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A robust vitronectin-derived peptide substrate for the scalable long-term expansion and neuronal differentiation of human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived neural progenitor cells (hNPCs)

Description

Several debilitating neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and spinal cord injury, are characterized by the damage or loss of neuronal cell types in the central nervous system (CNS). Human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs) derived from human pluripotent stem

Several debilitating neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and spinal cord injury, are characterized by the damage or loss of neuronal cell types in the central nervous system (CNS). Human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs) derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) can proliferate extensively and differentiate into the various neuronal subtypes and supporting cells that comprise the CNS. As such, hNPCs have tremendous potential for disease modeling, drug screening, and regenerative medicine applications. However, the use hNPCs for the study and treatment of neurological diseases requires the development of defined, robust, and scalable methods for their expansion and neuronal differentiation. To that end a rational design process was used to develop a vitronectin-derived peptide (VDP)-based substrate to support the growth and neuronal differentiation of hNPCs in conventional two-dimensional (2-D) culture and large-scale microcarrier (MC)-based suspension culture. Compared to hNPCs cultured on ECMP-based substrates, hNPCs grown on VDP-coated surfaces displayed similar morphologies, growth rates, and high expression levels of hNPC multipotency markers. Furthermore, VDP surfaces supported the directed differentiation of hNPCs to neurons at similar levels to cells differentiated on ECMP substrates. Here it has been demonstrated that VDP is a robust growth and differentiation matrix, as demonstrated by its ability to support the expansions and neuronal differentiation of hNPCs derived from three hESC (H9, HUES9, and HSF4) and one hiPSC (RiPSC) cell lines. Finally, it has been shown that VDP allows for the expansion or neuronal differentiation of hNPCs to quantities (>1010) necessary for drug screening or regenerative medicine purposes. In the future, the use of VDP as a defined culture substrate will significantly advance the clinical application of hNPCs and their derivatives as it will enable the large-scale expansion and neuronal differentiation of hNPCs in quantities necessary for disease modeling, drug screening, and regenerative medicine applications.

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Date Created
2016

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A Robust scRNA-seq Data Analysis Pipeline for Measuring Gene Expression Noise

Description

The past decade has seen a drastic increase in collaboration between Computer Science (CS) and Molecular Biology (MB). Current foci in CS such as deep learning require very large amounts of data, and MB research can often be rapidly advanced

The past decade has seen a drastic increase in collaboration between Computer Science (CS) and Molecular Biology (MB). Current foci in CS such as deep learning require very large amounts of data, and MB research can often be rapidly advanced by analysis and models from CS. One of the places where CS could aid MB is during analysis of sequences to find binding sites, prediction of folding patterns of proteins. Maintenance and replication of stem-like cells is possible for long terms as well as differentiation of these cells into various tissue types. These behaviors are possible by controlling the expression of specific genes. These genes then cascade into a network effect by either promoting or repressing downstream gene expression. The expression level of all gene transcripts within a single cell can be analyzed using single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq). A significant portion of noise in scRNA-seq data are results of extrinsic factors and could only be removed by customized scRNA-seq analysis pipeline. scRNA-seq experiments utilize next-gen sequencing to measure genome scale gene expression levels with single cell resolution.

Almost every step during analysis and quantification requires the use of an often empirically determined threshold, which makes quantification of noise less accurate. In addition, each research group often develops their own data analysis pipeline making it impossible to compare data from different groups. To remedy this problem a streamlined and standardized scRNA-seq data analysis and normalization protocol was designed and developed. After analyzing multiple experiments we identified the possible pipeline stages, and tools needed. Our pipeline is capable of handling data with adapters and barcodes, which was not the case with pipelines from some experiments. Our pipeline can be used to analyze single experiment scRNA-seq data and also to compare scRNA-seq data across experiments. Various processes like data gathering, file conversion, and data merging were automated in the pipeline. The main focus was to standardize and normalize single-cell RNA-seq data to minimize technical noise introduced by disparate platforms.

