Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Nature biotechnology


A challenge for tissue engineering is producing three-dimensional (3D), vascularized cellular constructs of clinically relevant size, shape and structural integrity. We present an integrated tissue-organ printer (ITOP) that can fabricate stable, human-scale tissue constructs of any shape. Mechanical stability is achieved by printing cell-laden hydrogels together with biodegradable polymers in integrated patterns and anchored on sacrificial hydrogels. The correct shape of the tissue construct is achieved by representing clinical imaging data as a computer model of the anatomical defect and translating the model into a program that controls the motions of the printer nozzles, which dispense cells to discrete locations. The incorporation of microchannels into the tissue constructs facilitates diffusion of nutrients to printed cells, thereby overcoming the diffusion limit of 100-200 μm for cell survival in engineered tissues. We demonstrate capabilities of the ITOP by fabricating mandible and calvarial bone, cartilage and skeletal muscle. Future development of the ITOP is being directed to the production of tissues for human applications and to the building of more complex tissues and solid organs.

Concepts: Bone, Extracellular matrix, Organ, Engineering, Tissues, Computer graphics, Human anatomy, Printing


Genetic studies of human disease have traditionally focused on the detection of disease-causing mutations in afflicted individuals. Here we describe a complementary approach that seeks to identify healthy individuals resilient to highly penetrant forms of genetic childhood disorders. A comprehensive screen of 874 genes in 589,306 genomes led to the identification of 13 adults harboring mutations for 8 severe Mendelian conditions, with no reported clinical manifestation of the indicated disease. Our findings demonstrate the promise of broadening genetic studies to systematically search for well individuals who are buffering the effects of rare, highly penetrant, deleterious mutations. They also indicate that incomplete penetrance for Mendelian diseases is likely more common than previously believed. The identification of resilient individuals may provide a first step toward uncovering protective genetic variants that could help elucidate the mechanisms of Mendelian diseases and new therapeutic strategies.

Concepts: DNA, Medicine, Gene, Genetics, Epidemiology, Cancer, Disease, Genetic disorder


Serotonin neurons located in the raphe nucleus of the hindbrain have crucial roles in regulating brain functions and have been implicated in various psychiatric disorders. Yet functional human serotonin neurons are not available for in vitro studies. Through manipulation of the WNT pathway, we demonstrate efficient differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) to cells resembling central serotonin neurons, primarily those located in the rhombomeric segments 2-3 of the rostral raphe, which participate in high-order brain functions. The serotonin neurons express a series of molecules essential for serotonergic development, including tryptophan hydroxylase 2, exhibit typical electrophysiological properties and release serotonin in an activity-dependent manner. When treated with the FDA-approved drugs tramadol and escitalopram oxalate, they release or uptake serotonin in a dose- and time-dependent manner, suggesting the utility of these cells for the evaluation of drug candidates.

Concepts: Neuron, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cell biology, Cerebellum, Serotonin, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Raphe nuclei


High-fidelity intracranial electrode arrays for recording and stimulating brain activity have facilitated major advances in the treatment of neurological conditions over the past decade. Traditional arrays require direct implantation into the brain via open craniotomy, which can lead to inflammatory tissue responses, necessitating development of minimally invasive approaches that avoid brain trauma. Here we demonstrate the feasibility of chronically recording brain activity from within a vein using a passive stent-electrode recording array (stentrode). We achieved implantation into a superficial cortical vein overlying the motor cortex via catheter angiography and demonstrate neural recordings in freely moving sheep for up to 190 d. Spectral content and bandwidth of vascular electrocorticography were comparable to those of recordings from epidural surface arrays. Venous internal lumen patency was maintained for the duration of implantation. Stentrodes may have wide ranging applications as a neural interface for treatment of a range of neurological conditions.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Brain, Blood, Traumatic brain injury, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Neurology, Electroencephalography


Blood pressure regulation is known to be maintained by a neuro-endocrine circuit, but whether immune cells contribute to blood pressure homeostasis has not been determined. We previously showed that CD4(+) T lymphocytes that express choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), which catalyzes the synthesis of the vasorelaxant acetylcholine, relay neural signals. Here we show that these CD4(+)CD44(hi)CD62L(lo) T helper cells by gene expression are a distinct T-cell population defined by ChAT (CD4 TChAT). Mice lacking ChAT expression in CD4(+) cells have elevated arterial blood pressure, compared to littermate controls. Jurkat T cells overexpressing ChAT (JTChAT) decreased blood pressure when infused into mice. Co-incubation of JTChAT and endothelial cells increased endothelial cell levels of phosphorylated endothelial nitric oxide synthase, and of nitrates and nitrites in conditioned media, indicating increased release of the potent vasorelaxant nitric oxide. The isolation and characterization of CD4 TChAT cells will enable analysis of the role of these cells in hypotension and hypertension, and may suggest novel therapeutic strategies by targeting cell-mediated vasorelaxation.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Gene, Atherosclerosis, Blood pressure, T helper cell, Nitric oxide, Nitric oxide synthase


