Dr. Raghunathan is a Bioengineer in the Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences at the University of California, Davis. He is cross trained in biomaterials, biomechanics, and cell and molecular biology with research interests and expertise in drug delivery, force microscopy, toxicology, tissue engineering and medical device development for orthopedic, wound healing, and ocular applications.
Squishy matters - Corneal mechanobiology in health and disease
Prog Retin Eye Res. 2024 Jan 2;99:101234. doi: 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2023.101234. Online ahead of print.
The cornea, as a dynamic and responsive tissue, constantly interacts with mechanical forces in order to maintain its structural integrity, barrier function, transparency and refractive power. Cells within the cornea sense and respond to various mechanical forces that fundamentally regulate their morphology and fate in development, homeostasis and pathophysiology. Corneal cells also dynamically regulate their extracellular matrix (ECM) with ensuing cell-ECM crosstalk as the matrix serves as a dynamic signaling reservoir providing biophysical and biochemical cues to corneal cells. Here we provide an overview of mechanotransduction signaling pathways then delve into the recent advances in corneal mechanobiology, focusing on the interplay between mechanical forces and responses of the corneal epithelial, stromal, and endothelial cells. We also identify species-specific differences in corneal biomechanics and mechanotransduction to facilitate identification of optimal animal models to study corneal wound healing, disease, and novel therapeutic interventions. Finally, we identify key knowledge gaps and therapeutic opportunities in corneal mechanobiology that are pressing for the research community to address especially pertinent within the domains of limbal stem cell deficiency, keratoconus and Fuchs' endothelial corneal dystrophy. By furthering our understanding corneal mechanobiology, we can contextualize discoveries regarding corneal diseases as well as innovative treatments for them.
Metallic Engineered Nanomaterials and Ocular Toxicity: A Current Perspective
Pharmaceutics. 2022 May 3;14(5):981. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics14050981.
The ocular surface, comprised of the transparent cornea, conjunctiva, and protective tear film, forms a protective barrier defending deeper structures of the eye from particulate matter and mechanical trauma. This barrier is routinely exposed to a multitude of naturally occurring and engineered nanomaterials (ENM). Metallic ENMs are particularly ubiquitous in commercial products with a high risk of ocular exposure, such as cosmetics and sunscreens. Additionally, there are several therapeutic uses for metallic ENMs owing to their attractive magnetic, antimicrobial, and functionalization properties. The increasing commercial and therapeutic applications of metallic ENMs come with a high risk of ocular exposure with poorly understood consequences to the health of the eye. While the toxicity of metallic ENMs exposure has been rigorously studied in other tissues and organs, further studies are necessary to understand the potential for adverse effects and inform product usage for individuals whose ocular health may be compromised by injury, disease, or surgical intervention. This review provides an update of current literature on the ocular toxicity of metallic ENMs in vitro and in vivo, as well as the risks and benefits of therapeutic applications of metallic ENMs in ophthalmology.
Cross-linked actin networks (CLANs) affect stiffness and/or actin dynamics in transgenic transformed and primary human trabecular meshwork cells
Exp Eye Res. 2022 Jul;220:109097. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2022.109097. Epub 2022 May 13.
Cross-linked actin networks (CLANs) in trabecular meshwork (TM) cells may contribute to increased IOP by altering TM cell function and stiffness. However, there is a lack of direct evidence. Here, we developed transformed TM cells that form spontaneous fluorescently labelled CLANs. The stable cells were constructed by transducing transformed glaucomatous TM (GTM3) cells with the pLenti-LifeAct-EGFP-BlastR lentiviral vector and selection with blasticidin. The stiffness of the GTM3-LifeAct-GFP cells were studied using atomic force microscopy. Elastic moduli of CLANs in primary human TM cells treated with/without dexamethasone/TGFβ2 were also measured to validate findings in GTM3-LifeAct-GFP cells. Live-cell imaging was performed on GTM3-LifeAct-GFP cells treated with 1 μM latrunculin B or pHrodo bioparticles to determine actin stability and phagocytosis, respectively. The GTM3-LifeAct-GFP cells formed spontaneous CLANs without the induction of TGFβ2 or dexamethasone. The CLAN containing cells showed elevated cell stiffness, resistance to latrunculin B-induced actin depolymerization, as well as compromised phagocytosis, compared to the cells without CLANs. Primary human TM cells with dexamethasone or TGFβ2-induced CLANs were also stiffer and less phagocytic. The GTM3-LifeAct-GFP cells are a novel tool for studying the mechanobiology and pathology of CLANs in the TM. Initial characterization of these cells showed that CLANs contribute to at least some glaucomatous phenotypes of TM cells.
