Biological Engineering


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 311 Views Mar 5, 2023

Human neuromuscular diseases represent a diverse group of disorders with unmet clinical need, ranging from muscular dystrophies, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), to neurodegenerative disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In many of these conditions, axonal and neuromuscular synapse dysfunction have been implicated as crucial pathological events, highlighting the need for in vitro disease models that accurately recapitulate these aspects of human neuromuscular physiology. The protocol reported here describes the co-culture of neural spheroids composed of human pluripotent stem cell (PSC)–derived motor neurons and astrocytes, and human PSC-derived myofibers in 3D compartmentalised microdevices to generate functional human neuromuscular circuits in vitro. In this microphysiological model, motor axons project from a central nervous system (CNS)–like compartment along microchannels to innervate skeletal myofibers plated in a separate muscle compartment. This mimics the spatial organization of neuromuscular circuits in vivo. Optogenetics, particle image velocimetry (PIV) analysis, and immunocytochemistry are used to control, record, and quantify functional neuromuscular transmission, axonal outgrowth, and neuromuscular synapse number and morphology. This approach has been applied to study disease-specific phenotypes for DMD and ALS by incorporating patient-derived and CRISPR-corrected human PSC-derived motor neurons and skeletal myogenic progenitors into the model, as well as testing candidate drugs for rescuing pathological phenotypes. The main advantages of this approach are: i) its simple design; ii) the in vivo–like anatomical separation between CNS and peripheral muscle; and iii) the amenability of the approach to high power imaging. This opens up the possibility for carrying out live axonal transport and synaptic imaging assays in future studies, in addition to the applications reported in this study.

Graphical abstract

Graphical abstract abbreviations: Channelrhodopsin-2 (CHR2+), pluripotent stem cell (PSC), motor neurons (MNs), myofibers (MFs), neuromuscular junction (NMJ).

0 Q&A 271 Views Jan 20, 2023

In this study, we introduce a detailed protocol for the preparation of DNA-assembled GRS-DNA-copper sulfide (CuS) nanodandelion, a multifunctional theranostics nanoparticle. Using transmission electron microscope (TEM) and dynamic light scattering techniques, we characterize the physicochemical property of DNA-assembled GRS-DNA-CuS nanodandelions and their dissociation property after the first near-infrared (NIR) light irradiation. In addition, we systematically monitor the processes of tumor accumulation and uniform intratumoral distribution (UITD) of ultrasmall CuS photothermal agents (PAs), which are dissociated from GRS-DNA-CuS nanodandelions, by Raman imaging and photoacoustic imaging, respectively. The UITD of the dissociated ultrasmall CuS PAs can enhance the therapeutic efficiency of photothermal treatment under the second NIR light irradiation. Overall, this protocol provides a powerful tool to achieve UITD of PAs by explosively breaking the hydrogen bonds of DNA in GRS-DNA-CuS nanodandelions under NIR light irradiation. We expect DNA-assembled nanotheranostics to serve as a robust platform for a variety of biomedical applications related to photothermal therapy in the oncology field. This protocol can increase experimental reproducibility and contribute to efficient theranostics nanomedicine.

0 Q&A 586 Views Jan 5, 2023

Traditional drug safety assessments often fail to predict complications in humans, especially when the drug targets the immune system. Rodent-based preclinical animal models are often ill-suited for predicting immunotherapy-mediated adverse events in humans, in part because of the fundamental differences in immunological responses between species and the human relevant expression profile of the target antigen, if it is expected to be present in normal, healthy tissue. While human-relevant cell-based models of tissues and organs promise to bridge this gap, conventional in vitro two-dimensional models fail to provide the complexity required to model the biological mechanisms of immunotherapeutic effects. Also, like animal models, they fail to recapitulate physiologically relevant levels and patterns of organ-specific proteins, crucial for capturing pharmacology and safety liabilities. Organ-on-Chip models aim to overcome these limitations by combining micro-engineering with cultured primary human cells to recreate the complex multifactorial microenvironment and functions of native tissues and organs. In this protocol, we show the unprecedented capability of two human Organs-on-Chip models to evaluate the safety profile of T cell–bispecific antibodies (TCBs) targeting tumor antigens. These novel tools broaden the research options available for a mechanistic understanding of engineered therapeutic antibodies and for assessing safety in tissues susceptible to adverse events.

