly, their allergic potential.
Immunology, Issue 81, mast cell, basophil, degranulation, RBL-2H3, triclosan, irgasan, antibacterial, β-hexosaminidase, allergy, Asthma, toxicants, ionophore, antigen, fluorescence, microplate, UV-Vis
Modeling Neural Immune Signaling of Episodic and Chronic Migraine Using Spreading Depression In Vitro
Institutions: The University of Chicago Medical Center, The University of Chicago Medical Center.
Migraine and its transformation to chronic migraine are healthcare burdens in need of improved treatment options. We seek to define how neural immune signaling modulates the susceptibility to migraine, modeled in vitro
using spreading depression (SD), as a means to develop novel therapeutic targets for episodic and chronic migraine. SD is the likely cause of migraine aura and migraine pain. It is a paroxysmal loss of neuronal function triggered by initially increased neuronal activity, which slowly propagates within susceptible brain regions. Normal brain function is exquisitely sensitive to, and relies on, coincident low-level immune signaling. Thus, neural immune signaling likely affects electrical activity of SD, and therefore migraine. Pain perception studies of SD in whole animals are fraught with difficulties, but whole animals are well suited to examine systems biology aspects of migraine since SD activates trigeminal nociceptive pathways. However, whole animal studies alone cannot be used to decipher the cellular and neural circuit mechanisms of SD. Instead, in vitro
preparations where environmental conditions can be controlled are necessary. Here, it is important to recognize limitations of acute slices and distinct advantages of hippocampal slice cultures. Acute brain slices cannot reveal subtle changes in immune signaling since preparing the slices alone triggers: pro-inflammatory changes that last days, epileptiform behavior due to high levels of oxygen tension needed to vitalize the slices, and irreversible cell injury at anoxic slice centers.
In contrast, we examine immune signaling in mature hippocampal slice cultures since the cultures closely parallel their in vivo
counterpart with mature trisynaptic function; show quiescent astrocytes, microglia, and cytokine levels; and SD is easily induced in an unanesthetized preparation. Furthermore, the slices are long-lived and SD can be induced on consecutive days without injury, making this preparation the sole means to-date capable of modeling the neuroimmune consequences of chronic SD, and thus perhaps chronic migraine. We use electrophysiological techniques and non-invasive imaging to measure
neuronal cell and circuit functions coincident with SD. Neural immune gene expression variables are measured with qPCR screening, qPCR arrays, and, importantly, use of cDNA preamplification for detection of ultra-low level targets such as interferon-gamma using whole, regional, or specific cell enhanced (via laser dissection microscopy) sampling. Cytokine cascade signaling is further assessed with multiplexed phosphoprotein related targets with gene expression and phosphoprotein changes confirmed via cell-specific immunostaining. Pharmacological and siRNA strategies are used to mimic
SD immune signaling.
Neuroscience, Issue 52, innate immunity, hormesis, microglia, T-cells, hippocampus, slice culture, gene expression, laser dissection microscopy, real-time qPCR, interferon-gamma
A Toolkit to Enable Hydrocarbon Conversion in Aqueous Environments
Institutions: Delft University of Technology, Delft University of Technology.
This work puts forward a toolkit that enables the conversion of alkanes by Escherichia coli
and presents a proof of principle of its applicability. The toolkit consists of multiple standard interchangeable parts (BioBricks)9
addressing the conversion of alkanes, regulation of gene expression and survival in toxic hydrocarbon-rich environments.
A three-step pathway for alkane degradation was implemented in E. coli
to enable the conversion of medium- and long-chain alkanes to their respective alkanols, alkanals and ultimately alkanoic-acids. The latter were metabolized via the native β-oxidation pathway. To facilitate the oxidation of medium-chain alkanes (C5-C13) and cycloalkanes (C5-C8), four genes (alkB2
) of the alkane hydroxylase system from Gordonia
were transformed into E. coli
. For the conversion of long-chain alkanes (C15-C36), theladA
gene from Geobacillus thermodenitrificans
was implemented. For the required further steps of the degradation process, ADH
and ALDH (
originating from G. thermodenitrificans
) were introduced10,11
. The activity was measured by resting cell assays. For each oxidative step, enzyme activity was observed.
To optimize the process efficiency, the expression was only induced under low glucose conditions: a substrate-regulated promoter, pCaiF, was used. pCaiF is present in E. coli
K12 and regulates the expression of the genes involved in the degradation of non-glucose carbon sources.
