2021 Biomaterials Science Lectureship awarded to Nasim Annabi

It is with great pleasure that we announce Nasim Annabi (UCLA) as the recipient of the 2021 Biomaterials Science lectureship.

This award, now in its eighth year, honours an early-career researcher who has made significant contribution to the biomaterials field. The recipient is selected by the Biomaterials Science Editorial Board from a list of candidates nominated by the community.

Promotional slide for the Biomaterials Science Lectureship- announcing Nasim Annabi as the 2021 winner

Nasim Annabi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She received a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney (Australia). From 2011-2014, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Before joining UCLA in 2018, she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University. Dr. Annabi’s group has expertise in the design and engineering of advanced biomaterials for applications in regenerative medicine. In addition, her research team has devised innovative strategies for the development of advanced bioadhesives and surgical sealants with high clinical translation for surgical applications. Dr. Annabi has published over 135 articles in peer-reviewed journals. She has been cited over 13,000 times and her H index is already at 58. Her innovations have resulted in 15 patents and generated significant commercial interest. Dr Annabi has been recognized with several national and international awards including the 2021 Young Investigator Award from the Society for Biomaterials (SFB), the 2020 Nanoscale Science and Engineering Forum (NSEF) Young Investigator Award of American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Australian Prestigious Endeavour Award, and the National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Award. Her team has received major grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense (DOD) and the American Heart Association (AHA). She can be found on Twitter @nasimannabi.

 

Read Nasim’s latest article in Biomaterials Science Ciprofloxacin-loaded bioadhesive hydrogels for ocular applications” and all of her other publications in Biomaterials Science for FREE until 1 August. These and articles from our previous lectureship winners can be found in our lectureship winners collection.

 

How has your research evolved from your first article to the most recent article?

I did not know where I wanted to go with my career when I published my first paper, but it was clear from the beginning that I wanted to do something that would have a real-world impact. As a chemical engineering student, I was very passionate to apply my engineering knowledge to the medical field and this gave me the stamina towards my path in this field of study and I absolutely love it.

 

What excites you most about your area of research and what has been the most exciting moment of your career so far?

The most exciting aspect of biomaterials research for me is the ability to merge novel chemistries with nanomaterials and micro-technologies to design multi-functional biomaterials for tissue regeneration and disease treatment. The most exciting moment of my career was when through working with ophthalmologists, our team developed an innovative drug delivery system for treatment of ocular diseases which formed the basis of a start-up spinoff from our lab. We hope that this product will improve patient’s quality of life.

 

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in your field of research?

One of the most important questions in my field of research is how to bridge the gap between fundamental research conducted in research laboratories in universities and real-world applications in industry. This gap can be closed through strong networking among scientists in multiple disciplines, industrial collaborators, and medical doctors to bring innovative solutions from research in our lab adopted to practical solutions in clinics and industry settings.

 

How do you feel about Biomaterials Science as a place to publish research on this topic?

Biomaterials Science is among the most valuable journals in the field of biomaterials by attracting novel and creative research in the field. The journal has successfully integrated the various expertise in biological and materials science towards clinical use to create new interdisciplinary domains in our field. Biomaterials Science also invests in researchers at their early career stages by providing training as well as involving them as guest editors and reviewers.

 

In which upcoming conference or events (online or in person) may our readers meet you?

If everything goes well with the pandemic, I might have the opportunity to attend the annual ESB conference (Sep 2021) in Portugal in person; otherwise, we can definitely meet and have great discussions online!

 

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with early career scientists?

It is extremely important to collaborate and work with people you like and trust within the professional boundaries. This can lead to build strong networks with scientists in your field to create new research frontiers.

 

How do you spend your spare time?

I manage my time to exercise by doing swimming and go jogging to clear my mind and keep a healthy lifestyle. I also enjoy socializing and meeting friends.

 

We would like to thank everybody who nominated a candidate for the 2021 Biomaterials Science Lectureship. The Editorial Board had a very difficult task in choosing a winner from the many excellent and worthy candidates.

 

Please join us in congratulating Nasim on winning this award!