Endogenous expression of Notch pathway molecules in human trabecular meshwork cells
Exp Eye Res. 2022 Mar;216:108935. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2022.108935. Epub 2022 Jan 14.
PURPOSE: Cells in the trabecular meshwork sense and respond to a myriad of physical forces through a process known as mechanotransduction. Whilst the effect of substratum stiffness or stretch on TM cells have been investigated in the context of transforming growth factor (TGF-β), Wnt and YAP/TAZ pathways, the role of Notch signaling, an evolutionarily conserved pathway, recently implicated in mechanotransduction, has not been investigated in trabecular meshwork (TM) cells. Here, we compare the endogenous expression of Notch pathway molecules in TM cells from glaucomatous and non-glaucomatous donors, segmental flow regions, and when subjected to cyclical strain, or grown on hydrogels of varying rigidity.
METHODS: Primary TM from glaucomatous (GTM), non-glaucomatous (NTM) donors, and from segmental flow regions [high flow (HF), low flow (LF)], were utilized between passages 2-6. Cells were (i) plated on tissue culture plastic, (ii) subjected to cyclical strain (6 h and 24 h), or (iii) cultured on 3 kPa and 80 kPa hydrogels. mRNA levels of Notch receptors/ligands/effectors in the TM cells was determined by qRT-PCR. Phagocytosis was determined as a function of substratum stiffness in NTM-HF/LF cells in the presence or absence of 100 nM Dexamethasone treatment.
RESULTS: Innate expression of Notch pathway genes were significantly overexpressed in GTM cells with no discernible differences observed between HF/LF cells in either NTM or GTM cells cultured on plastic substrates. With 6 h of cyclical strain, a subset of Notch pathway genes presented with altered expression. Expression of Notch receptors/ligands/receptors/inhibitors progressively declined with increasing stiffness and this correlated with phagocytic ability of NTM cells. Dexamethasone treatment decreased phagocytosis regardless of stiffness or cells isolated from segmental outflow regions.
CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate here that the Notch expression in cultured TM cells differ intrinsically between GTM vs NTM, and by substratum cues (cyclical strain and stiffness). Of import, the most apparent differences in gene expression were observed as a function of substratum stiffness which closely followed phagocytic ability of cells. Interestingly, on soft substrates (mimicking normal TM stiffness) Notch expression and phagocytosis was highest, while both expression and phagocytosis was significantly lower on stiffer substrates (mimicking glaucomatous stiffness) regardless of DEX treatment. Such context dependent changes suggest Notch pathway may play differing roles in disease vs homeostasis. Studies focused on understanding the mechanistic role of Notch (if any) in outflow homeostasis are thus warranted.
Organic Semiconductor Nanotubes for Electrochemical Devices
Adv Funct Mater. 2021 Dec 2;31(49):2105358. doi: 10.1002/adfm.202105358. Epub 2021 Jul 30.
Electrochemical devices that transform electrical energy to mechanical energy through an electrochemical process have numerous applications ranging from soft robotics and micropumps to autofocus microlenses and bioelectronics. To date, achievement of large deformation strains and fast response times remains a challenge for electrochemical actuator devices operating in liquid wherein drag forces restrict the actuator motion and electrode materials/structures limit the ion transportation and accumulation. We report results for electrochemical actuators, electrochemical mass transfers, and electrochemical dynamics made from organic semiconductors (OSNTs). Our OSNTs electrochemical device exhibits high actuation performance with fast ion transport and accumulation and tunable dynamics in liquid and gel-polymer electrolytes. This device demonstrates an excellent performance, including low power consumption/strain, a large deformation, fast response, and excellent actuation stability. This outstanding performance stems from enormous effective surface area of nanotubular structure that facilitates ion transport and accumulation resulting in high electroactivity and durability. We utilize experimental studies of motion and mass transport along with the theoretical analysis for a variable-mass system to establish the dynamics of the electrochemical device and to introduce a modified form of Euler-Bernoulli's deflection equation for the OSNTs. Ultimately, we demonstrate a state-of-the-art miniaturized device composed of multiple microactuators for potential biomedical application. This work provides new opportunities for next generation electrochemical devices that can be utilized in artificial muscles and biomedical devices.
An ex vivo model of human corneal rim perfusion organ culture
Exp Eye Res. 2022 Jan;214:108891. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2021.108891. Epub 2021 Dec 9.
