Cell Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 760 Views Jan 20, 2024

Human skin reconstruction on immune-deficient mice has become indispensable for in vivo studies performed in basic research and translational laboratories. Further advancements in making sustainable, prolonged skin equivalents to study new therapeutic interventions rely on reproducible models utilizing patient-derived cells and natural three-dimensional culture conditions mimicking the structure of living skin. Here, we present a novel step-by-step protocol for grafting human skin cells onto immunocompromised mice that requires low starting cell numbers, which is essential when primary patient cells are limited for modeling skin conditions. The core elements of our method are the sequential transplantation of fibroblasts followed by keratinocytes seeded into a fibrin-based hydrogel in a silicone chamber. We optimized the fibrin gel formulation, timing for gel polymerization in vivo, cell culture conditions, and seeding density to make a robust and efficient grafting protocol. Using this approach, we can successfully engraft as few as 1.0 × 106 fresh and 2.0 × 106 frozen-then-thawed keratinocytes per 1.4 cm2 of the wound area. Additionally, it was concluded that a successful layer-by-layer engraftment of skin cells in vivo could be obtained without labor-intensive and costly methodologies such as bioprinting or engineering complex skin equivalents.

Key features

• Expands upon the conventional skin chamber assay method (Wang et al., 2000) to generate high-quality skin grafts using a minimal number of cultured skin cells.

• The proposed approach allows the use of frozen-then-thawed keratinocytes and fibroblasts in surgical procedures.

• This system holds promise for evaluating the functionality of skin cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells and replicating various skin phenotypes.

• The entire process, from thawing skin cells to establishing the graft, requires 54 days.

Graphical overview

Generation of a human skin equivalent on an immunodeficient mouse using a fibrin-based grafting system. A schematic of the protocol is shown. Cultured keratinocytes and fibroblasts resuspended in a fibrin-based gel are delivered as layers into a silicon chamber inserted underneath the skin of an immunocompromised mouse. First, a fibrin gel containing encapsulated fibroblasts (up to 2 × 106 per 1.4 cm2 wound) is delivered into the chamber and allowed to solidify for 15 minutes. Second, a fibrin gel containing 1.0–2.0 × 106 keratinocytes is applied on top of the fibroblast layer. On day 7 post-grafting, the chamber is removed, and the wound with the graft is allowed to heal for 4–5 weeks. During healing, a scab forms and eventually falls off. By day 54, the graft is fully established.

0 Q&A 490 Views Jan 20, 2024

Cell-based liver therapies utilizing functionally stabilized engineered hepatic tissue hold promise in improving host liver functions and are emerging as a potential alternative to whole-organ transplantation. Owing to the ability to accommodate a large ex vivo engineered hepatocyte mass and dense vascularization, the mesenteric parametrial fat pad in female nude mice forms an ideal anatomic microenvironment for ectopic hepatocyte transplantation. However, the lack of any reported protocol detailing the presurgical preparation and construction of the engineered hepatic hydrogel, fat pad surgery, and postsurgical care and bioluminescence imaging to confirm in vivo hepatocyte implantation makes it challenging to reliably perform and test engraftment and integration with the host. In this report, we provide a step-by-step protocol for in vivo hepatocyte implantation, including preparation of hepatic tissue for implantation, the surgery process, and bioluminescence imaging to assess survival of functional hepatocytes. This will be a valuable protocol for researchers in the fields of tissue engineering, transplantation, and regenerative medicine.

Key features

• Primary human hepatocytes transduced ex vivo with a lentiviral vector carrying firefly luciferase are surgically implanted onto the fat pad.

• Bioluminescence helps monitor survival of transplanted hepatic tissue over time.

• Applicable for assessment of graft survival, graft-host integration, and liver regeneration.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 302 Views Mar 20, 2023

Adult stem cells not only maintain tissue homeostasis but are also critical for tissue regeneration during injury. Skeletal stem cells are multipotent stem cells that can even generate bones and cartilage upon transplantation to an ectopic site. This tissue generation process requires essential stem cell characteristics including self-renewal, engraftment, proliferation, and differentiation in the microenvironment. Our research team has successfully characterized and isolated skeletal stem cells (SSCs) from the cranial suture called suture stem cells (SuSCs), which are responsible for craniofacial bone development, homeostasis, and injury-induced repair. To assess their stemness features, we have demonstrated the use of kidney capsule transplantation for an in vivo clonal expansion study. The results show bone formation at a single-cell level, thus permitting a faithful assessment of stem cell numbers at the ectopic site. The sensitivity in assessing stem cell presence permits using kidney capsule transplantation to determine stem cell frequency by limiting dilution assay. Here, we described detailed protocols for kidney capsule transplantation and limiting dilution assay. These methods are extremely valuable both for the evaluation of skeletogenic ability and the determination of stem cell frequency.