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We are very pleased to announce that Professor Won Jong Kim has joined Biomaterials Science as an Associate Editor

Profile picture of Won Jong KimWon Jong Kim has been appointed as a new Associate Editor for Biomaterials Science. Won Jong Kim is a Mueunjae chaired professor at the Department of Chemistry, Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH). His research is mainly focused on synthesizing polymeric drug/gene carriers, DNA nanomedicines, developing new chemistries for the polymeric carriers and nanobiomaterials including exploring their potential towards efficient delivery. His current works also include control of gas molecules such as nitric oxide (NO) and its application for the treatment of malignant cancer, autoimmune disease, and brain disease. He has received multiple awards including the Korean Chemical Society (KCS)-Wiley Chemist Award, the Wiley-Polymer Society of Korea (PSK) Scientist Award, the KCS-Award for the Advancement of Science and the PSK-Mid-career Researcher Academy Award. Read more on his group webpage.

 

Won Jong has given his insight and thoughts on the future of the biomaterials field:

“Biomaterials can significantly augment cellular functionality and current imaging techniques, which would likely lead to practical and more advanced biomedical applications. To this end, future biomaterials research should be multi/interdisciplinary by playing essential roles to bridge the gap between each discipline, including nanotechnology, cell engineering, and medical imaging.”

“The journal, Biomaterials Science, will introduce innovative approaches that combine multiple disciplines, thus expanding opportunities for future biomaterials to be explored by researchers working on different fields.”

 

Editor’s choice: Won Jong’s favourite Biomaterials Science articles

Here are a couple of publications that Won Jong has chosen as his favourite recent articles in Biomaterials Science.

 

Graphical abstract image depicting immunotherapy delivery to cellsA low-intensity focused ultrasound-assisted nanocomposite for advanced triple cancer therapy: local chemotherapy, therapeutic extracellular vesicles and combined immunotherapy
Mixiao Tan, Yuli Chen, Yuan Guo, Chao Yang, Mingzhu Liu, Dan Guo, Zhigang Wang, Yang Cao and Haitao Ran
Biomaterials Science, 2020, 8, 6703-6717

 

 

Graphical abstract image depicting in cartoon form phototherapy and in combination with immunotherapyBiomaterial-assisted photoimmunotherapy for cancer
Muchao Chen and Qian Chen
Biomaterials Science, 2020, 8, 5846-5858

 

 

 

 

All these articles are currently FREE to read until 5th April 2021!

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We are very pleased to announce Professor Jianjun Cheng as the new Editor-in-Chief for Biomaterials Science

Profile photo of Professor Jianjun ChengJianjun Cheng has been appointed as the new Editor-in-Chief for Biomaterials Science, taking over from Professor Jennifer Elisseeff, after serving as an Associate Editor for Biomaterials Science for over seven. Jianjun Cheng is the Hans Thurnauer Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor of Chemistry and Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and Fellow of the American Chemical Society Division of Polymer Chemistry. His research focuses on developing polymeric and nanomaterials for biomedical applications, such as functional polypeptides, nanomedicines for drug and gene delivery, cell labelling for in vivo targeting and controlled release bionanomaterials. Read more on his group webpage.

 

Learn more about Jianjun by reading some of his research articles below!

 

Graphical abstract depicting selective cancer cell labeling and bioorthogonal click reaction followed by injection into a tumour bearing illustrated mouseCancer cell-targeted cisplatin prodrug delivery in vivo via metabolic labeling and bioorthogonal click reaction
Xun Liu, Fan Wu, Kaimin Cai, Ziyin Zhao, Zhimin Zhang, Wongbing Chen, Yong Liu, Jianjun Cheng and Lichen Yin
Biomaterials Science, 2021, DOI: 10.1039/D0BM01709D

 

 

 

Graphical abstract depicting the architecture change of glatiramer acetate (GA) to star shaped GA and a plot of EAE score v day post-immunisation for these compounds plus a controlInduction of a higher-ordered architecture in glatiramer acetate improves its biological efficiency in an animal model of multiple sclerosis
Ziyuan Song, Yee Ming Khaw, Lazaro Pacheco, Kuan-Ying Tseng, Zhengzhong Tan, Kaimin Cai, Ettigounder Ponnusamy, Jianjun Cheng and Makoto Inoue
Biomaterials Science, 2020, 8, 5271-5281

 

 