Efforts to develop gene therapies for hearing loss have been hampered by the lack of safe, efficient, and clinically relevant delivery modalities. Here we demonstrate the safety and efficiency of Anc80L65, a rationally designed synthetic vector, for transgene delivery to the mouse cochlea. Ex vivo transduction of mouse organotypic explants identified Anc80L65 from a set of other adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors as a potent vector for the cochlear cell targets. Round window membrane injection resulted in highly efficient transduction of inner and outer hair cells in mice, a substantial improvement over conventional AAV vectors. Anc80L65 round window injection was well tolerated, as indicated by sensory cell function, hearing and vestibular function, and immunologic parameters. The ability of Anc80L65 to target outer hair cells at high rates, a requirement for restoration of complex auditory function, may enable future gene therapies for hearing and balance disorders.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Auditory system, Cochlea, Inner ear, Mouse, Organ of Corti


A lack of techniques to image multiple genomic loci in living cells has limited our ability to investigate chromosome dynamics. Here we describe CRISPRainbow, a system for labeling DNA in living cells based on nuclease-dead (d) Cas9 combined with engineered single guide RNA (sgRNA) scaffolds that bind sets of fluorescent proteins. We demonstrate simultaneous imaging of up to six chromosomal loci in individual live cells and document large differences in the dynamic properties of different chromosomal loci.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Cell nucleus, Cell, Bacteria, RNA, Chromosome


The heartbeat originates within the sinoatrial node (SAN), a small structure containing <10,000 genuine pacemaker cells. If the SAN fails, the ∼5 billion working cardiomyocytes downstream of it become quiescent, leading to circulatory collapse in the absence of electronic pacemaker therapy. Here we demonstrate conversion of rodent cardiomyocytes to SAN cells in vitro and in vivo by expression of Tbx18, a gene critical for early SAN specification. Within days of in vivo Tbx18 transduction, 9.2% of transduced, ventricular cardiomyocytes develop spontaneous electrical firing physiologically indistinguishable from that of SAN cells, along with morphological and epigenetic features characteristic of SAN cells. In vivo, focal Tbx18 gene transfer in the guinea-pig ventricle yields ectopic pacemaker activity, correcting a bradycardic disease phenotype. Myocytes transduced in vivo acquire the cardinal tapering morphology and physiological automaticity of native SAN pacemaker cells. The creation of induced SAN pacemaker (iSAN) cells opens new prospects for bioengineered pacemakers.

Concepts: Gene, Cardiology, Heart, Cardiac electrophysiology, Cardiac anatomy, Cardiac pacemaker, Sinoatrial node, Artificial pacemaker


Because there are currently no biological treatments for hearing loss, we sought to advance gene therapy approaches to treat genetic deafness. We focused on Usher syndrome, a devastating genetic disorder that causes blindness, balance disorders and profound deafness, and studied a knock-in mouse model, Ush1c c.216G>A, for Usher syndrome type IC (USH1C). As restoration of complex auditory and balance function is likely to require gene delivery systems that target auditory and vestibular sensory cells with high efficiency, we delivered wild-type Ush1c into the inner ear of Ush1c c.216G>A mice using a synthetic adeno-associated viral vector, Anc80L65, shown to transduce 80-90% of sensory hair cells. We demonstrate recovery of gene and protein expression, restoration of sensory cell function, rescue of complex auditory function and recovery of hearing and balance behavior to near wild-type levels. The data represent unprecedented recovery of inner ear function and suggest that biological therapies to treat deafness may be suitable for translation to humans with genetic inner ear disorders.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Biology, Auditory system, Cochlea, Vestibular system, Inner ear


Gene drive systems that enable super-Mendelian inheritance of a transgene have the potential to modify insect populations over a timeframe of a few years. We describe CRISPR-Cas9 endonuclease constructs that function as gene drive systems in Anopheles gambiae, the main vector for malaria. We identified three genes (AGAP005958, AGAP011377 and AGAP007280) that confer a recessive female-sterility phenotype upon disruption, and inserted into each locus CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive constructs designed to target and edit each gene. For each targeted locus we observed a strong gene drive at the molecular level, with transmission rates to progeny of 91.4 to 99.6%. Population modeling and cage experiments indicate that a CRISPR-Cas9 construct targeting one of these loci, AGAP007280, meets the minimum requirement for a gene drive targeting female reproduction in an insect population. These findings could expedite the development of gene drives to suppress mosquito populations to levels that do not support malaria transmission.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Allele, Biology, Malaria, Anopheles, Mosquito, Anopheles gambiae