A chip-based system mimicking the transport function of the human cardiovascular system has been established at minute but standardized microsystem scale. A peristaltic on-chip micropump generates pulsatile shear stress in a widely adjustable physiological range within a microchannel circuit entirely covered on all fluid contact surfaces with human dermal microvascular endothelial cells. This microvascular transport system can be reproducibly established within four days, independently of the individual endothelial cell donor background. It interconnects two standard tissue culture compartments, each of 5 mm diameter, through microfluidic channels of 500 ?m width. Further vessel branching and vessel diameter reduction down to a microvessel scale of approximately 40 ?m width was realised by a two-photon laser ablation technique applied to inserts, designed for the convenient establishment of individual organ equivalents in the tissue culture compartments at a later time. The chip layout ensures physiological fluid-to-tissue ratios. Moreover, an in-depth microscopic analysis revealed the fine-tuned adjustment of endothelial cell behaviour to local shear stresses along the microvasculature of the system. Time-lapse and 3D imaging two-photon microscopy were used to visualise details of spatiotemporal adherence of the endothelial cells to the channel system and to each other. The first indicative long-term experiments revealed stable performance over two and four weeks. The potential application of this system for the future establishment of human-on-a-chip systems and basic human endothelial cell research is discussed.
Substantial progress has been achieved over the last few decades in the development of skin equivalents to model the skin as an organ. However, their static culture still limits the emulation of essential physiological properties crucial for toxicity testing and compound screening. Here, we describe a dynamically perfused chip-based bioreactor platform capable of applying variable mechanical shear stress and extending culture periods. This leads to improvements of culture conditions for integrated in vitro skin models, ex vivo skin organ cultures and biopsies of single hair follicular units.
Current in vitro and animal tests for drug development are failing to emulate the systemic organ complexity of the human body and, therefore, to accurately predict drug toxicity. In this study, we present a multi-organ-chip capable of maintaining 3D tissues derived from cell lines, primary cells and biopsies of various human organs. We designed a multi-organ-chip with co-cultures of human artificial liver microtissues and skin biopsies, each a (1)/100,000 of the biomass of their original human organ counterparts, and have successfully proven its long-term performance. The system supports two different culture modes: i) tissue exposed to the fluid flow, or ii) tissue shielded from the underlying fluid flow by standard Transwell® cultures. Crosstalk between the two tissues was observed in 14-day co-cultures exposed to fluid flow. Applying the same culture mode, liver microtissues showed sensitivity at different molecular levels to the toxic substance troglitazone during a 6-day exposure. Finally, an astonishingly stable long-term performance of the Transwell®-based co-cultures could be observed over a 28-day period. This mode facilitates exposure of skin at the air-liquid interface. Thus, we provide here a potential new tool for systemic substance testing.
Misexpression of growth factors, particularly those related to stem cell-like phenotype, is often observed in several cancer types. It has been found to influence parameters of disease progression like cell proliferation, differentiation, maintenance of undifferentiated phenotype and modulation of the immune system. GDF3 is a TGFB family member associated with pluripotency and differentiation during embryonic development that has been previously reported to be re-expressed in a number of cancer types. However, its role in tumor development and progression has not been clarified yet. In this study we decipher the role of GDF3 in an in vitro model of cancer stem cells, NCCIT cells. By classical approach to study protein function combined with high-throughput technique for transcriptome analysis and differentiation assays we evaluated GDF3 as a potential therapeutic target. We observed that GDF3 robustly induces a panel of genes related to differentiation, including several potent tumor suppressors, without impacting the proliferative capacity. Moreover, we report for the first time the protective effect of GDF3 against retinoic acid-induced apoptosis in cells with stem cell-like properties. Our study implies that blocking of GDF3 combined with retinoic acid-treatment of solid cancers is a compelling direction for further investigations, which can lead to re-design of cancer differentiation therapies.
Hair follicle cycling is driven by epithelial-mesenchymal interactions (EMI), which require extracellular matrix (ECM) modifications to control the crosstalk between key epithelial- and mesenchymal-derived growth factors and cytokines. The exact roles of these ECM modifications in hair cycle-associated EMI are still unknown. Here, we used differential microarray analysis of laser capture-microdissected human scalp hair follicles (HF) to identify new ECM components that distinguish fibroblasts from the connective tissue sheath (CTS) from those of the follicular dermal papilla (DP). These analyses provide the first evidence that normal human CTS fibroblasts are characterized by the selective in situ-transcription of cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP). Following this up on the protein level, COMP was found to be hair cycle-dependent, suggesting critical role in this process: COMP is expressed during telogen and early anagen at regions of EMI and is degraded during catagen (only the CTS adjacent to the bulge remains COMP+ during catagen). Notably, COMP gene expression in vitro suggests direct correlation with the expression of TGF?2 in CTS fibroblasts. This raises the question whether COMP expression undergoes regulation by transforming growth factor, beta (TGF?) signalling. The intrafollicular COMP expression suggests to be functionally important and deserves further scrutiny in hair biology as indicated by the fact that altered COMP expression might be associated with scant fine hair in the case of some chondrodysplasia and scleroderma patients. Together these results reveal for the first time that COMP is part of the ECM and suggests its important role in normal human HF biology.