Graphical abstract depicting a azido-galactose modified HCC membrane followed by attachment of a DBCO labelled agentAzido-galactose outperforms azido-mannose for metabolic labeling and targeting of hepatocellular carcinomaHua Wang, Yang Liu, Ming Xu and Jianjun Cheng
Biomaterials Science, 2019, 7, 4166-4173

 

 

Graphical abstract depicting the interaction of a cancer cell with the immune systemRecent progress in nanomaterials for nucleic acid delivery in cancer immunotherapy
Yeling Mai, Ruibo Wang, Wei Jiang, Yang Bo, Tengfei Zhang, Julin Yu, Ming Cheng, Yunzi Wu, Jianjun Cheng and Wang Ma
Biomaterials Science, 2019, 7, 2640-2651

 

 

 

 

All these articles are currently FREE to read until 15th March 2021!

 

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STAT3/IL-6 dependent induction of inflammatory response in osteoblast and osteoclast formation in nanoscale wear particle-induced aseptic prosthesis loosening

Author: Saswat Choudhury, Web Writer

Total hip arthroplasty (THA) is required in orthopaedic surgery mostly for treating end stage joint disease. A good number of patients (9.1%) require revision surgeries due to aseptic loosening, which means osteolysis around the prostheses caused by the generation of wear particles. Now, there are two established mechanisms to understand wear induced osteolysis: wear particles produce inflammatory cytokines and activated osteoclasts; and wear particles disturb the differentiation, survival and function of osteoblasts and osteoclasts. However, the mechanism of interaction between osteoblasts and osteoclasts and the influence of wear particles is not clearly understood.

The schematic illustration of TiAl6V4 nanoparticle induced activation of the STAT3/IL-6 pathway resulting in the activation of osteoclast and osteolysis, which can be inhibited by CP690,550

Researchers from China sought to analyze the role of interleukin-6 (IL-6) dependent inflammatory response in osteoblasts treated with TiAl6V4 nanoparticles (TiPs) and also the protective action of IL-6/STST3 (an important transcription factor) inhibition. TiPs obtained from the prosthesis of a patient with aseptic loosening were characterized for shape, size distribution, chemical composition, etc.

As measured by real time-PCR, the expression of IL-6, IL-11, LIF and OSM all increased when MC3T3-E1 cells were stimulated by TiPs in vitro as well as in the periosteum of mice. It was also found via western blotting that the protein levels of activated STAT3 were upregulated following treatment of cells with TiPs in a time and dose dependent fashion. This corroborated the immunofluorescence staining results both in vitro and in vivo, thereby confirming that TiPs activate STAT3 expression in osteoblasts. By using CP690,550 as an inhibitor of STAT3 activation, it was found that upregulation of IL-6- and IL-6-dependent inflammatory cytokine expression was reduced.

Next, using real-time PCR, it was shown that mRNA expression of RANKL, an indicator of osteoclastogenesis increased 13 fold in osteoblasts stimulated by TiPs. Using micro-CT with 3-dimensional reconstruction and quantitative analysis of bone parameters, it was confirmed that inhibition of the STAT3/ IL-6 pathway by inhibitor CP690,550 resulted in suppression of TiP induced osteolysis.

All these results taken together suggest that TiPs induced activation of STAT3 which led to osteolysis by promoting inflammation in osteoblasts and activating osteoclasts and that the inhibition of STAT3 activation by CP690,550 (tofacitinib) significantly reduced the activation of osteoclasts and protected against osteolysis via the STAT3/IL-6 signalling pathway. This suggests use of tofacitinib as a potential therapy for aseptic loosening.

To find out more please read:

STAT3/IL-6 dependent induction of inflammatory response in osteoblast and osteoclast formation in nanoscale wear particle-induced aseptic prosthesis loosening

Biomaterials Science, 2020, DOI: 10.1039/D0BM01256D

 

About the web writer:

Saswat Choudhury is a graduate student at the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore pursuing research on biomaterials and tissue engineering. He studies bioabsorbable polymers, design and characterization for biomedical applications. Besides research, he is also interested in science communication. You can find him on Twitter @saswatchoudhur1

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Open for Nominations: 2021 Biomaterials Science Lectureship

 

Do you know an early-career researcher who deserves recognition for their contribution to the biomaterials field?

Now is your chance to put them forward for the accolade they deserve!

