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Creators/Authors contains: "Baker, Brendon M."

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  1. Abstract

    Although tissue culture plastic has been widely employed for cell culture, the rigidity of plastic is not physiologic. Softer hydrogels used to culture cells have not been widely adopted in part because coupling chemistries are required to covalently capture extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins and support cell adhesion. To create an in vitro system with tunable stiffnesses that readily adsorbs ECM proteins for cell culture, a novel hydrophobic hydrogel system is presented via chemically converting hydroxyl residues on the dextran backbone to methacrylate groups, thereby transforming non‐protein adhesive, hydrophilic dextran to highly protein adsorbent substrates. Increasing methacrylate functionality increases the hydrophobicity in the resulting hydrogels and enhances ECM protein adsorption without additional chemical reactions. These hydrophobic hydrogels permit facile and tunable modulation of substrate stiffness independent of hydrophobicity or ECM coatings. Using this approach, it is shown that substrate stiffness and ECM adsorption work together to affect cell morphology and proliferation, but the strengths of these effects vary in different cell types. Furthermore, it is revealed that stiffness‐mediated differentiation of dermal fibroblasts into myofibroblasts is modulated by the substrate ECM. The material system demonstrates remarkable simplicity and flexibility to tune ECM coatings and substrate stiffness and study their effects on cell function.

     
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  2. We demonstrate the facile and robust generation of giant peptide vesicles by using an emulsion transfer method. These robust vesicles can sustain chemical and physical stresses. The peptide vesicles can host cell-free expression reactions by encapsulating essential ingredients. We show the incorporation of another cell-free expressed elastin-like polypeptide into the existing membrane of the peptide vesicles. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
    Cardiomyocytes derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC-CMs) show great potential for engineering myocardium to study cardiac disease and create regenerative therapies. However, iPSC-CMs typically possess a late embryonic stage phenotype, with cells failing to exhibit markers of mature adult tissue. This is due in part to insufficient knowledge and control of microenvironmental cues required to facilitate the organization and maturation of iPSC-CMs. Here, we employed a cell-adhesive, mechanically tunable synthetic fibrous extracellular matrix (ECM) consisting of electrospun dextran vinyl sulfone (DVS) fibers and examined how biochemical, architectural, and mechanical properties of the ECM impact iPSC-CM tissue assembly and subsequent function. Exploring a multidimensional parameter space spanning cell-adhesive ligand, seeding density, fiber alignment, and stiffness, we found that fibronectin-functionalized DVS matrices composed of highly aligned fibers with low stiffness optimally promoted the organization of functional iPSC-CM tissues. Tissues generated on these matrices demonstrated improved calcium handling and increased end-to-end localization of N-cadherin as compared to micropatterned fibronectin lines or fibronectin-coated glass. Furthermore, DVS matrices supported long-term culture (45 days) of iPSC-CMs; N-cadherin end-to-end localization and connexin43 expression both increased as a function of time in culture. In sum, these findings demonstrate the importance of recapitulating the fibrous myocardial ECM in engineering structurally organized and functional iPSC-CM tissues. 
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  4. Abstract

    Human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CMs) allow investigations in a human cardiac model system, but disorganized mechanics and immaturity of hPSC-CMs on standard two-dimensional surfaces have been hurdles. Here, we developed a platform of micron-scale cardiac muscle bundles to control biomechanics in arrays of thousands of purified, independently contracting cardiac muscle strips on two-dimensional elastomer substrates with far greater throughput than single cell methods. By defining geometry and workload in this reductionist platform, we show that myofibrillar alignment and auxotonic contractions at physiologic workload drive maturation of contractile function, calcium handling, and electrophysiology. Using transcriptomics, reporter hPSC-CMs, and quantitative immunofluorescence, these cardiac muscle bundles can be used to parse orthogonal cues in early development, including contractile force, calcium load, and metabolic signals. Additionally, the resultant organized biomechanics facilitates automated extraction of contractile kinetics from brightfield microscopy imaging, increasing the accessibility, reproducibility, and throughput of pharmacologic testing and cardiomyopathy disease modeling.

     
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  6. Emerging cell-based therapies such as stem cell therapy and immunotherapy have attracted broad attention in both biological research and clinical practice. However, a long-standing technical gap of cell-based therapies is the difficulty of directly assessing treatment efficacy via tracking therapeutically administered cells. Therefore, imaging techniques to follow thein vivodistribution and migration of cells are greatly needed. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a clinically available imaging technology with ultrahigh-resolution and excellent imaging depth. It also shows great potential forin vivocellular imaging. However, due to the homogeneity of current OCT cell labeling contrast agents (such as gold and polymer nanoparticles), only the distribution of entire cell populations can be observed. Precise tracking of the trajectory of individual single cells is not possible with such conventional contrast agents. Microlasers may provide a route to track unique cell identifiers given their small size, high emission intensities, rich emission spectra, and narrow linewidths. Here, we demonstrate that nanowire lasers internalized by cells provide both OCT and fluorescence signal. In addition, cells can be individually identified by the unique lasing emission spectra of the nanowires that they carry. Furthermore, single cell migration trajectories can be monitored bothin vitroandin vivowith OCT and fluorescence microscopy dual-modality imaging system. Our study demonstrates the feasibility of nanowire lasers combined with the dual-modality imaging system forin vivosingle cell tracking with a high spatial resolution and identity verification, an approach with great utility for stem cell and immunomodulatory therapies.

     
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  7. Abstract

    Vasculogenesis is thede novoformation of a vascular network from individual endothelial progenitor cells occurring during embryonic development, organogenesis, and adult neovascularization. Vasculogenesis can be mimicked and studiedin vitrousing network formation assays, in which endothelial cells (ECs) spontaneously form capillary-like structures when seeded in the appropriate microenvironment. While the biochemical regulators of network formation have been well studied using these assays, the role of mechanical and topographical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM) is less understood. Here, we utilized both natural and synthetic fibrous materials to better understand how physical attributes of the ECM influence the assembly of EC networks. Our results reveal that active cell-mediated matrix recruitment through actomyosin force generation occurs concurrently with network formation on Matrigel, a reconstituted basement membrane matrix regularly used to promote EC networks, and on synthetic matrices composed of electrospun dextran methacrylate (DexMA) fibers. Furthermore, modulating physical attributes of DexMA matrices that impair matrix recruitment consequently inhibited the formation of cellular networks. These results suggest an iterative process in which dynamic cell-induced changes to the physical microenvironment reciprocally modulate cell behavior to guide the formation and stabilization of multicellular networks.

     
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