The human anterior segment perfusion culture model is a valuable tool for studying the trabecular meshwork (TM) and aqueous humor outflow in glaucoma. The traditional model relies on whole eye globes resulting in high cost and limited availability. Here, we developed a glue-based method which enabled us to use human corneal rims for perfusion culture experiments. Human corneal rim perfusion culture plates were 3D printed. Human corneal rims containing intact TM were attached and sealed to the plate using low viscosity and high viscosity glues, respectively. The human corneal rims were perfused using the constant flow mode, and the pressure changes were recorded using a computerized system. Outflow facility, TM stiffness, and TM morphology were evaluated. When perfused at rates from 1.2 to 3.6 μl/min, the outflow facility was 0.359 ± 0.216 μl/min/mmHg among 10 human corneal rims. The stiffness of the TM in naïve human corneal rim was similar to that of perfusion cultured human corneal rim. Also, the stiffness of TM of corneal rims perfused with dexamethasone was significantly higher than the control. Human corneal rims with glue contamination in the TM could be differentiated by high baseline intraocular pressure as well as high TM stiffness. Histology studies showed that the TM tissues perfused with plain medium appeared normal. We believed that our glued-based method is a useful tool and low-cost alternative to the traditional anterior segment perfusion culture model.
The Canonical Wnt Signaling Pathway Inhibits the Glucocorticoid Receptor Signaling Pathway in the Trabecular Meshwork
Am J Pathol. 2021 Jun;191(6):1020-1035. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2021.02.018. Epub 2021 Mar 8.
Glucocorticoid-induced glaucoma is a secondary open-angle glaucoma. About 40% of the general population may develop elevated intraocular pressure on prolonged glucocorticoid treatment secondary to damages in the trabecular meshwork (TM), a tissue that regulates intraocular pressure. Therefore, identifying the key molecules responsible for glucocorticoid-induced ocular hypertension is crucial. In this study, Dickkopf-related protein 1 (Dkk1), a canonical Wnt signaling inhibitor, was found to be elevated in the aqueous humor and TM of glaucoma patients. At the signaling level, Dkk1 enhanced glucocorticoid receptor (GR) signaling, whereas Dkk1 knockdown or Wnt signaling activators decreased GR signaling in human TM cells as indicated by luciferase assays. Similarly, activation of the GR signaling inhibited Wnt signaling. At the protein level, glucocorticoid-induced extracellular matrix was inhibited by Wnt activation using Wnt activators or Dkk1 knockdown in primary human TM cells. In contrast, inhibition of canonical Wnt signaling by β-catenin knockdown increased glucocorticoid-induced extracellular matrix proteins. At the physiological level, adenovirus-mediated Wnt3a expression decreased glucocorticoid-induced ocular hypertension in mouse eyes. In summary, Wnt and GR signaling inhibit each other in the TM, and canonical Wnt signaling activators may prevent the adverse effect of glucocorticoids in the eye.
Glucocorticoid-induced cell-derived matrix modulates transforming growth factor β2 signaling in human trabecular meshwork cells
Sci Rep. 2020 Sep 24;10(1):15641. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-72779-w.
Aberrant remodeling of trabecular meshwork (TM) extracellular matrix (ECM) may induce ocular hypertensive phenotypes in human TM (hTM) cells to cause ocular hypertension, via a yet unknown mechanism. Here, we show that, in the absence of exogenous transforming growth factor-beta2 (TGFβ2), compared with control matrices (VehMs), glucocorticoid-induced cell-derived matrices (GIMs) trigger non-Smad TGFβ2 signaling in hTM cells, correlated with overexpression/activity of structural ECM genes (fibronectin, collagen IV, collagen VI, myocilin), matricellular genes (connective tissue growth factor [CTGF], secreted protein, acidic and rich in cysteine), crosslinking genes/enzymes (lysyl oxidase, lysyl oxidase-like 2-4, tissue transglutaminase-2), and ECM turnover genes/enzymes (matrix metalloproteinases-MMP2,14 and their inhibitors-TIMP2). However, in the presence of exogenous TGFβ2, VehMs and GIMs activate Smad and non-Smad TGFβ2 signaling in hTM cells, associated with overexpression of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), and differential upregulation of aforementioned ECM genes/proteins with new ones emerging (collagen-I, thrombospondin-I, plasminogen activator inhibitor, MMP1, 9, ADAMTS4, TIMP1); with GIM-TGFβ2-induced changes being mostly more pronounced. This suggests dual glaucomatous insults potentiate profibrotic signaling/phenotypes. Lastly, we demonstrate type I TGFβ receptor kinase inhibition abrogates VehM-/GIM- and/or TGFβ2-induced upregulation of α-SMA and CTGF. Collectively, pathological TM microenvironments are sufficient to elicit adverse cellular responses that may be ameliorated by targeting TGFβ2 pathway.