1 Q&A 1337 Views Feb 5, 2023

While wound healing in humans occurs primarily through re-epithelization, in rodents it also occurs through contraction of the panniculus carnosus, an underlying muscle layer that humans do not possess. Murine experimental models are by far the most convenient and inexpensive research model to study wound healing, as they offer great variability in genetic alterations and disease models. To overcome the obstacle of contraction biasing wound healing kinetics, our group invented the splinted excisional wound model. While other rodent wound healing models have been used in the past, the splinted excisional wound model has persisted as the most used model in the field of wound healing. Here, we present a detailed protocol of updated and refined techniques necessary to utilize this model, generate results with high validity, and accurately analyze the collected data. This model is simple to conduct and provides an easy, standardizable, and replicable model of human-like wound healing.

0 Q&A 4672 Views Sep 5, 2020
Human neuron transplantation offers novel opportunities for modeling human neurologic diseases and potentially replacement therapies. However, the complex structure of the human cerebral cortex, which is organized in six layers with tightly interconnected excitatory and inhibitory neuronal networks, presents significant challenges for in vivo transplantation techniques to obtain a balanced, functional and homeostatically stable neuronal network. Here, we present a protocol to introduce human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived neural progenitors to rat brains. Using this approach, hiPSC-derived neurons structurally integrate into the rat forebrain, exhibit electrophysiological characteristics, including firing, excitatory and inhibitory synaptic activity, and establish neuronal connectivity with the host circuitry.
0 Q&A 3049 Views Jul 5, 2020
For years, the mammary gland serves as a perfect example to study the self-renew and differentiation of adult stem cells, and the regulatory mechanisms of these processes as well. To assess the function of given genes and/or other factors on stemness of mammary cells, several In vitro assays were developed, such as mammospheres formation assay, detection of stem cell markers by mRNA expression or flow cytometry and so on. However, the capacity of reconstruction of whole mount in the cleared fat pad of recipient female mice is a golden standard to estimate the stemness of the cells. Here we described a step-by-step protocol for in vivo mammary gland formation assay, including preparation of “cleared” recipients and mammary cells for implantation, the surgery process and how to assess the experimental results. Combined with manipulation of mammary cells via gene editing and /or drug treatment, this protocol could be very useful in the researches of mammary stem cells and mammary development.
1 Q&A 12288 Views Sep 20, 2018
Xenograft models, and in particular the mouse xenograft model, where human cancer cells are transplanted into immunocompromised mice, have been used extensively in cancer studies. Although these models have contributed enormously to our understanding of cancer biology, the zebrafish xenograft model offers several advantages over the mouse model. Zebrafish embryos can be easily cultured in large quantities, are small and easy to handle, making it possible to use a high number of embryos for each experimental condition. Young embryos lack an efficient immune system. Therefore the injected cancer cells are not rejected, and the formation of primary tumors and micrometastases is rapid. Transparency of the embryos enables imaging of primary tumors and metastases in an intact and living embryo. Here we describe a method where GFP expressing tumor cells are injected into pericardial space of zebrafish embryos. At four days post-injection, the embryos are imaged and the formation of primary tumor and distant micrometastases are analyzed.
0 Q&A 7637 Views Nov 5, 2017
Uveal melanoma (UM) is a malignant intraocular tumor in adults. Metastasis develops in almost half of the patients and over 90% of the metastases are in the liver. With the advances in molecular targeting therapy for melanoma, a proper metastasis animal model is of increasing importance for testing the accuracy and effectiveness of systemic therapies. Here, we describe a xenograft model for mimicking human UM liver metastasis by injecting human UM cells into the vitreous cavity in nude mice. The athymic nude mice are immunocompromised and suitable for xenograft tumor growth and metastasis, and intravitreal injection of cells is a quicker and easier operation under a binocular scope, thereby it is simple and effective to test human UM growth and metastasis.

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