Across many tissues and organs, the ability to create an organoid, the smallest functional unit of an organ, in vitro is the key both to tissue engineering and preclinical testing regimes. The hair follicle is an organoid that has been much studied based on its ability to grow quickly and to regenerate after trauma. But hair follicle formation in vitro has been elusive. Replacing hair lost due to pattern baldness or more severe alopecia, including that induced by chemotherapy, remains a significant unmet medical need. By carefully analyzing and recapitulating the growth conditions of hair follicle formation, we recreated human hair follicles in tissue culture that were capable of producing hair. Our microfollicles contained all relevant cell types and their structure and orientation resembled in some ways excised hair follicle specimens from human skin. This finding offers a new window onto hair follicle development. Having a robust culture system for hair follicles is an important step towards improved hair regeneration as well as to an understanding of how marketed drugs or drug candidates, including cancer chemotherapy, will affect this important organ.
Dynamic miniaturized human multi-micro-organ bioreactor systems are envisaged as a possible solution for the embarrassing gap of predictive substance testing prior to human exposure. A rational approach was applied to simulate and design dynamic long-term cultures of the smallest possible functional human organ units, human "micro-organoids", on a chip the shape of a microscope slide. Each chip contains six identical dynamic micro-bioreactors with three different micro-organoid culture segments each, a feed supply and waste reservoirs. A liver, a brain cortex and a bone marrow micro-organoid segment were designed into each bioreactor. This design was translated into a multi-layer chip prototype and a routine manufacturing procedure was established. The first series of microscopable, chemically resistant and sterilizable chip prototypes was tested for matrix compatibility and primary cell culture suitability. Sterility and long-term human cell survival could be shown. Optimizing the applied design approach and prototyping tools resulted in a time period of only 3 months for a single design and prototyping cycle. This rapid prototyping scheme now allows for fast adjustment or redesign of inaccurate architectures. The designed chip platform is thus ready to be evaluated for the establishment and maintenance of the human liver, brain cortex and bone marrow micro-organoids in a systemic microenvironment.
Vessel sealing has been well-established in surgical practice in recent years. Bipolar radiofrequency-induced thermofusion (BIRTH) of intestinal tissue might replace traditionally used staples or sutures in the near future. In this experimental study, the influence of compressive pressure, fusion temperature, and duration of heating on the quality of intestinal anastomosis was investigated to obtain the relevant major parameters for the in vivo use of this system.
The search for more effective drugs for the management of common hair growth disorders remains a top priority, both for clinical dermatology and industry. In this pilot study, we report a pragmatic organotypic assay for basic and applied hair research. The patented technique produces microdroplets, which generate human folliculoid microspheres (HFMs), consisting of human dermal papilla fibroblasts and outer root sheath keratinocytes within an extracellular matrix that simulates elements of the hair follicle mesenchyme. Studying a number of different markers (for example, proliferation, apoptosis, cytokeratin-6, versican), we show that these HFMs, cultured under well-defined conditions, retain several essential epithelial-mesenchymal interactions characteristic for human scalp hair follicle. Selected, recognized hair growth-modulatory agents modulate these parameters in a manner that suggests that HFMs allow the standardized preclinical assessment of test agents on relevant human hair growth markers under substantially simplified in vitro conditions that approximate the in vivo situation. Furthermore, we show by immunohistochemistry, reverse transcriptase-PCR, and DNA microarray techniques that HFMs also offer a useful discovery tool for the identification of target genes and their products for candidate hair drugs. HFM thus represent an instructive modern experimental and screening tool for basic and applied hair research in the human system.
Various factors, including the phylogenetic distance between laboratory animals and humans, the discrepancy between current in vitro systems and the human body, and the restrictions of in silico modelling, have generated the need for new solutions to the ever-increasing worldwide dilemma of substance testing. This review provides a historical sketch on the accentuation of this dilemma, and highlights fundamental limitations to the countermeasures taken so far. It describes the potential of recently-introduced microsystems to emulate human organs in organ-on-a-chip devices. Finally, it focuses on an in-depth analysis of the first devices that aimed to mimic human systemic organ interactions in human-on-a-chip systems. Their potential to replace acute systemic toxicity testing in animals, and their inability to provide alternatives to repeated dose long-term testing, are discussed. Inspired by the latest discoveries in human biology, tissue engineering and micro-systems technology, this review proposes a paradigm shift to overcome the apparent challenges. A roadmap is outlined to create a new homeostatic level of biology in human-on-a-chip systems in order to, in the long run, replace systemic repeated dose safety evaluation and disease modelling in animals.
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