Crosslinked Extracellular Matrix Stiffens Human Trabecular Meshwork Cells Via Dysregulating β-catenin and YAP/TAZ Signaling Pathways
Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2020 Aug 3;61(10):41. doi: 10.1167/iovs.61.10.41.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine whether genipin-induced crosslinked cell-derived matrix (XCDM) precipitates fibrotic phenotypes in human trabecular meshwork (hTM) cells by dysregulating β-catenin and Yes-associated protein (YAP)/ transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ) signaling pathways.
METHODS: Cell-derived matrices were treated with control or genipin for 5 hours to obtain respective uncrosslinked (CDM) and XCDMs and characterized. hTM cells were seeded on these matrices with/without Wnt pathway modulators in serum-free media for 24 hours. Elastic modulus, gene, and protein (whole cell and subcellular fractions) expressions of signaling mediators and targets of Wnt/β-catenin and YAP/TAZ pathways were determined.
RESULTS: At the highest genipin concentration (10% XCDM), XCDM had increased immunostaining of N-ε(γ-glutamyl)-lysine crosslinks, appeared morphologically fused, and was stiffer (5.3-fold, P < 0.001). On 10% XCDM, hTM cells were 7.8-fold (P < 0.001) stiffer, total β-catenin was unchanged, pβ-catenin was elevated, and pGSK3β was suppressed. Although 10% XCDM had no effect on cytoplasmic β-catenin levels, it reduced nuclear β-catenin, cadherin 11, and key Wnt target genes/proteins. The 10% XCDM increased total TAZ, decreased pTAZ, and increased cytoplasmic TAZ levels in hTM cells. The 10% XCDM increased total YAP, reduced nuclear YAP levels, and critical YAP/TAZ target genes/proteins. Wnt activation rescued hTM cells from 10% XCDM-induced stiffening associated with increased nuclear β-catenin.
CONCLUSIONS: Increased cytoplasmic TAZ may inhibit β-catenin from its nuclear shuttling or regulating cadherin 11 important for aqueous homeostasis. Elevated cytoplasmic TAZ may inhibit YAP's probable homeostatic function in the nucleus. Together, TAZ's cytoplasmic localization may be an important downstream event of how increased TM extracellular matrix (ECM) crosslinking may cause increased stiffness and ocular hypertension in vivo. However, Wnt pathway activation may ameliorate ocular hypertensive phenotypes induced by crosslinked ECM.
Glaucomatous cell derived matrices differentially modulate non-glaucomatous trabecular meshwork cellular behavior
Acta Biomater. 2018 Apr 15;71:444-459. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2018.02.037. Epub 2018 Mar 7.
Ocular hypertension is a causal risk-factor to developing glaucoma. This is associated with stiffening of the trabecular meshwork (TM), the primary site of resistance to aqueous-humor-outflow. The mechanisms underlying this stiffening or how pathologic extracellular matrix (ECM) affects cell function are poorly understood. It is recognized that mechanotransduction systems allow cells to sense and translate the intrinsic biophysical properties of ECM into intracellular signals to control gene transcription, protein expression, and cell behavior. Using an anterior segment perfusion model, we document that there are significantly more low flow regions that are much stiffer, and fewer high flow regions that are less stiff in glaucomatous TM (GTM) when compared to non-glaucomatous TMs (NTM). GTM tissue also has fewer cells overall when compared with NTM tissue. In order to study the role of pathologic ECM in glaucoma disease progression, we conducted studies using cell derived matrices (CDM). First, we characterized the mechanics, composition and organization of fibronectin in ECM deposited by GTM and NTM cells treated with glucocorticosteroids. Then, we determined that these GTM-derived ECM are able to induce stiffening of normal NTM cells, and alter their gene/protein expression to resemble that of a glaucomatous phenotype. Further, we demonstrate that GTM-derived ECM causes endoplasmic reticular stress in NTM. They also became resistant to being reorganized by these NTM cells. These phenomena were exacerbated by ECMs obtained from steroid treated glaucoma model groups. Collectively, our data demonstrates that CDMs represent a novel tool for the study of bidirectional interactions between TM cells and their immediate microenvironment.
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Extracellular matrix (ECM) changes are prevalent in a number of diseases. The precise mechanisms by which changes in the ECM contribute to disease progression is unclear, primarily due to absence of appropriate models. Here, using glaucoma as a disease model, we document changes in cell derived matrix (CDM) and tissue mechanics that contribute to the pathology. Subsequently, we determine the effect that ECMs from diseased and healthy individuals have on healthy cell behaviors. Data emanating from this study demonstrate that CDMs are a potent tool for the study of cell-ECM interactions.