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Date Created
2017

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Generation of isogenic pluripotent stem cell lines for study of APOE, an Alzheimer’s risk factor

Description

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), despite over a century of research, does not have a clearly defined pathogenesis for the sporadic form that makes up the majority of disease incidence. A variety of correlative risk factors have been identified, including the three

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), despite over a century of research, does not have a clearly defined pathogenesis for the sporadic form that makes up the majority of disease incidence. A variety of correlative risk factors have been identified, including the three isoforms of apolipoprotein E (ApoE), a cholesterol transport protein in the central nervous system. ApoE ε3 is the wild-type variant with no effect on risk. ApoE ε2, the protective and most rare variant, reduces risk of developing AD by 40%. ApoE ε4, the risk variant, increases risk by 3.2-fold and 14.9-fold for heterozygous and homozygous representation respectively. Study of these isoforms has been historically complex, but the advent of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) provides the means for highly controlled, longitudinal in vitro study. The effect of ApoE variants can be further elucidated using this platform by generating isogenic hiPSC lines through precise genetic modification, the objective of this research. As the difference between alleles is determined by two cytosine-thymine polymorphisms, a specialized CRISPR/Cas9 system for direct base conversion was able to be successfully employed. The base conversion method for transitioning from the ε3 to ε2 allele was first verified using the HEK293 cell line as a model with delivery via electroporation. Following this verification, the transfection method was optimized using two hiPSC lines derived from ε4/ε4 patients, with a lipofection technique ultimately resulting in successful base conversion at the same site verified in the HEK293 model. Additional research performed included characterization of the pre-modification genotype with respect to likely off-target sites and methods of isolating clonal variants.

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Date Created
2017

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An Integrated Biomanufacturing Platform for the Large-Scale Expansion and Differentiation of Neural Progenitor Cells

Description

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are defined by the loss of several types of neurons and glial cells within the central nervous system (CNS). Combatting these diseases requires a robust population of relevant

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are defined by the loss of several types of neurons and glial cells within the central nervous system (CNS). Combatting these diseases requires a robust population of relevant cell types that can be employed in cell therapies, drug screening, or patient specific disease modeling. Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC)-derived neural progenitor cells (hNPCs) have the ability to self-renew indefinitely and differentiate into the various neuronal and glial cell types of the CNS. In order to realize the potential of hNPCs, it is necessary to develop a xeno-free scalable platform for effective expansion and differentiation. Previous work in the Brafman lab led to the engineering of a chemically defined substrate—vitronectin derived peptide (VDP), which allows for the long-term expansion and differentiation of hNPCs. In this work, we use this substrate as the basis for a microcarrier (MC)-based suspension culture system. Several independently derived hNPC lines were cultured on MCs for multiple passages as well as efficiently differentiated to neurons. Finally, this MC-based system was used in conjunction with a low shear rotating wall vessel (RWV) bioreactor for the integrated, large-scale expansion and neuronal differentiation of hNPCs. Finally, VDP was shown to support the differentiation of hNPCs into functional astrocytes. Overall, this fully defined and scalable biomanufacturing system will facilitate the generation of hNPCs and their derivatives in quantities necessary for basic and translational applications.

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Date Created
2018

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Using Bioengineering Approaches to Generate a Three-Dimensional Human Induced Pluripotent Stem-Cell Based Model of Alzheimer's Disease

Description

The pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) remains difficult to precisely ascertain in part because animal models fail to fully recapitulate many aspects of the disease and postmortem studies do not allow for the study of the pathophysiology. In vitro models

The pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) remains difficult to precisely ascertain in part because animal models fail to fully recapitulate many aspects of the disease and postmortem studies do not allow for the study of the pathophysiology. In vitro models of AD generated with patient derived human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) could provide new insight into disease mechanisms. Although many protocols exist to differentiate hiPSCs to neurons, standard practice relies on two-dimensional (2-D) systems, which do not accurately mimic the complexity and architecture of the in vivo brain microenvironment. This research aims to create three-dimensional (3-D) models of AD using hiPSCs, which would enhance the understanding of AD pathophysiology thereby, enabling the generation of effective therapeutics.