Biomaterials Science is pleased to announce that nominations are now being accepted for its 2021 Lectureship award. This annual award was established in 2014 to honour an early-stage career scientist who has made a significant contribution to the biomaterials field.

The recipient of the award will be asked to present a lecture at European Society for Biomaterials Annual Meeting in Porto in September 2021, where they will also be presented with the award. The Biomaterials Science Editorial Office will provide £1000 financial support to the recipient for travel and accommodation costs.

The recipient will also be asked to contribute a research article to the journal and will have their work showcased free of charge on the front cover of the issue in which their article is published. The article would be subject to the normal peer review standards of the journal.

 

Previous winners

2020 – Kanyi Pu, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

2019 – April Kloxin, University of Delaware, USA

2018 – Zhen Gu, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill & North Carolina State University, USA

2017 – Zhuang Liu, Soochow University, China

2016 – Fan Yang, Stanford University, USA

2015 – Joel Collier, Duke University, USA

2014 – Suzie Pun, University of Washington, USA

 

Eligibility

To be eligible for the lectureship, candidates should meet the following criteria:

  • Be an independent researcher, having completed PhD and postdoctoral studies
  • Be actively pursuing research within the biomaterials field, and have made a significant contribution to the field
  • Be at an early stage of their independent career (this should be within 12 years of attaining their doctorate or equivalent degree, but appropriate consideration will be given to those who have taken a career break or followed an alternative study path)

Although the Biomaterials Science Lectureship doesn’t explicitly reward support of or contributions to the journal, candidates with a history of publishing or reviewing for the journal would be more likely to be considered favourably.

 

Selection

  • All eligible nominated candidates will be assessed by a shortlisting panel, made up of members of the Biomaterials Science Advisory Board and a previous lectureship winner.
  • The shortlisting panel will consider the nomination form and letter of recommendation, as well as the three recent research articles highlighted in the nomination form for consideration.
  • Shortlisted candidates will be further assessed by the Biomaterials Science Editorial Board, and a winner will be selected based on an anonymous poll.
  • Selection is not based simply on quantitative measures. Consideration will be given to all information provided in the letter of recommendation and nomination form, including research achievements and originality, contributions to the biomaterials community, innovation, collaborations and teamwork, publication history, and engagement with Biomaterials Science.

 

Nominations

Nominations must be made via email to biomaterialsscience-rsc@rsc.org, and include the following:

  • A brief letter of recommendation (1 page maximum length)
  • A complete nomination form (includes list of the candidate’s relevant publications or recent work, 3 research articles to be considered during the shortlisting process, candidate’s scientific CV, and full contact details)

Please note:

  • Nominations from students and self-nomination is not permitted.
  • The nominee must be aware that he/she has been nominated for this lectureship.
  • As part of the Royal Society of Chemistry, we have a responsibility to promote inclusivity and accessibility in order to improve diversity. Where possible, we encourage each nominator to consider nominating candidates of all genders, races, and backgrounds. Please see the RSC’s approach to Inclusion and Diversity.
  • Candidates outside of the stated eligibility criteria may still be considered.

 

Nominations deadline: 30th November 2020

                                                               

Download nomination form here

 

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Oversized composite braided biodegradable stents with post-dilatation for pediatric applications: mid-term results of a porcine study

Author: Saswat Choudhury, Web Writer

Biodegradable stents (BDSs) have proven to be better compared to permanently implanted metallic stents for the treatment of endovascular diseases in children.  Currently, BDSs that are made out of polylactic acid (PLA) with degradation times of 2–3 years are not suitable for infants, where the ideal healing time for an artery is 3 to 6 months. Poly p-dioxanone (PPDO) is an ideal alternative owing to its availability, FDA approval in clinics and suitable degradation time of 6 months.  But, braided PPDO fiber stents still have lower stiffness than standard self-expanding metal ones.

Researchers from China have come up with a novel design strategy to reinforce the mechanical properties of PPDO fibers by using an elastomeric polycaprolactone (PCL) coating which can serve as a binder at to improve the compression performance. This self-expandable, fiber-based, composite braided biodegradable stent (CBBS) made of PPDO and PCL was then assessed for its physical properties, changes in mechanical properties during degradation, etc and compared with the control, cobalt–chromium-based alloy self-expanding stents (WALLSTENTs/WSs). CBBSs delivered in sheaths post dilation exhibited similar mechanical properties as WSs.