Latrunculin B and substratum stiffness regulate corneal fibroblast to myofibroblast transformation
Exp Eye Res. 2018 May;170:101-107. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2018.02.003. Epub 2018 Feb 6.
The transformation of keratocytes and fibroblasts to myofibroblasts is important to corneal wound healing as well as formation of stromal haze. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of latrunculin B, an actin cytoskeleton disruptor in conjunction with a fundamental biophysical cue, substrate stiffness, on myofibroblast transformation in vitro and in vivo. Rabbit corneal fibroblasts were cultured on substrates of differing compliance (1.5, 22, and 71 kPa) and tissue culture plastic (TCP; > 1 GPa) in media containing 0 or 10 ng/ml TGFβ1 for 72 h. Cells were treated with 0.4 μM Lat-B or DMSO for 30 min every 24 h for 72 h. RNA was collected from cells and expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), keratocan, and ALDH1A1 determined using qPCR; immunocytochemistry was used to assess α-SMA protein expression. A rabbit phototherapeutic keratectomy (PTK) model was used to assess the impact of 0.1% Lat-B (n = 3) or 25% DMSO (vehicle control, n = 3) on corneal wound healing by assessment of epithelial wound size with fluorescein stain and semi-quantitative stromal haze scoring by an observer masked to treatment group as well as Fourier-domain optical coherence tomography (FD-OCT) at set time points. Statistical analysis was completed using one-way or two-way analysis of variance. Treatment with Lat-B versus DMSO resulted in significantly less αSMA mRNA (P ≤ 0.007) for RCF cells grown on 22 and 71 kPa substrates as well as TCP without or with TGFβ1, and significantly decreased α-SMA protein expression in RCFs cultured on the intermediate (22 kPa) stiffness in the absence (P = 0.028) or presence (P = 0.018) of TGFβ1. Treatment with Lat-B versus DMSO but did not significantly alter expression of keratocan or ALDH1A1 mRNA in RCFs (P > 0.05) in the absence or presence of TGFβ1, but RCFs grown on stiff hydrogels (71 kPa) had significantly more keratocan mRNA expression versus the 22 kPa hydrogel or TCP (P < 0.001) without TGFβ1. Administration of topical Lat-B BID was well tolerated by rabbits post-PTK but did not significantly alter epithelial wound closure, stromal haze score, stromal haze thickness as measured by FD-OCT in comparison to DMSO-treated rabbits. When corneal stromal cells are cultured on substrates possessing biologically relevant substratum stiffnesses, Lat-B modulates mRNA and protein expression of α-SMA and thus modulates myofibroblast transformation. At a dose and dose-frequency that reduced IOP in human glaucoma patients, Lat-B treatment did not substantially impact corneal epithelial or stromal wound healing in a rabbit PTK model. While a significant impact on wound healing was observed at the concentration and dose frequency reported here was not found, encouraging in vitro data support further investigations of topically applied Lat-B to determine if this compound can reduce stromal fibrosis.
Tissue and cellular biomechanics during corneal wound injury and repair
Acta Biomater. 2017 Aug;58:291-301. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2017.05.051. Epub 2017 May 27.
Corneal wound healing is an enormously complex process that requires the simultaneous cellular integration of multiple soluble biochemical cues, as well as cellular responses to the intrinsic chemistry and biophysical attributes associated with the matrix of the wound space. Here, we document how the biomechanics of the corneal stroma are altered through the course of wound repair following keratoablative procedures in rabbits. Further we documented the influence that substrate stiffness has on stromal cell mechanics. Following corneal epithelial debridement, New Zealand white rabbits underwent phototherapeutic keratectomy (PTK) on the right eye (OD). Wound healing was monitored using advanced imaging modalities. Rabbits were euthanized and corneas were harvested at various time points following PTK. Tissues were characterized for biomechanics with atomic force microscopy and with histology to assess inflammation and fibrosis. Factor analysis was performed to determine any discernable patterns in wound healing parameters. The matrix associated with the wound space was stiffest at 7days post PTK. The greatest number of inflammatory cells were observed 3days after wounding. The highest number of myofibroblasts and the greatest degree of fibrosis occurred 21days after wounding. While all clinical parameters returned to normal values 400days after wounding, the elastic modulus remained greater than pre-surgical values. Factor analysis demonstrated dynamic remodeling of stroma occurs between days 10 and 42 during corneal stromal wound repair. Elastic modulus of the anterior corneal stroma is dramatically altered following PTK and its changes coincide initially with the development of edema and inflammation, and later with formation of stromal haze and population of the wound space with myofibroblasts. Factor analysis demonstrates strongest correlation between elastic modulus, myofibroblasts, fibrosis and stromal haze thickness, and between edema and central corneal thickness.