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Date Created
2017

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Construction of gene circuits to control cell behavior

Description

Synthetic biology is a novel method that reengineers functional parts of natural genes of interest to build new biomolecular devices able to express as designed. There is increasing interest in synthetic biology due to wide potential applications in various fields

Synthetic biology is a novel method that reengineers functional parts of natural genes of interest to build new biomolecular devices able to express as designed. There is increasing interest in synthetic biology due to wide potential applications in various fields such as clinics and fuel production. However, there are still many challenges in synthetic biology. For example, many natural biological processes are poorly understood, and these could be more thoroughly studied through model synthetic gene networks. Additionally, since synthetic biology applications may have numerous design constraints, more inducer systems should be developed to satisfy different requirements for genetic design.

This thesis covers two topics. First, I attempt to generate stochastic resonance (SR) in a biological system. Synthetic bistable systems were chosen because the inducer range in which they exhibit bistability can satisfy one of the three requirements of SR: a weak periodic force is unable to make the transition between states happen. I synthesized several different bistable systems, including toggle switches and self-activators, to select systems matching another requirement: the system has a clear threshold between the two energy states. Their bistability was verified and characterized. At the same time, I attempted to figure out the third requirement for SR – an effective noise serving as the stochastic force – through one of the most widespread toggles, the mutual inhibition toggle, in both yeast and E. coli. A mathematic model for SR was written and adjusted.

Secondly, I began work on designing a new genetic system capable of responding to pulsed magnetic fields. The operators responding to pulsed magnetic stimuli in the rpoH promoter were extracted and reorganized. Different versions of the rpoH promoter were generated and tested, and their varying responsiveness to magnetic fields was recorded. In order to improve efficiency and produce better operators, a directed evolution method was applied with the help of a CRISPR-dCas9 nicking system. The best performing promoters thus far show a five-fold difference in gene expression between trials with and without the magnetic field.

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Date Created
2016

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Using bioengineering approaches to generate a three-dimensional (3D) human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-based model for neurodegenerative diseases

Description

The pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), remain difficult to ascertain in part because animal models fail to fully recapitulate the complex pathophysiology of these diseases. In vitro models of neurodegenerative diseases generated with patient derived human

The pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), remain difficult to ascertain in part because animal models fail to fully recapitulate the complex pathophysiology of these diseases. In vitro models of neurodegenerative diseases generated with patient derived human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) could provide new insight into disease mechanisms. Although protocols to differentiate hiPSCs and hESCs to neurons have been established, standard practice relies on two dimensional (2D) cell culture systems, which do not accurately mimic the complexity and architecture of the in vivo brain microenvironment.

I have developed protocols to generate 3D cultures of neurons from hiPSCs and hESCs, to provide more accurate models of AD. In the first protocol, hiPSC-derived neural progenitor cells (hNPCs) are plated in a suspension of Matrigel™ prior to terminal differentiation of neurons. In the second protocol, hiPSCs are forced into aggregates called embryoid bodies (EBs) in suspension culture and subsequently directed to the neural lineage through dual SMAD inhibition. Culture conditions are then changed to expand putative hNPC populations and finally differentiated to neuronal spheroids through activation of the tyrosine kinase pathway. The gene expression profiles of the 3D hiPSC-derived neural cultures were compared to fetal brain RNA. Our analysis has revealed that 3D neuronal cultures express high levels of mature pan-neuronal markers (e.g. MAP2, β3T) and neural transmitter subtype specific markers. The 3D neuronal spheroids also showed signs of neural patterning, similar to that observed during embryonic development. These 3D culture systems should provide a platform to probe disease mechanisms of AD and enable to generation of more advanced therapeutics.

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Date Created
2016

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Semi-automated calcium imaging analysis: for in-vitro applications

Description

Calcium imaging is a well-established, non-invasive or minimally technique designed to study the electrical signaling neurons. Calcium regulates the release of gliotransmitters in astrocytes. Analyzing astrocytic calcium transients can provide significant insights into mechanisms such as neuroplasticity and neural signal

Calcium imaging is a well-established, non-invasive or minimally technique designed to study the electrical signaling neurons. Calcium regulates the release of gliotransmitters in astrocytes. Analyzing astrocytic calcium transients can provide significant insights into mechanisms such as neuroplasticity and neural signal modulation.

