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Journal: Biomaterials


Despite significant advances in the fabrication of bioengineered scaffolds for tissue engineering, delivery of nutrients in complex engineered human tissues remains a challenge. By taking advantage of the similarities in the vascular structure of plant and animal tissues, we developed decellularized plant tissue as a prevascularized scaffold for tissue engineering applications. Perfusion-based decellularization was modified for different plant species, providing different geometries of scaffolding. After decellularization, plant scaffolds remained patent and able to transport microparticles. Plant scaffolds were recellularized with human endothelial cells that colonized the inner surfaces of plant vasculature. Human mesenchymal stem cells and human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes adhered to the outer surfaces of plant scaffolds. Cardiomyocytes demonstrated contractile function and calcium handling capabilities over the course of 21 days. These data demonstrate the potential of decellularized plants as scaffolds for tissue engineering, which could ultimately provide a cost-efficient, “green” technology for regenerating large volume vascularized tissue mass.

Concepts: Stem cell, Plant, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Stem cells, Cell biology, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency


The E4 isoform of apolipoprotein (apoE4) is known to be a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Previous in vitro studies have shown apoE4 to have a negative effect on neuronal outgrowth when incubated with lipids. The effect of apoE4 itself on the development of neurons from the central nervous system (CNS), however, has not been well characterized. Consequently, apoE4 alone has not been pursued as a substrate for neuronal cultures. In this study, the effect of surface-bound apoE4 on developmental features of rat hippocampal neurons was examined. We show that apoE4 substrates elicit significantly enhanced values in all developmental features at day 2 of culture when compared to laminin (LN) substrates, which is the current substrate-of-choice for neuronal cultures. Interestingly, the adhesion of hippocampal neurons was found to be significantly lower on LN substrates than on glass substrates, but the axon lengths on both substrates were similar. In addition, this study demonstrates that the adhesion- and growth-enhancing effects of apoE4 substrates are not mediated by heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs), proteins that have been indicated to function as receptors or co-receptors for apoE4. In the absence of lipids, apoE4 appears to use an unknown pathway for up-regulating neuronal adhesion and neurite outgrowth. Our results indicate that apoE4 is better than LN as a substrate for primary cultures of CNS neurons and should be considered in the design of tissue engineered CNS.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Axon, Synapse, Heparan sulfate


Articular cartilage maturation is the postnatal development process that adapts joint surfaces to their site-specific biomechanical demands. Maturation involves gross morphological changes that occur through a process of synchronised growth and resorption of cartilage and generally ends at sexual maturity. The inability to induce maturation in biomaterial constructs designed for cartilage repair has been cited as a major cause for their failure in producing persistent cell-based repair of joint lesions. The combination of growth factors FGF2 and TGFβ1 induces accelerated articular cartilage maturation in vitro such that many molecular and morphological characteristics of tissue maturation are observable. We hypothesised that experimental growth factor-induced maturation of immature cartilage would result in a biophysical and biochemical composition consistent with a mature phenotype. Using native immature and mature cartilage as reference, we observed that growth factor-treated immature cartilages displayed increased nano-compressive stiffness, decreased surface adhesion, decreased water content, increased collagen content and smoother surfaces, correlating with a convergence to the mature cartilage phenotype. Furthermore, increased gene expression of surface structural protein collagen type I in growth factor-treated explants compared to reference cartilages demonstrates that they are still in the dynamic phase of the postnatal developmental transition. These data provide a basis for understanding the regulation of postnatal maturation of articular cartilage and the application of growth factor-induced maturation in vitro and in vivo in order to repair and regenerate cartilage defects.

Concepts: Bone, Gene, Molecular biology, Collagen, Cartilage, Knee, Biochemistry, Articular cartilage repair