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Tissue biomechanics during the course of corneal wound healing is documented for the first time through atomic force microscopy, and is correlated with advanced clinical imaging and immunohistochemistry. Parameters obtained from the study are applied in a multivariate statistical model to cluster the data for better classification and monitor the wound repair process. Elastic modulus of the anterior corneal stroma is dramatically altered following wounding and correlates initially with the development of edema and inflammation, and later with formation of stromal haze and population of the wound space with myofibroblasts. Importantly, the occurrence of myofibroblasts is preceded by changes in tissue mechanics, which is important to consider in light of crosslinking procedures applied to treat corneal diseases.
Species variation and spatial differences in mucin expression from corneal epithelial cells
Exp Eye Res. 2016 Nov;152:43-48. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2016.09.001. Epub 2016 Sep 8.
Mucins are large glycoproteins expressed by epithelial cells of both the conjunctiva and cornea, and principle components of the glycocalyx. They are thought to play an important role in determining the interactions between the cornea/conjunctiva and the overlying tear film. The purpose of this study was to characterize the membrane-associated corneal mucin expression pattern from multiple species commonly used in ophthalmic research and drug development to better define the biochemical attributes of the ocular surface. Humans, rhesus macaques and dogs were found to have a very similar pattern of mucin expression, with mucin 16 (MUC16) being the most prevalent mucin transcript. In contrast, the rabbit had a unique mucin expression pattern with all mucin transcripts expressed at relatively similar levels. To determine if there were spatial differences in expression, peripheral and central corneal epithelium were individually isolated and evaluated for mucin expression. In all species examined, MUC1, MUC4 and MUC16 had higher peripheral corneal expression when compared with central, which reached statistical significance in MUC1 (rhesus and dog). The data demonstrated variation in corneal epithelial membrane-associated mucin expression between species, with the rabbit having a distinct expression pattern. These differences may be reflective of the environment, pathogen exposure or tear film dynamics of the respective species. The species differences, as well as regional mucin expression patterns, characterized in this study further define the biochemical composition of the ocular surface and may play an important role in tear film stability.
Sensing Conductive Hydrogels for Rapid Detection of Cytokines in Blood
Adv Healthc Mater. 2016 Mar;5(6):659-64, 627. doi: 10.1002/adhm.201500571. Epub 2016 Jan 22.
Conducting polymer hydrogel is fabricated atop gold or ITO electrodes and is functionalized with monoclonal antibodies. Binding of interferon-γ molecules causes redox properties of conductive hydrogel to change in a concentration-dependent fashion without the need for washing or sample handling steps. This conductive hydrogel remains functional in a fouling media such as whole blood.
Effect of Stratification on Surface Properties of Corneal Epithelial Cells
Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2015 Dec;56(13):8340-8. doi: 10.1167/iovs.15-17468.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of mucin expression in an immortalized human corneal epithelial cell line (hTCEpi) on the surface properties of cells, such as wettability, contact angle, and surface heterogeneity.
METHODS: hTCEpi cells were cultured to confluence in serum-free medium. The medium was then replaced by stratification medium to induce mucin biosynthesis. The mucin expression profile was analyzed using quantitative PCR and Western blotting. Contact angles were measured using a two-immiscible liquid method, and contact angle hysteresis was evaluated by tilting the apparatus and recording advancing and receding contact angles. The spatial distribution of mucins was evaluated with fluorescently labeled lectin.
RESULTS: hTCEpi cells expressed the three main ocular mucins (MUC1, MUC4, and MUC16) with a maximum between days 1 and 3 of the stratification process. Upon stratification, cells caused a very significant increase in contact angle hysteresis, suggesting the development of spatially discrete and heterogeneously distributed surface features, defined by topography and/or chemical functionality. Although atomic force microscopy measurements showed no formation of appreciable topographic features on the surface of the cells, we observed a significant increase in surface chemical heterogeneity.
CONCLUSIONS: The surface chemical heterogeneity of the corneal epithelium may influence the dynamic behavior of tear film by "pinning" the contact line between the cellular surface and aqueous tear film. Engineering the surface properties of corneal epithelium could potentially lead to novel treatments in dry eye disease.
A Comparative Study of Vertebrate Corneal Structure: The Evolution of a Refractive Lens
Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2015 Apr;56(4):2764-72. doi: 10.1167/iovs.15-16584.
PURPOSE: Although corneal curvature plays an important role in determining the refractive power of the vertebrate eye, the mechanisms controlling corneal shape remain largely unknown. To address this question, we performed a comparative study of vertebrate corneal structure to identify potential evolutionarily based changes that correlate with the development of a corneal refractive lens.