In vitro degradation studies showed that CBBSs post-dilation retained effective mechanical support and stent weight (almost 90%) for at least 16 weeks, which is adequate for arterial healing. These results corroborate with the hydrolysis mechanisms involved in degradation of PDDO, the main component and with in vivo histopathological evaluation.

Lastly, the stents were implanted in porcine models without resulting in any evidence of complications such as implant migration, thrombosis, dissection or aneurism. The mechanical performance of CBBS was also not worse than metallic stents in vivo. Angiographic analysis revealed vessel stenosis and an inflammatory response (intima proliferation) at 4 months due to hydrolysis induced degradation of the stent. But this inflammation was resolved at 12 months due to the complete degradation of CBBSs unlike the WSs. When different diameters of WSs were compared, the ones in oversized common iliac arteries exhibited higher luminal gain initially but there was stenosis and vascular injury compared to normal-sized abdominal aortas in the mid-term follow-up period

All the results combined demonstrate the advantages of these novel composite braided degradable stents over the standard metallic ones in terms of mechanical strength and appropriate degradation rate.

To find out more please read:

Oversized composite braided biodegradable stents with post-dilatation for pediatric applications: mid-term results of a porcine study

Jing Sun, Kun Sun,  Kai Bai, Sun Chen, Fan Zhao, Fujun Wang, Nanchao Honga and Hanbo Hu

Biomaterials Science, 2020, DOI: 10.1039/d0bm00567c

 

About the web writer:

Saswat Choudhury is a graduate student at the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore pursuing research on biomaterials and tissue engineering. He studies bioabsorbable polymers, design and characterization for biomedical applications. Besides research, he is also interested in science communication. You can find him on Twitter @saswatchoudhur1

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3D in vitro modeling of Alzheimer’s disease using electrospun microfiber scaffolds

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) presently occupies the topmost position among the most commonly diagnosed neurodegenerative diseases worldwide with the number of affected people forecasted to reach 100 million by 2050. It is characterized by progressive memory loss, impairment of cognitive function, and inability to perform activities of daily life. The key to understanding AD lies in developing effective models which should ideally recapitulate all aspects of the disease. Furthermore, high inaccessibility to the human brain makes it desirable to study neuronal function and degeneration using appropriate in vivo or in vitro model systems of brain cultures. Increasing evidence indicates the superiority of three-dimensional (3D) in vitro cell culture platforms over conventional two-dimensional (2D) monolayer cultures in mimicking native in vivo microenvironments.

Researchers from Singapore have recently developed a novel 3D in vitro model of AD by encapsulating patient induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) derived neural progenitors in poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) microtopographic scaffolds fabricated using wet electrospinning. They demonstrate that 3D culture robustly recapitulates and accelerates early-stage AD pathogenesis compared with Petri dish-based 2D monolayer controls.

Schematic showing fabrication of PLGA 3D scaffold

First, they achieved deep cellular infiltration and uniform distribution inside the 3D microfibrous scaffold by optimizing various parameters such as fiber diameter, pore size, porosity and hydrophilicity. The stiffness of the microfiber scaffold was found to be comparable to the elasticity of native brain tissue, indicating its capability to promote realistic physiological responses.

Next, they compared key neural stem cell features including viability, proliferation and differentiation in 3D culture with 2D monolayer controls. The 3D microfibrous substrate reduced cell proliferation and significantly accelerated neuronal differentiation within just seven days of culture.

Finally, they demonstrated that 3D scaffold-based culture spontaneously enhanced pathogenic amyloid-beta 42 (Aβ42) and phospho-tau levels in differentiated neurons carrying familial AD (FAD) mutations compared with age-matched healthy controls. More importantly, recapitulation of both pathologies was more pronounced and consistent in 3D culture compared with the same cell lines in 2D monolayer culture conditions.

Taken together, the results indicate that the tunable scaffold-based 3D neuronal culture platform serves as a suitable in vitro model that robustly recapitulates and accelerates pathogenic characteristics of FAD-iPSC derived neurons. It can also be extended to model other complex neurodegenerative diseases and to evaluate prospective therapeutic candidates.