The last part of the toolkit - targeting survival - was implemented using solvent tolerance genes, PhPFDα and β, both from Pyrococcus horikoshii
OT3. Organic solvents can induce cell stress and decreased survivability by negatively affecting protein folding. As chaperones, PhPFDα and β improve the protein folding process e.g.
under the presence of alkanes. The expression of these genes led to an improved hydrocarbon tolerance shown by an increased growth rate (up to 50%) in the presences of 10% n
-hexane in the culture medium were observed.
Summarizing, the results indicate that the toolkit enables E. coli
to convert and tolerate hydrocarbons in aqueous environments. As such, it represents an initial step towards a sustainable solution for oil-remediation using a synthetic biology approach.
Bioengineering, Issue 68, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Oil remediation, alkane metabolism, alkane hydroxylase system, resting cell assay, prefoldin, Escherichia coli, synthetic biology, homologous interaction mapping, mathematical model, BioBrick, iGEM
Strategies for Study of Neuroprotection from Cold-preconditioning
Institutions: The University of Chicago Medical Center.
Neurological injury is a frequent cause of morbidity and mortality from general anesthesia and related surgical procedures that could be alleviated by development of effective, easy to administer and safe preconditioning treatments. We seek to define the neural immune signaling responsible for cold-preconditioning as means to identify novel targets for therapeutics development to protect brain before injury onset. Low-level pro-inflammatory mediator signaling changes over time are essential for cold-preconditioning neuroprotection. This signaling is consistent with the basic tenets of physiological conditioning hormesis, which require that irritative stimuli reach a threshold magnitude with sufficient time for adaptation to the stimuli for protection to become evident.
Accordingly, delineation of the immune signaling involved in cold-preconditioning neuroprotection requires that biological systems and experimental manipulations plus technical capacities are highly reproducible and sensitive. Our approach is to use hippocampal slice cultures as an in vitro
model that closely reflects their in vivo
counterparts with multi-synaptic neural networks influenced by mature and quiescent macroglia / microglia. This glial state is particularly important for microglia since they are the principal source of cytokines, which are operative in the femtomolar range. Also, slice cultures can be maintained in vitro
for several weeks, which is sufficient time to evoke activating stimuli and assess adaptive responses. Finally, environmental conditions can be accurately controlled using slice cultures so that cytokine signaling of cold-preconditioning can be measured, mimicked, and modulated to dissect the critical node aspects. Cytokine signaling system analyses require the use of sensitive and reproducible multiplexed techniques. We use quantitative PCR for TNF-α to screen for microglial activation followed by quantitative real-time qPCR array screening to assess tissue-wide cytokine changes. The latter is a most sensitive and reproducible means to measure multiple cytokine system signaling changes simultaneously. Significant changes are confirmed with targeted qPCR and then protein detection. We probe for tissue-based cytokine protein changes using multiplexed microsphere flow cytometric assays using Luminex technology. Cell-specific cytokine production is determined with double-label immunohistochemistry. Taken together, this brain tissue preparation and style of use, coupled to the suggested investigative strategies, may be an optimal approach for identifying potential targets for the development of novel therapeutics that could mimic the advantages of cold-preconditioning.
Neuroscience, Issue 43, innate immunity, hormesis, microglia, hippocampus, slice culture, immunohistochemistry, neural-immune, gene expression, real-time PCR
In Vitro Assay to Evaluate the Impact of Immunoregulatory Pathways on HIV-specific CD4 T Cell Effector Function
Institutions: The Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, Centre de Recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CRCHUM).
T cell exhaustion is a major factor in failed pathogen clearance during chronic viral infections. Immunoregulatory pathways, such as PD-1 and IL-10, are upregulated upon this ongoing antigen exposure and contribute to loss of proliferation, reduced cytolytic function, and impaired cytokine production by CD4 and CD8 T cells. In the murine model of LCMV infection, administration of blocking antibodies against these two pathways augmented T cell responses. However, there is currently no in vitro
assay to measure the impact of such blockade on cytokine secretion in cells from human samples. Our protocol and experimental approach enable us to accurately and efficiently quantify the restoration of cytokine production by HIV-specific CD4 T cells from HIV infected subjects.
Here, we depict an in vitro
experimental design that enables measurements of cytokine secretion by HIV-specific CD4 T cells and their impact on other cell subsets. CD8 T cells were depleted from whole blood and remaining PBMCs were isolated via Ficoll separation method. CD8-depleted PBMCs were then incubated with blocking antibodies against PD-L1 and/or IL-10Rα and, after stimulation with an HIV-1 Gag peptide pool, cells were incubated at 37 °C, 5% CO2
. After 48 hr, supernatant was collected for cytokine analysis by beads arrays and cell pellets were collected for either phenotypic analysis using flow cytometry or transcriptional analysis using qRT-PCR. For more detailed analysis, different cell populations were obtained by selective subset depletion from PBMCs or by sorting using flow cytometry before being assessed in the same assays. These methods provide a highly sensitive and specific approach to determine the modulation of cytokine production by antigen-specific T-helper cells and to determine functional interactions between different populations of immune cells.