METHODS: Nonlinear optical (NLO) imaging of second-harmonic-generated (SHG) signals was used to image collagen and three-dimensionally reconstruct the lamellar organization in corneas from different vertebrate clades.
RESULTS: Second-harmonic-generated images taken normal to the corneal surface showed that corneal collagen in all nonmammalian vertebrates was organized into sheets (fish and amphibians) or ribbons (reptiles and birds) extending from limbus to limbus that were oriented nearly orthogonal (ranging from 77.7°-88.2°) to their neighbors. The slight angular offset (2°-13°) created a rotational pattern that continued throughout the full thickness in fish and amphibians and to the very posterior layers in reptiles and birds. Interactions between lamellae were limited to "sutural" fibers in cartilaginous fish, and occasional lamellar branching in fish and amphibians. There was a marked increase in lamellar branching in higher vertebrates, such that birds ≫ reptiles > amphibians > fish. By contrast, mammalian corneas showed a nearly random collagen fiber organization with no orthogonal, chiral pattern.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that nonmammalian vertebrate corneas share a common orthogonal collagen structural organization that shows increased lamellar branching in higher vertebrate species. Importantly, mammalian corneas showed a different structural organization, suggesting a divergent evolutionary background.
Assessment of platelet-derived growth factor using A splinted full thickness dermal wound model in bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps)
J Zoo Wildl Med. 2014 Dec;45(4):866-74. doi: 10.1638/2014-0037.1.
Wounds in reptiles are a common reason for presentation to a veterinarian. At this time there is limited information on effective topical medications to aid in wound closure. The objectives of this study were to translate the splinted, full-thickness dermal wound model, validated in mice, to the bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps) and to determine the effect of topical becaplermin (BP), a platelet-derived growth factor (0.01%), on the rate of wound closure. Ten bearded dragons were anesthetized and two full-thickness cutaneous wounds were made on the dorsum of each lizard. Encircling splints were applied surrounding each wound and subsequently covered by a semi-occlusive dressing. Five lizards had one wound treated with BP and the adjacent wound treated with a vehicle control. Five additional lizards had one wound treated with saline and the second wound treated with a vehicle control. Wounds were imaged daily, and the wound area was measured using digital image analysis. The change in percentage wound closure over 17 days and the time to 50% wound closure was compared among the four treatment groups. There was no significant difference in wound closure rates between BP-treated and saline-treated wounds or in the time to 50% wound closure between any treatments. Vehicle-treated wounds adjacent to saline-treated wounds closed significantly slower than did BP (P < 0.010), saline (P < 0.001), and vehicle-treated wounds adjacent to BP-treated wounds (P < 0.013). Our preliminary study indicates that the splinted wound model, with modifications, may be used to determine wound closure rates in bearded dragons. When compared with saline, BP did not have a significant effect on wound closure rates, while the vehicle alone delayed wound closure. Histologic analysis of experimentally created wounds throughout the wound healing process is needed to further evaluate the effects of these treatments on reptile dermal wound healing.
Impact of Nanotopography, Heparin Hydrogel Microstructures, and Encapsulated Fibroblasts on Phenotype of Primary Hepatocytes
ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2015 Jun 17;7(23):12299-308. doi: 10.1021/am504614e. Epub 2014 Sep 23.
Hepatocytes, the main epithelial cell type in the liver, perform most of the biochemical functions of the liver. Thus, maintenance of a primary hepatocyte phenotype is crucial for investigations of in vitro drug metabolism, toxicity, and development of bioartificial liver constructs. Here, we report the impact of topographic cues alone and in combination with soluble signals provided by encapsulated feeder cells on maintenance of the primary hepatocyte phenotype. Topographic features were 300 nm deep with pitches of either 400, 1400, or 4000 nm. Hepatocyte cell attachment, morphology and function were markedly better on 400 nm pitch patterns compared with larger scale topographies or planar substrates. Interestingly, topographic features having biomimetic size scale dramatically increased cell adhesion whether or not substrates had been precoated with collagen I. Albumin production in primary hepatocytes cultured on 400 nm pitch substrates without collagen I was maintained over 10 days and was considerably higher compared to albumin synthesis on collagen-coated flat substrates. In order to investigate the potential interaction of soluble cytoactive factors supplied by feeder cells with topographic cues in determining cell phenotype, bioactive heparin-containing hydrogel microstructures were molded (100 μm spacing, 100 μm width) over the surface of the topographically patterned substrates. These hydrogel microstructures either carried encapsulated fibroblasts or were free of cells. Hepatocytes cultured on nanopatterned substrates next to fibroblast carrying hydrogel microstructures were significantly more functional than hepatocytes cultured on nanopatterned surfaces without hydrogels or stromal cells significantly elevated albumin expression and cell junction formation compared to cells provided with topographic cues only. The simultaneous presentation of topographic biomechanical cues along with soluble signaling molecules provided by encapsulated fibroblasts cells resulted in optimal functionality of cultured hepatocytes. The provision of both topographic and soluble signaling cues could enhance our ability to create liver surrogates and inform the development of engineered liver constructs.