To find out more please read:

A microfiber scaffold-based 3D in vitro human neuronal culture model of Alzheimer’s disease

Vivek Damodar Ranjan, Lifeng Qiu, Jolene Wei-Ling Lee, Xuelong Chen, Se Eun Jang, Chou Chai, Kah-Leong Lim, Eng-King Tan, Yilei Zhang, Wei Min Huang and Li Zeng

Biomaterials Science, 2020, DOI: 10.1039/D0BM00833H

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A novel biomaterial implant for repair of spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injury (SCI) can be categorized as traumatic (90% of cases) or non-traumatic based on its origin. Traumatic SCI occurs when the primary injury is an external mechanical force (arising from traffic accidents, sports, violence etc.,), which damages the spinal cord and initiates a cascade of multiple secondary complications including neuronal/glial death with very slim chances of recovery. Current treatments for SCI are mainly palliative; however, studies involving surgical interventions for reconstructing injured sites via cell implantation have shown promise. Moreover, incorporating cells within engineered biomaterial substrates which act as extracellular matrix (ECM) substitutes not only lowers cell density requirements but also enables more accurate localised transplantation. Both natural and synthetic biomaterials are being investigated in this regard.

Researchers from the UK have recently developed Proliferate®, a macroporous and biodegradable polymer based on cross-linked poly-ε-lysine (pεK) as a biomaterial candidate for SCI implantation. They demonstrate the biocompatibility of the material with CNS cells via in vitro and in vivo studies, both in the original form and on incorporating functional ECM peptides.

First, they synthesized the polymer in two formats: (i) as inserts suspended in 24-well plate culture wells for in vitro studies and (ii) in tubular form with parallel channels facilitating cell guidance for in vivo studies. The material exhibited a beaded, heterogeneous 3D topography with the porosity capable of being tuned by varying the degree of cross-linking.

Next, they cultured astrocytes on the Proliferate® inserts in vitro and compared  cell morphology with controls grown on PLL-coated coverslips. Staining results showed that the astrocytes adopt a fibrous, ramified morphology typical of in vivo conditions when cultured on the inserts. In addition, the polymer supported differentiation, neuronal survival as well as neurite extension in myelinating cultures; however, myelination was slightly delayed in comparison with coverslip-based controls.

Finally, they implanted the tubular form of the biomaterial into adult rat contusion SCI for in vivo assessment at two timepoints i.e. 7 weeks and 6 months post-implantation. The Proliferate®  implants induced extensive vascularisation and cellular infiltration with no significant difference being observed in microglial response surrounding non-implanted injury cavities and construct-implanted injuries. Although, construct-tissue borders were permissive to astrocyte growth and migration, most cell guidance channels were observed to disintegrate with time and organized axonal growth seen only in intact channels.

Taken together, the results indicate the potential of this novel material, both as a solo implant as well as a substrate for delivery of essential biomolecules to the injury site for facilitation of axonal regeneration following SCI.

To find out more please read:

A novel poly-ε-lysine based implant, Proliferate®, for promotion of CNS repair following spinal cord injury

Sara Hosseinzadeh, Susan L. Lindsay, Andrew G. Gallagher, Donald A. Wellings, Mathis O. Riehle, John S. Riddell and Susan C. Barnett

Biomater. Sci., 2020, 8, 3611-3627, DOI: 10.1039/D0BM00097C

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Culturing stem-cell derived neurons on a “bed-of-nails” substrate

Interfacing living cells with inorganic nanowire (NW) array substrates is one of the latest areas of exploration in life sciences with potential applications in electrical stimulation, biosensors, cell injection, axonal guidance and so on. A growing body of evidence has identified the role of substrate nanotopography in regulating various cellular phenotypes including cell morphology, adhesion, proliferation, differentiation and intracellular signaling. However, cellular interactions with high surface area vertical nanowires are relatively unexplored and further studies are necessary to fully reveal the correlations between NW array geometry and stem cell behavior.

Researchers from Germany have recently interfaced human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived neurons with tailor-made silicon nitride NW array substrates, achieving highly efficient neuronal differentiation and generating electrophysiologically mature neurons within 4 weeks of culture.

