Biological Engineering


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 269 Views Nov 20, 2023

The relative ease of genetic manipulation in S. cerevisiae is one of its greatest strengths as a model eukaryotic organism. Researchers have leveraged this quality of the budding yeast to study the effects of a variety of genetic perturbations, such as deletion or overexpression, in a high-throughput manner. This has been accomplished by producing a number of strain libraries that can contain hundreds or even thousands of distinct yeast strains with unique genetic alterations. While these strategies have led to enormous increases in our understanding of the functions and roles that genes play within cells, the techniques used to screen genetically modified libraries of yeast strains typically rely on plate or sequencing-based assays that make it difficult to analyze gene expression changes over time. Microfluidic devices, combined with fluorescence microscopy, can allow gene expression dynamics of different strains to be captured in a continuous culture environment; however, these approaches often have significantly lower throughput compared to traditional techniques. To address these limitations, we have developed a microfluidic platform that uses an array pinning robot to allow for up to 48 different yeast strains to be transferred onto a single device. Here, we detail a validated methodology for constructing and setting up this microfluidic device, starting with the photolithography steps for constructing the wafer, then the soft lithography steps for making polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microfluidic devices, and finally the robotic arraying of strains onto the device for experiments. We have applied this device for dynamic screens of a protein aggregation library; however, this methodology has the potential to enable complex and dynamic screens of yeast libraries for a wide range of applications.

Key features

• Major steps of this protocol require access to specialized equipment (i.e., microfabrication tools typically found in a cleanroom facility and an array pinning robot).

• Construction of microfluidic devices with multiple different feature heights using photolithography and soft lithography with PDMS.

• Robotic spotting of up to 48 different yeast strains onto microfluidic devices.

0 Q&A 334 Views Oct 5, 2023

Corneal epithelium and stroma are the major cellular structures for ocular protection and vision accuracy; they play important roles in corneal wound healing and inflammation under pathological conditions. Unlike human, murine corneal and stromal fibroblast cells are difficult to isolate for cell culture. In our laboratory, we successfully used an ex vivo culture procedure and an enzymatic procedure to isolate, purify, and culture mouse corneal epithelial and stromal fibroblast cells.

Key features

• Primary cell culture models of a disease are critical for cellular and molecular mechanism studies.

• Corneal tissues with the limbus contain stem cells to generate both epithelial and stromal cells.

• An ex vivo corneal culture provides a constant generation of primary corneal cells for multiple passages.

• The isolated cells are validated by the corneal epithelial cell markers Krt12 and Cdh1 and the stromal fibroblast marker Vim.

0 Q&A 306 Views Oct 5, 2023

Different regions of the gastrointestinal tract have specific functions and thus distinct motility patterns. Motility is primarily regulated by the enteric nervous system (ENS), an intrinsic network of neurons located within the gut wall. Under physiological conditions, the ENS is influenced by the central nervous system (CNS). However, by using ex vivo organ bath experiments, ENS regulation of gut motility can also be studied in the absence of CNS influences. The current technique enables the characterisation of small intestinal, caecal, and colonic motility patterns using an ex vivo organ bath and video imaging protocol. This approach is combined with the novel edge detection script GutMap, available in MATLAB, that functions across Windows and Mac platforms. Dissected intestinal segments are cannulated in an organ bath containing physiological saline with a camera mounted overhead. Video recordings of gut contractions are then converted to spatiotemporal heatmaps and analysed using the GutMap software interface. Using data analysed from the heatmaps, parameters of contractile patterns (including contraction propagation frequency and velocity as well as gut diameter) at baseline and in the presence of drugs/treatments/genetic mutations can be compared. Here, we studied motility patterns of female mice at baseline and in the presence of a nitric oxide synthase inhibitor (Nω-Nitro-L-arginine; NOLA) (nitric oxide being the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of gut motility) to showcase the application of GutMap. This technique is suitable for application to a broad range of animal models of clinical disorders to understand underlying biological pathways contributing to gastrointestinal dysfunction.

Key features

• Enhanced video imaging analysis of gut contractility in rodents using a novel software interface.

• New edge detection algorithm to accurately contour curvatures of the gastrointestinal tract.

• Allows for output of high-resolution spatiotemporal heatmaps across Windows and Mac platforms.