Characterizing the effects of heparin gel stiffness on function of primary hepatocytes
Tissue Eng Part A. 2013 Dec;19(23-24):2655-63. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2012.0681. Epub 2013 Aug 16.
In the liver, hepatocytes are exposed to a large array of stimuli that shape hepatic phenotype. This in vivo microenvironment is lost when hepatocytes are cultured in standard cell cultureware, making it challenging to maintain hepatocyte function in vitro. Our article focused on one of the least studied inducers of the hepatic phenotype-the mechanical properties of the underlying substrate. Gel layers comprised of thiolated heparin (Hep-SH) and diacrylated poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG-DA) were formed on glass substrates via a radical mediated thiol-ene coupling reaction. The substrate stiffness varied from 10 to 110 kPa by changing the concentration of the precursor solution. ELISA analysis revealed that after 5 days, hepatocytes cultured on a softer heparin gel were synthesizing five times higher levels of albumin compared to those on a stiffer heparin gel. Immunofluorescent staining for hepatic markers, albumin and E-cadherin, confirmed that softer gels promoted better maintenance of the hepatic phenotype. Our findings point to the importance of substrate mechanical properties on hepatocyte function.
Influence of particle size and reactive oxygen species on cobalt chrome nanoparticle-mediated genotoxicity
Biomaterials. 2013 May;34(14):3559-70. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2013.01.085. Epub 2013 Feb 20.
Patients with cobalt chrome (CoCr) metal-on-metal (MOM) implants may be exposed to a wide size range of metallic nanoparticles as a result of wear. In this study we have characterised the biological responses of human fibroblasts to two types of synthetically derived CoCr particles [(a) from a tribometer (30 nm) and (b) thermal plasma technology (20, 35, and 80 nm)] in vitro, testing their dependence on nanoparticle size or the generation of oxygen free radicals, or both. Metal ions were released from the surface of nanoparticles, particularly from larger (80 nm) particles generated by thermal plasma technology. Exposure of fibroblasts to these nanoparticles triggered rapid (2 h) generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that could be eliminated by inhibition of NADPH oxidase, suggesting that it was mediated by phagocytosis of the particles. The exposure also caused a more prolonged, MitoQ sensitive production of ROS (24 h), suggesting involvement of mitochondria. Consequently, we recorded elevated levels of aneuploidy, chromosome clumping, fragmentation of mitochondria and damage to the cytoskeleton particularly to the microtubule network. Exposure to the nanoparticles resulted in misshapen nuclei, disruption of mature lamin B1 and increased nucleoplasmic bridges, which could be prevented by MitoQ. In addition, increased numbers of micronuclei were observed and these were only partly prevented by MitoQ, and the incidence of micronuclei and ion release from the nanoparticles were positively correlated with nanoparticle size, although the cytogenetic changes, modifications in nuclear shape and the amount of ROS were not. These results suggest that cells exhibit diverse mitochondrial ROS-dependent and independent responses to CoCr particles, and that nanoparticle size and the amount of metal ion released are influential.
Changes in protein expression associated with chronic in vitro exposure of hexavalent chromium to osteoblasts and monocytes: a proteomic approach
J Biomed Mater Res A. 2010 Feb;92(2):615-25. doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.32396.
Cr (VI) is a well-recognized environmental toxin and carcinogen. It is known to be released from orthopedic metal implants in-situ by biocorrosion and is speculated to play a role in periprosthetic osteolysis. It is hence essential to understand its long-term biological effects. We have assessed the in vitro responses of osteoblasts and monocytes to chronic exposure (3 weeks) to Cr (VI), at concentrations that have been measured in patients with metal implants, using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Cr (VI) exposure resulted in a differential time-dependent regulation of glycolytic, stress, and cytoskeletal proteins. The proteins that have been found to be altered in expression play an essential role in normal cellular functioning such as energy metabolism, cell signaling, and proliferation. The results highlight the complex molecular changes that occur in both cell types with long-term exposure to Cr and may be useful in establishing a series of clinically useful biomarkers to monitor long-term use of metallic implants.