To date, gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) have been investigated for diverse bioapplications. Generally, AuNPs are engineered to possess surface coating with organic/inorganic shells to increase colloidal stability in biological solutions and to facilitate chemical conjugation. In the present study, we developed a strategy to prepare dextran-coated AuNPs with control over its size by simply boiling an aqueous solution of Au salt and dextran, in which dextran serves as both reducing agent for AuNP (Au(0)) formation from Au(III) and AuNP surface coating material. The prepared dextran-coated AuNPs (dAuNPs) maintained its colloidal stability under high temperature, high salt concentration, and extreme pH. Importantly, the dAuNP remarkably improved efficacy of an anti-cancer agent, doxorubicin (Dox), when harnessed as a Dox delivery carrier. The half-maximal inhibitory concentration (EC50) of Dox-conjugated dAuNP with diameter of 170 nm was ∼9 pM in HeLa cells, which was 1.1 × 10(5) times lower than that of free Dox and lower than any previously reported values of Dox-nanoparticle complex. Interestingly, smaller AuNPs with 30 and 70 nm showed about 10 times higher EC50 than 170 nm AuNPs when treated to HeLa cells after conjugation with Dox. To achieve high cytotoxicity as cancer therapeutics, Dox should be delivered into nucleus to intercalate with DNA double helix. We show here that Dox-AuNPs was far more efficient as an anti-cancer drug than free Dox by releasing from AuNPs through spontaneous degradation of dextran, allowing free diffusion and nuclear uptake of Dox. We also revealed that larger AuNPs with lower degree of dextran crosslinking promoted faster degradation of dextran shells.

Concepts: DNA, Cell nucleus, Nanoparticle, Chemotherapy, Concentration, Chemistry, Gold, Doxorubicin


Mesoporous silica-encapsulated gold nanorods (GNRs@mSiO(2)) have great potential both in photothermal therapy and drug delivery. In this paper, we firstly developed GNRs@mSiO(2) as a synergistic therapy tool for delivery heat and drug to the tumorigenic region. We studied the ablation of tumor both in vitro and in vivo by the combination of photothermal therapy and chemotherapy using doxorubicin (DOX)-loaded GNRs@mSiO(2). Significantly greater cell killing was observed when A549 cells incubated with DOX-loaded GNRs@mSiO(2) were irradiated with near-infrared (NIR) illumination, attributable to both GNRs@mSiO(2)-mediated photothermal ablation and cytotoxicity of light-triggered DOX release. We then performed in vivo therapy studies and observed a promising tumor treatment. Compared with chemotherapy or photothermal treatment alone, the combined treatment showed a synergistic effect, resulting in higher therapeutic efficacy. Furthermore, the lower systematic toxicity of GNRs@mSiO(2) has been validated.

Concepts: DNA, Cancer, Oncology, Chemotherapy, Therapy, Efficacy, Doxorubicin, Photothermal Therapy


Protein drugs (PD) are minimally utilized in dental medicine due to high cost and invasive surgical delivery. There is limited clinical advancement in disrupting virulent oral biofilms, despite their high prevalence in causing dental caries. Poor efficacy of antimicrobials following topical treatments or to penetrate and disrupt formed biofilms is a major challenge. We report an exciting low-cost approach using plant-made antimicrobial peptides (PMAMPs) retrocyclin or protegrin with complex secondary structures (cyclic/hairpin) for topical use to control biofilms. The PMAMPs rapidly killed the pathogen Streptococcus mutans and impaired biofilm formation following a single topical application of tooth-mimetic surface. Furthermore, we developed a synergistic approach using PMAMPs combined with matrix-degrading enzymes to facilitate their access into biofilms and kill the embedded bacteria. In addition, we identified a novel role for PMAMPs in delivering drugs to periodontal and gingival cells, 13-48 folds more efficiently than any other tested cell penetrating peptides. Therefore, PDs fused with protegrin expressed in plant cells could potentially play a dual role in delivering therapeutic proteins to gum tissues while killing pathogenic bacteria when delivered as topical oral formulations or in chewing gums. Recent FDA approval of plant-produced PDs augurs well for clinical advancement of this novel concept.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Microbiology, Biofilm, Dental caries, Dental plaque, Oral hygiene, Streptococcus mutans


Antibodies (inhibitors) developed by hemophilia B patients against coagulation factor IX (FIX) are challenging to eliminate because of anaphylaxis or nephrotic syndrome after continued infusion. To address this urgent unmet medical need, FIX fused with a transmucosal carrier (CTB) was produced in a commercial lettuce (Simpson Elite) cultivar using species specific chloroplast vectors regulated by endogenous psbA sequences. CTB-FIX (∼1 mg/g) in lyophilized cells was stable with proper folding, disulfide bonds and pentamer assembly when stored ∼2 years at ambient temperature. Feeding lettuce cells to hemophilia B mice delivered CTB-FIX efficiently to the gut immune system, induced LAP(+) regulatory T cells and suppressed inhibitor/IgE formation and anaphylaxis against FIX. Lyophilized cells enabled 10-fold dose escalation studies and successful induction of oral tolerance was observed in all tested doses. Induction of tolerance in such a broad dose range should enable oral delivery to patients of different age groups and diverse genetic background. Using Fraunhofer cGMP hydroponic system, ∼870 kg fresh or 43.5 kg dry weight can be harvested per 1000 ft(2) per annum yielding 24,000-36,000 doses for 20-kg pediatric patients, enabling first commercial development of an oral drug, addressing prohibitively expensive purification, cold storage/transportation and short shelf life of current protein drugs.