In the past decade, numerous methods have been developed to analyze in-vivo calcium imaging data that involves complex techniques such as overlapping signals segregation and motion artifact correction. The hypothesis used to detect calcium signal is the spatiotemporal sparsity of calcium signal, and these methods are unable to identify the passive cells that are not actively firing during the time frame in the video. Statistics regarding the percentage of cells in each frame of view can be critical for the analysis of calcium imaging data for human induced pluripotent stem cells derived neurons and astrocytes.

The objective of this research is to develop a simple and efficient semi-automated pipeline for analysis of in-vitro calcium imaging data. The region of interest (ROI) based image segmentation is used to extract the data regarding intensity fluctuation caused by calcium concentration changes in each cell. It is achieved by using two approaches: basic image segmentation approach and a machine learning approach. The intensity data is evaluated using a custom-made MATLAB that generates statistical information and graphical representation of the number of spiking cells in each field of view, the number of spikes per cell and spike height.

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Agent

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Date Created
2019

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Large Scale Expansion and Differentiation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Neural Progenitor Cells (hNPCs)

Description

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis are marked by the loss of different types of neurons and glial cells in the central nervous system (CNS). Human Pluripotent Stem Cell (hPSC)-derived Neural Progenitor Cells (hNPCs)

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis are marked by the loss of different types of neurons and glial cells in the central nervous system (CNS). Human Pluripotent Stem Cell (hPSC)-derived Neural Progenitor Cells (hNPCs) have the ability to self-renew indefinitely and to differentiate into various cell types of the CNS. HNPCs can be used in cell based therapies and have the potential to reverse or arrest neurodegeneration and to replace lost neurons and glial cells. However, the lack of completely defined, scalable systems to culture these cells, limits their therapeutic and clinical applications. In a previous study, a completely defined, robust, synthetic peptide- a Vitronectin Derived Peptide (VDP) that supports the long term expansion and differentiation of various embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cell (hESC/hIPSC) derived hNPC lines on two dimensional (2D) tissue culture plates was identified. In this study, the culture of hNPCs was scaled up using VDP coated microcarriers (MC). VDP MC were able to support the long term expansion of hESC and hiPSC derived hNPCs over multiple passages and supported higher fold changes in cell densities, compared to VDP coated 2D surfaces. VDP MC also showed the ability to support the neuronal differentiation of hNPCs, and produced mature neurons expressing several neuronal, neurotransmitter and cortical markers. Additionally, alzheimer’s disease (AD) relevant phenotypes were studied in patient hIPSC derived hNPCs cultured on laminin MC to assess if the MC culture system could be used for disease modelling and drug screening. Finally, a microcarrier based bioreactor system was developed for the large scale expansion of hNPCs, exhibiting more than a five-fold change in cell density and supporting more than 100 million hNPCs in culture. Thus, the development of a xeno-free, scalable system allows hNPC culture under standard and reproducible conditions in quantities required for therapeutic and clinical applications.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2017

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Generation of a Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Based Model of Progerin Induced Aging

Description

An in vitro model of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is required to study the poorly understood molecular mechanisms involved in the familial and sporadic forms of the disease. Animal models have previously proven to be useful in studying familial Alzheimer’s disease

An in vitro model of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is required to study the poorly understood molecular mechanisms involved in the familial and sporadic forms of the disease. Animal models have previously proven to be useful in studying familial Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by the introduction of AD related mutations in the animal genome and by the overexpression of AD related proteins. The genetics of sporadic Alzheimer’s is however too complex to model in an animal model. More recently, AD human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) have been used to study the disease in a dish. However, AD hiPSC derived neurons do not faithfully reflect all the molecular characteristics and phenotypes observed in the aged cells with neurodegenerative disease. The truncated form of nuclear protein Lamin-A, progerin, has been implicated in premature aging and is found in increasing concentrations as normal cells age. We hypothesized that by overexpressing progerin, we can cause cells to ‘age’ and display the neurodegenerative effects observed with aging in both diseased and normal cells. To answer this hypothesis, we first generated a retrovirus that allows for the overexpression of progerin in AD and non-demented control (NDC) hiPSC derived neural progenitor cells(NPCs). Subsequently, we generated a pure population of hNPCs that overexpress progerin and wild type lamin. Finally, we analyzed the presence of various age related phenotypes such as abnormal nuclear structure and the loss of nuclear lamina associated proteins to characterize ‘aging’ in these cells.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2017