Figurative demonstration of the interface between stem cells and a person

First, they fabricated NW arrays using a top-down dry reactive ion etching (RIE) approach in 3 different arrangements – random, hexagonal and rectangular. The NW lengths were fixed to 1.2 μm with pitches of 1.8 μm and 4 μm, resulting in low density (LD) and high density (HD) arrangements respectively. The cells were transferred onto the NW substrates after 14 days in vitro (DIV) and cultured for another 14-16 DIV before performing functional characterization.

Next, they assessed viability of cells cultured on NW substrates and found that both material used as well as substrate topology had no negative impact on cell viability compared with controls cultured on glass coverslips. Furthermore, on studying cellular outgrowth and morphology, they observed that cells rested on NW tips in the case of HD arrays whereas they encapsulated the NWs in LD arrays, thus indicating the effect of NW density on regulating the settling regime of the cells.

Finally, they tested the electrophysiological integrity of the hiPSC-derived neurons via patch clamping and observed that the neurons cultured on the NW substrates fired characteristic action potentials and demonstrated no significant differences in electrophysiological parameters compared with controls.

Taken together, the results indicate the potential of this platform in stem cell research and regenerative medicine for interfacing human stem cell-derived neurons with tailor-made nanostructured substrates to achieve desired cell behaviors.

To find out more please read:

Interfacing human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons with designed nanowire arrays as a future platform for medical applications

Jann Harberts, Undine Haferkamp, Stefanie Haugg, Cornelius Fendler, Dennis Lam, Robert Zierold, Ole Pless and Robert H. Blick

Biomater. Sci., 2020, 8, 2434-2446, DOI: 10.1039/D0BM00182A

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Camouflaging tumor targeting nanoparticles with red blood cell membrane for pretargeted multimodal imaging of cancer

Managing cancer requires visualization of tumors using a plethora of imaging modalities such as positron-emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), photoacoustic tomography and optical imaging. Upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs), a new generation of optical nanomaterials which convert near-infrared (NIR) radiation to visible light by a process called “upconversion luminescence” (UCL), are garnering a lot of attention in cancer diagnostics due to their ability to selectively label cancer cells.

Researchers from Suzhou, China have recently coated tumor targeting UCNPs with red blood cell (RBC) membranes to render them stealthy, effectively preventing them from immune attack and clearance by the host system. Subsequently, they assessed the utility of these RBC-UCNPs for targeted multimodality imaging of 4T1 breast cancer, a triple-negative breast cancer.

First, they isolated cell membranes from the RBCs, reconstructing them into vesicles which were used to encapsulate UCNPs via extrusion. Folic acid (FA) molecules were inserted into the surface of these RBC-UCNPs to assess the tumor-targeting ability of nanoparticles. Upconversion fluorescence imaging revealed that RBC-FA-UCNPs intravenously injected into mice bearing 4T1 subcutaneously transplanted tumors exhibited quick accumulation, long-term retention and reduced uptake by the immune system.

Next, they investigated the feasibility of using these biomimetic nanoparticles in MRI and PET imaging for the detection of tumors in vivo. They found that the MR signal was significantly enhanced by the FA-RBC-UCNPs, indicating the increased circulation time of particles at the tumor site. Furthermore, a combination of pre-targeting strategy and in vivo click chemistry was utilized to mediate PET imaging, which indicated that the biomimetic nanoparticles displayed a higher tumor uptake of the tracer compared with controls, on application of a short half-life radionuclide.

Finally, they conducted in vivo toxicity studies in mice over a span of 30 days, to assess cytotoxicity of the nanoparticles. Blood chemistry, hematology, and histological analyses indicated non-significant induction of toxicity and organ damage, in turn demonstrating the biocompatibility of the biomimetic nanoparticles and their suitability for clinical utilization.

Taken together, the results indicate the potential of this platform for further applications in realizing early diagnosis, bioimaging and treatment of tumors, especially for deep-seated lesions.

To find out more please read:

Red blood cell membrane-coated upconversion nanoparticles for pretargeted multimodality imaging of triple-negative breast cancer

Mengting Li, Hanyi Fang, Qingyao Liu, Yongkang Gai, Lujie Yuan, Sheng Wang, Huiling Li, Yi Hou, Mingyuan Gao and Xiaoli Lan

Biomater. Sci., 2020,8, 1802-1814, DOI: 10.1039/d0bm00029a

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