Construction and in vivo assembly of a catalytically proficient and hyperthermostable de novo enzyme

Although catalytic mechanisms in natural enzymes are well understood, achieving the diverse palette of reaction chemistries in re-engineered native proteins has proved challenging. Wholesale modification of natural enzymes is potentially compromised by their intrinsic complexity, which often obscures the underlying principles governing biocatalytic efficiency. The maquette approach can circumvent this complexity by combining a robust de novo designed chassis with a design process that avoids atomistic mimicry of natural proteins. Here, we apply this method to the construction of a highly efficient, promiscuous, and thermostable artificial enzyme that catalyzes a diverse array of substrate oxidations coupled to the reduction of H2O2. The maquette exhibits kinetics that match and even surpass those of certain natural peroxidases, retains its activity at elevated temperature and in the presence of organic solvents, and provides a simple platform for interrogating catalytic intermediates common to natural heme-containing enzymes.


Multifunctional quantum dot DNA hydrogels

Biotemplated nanomaterials offer versatile functionality for multimodal imaging, biosensing, and drug delivery. There remains an unmet need for traceable and biocompatible nanomaterials that can be synthesized in a precisely controllable manner. Here, we report self-assembled quantum dot DNA hydrogels that exhibit both size and spectral tunability. We successfully incorporate DNA-templated quantum dots with high quantum yield, long-term photostability, and low cytotoxicity into a hydrogel network in a single step. By leveraging DNA-guided interactions, we introduce multifunctionality for a variety of applications, including enzyme-responsive drug delivery and cell-specific targeting. We report that quantum dot DNA hydrogels can be used for delivery of doxorubicin, an anticancer drug, to increase potency 9-fold against cancer cells. This approach also demonstrated high biocompatibility, trackability, and in vivo therapeutic efficacy in mice bearing xenografted breast cancer tumors. This work paves the way for the development of new tunable biotemplated nanomaterials with multiple synergistic functionalities for biomedical applications.41467_2017_298_fig1_html


Hit-and-run programming of therapeutic cytoreagents using mRNA nanocarriers

Creating mRNA nanoparticles to program therapeutic T-cells. a Schematic explaining how cultured T-cells can be programmed to express therapeutically relevant transgenes carried by polymeric nanoparticles (NPs). These particles are coated with ligands that target them to specific cell types, enabling them to introduce their mRNA cargoes and cause the targeted cells to express selected proteins (like transcription factors or genome-editing agents). b Design of targeted mRNA-carrying NPs. The inset shows a transmission electron micrograph of a representative NP; scale bar, 50 nm. Also depicted is the synthetic mRNA encapsulated in the NP, which is engineered to encode therapeutically relevant proteins41467_2017_505_fig1_html


Microfabricated cell culture system for the live cell observation of the multilayered proliferation of undifferentiated HT-29 cells

In this paper, we describe a microfabricated cell culture system (MCCS) for the microscopic live observation of cellular behavior in a reconstituted tissue-like microenvironment. The MCCS was used as a novel tool for tracking the proliferation of undifferentiated HT-29 cells. A wall structure of gelled extracellular matrix (ECM) protein was constructed inside the MCCS to establish a tissue-like microenvironment of the intestinal tissue. The ECM wall consisting of type I collagen retained the structural integrity during the gelation process and provided the adhesion surface for the HT-29 cells. We carried out the microscopic live observation of the proliferation of HT-29 cells seeded with various concentrations. The multilayered growth of HT-29 cells in the undifferentiated state was monitored without cell fixation, which was a necessary process in a conventional in vitro cell culture. The live tracking of cell culture also recorded the contraction of cell culture morphology during the initial period of cultivation. This approach is helpful for the establishment of an in vitro model for the live observation study of intestinal epithelial differentiation in an in vivo-like microenvironment.


Tissue chips – innovative tools for drug development and disease modeling


The high rate of failure during drug development is well-known, however recent advances in tissue engineering and microfabrication have contributed to the development of microphysiological systems (MPS), or ‘organs-on-chips’ that recapitulate the function of human organs. These ‘tissue chips’ could be utilized for drug screening and safety testing to potentially transform the early stages of the drug development process. They can also be used to model disease states, providing new tools for the understanding of disease mechanisms and pathologies, and assessing effectiveness of new therapies. In the future, they could be used to test new treatments and therapeutics in populations – via clinical trials-on-chips – and individuals, paving the way for precision medicine. Here we will discuss the wide-ranging and promising future of tissue chips, as well as challenges facing their development.