• Edge detection and analysis method makes motility measurements accessible in different gut regions including the caecum and stomach.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 372 Views Sep 20, 2023

Device-induced thrombosis remains a major complication of extracorporeal life support (ECLS). To more thoroughly understand how blood components interact with the artificial surfaces of ECLS circuit components, assessment of clot deposition on these surfaces following clinical use is urgently needed. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM), which produces high-resolution images at nanoscale level, allows visualization and characterization of thrombotic deposits on ECLS circuitry. However, methodologies to increase the quantifiability of SEM analysis of ECLS circuit components have yet to be applied clinically. To address these issues, we developed a protocol to quantify clot deposition on ECLS membrane oxygenator gas transfer fiber sheets through digital and SEM imaging techniques. In this study, ECLS membrane oxygenator fiber sheets were obtained, fixed, and imaged after use. Following a standardized process, the percentage of clot deposition on both digital images and SEM images was quantified using ImageJ through blind reviews. The interrater reliability of quantitative analysis among reviewers was evaluated. Although this protocol focused on the analysis of ECLS membrane oxygenators, it is also adaptable to other components of the ECLS circuits such as catheters and tubing.

Key features

• Quantitative analysis of clot deposition using digital and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) techniques

• High-resolution images at nanoscale level

• Extracorporeal life support (ECLS) devices

• Membrane oxygenators

• Blood-contacting surfaces

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 399 Views Sep 5, 2023

Tissue culture plastic has been used for routine cell culture and in vitro experiments for over 50 years. However, cells are mechanically responsive and behave differently on hard surfaces than they do on softer substrates. Polyacrylamide gels have become a popular hydrogel of choice for controlling surface stiffness and ligand density for cell adhesion. Many synthesis methods use coverslips and small gel surface areas for cell culture, which are amenable to microscopy-based experiments. However, none of the currently published methods can be scaled up to increase the surface area to accommodate conditioned media production, high volume analyte collection, or cell line expansion. To overcome this size limitation, we developed a protocol for synthesizing polyacrylamide in glass dishes using commercially available materials. This enables routine cell culture on soft surfaces and facilitates experiments that require large amounts of analyte, especially studies involving extracellular vesicles and secreted factors.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 544 Views May 20, 2023

The adipose tissue is a central metabolic organ that regulates whole-body energy homeostasis. The abnormal expansion of adipose tissue leads to the progression of obesity. The adipose tissue microenvironment is affected by pathological hypertrophy of adipocytes, highly correlated with systemic metabolic disorders. In vivo genetic modification is a great tool for understanding the role of genes involved in such processes. However, obtaining new conventional engineered mice is time consuming and costly. Here, we provide a simple and speedy method to efficiently transduce genes into adipose tissue by injecting the adeno-associated virus vector serotypes 8 (AAV8) into the fat pads of adult mice.

0 Q&A 506 Views Apr 20, 2023

The CRISPR/Cas9 system is a powerful tool for gene repair that holds great potential for gene therapy to cure monogenic diseases. Despite intensive improvement, the safety of this system remains a major clinical concern. In contrast to Cas9 nuclease, Cas9 nickases with a pair of short-distance (38–68 bp) PAM-out single-guide RNAs (sgRNAs) preserve gene repair efficiency while strongly reducing off-target effects. However, this approach still leads to efficient unwanted on-target mutations that may cause tumorigenesis or abnormal hematopoiesis. We establish a precise and safe spacer-nick gene repair approach that combines Cas9D10A nickase with a pair of PAM-out sgRNAs at a distance of 200–350 bp. In combination with adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotype 6 donor templates, this approach leads to efficient gene repair with minimal unintended on- and off-target mutations in human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs). Here, we provide detailed protocols to use the spacer-nick approach for gene repair and to assess the safety of this system in human HSPCs. The spacer-nick approach enables efficient gene correction for repair of disease-causing mutations with increased safety and suitability for gene therapy.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 466 Views Apr 5, 2023

Interleukin-22 (IL-22) has been demonstrated as a critical regulator of epithelial homeostasis and repair; it showed an anti-inflammatory effect against ulcerative colitis. Local microinjection of IL-22 cDNA vector has been shown to be effective in treating ulcerative colitis in mouse models. However, microinjection comes with multiple technical challenges for routine colon-targeted drug delivery. In contrast, oral administration can get around these challenges and provide comparable efficacy. We showed in previous studies that oral administration of new lipid nanoparticles (nLNP)-encapsulated IL-22 mRNA targets the colon region and efficiently ameliorates colitis. This protocol describes the details of preparing and characterizing the nLNP-encapsulated IL-22 mRNA using three major lipids that mimic the natural ginger-derived nanoparticles. It provides an nLNP platform that can be used to orally deliver other types of nucleic acids to the colon.

0 Q&A 703 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 388 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.

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