Graphical abstract

Figure 1. Graphical representation of the major steps in target-dependent T cell–bispecific antibodies engagement and immunomodulation, as performed in the Colon Intestine-Chip

0 Q&A 979 Views Nov 20, 2022

The study and use of decellularized extracellular matrix (dECM) in tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and pathophysiology have become more prevalent in recent years. To obtain dECM, numerous decellularization procedures have been developed for the entire organ or tissue blocks, employing either perfusion of decellularizing agents through the tissue’s vessels or submersion of large sections in decellularizing solutions. However, none of these protocols are suitable for thin tissue slices (less than 100 µm) or allow side-by-side analysis of native and dECM consecutive tissue slices. Here, we present a detailed protocol to decellularize tissue sections while maintaining the sample attached to a glass slide. This protocol consists of consecutive washes and incubations of simple decellularizing agents: ultrapure water, sodium deoxycholate (SD) 2%, and deoxyribonuclease I solution 0.3 mg/mL (DNase I). This novel method has been optimized for a faster decellularization time (2–3 h) and a better correlation between dECM properties and native tissue-specific biomarkers, and has been tested in different types of tissues and species, obtaining similar results. Furthermore, this method can be used for scarce and valuable samples such as clinical biopsies.

0 Q&A 602 Views Nov 5, 2022

Reconstitution of membrane proteins into large unilamellar vesicles is an essential approach for their functional analysis under chemically defined conditions. The orientation of the protein in the liposomal membrane after reconstitution depends on many parameters, and its assessment is important prior to functional measurements. Common approaches for determining the orientation of a membrane-inserted protein are based on limited proteolytic digest, impermeable labeling reagents for specific amino acids, or membrane-impermeable quenchers for fluorescent proteins. Here, we describe a simple site-specific fluorescent assay based on self-labeling enzyme tags to determine the orientation of membrane proteins after reconstitution, exemplified on a reconstituted SNAP-tag plant H+-ATPase. This versatile method should benefit the optimization of reconstitution conditions and the analysis of many types of membrane proteins.

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0 Q&A 778 Views Nov 5, 2022

This protocol describes the recombinant expression of proteins in E. coli containing phosphoserine (pSer) installed at positions guided by TAG codons. The E. coli strains that can be used here are engineered with a ∆serB genomic knockout to produce pSer internally at high levels, so no exogenously added pSer is required, and the addition of pSer to the media will not affect expression yields. For “truncation-free” expression and improved yields with high flexibility of construct design, it is preferred to use the Release Factor-1 (RF1) deficient strain B95(DE3) ∆AfabRserB, though use of the standard RF1-containing BL21(DE3) ∆serB is also described. Both of these strains are serine auxotrophs and will not grow in standard minimal media. This protocol uses rich auto-induction media for streamlined and maximal production of homogeneously modified protein, yielding ~100–200 mg of single pSer-containing sfGFP per liter of culture. Using this genetic code expansion (GCE) approach, in which pSer is installed into proteins during translation, allows researchers to produce milligram quantities of specific phospho-proteins without requiring kinases, which can be purified for downstream in vitro studies relating to phosphorylation-dependent signaling systems, protein regulation by phosphorylation, and protein–protein interactions.

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0 Q&A 1333 Views Oct 20, 2022

Directed evolution is a powerful technique for identifying beneficial mutations in defined DNA sequences with the goal of improving desired phenotypes. Recent methodological advances have made the evolution of short DNA sequences quick and easy. However, the evolution of DNA sequences >5kb in length, notably gene clusters, is still a challenge for most existing methods. Since many important microbial phenotypes are encoded by multigene pathways, they are usually improved via adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE), which while straightforward to implement can suffer from off-target and hitchhiker mutations that can adversely affect the fitness of the evolved strain. We have therefore developed a new directed evolution method (Inducible Directed Evolution, IDE) that combines the specificity and throughput of recent continuous directed evolution methods with the ease of ALE. Here, we present detailed methods for operating Inducible Directed Evolution (IDE), which enables long (up to 85kb) DNA sequences to be mutated in a high throughput manner via a simple series of incubation steps. In IDE, an intracellular mutagenesis plasmid (MP) tunably mutagenizes the pathway of interest, located on the phagemid (PM). MP contains a mutagenic operon (danQ926, dam, seqA, emrR, ugi, and cda1) that can be expressed via the addition of a chemical inducer. Expression of the mutagenic operon during a cell cycle represses DNA repair mechanisms such as proofreading, translesion synthesis, mismatch repair, and base excision and selection, which leads to a higher mutation rate. Induction of the P1 lytic cycle results in packaging of the mutagenized phagemid, and the pathway-bearing phage particles infect naïve cells, generating a mutant library that can be screened or selected for improved variants. Successive rounds of IDE enable optimization of complex phenotypes encoded by large pathways (as of this writing up to 36 kb), without requiring inefficient transformation steps. Additionally, IDE avoids off-target genomic mutations and enables decoupling of mutagenesis and screening steps, establishing it as a powerful tool for optimizing complex phenotypes in E. coli.