Immunology, Issue 80, Virus Diseases, Immune System Diseases, HIV, CD4 T cell, CD8 T cell, antigen-presenting cell, Cytokines, immunoregulatory networks, PD-1: IL-10, exhaustion, monocytes
Physical, Chemical and Biological Characterization of Six Biochars Produced for the Remediation of Contaminated Sites
Institutions: Royal Military College of Canada, Queen's University.
The physical and chemical properties of biochar vary based on feedstock sources and production conditions, making it possible to engineer biochars with specific functions (e.g.
carbon sequestration, soil quality improvements, or contaminant sorption). In 2013, the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) made publically available their Standardized Product Definition and Product Testing Guidelines (Version 1.1) which set standards for physical and chemical characteristics for biochar. Six biochars made from three different feedstocks and at two temperatures were analyzed for characteristics related to their use as a soil amendment. The protocol describes analyses of the feedstocks and biochars and includes: cation exchange capacity (CEC), specific surface area (SSA), organic carbon (OC) and moisture percentage, pH, particle size distribution, and proximate and ultimate analysis. Also described in the protocol are the analyses of the feedstocks and biochars for contaminants including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), metals and mercury as well as nutrients (phosphorous, nitrite and nitrate and ammonium as nitrogen). The protocol also includes the biological testing procedures, earthworm avoidance and germination assays. Based on the quality assurance / quality control (QA/QC) results of blanks, duplicates, standards and reference materials, all methods were determined adequate for use with biochar and feedstock materials. All biochars and feedstocks were well within the criterion set by the IBI and there were little differences among biochars, except in the case of the biochar produced from construction waste materials. This biochar (referred to as Old biochar) was determined to have elevated levels of arsenic, chromium, copper, and lead, and failed the earthworm avoidance and germination assays. Based on these results, Old biochar would not be appropriate for use as a soil amendment for carbon sequestration, substrate quality improvements or remediation.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 93, biochar, characterization, carbon sequestration, remediation, International Biochar Initiative (IBI), soil amendment
Development of an IFN-γ ELISpot Assay to Assess Varicella-Zoster Virus-specific Cell-mediated Immunity Following Umbilical Cord Blood Transplantation
Institutions: Université de Montréal, Université de Montréal, Université de Montréal.
Varicella zoster virus (VZV) is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality following umbilical cord blood transplantation (UCBT). For this reason, antiherpetic prophylaxis is administrated systematically to pediatric UCBT recipients to prevent complications associated with VZV infection, but there is no strong, evidence based consensus that defines its optimal duration. Because T cell mediated immunity is responsible for the control of VZV infection, assessing the reconstitution of VZV specific T cell responses following UCBT could provide indications as to whether prophylaxis should be maintained or can be discontinued. To this end, a VZV specific gamma interferon (IFN-γ) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISpot) assay was developed to characterize IFN-γ production by T lymphocytes in response to in vitro
stimulation with irradiated live attenuated VZV vaccine. This assay provides a rapid, reproducible and sensitive measurement of VZV specific cell mediated immunity suitable for monitoring the reconstitution of VZV specific immunity in a clinical setting and assessing immune responsiveness to VZV antigens.
Immunology, Issue 89, Varicella zoster virus, cell-mediated immunity, T cells, interferon gamma, ELISpot, umbilical cord blood transplantation
Isolation of Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (HUVEC)
Institutions: University of California, Irvine (UCI).
Angiogenesis is a complex multi-step process, where in response to angiogenic stimuli, new vessels are created from the existing vasculature. These steps include: degradation of the basement membrane, proliferation and migration (sprouting) of endothelial cells (EC) into the extracellular matrix, alignment of EC into cords, lumen formation, anastomosis, and formation of a new basement membrane. Many in vitro assays have been developed to study this process, but most only mimic certain stages of angiogenesis, and morphologically the vessels often do not resemble vessels in vivo. Here we demonstrate an optimized in vitro angiogenesis assay that utilizes human umbilical vein EC and fibroblasts. This model recapitulates all of the key early stages of angiogenesis, and importantly the vessels display patent intercellular lumens surrounded by polarized EC. Vessels can be easily observed by phase-contrast and time-lapse microscopy, and recovered in pure form for downstream applications.
Cellular Biology, Issue 3, angiogenesis, endothelial, HUVEC, umbilical