Porous monolith microfluidics for bacterial cell-to-cell communication assays


Genetically engineered bacteria can be used for a wide range of applications, from monitoring environmental toxins to studying complex communication networks in the human digestive system. Although great strides have been made in studying single strains of bacteria in well-controlled microfluidic environments, there remains a need for tools to reliably control and measure communication between multiple discrete bacterial populations. Stable long-term experiments (e.g., days) with controlled population sizes and regulated input (e.g., concentration) and output measurements can reveal fundamental limits of cell-to-cell communication. In this work, we developed a microfluidic platform that utilizes a porous monolith to reliably and stably partition adjacent strains of bacteria while allowing molecular communication between them for several days. We measured small molecule production by the bacterial populations in response to stimuli using analytical chemistry methods and measured fluorescent output. The results are compared with communication and diffusion delay models. This porous monolith microfluidic system enables bacterial cell-to-cell communication assays with dynamic control of inputs, relatively long-term experimentation with no cross contamination, and stable bacterial population size. This system can serve as a valuable tool in understanding bacterial communication and improving biosensor design capabilities.


A microsensing system for the in vivo real-time detection of local drug kinetics


Real-time recording of the kinetics of systemically administered drugs in in vivo microenvironments may accelerate the development of effective medical therapies. However, conventional methods require considerable analyte quantities, have low sampling rates and do not address how drug kinetics correlate with target function over time. Here, we describe the development and application of a drug-sensing system consisting of a glass microelectrode and a microsensor composed of boron-doped diamond with a tip of around 40 μm in diameter. We show that, in the guinea pig cochlea, the system can measure—simultaneously and in real time—changes in the concentration of bumetanide (a diuretic that is ototoxic but applicable to epilepsy treatment) and the endocochlear potential underlying hearing. In the rat brain, we tracked the kinetics of the drug and the local field potentials representing neuronal activity. We also show that the actions of the antiepileptic drug lamotrigine and the anticancer reagent doxorubicin can be monitored in vivo. Our microsensing system offers the potential to detect pharmacological and physiological responses that might otherwise remain undetected.


Genetically encoded fluorescent sensors reveal dynamic regulation of NADPH metabolism


nmeth-4306-f2Reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) is essential for biosynthetic reactions and antioxidant functions; however, detection of NADPH metabolism in living cells remains technically challenging. We develop and characterize ratiometric, pH-resistant, genetically encoded fluorescent indicators for NADPH (iNap sensors) with various affinities and wide dynamic range. iNap sensors enabled quantification of cytosolic and mitochondrial NADPH pools that are controlled by cytosolic NAD+ kinase levels and revealed cellular NADPH dynamics under oxidative stress depending on glucose availability. We found that mammalian cells have a strong tendency to maintain physiological NADPH homeostasis, which is regulated by glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and AMP kinase. Moreover, using the iNap sensors we monitor NADPH fluctuations during the activation of macrophage cells or wound response in vivo. These data demonstrate that the iNap sensors will be valuable tools for monitoring NADPH dynamics in live cells and gaining new insights into cell metabolism.


Open-source, community-driven microfluidics with Metafluidics


Microfluidic devices have the potential to automate and miniaturize biological experiments, but open-source sharing of device designs has lagged behind sharing of other resources such as software. Synthetic biologists have used microfluidics for DNA assembly, cell-free expression, and cell culture, but a combination of expense, device complexity, and reliance on custom set-ups hampers their widespread adoption. We present Metafluidics, an open-source, community-driven repository that hosts digital design files, assembly specifications, and open-source software to enable users to build, configure, and operate a microfluidic device. We use Metafluidics to share designs and fabrication instructions for both a microfluidic ring-mixer device and a 32-channel tabletop microfluidic controller. This device and controller are applied to build genetic circuits using standard DNA assembly methods including ligation, Gateway, Gibson, and Golden Gate. Metafluidics is intended to enable a broad community of engineers, DIY enthusiasts, and other nontraditional participants with limited fabrication skills to contribute to microfluidic research.


A point-of-care microfluidic biochip for quantification of CD64 expression from whole blood for sepsis stratification


Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection, has the highest burden of death and medical expenses in hospitals worldwide. Leukocyte count and CD64 expression on neutrophils (nCD64) are known to correlate strongly with improved sensitivity and specificity of sepsis diagnosis at its onset. A major challenge is the lack of a rapid and accurate point-of-care (PoC) device that can perform these measurements from a minute blood sample. Here, we report a PoC microfluidic biochip to enumerate leukocytes and quantify nCD64 levels from 10 μl of whole blood without any manual processing. Biochip measurements have shown excellent correlation with the results from flow cytometer. In clinical studies, we have used PoC biochip to monitor leukocyte counts and nCD64 levels from patients’ blood at different times of their stay in the hospital. Furthermore, we have shown the biochip’s utility for improved sepsis diagnosis by combining these measurements with electronic medical record (EMR).