Graphical abstract:

Figure 1. Overview of Inducible Directed Evolution (IDE).

Pathways of interest are cloned into a P1 phagemid (PM) backbone and transformed into a strain of E. coli containing MP (diversification strain). The mutagenesis plasmid is induced to generate mutations. Phage lysate is produced and used to infect a strain that expresses the phenotype of interest (screening/selection strain). The resulting strain library is screened to identify those with improved properties. Narrowed-down libraries can then go through another IDE cycle by infecting a fresh diversification strain.

0 Q&A 723 Views Oct 5, 2022

RNA binding proteins (RBPs) are critical regulators of cellular phenotypes, and dysregulated RBP expression is implicated in various diseases including cancer. A single RBP can bind to and regulate the expression of many RNA molecules via a variety of mechanisms, including translational suppression, prevention of RNA degradation, and alteration in subcellular localization. To elucidate the role of a specific RBP within a given cellular context, it is essential to first identify the group of RNA molecules to which it binds. This has traditionally been achieved using cross-linking-based assays in which cells are first exposed to agents that cross-link RBPs to nucleic acids and then lysed to extract and purify the RBP-nucleic acid complexes. The nucleic acids within the mixture are then released and analyzed via conventional means (e.g., microarray analysis, qRT-PCR, RNA sequencing, or Northern blot). While cross-linking-based ribonucleoprotein immunoprecipitation (RIP) has proven its utility within some contexts, it is technically challenging, inefficient, and suboptimal given the amount of time and resources (e.g., cells and antibodies) required. Additionally, these types of studies often require the use of over-expressed versions of proteins, which can introduce artifacts. Here, we describe a streamlined version of RIP that utilizes exclusion-based purification technologies. This approach requires significantly less starting material and resources compared to traditional RIP approaches, takes less time, which is tantamount given the labile nature of RNA, and can be used with endogenously expressed proteins. The method described here can be used to study RNA-protein interactions in a variety of cellular contexts.

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0 Q&A 964 Views Oct 5, 2022

Bispecific antibodies (BsAbs) are typically monoclonal antibody (mAb)–derived molecular entities engineered to bind to two distinct targets, including two antigens or two epitopes on the same antigen. When compared to parental monoclonal antibodies or combinational therapies, the generated BsAbs have the ability to bridge the two targets and thus may offer additional clinical benefits. Characterizing BsAbs’ ability to bind to both targets simultaneously is critical for their biotherapeutic development. A range of bi-functional quantitative bridging assays to enable target-specific capture and detection of binding properties include enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), surface plasmon resonance (SPR), and cell-based flow cytometry. Developing suitable and robust cell-based bioassays is more challenging than non-cell-based binding assays because cell-based assays with complex matrices can be inherently variable and often lack precision. Compared to SPR, ELISA has a rapid setup and readily available method, being widely and extensively applied in almost every laboratory. Here, we describe a dual-target bridging ELISA assay that characterizes the ability of a HER2(human epidermal growth factor receptor 2)/PD-L1(programmed cell death ligand 1) BsAb in binding to both HER2 and PD-L1 simultaneously, a prerequisite for its envisioned mode of action.

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0 Q&A 572 Views Oct 5, 2022

Cell bioprinting technologies aim to fabricate tissue-like constructs by delivering biomaterials layer-by-layer. Bioprinted constructs can reduce the use of animals in drug development and hold promise for addressing the shortage of organs for transplants. We recently introduced a laser-assisted drop-on-demand bioprinting technology termed Laser Induced Side Transfer (LIST). This technology can print delicate cell types, including primary neurons. This bioprinting protocol includes the following key steps: cell harvesting, bio-ink preparation, laser setup priming, printing, and post-printing analysis. This protocol includes a detailed description of the laser setup, which is a rather unusual setup for a biology lab. This should allow easy reproduction by readers with basic knowledge of optics. Although we have focused on neuron bioprinting, interested readers will be able to adapt the protocol to bioprint virtually any cell type.

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