Concepts: Blood, Coagulation, Haemophilia A, Haemophilia B, Factor X, Factor XI, Factor VII, Factor IX


Dental biofilms (known as plaque) are notoriously difficult to remove or treat because the bacteria can be enmeshed in a protective extracellular matrix. It can also create highly acidic microenvironments that cause acid-dissolution of enamel-apatite on teeth, leading to the onset of dental caries. Current antimicrobial agents are incapable of disrupting the matrix and thereby fail to efficiently kill the microbes within plaque-biofilms. Here, we report a novel strategy to control plaque-biofilms using catalytic nanoparticles (CAT-NP) with peroxidase-like activity that trigger extracellular matrix degradation and cause bacterial death within acidic niches of caries-causing biofilm. CAT-NP containing biocompatible Fe3O4 were developed to catalyze H2O2 to generate free-radicals in situ that simultaneously degrade the biofilm matrix and rapidly kill the embedded bacteria with exceptional efficacy (>5-log reduction of cell-viability). Moreover, it displays an additional property of reducing apatite demineralization in acidic conditions. Using 1-min topical daily treatments akin to a clinical situation, we demonstrate that CAT-NP in combination with H2O2 effectively suppress the onset and severity of dental caries while sparing normal tissues in vivo. Our results reveal the potential to exploit nanocatalysts with enzyme-like activity as a potent alternative approach for treatment of a prevalent biofilm-associated oral disease.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Microbiology, Biofilm, Lactic acid, Dental caries, Dental plaque, Streptococcus mutans


The creation of a living heart valve is a much-wanted alternative for current valve prostheses that suffer from limited durability and thromboembolic complications. Current strategies to create such valves, however, require the use of cells for in vitro culture, or decellularized human- or animal-derived donor tissue for in situ engineering. Here, we propose and demonstrate proof-of-concept of in situ heart valve tissue engineering using a synthetic approach, in which a cell-free, slow degrading elastomeric valvular implant is populated by endogenous cells to form new valvular tissue inside the heart. We designed a fibrous valvular scaffold, fabricated from a novel supramolecular elastomer, that enables endogenous cells to enter and produce matrix. Orthotopic implantations as pulmonary valve in sheep demonstrated sustained functionality up to 12 months, while the implant was gradually replaced by a layered collagen and elastic matrix in pace with cell-driven polymer resorption. Our results offer new perspectives for endogenous heart valve replacement starting from a readily-available synthetic graft that is compatible with surgical and transcatheter implantation procedures.

Concepts: Surgery, Polymer, Implantation, Valvular heart disease, Valve, Valves, Check valve, Ball valve


The peripheral nervous system has a limited innate capacity for self-repair following injury, and surgical intervention is often required. For injuries greater than a few millimeters autografting is standard practice although it is associated with donor site morbidity and is limited in its availability. Because of this, nerve guidance conduits (NGCs) can be viewed as an advantageous alternative, but currently have limited efficacy for short and large injury gaps in comparison to autograft. Current commercially available NGC designs rely on existing regulatory approved materials and traditional production methods, limiting improvement of their design. The aim of this study was to establish a novel method for NGC manufacture using a custom built laser-based microstereolithography (μSL) setup that incorporated a 405 nm laser source to produce 3D constructs with ∼ 50 μm resolution from a photocurable poly(ethylene glycol) resin. These were evaluated by SEM, in vitro neuronal, Schwann and dorsal root ganglion culture and in vivo using a thy-1-YFP-H mouse common fibular nerve injury model. NGCs with dimensions of 1 mm internal diameter × 5 mm length with a wall thickness of 250 μm were fabricated and capable of supporting re-innervation across a 3 mm injury gap after 21 days, with results close to that of an autograft control. The study provides a technology platform for the rapid microfabrication of biocompatible materials, a novel method for in vivo evaluation, and a benchmark for future development in more advanced NGC designs, biodegradable and larger device sizes, and longer-term implantation studies.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Ganglion, Surgery, In vivo, Action potential, In vitro, Peripheral nervous system