Matching Items (15)

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CRISPR Based Synthetic Transcription Factors: The Future of Transcriptional Therapeutics

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Pinpoint control over endogenous gene expression in vivo has long been a fevered dream for clinicians and researchers alike. With the recent repurposing of programmable, RNA-guided DNA endonucleases from the CRISPR bacterial immune system, this dream is becoming a powerful

Pinpoint control over endogenous gene expression in vivo has long been a fevered dream for clinicians and researchers alike. With the recent repurposing of programmable, RNA-guided DNA endonucleases from the CRISPR bacterial immune system, this dream is becoming a powerful reality. Engineered CRISPR based transcriptional regulators have enabled researchers to perturb endogenous gene expression in vivo, allowing for the therapeutic reprogramming of cell and tissue behavior. However, for this technology to be of maximal use, a variety of technological hurdles still need to be addressed. Here, we discuss recent advances and integrative strategies that can help pave the way towards a new class of transcriptional therapeutics.

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2019-05

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Safe CRISPR: Challenges and Opportunities

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Conservatism is intrinsic to safety of emerging biotechnologies. Fear of unintended consequences, misuse, and bioterror are rightfully essential in our discussions of novel innovations. Clustered regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) and its associated proteins are no exception. This review

Conservatism is intrinsic to safety of emerging biotechnologies. Fear of unintended consequences, misuse, and bioterror are rightfully essential in our discussions of novel innovations. Clustered regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) and its associated proteins are no exception. This review will characterize environmental and health-related risks of CRISPR-applications and expound upon mechanisms that are or can be used to minimize risk. CRISPR is broadening access and simplifying genomic and transcriptomic editing leading to wide-range usage in all of biology. Utilization in gene therapies, gene drives, and agriculture could all be universally impactful applications that need their own safety technologies and guidelines. The initial ethical guidelines and recommendations, that will guide these technologies, are being steadily developed. However, technical advances are required to facilitate safe usage. Since the advent of CRISPR gene editing in 2012 advances to limit off-target edits (both cellular and genomic) have been developed. Delivery systems that use viral or nanoparticle packaging incorporate safety mechanisms to guard against undesirable side effects are being produced and rigorously tested. Besides its applications in basic biology and potential as a gene therapy, CRISPR had humbler beginnings. Industrially it was, albeit unknowingly, used to fend off infection in productions of yogurt batches. This was one of the earliest applications of CRISPR, however with the knowledge we now have ecological and industrial uses of CRISPR have multiplied. Gene drives have the power to spread genetic mutations throughout populations and agricultural uses to better crop genomes are also of interest. These uses have struck a chord with interest groups (environmentalists, anti-GMO groups, etc) who imagine how this technology can drastically alter species with unforeseen evolutionary changes that could reshape present-day ecosystems. This review will describe existing technologies that will safeguard humanity and its interests while fully employing CRISPRs far-reaching potentiality.

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2018-05

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Engineering Self-Organizing Biliary Organoids from Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

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Cholangiocytes, the epithelial cells of the bile duct, are the origin of cholangiopathies which often necessitate liver transplants. Current progress in generating functional biliary organoids show potential for modelling cholangiopathies and validating therapeutic drugs. Organoids by groups Ogawa et al.

Cholangiocytes, the epithelial cells of the bile duct, are the origin of cholangiopathies which often necessitate liver transplants. Current progress in generating functional biliary organoids show potential for modelling cholangiopathies and validating therapeutic drugs. Organoids by groups Ogawa et al. and Sampaziotis et al. utilize soluble molecule induction, OP9 co-culture, and three-dimensional culture to achieve self-organizing tissues which express mature cholangiocyte markers and show cholangiocyte functionality. This thesis describes our efforts to establish a standard for functional PSC-derived bile duct tissues. By directing cell fate and patterning through external cues alone, we were able to produce CK19+ALB+ hepatoblast-like cells. These soluble molecule-induced cells also expressed EpCAM and CEBPA, suggesting the presence of early liver epithelial cells. However, inconsistent results and high levels of cell death with soluble molecule induction in early stages of differentiation prompted the development of a combinatory differentiation method which utilized multiple differentiation tools. We opted to combine transcription-factor triggered differentiation with soluble molecule-mediated differentiation to produce early biliary cells with the potential to develop into mature cholangiocytes. By combining genetic engineering through the activation of doxycycline-inducible GATA6 switch and microbead-mediated CXCR4 separation, we generated patterned tissues which expressed early biliary markers, CD146, CK19, and SOX9. In the future, three-dimensional cell culture and OP9 co-culture could improve our current results by facilitating 3D cellular self-organization and promoting NOTCH signaling for cholangiocyte maturation. Next steps for this research include optimizing media formulations, tracking gene expression over time, and testing the functionality of generated tissues.

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2017-05

CRISPR/Cas9 Mediated Mutation in the ATP-ase Domain of XPB to Study its Role in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma

Description

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a form of pancreatic cancer that affects the exocrine function of the pancreas. PDAC is often hard to diagnose and has shown to also be as difficult to treat. Xeroderma pigmentosum type B (XPB), is

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a form of pancreatic cancer that affects the exocrine function of the pancreas. PDAC is often hard to diagnose and has shown to also be as difficult to treat. Xeroderma pigmentosum type B (XPB), is a protein can be found in Transcription Factor II Human (TFIIH). It is known to have ATP-ase and helicase activities. The ATP-ase activities could be used to regulate the transcription within super enhancer (SE) networks. Knocking out the ATP-ase activity in XPB in the same way that triptolide does would offer a more individualized therapeutic regiment. A loss of function mutation was tested to identify whether or not the mutation was present within the strand of DNA. In order to explore the role of XPB in pancreatic cancer, a knockout clone was made through the use of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology to induce a clone in exon 2 of XPB using a plasmid with Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) selection marker. Once the clones were successfully made, they underwent testing through the use of a Surveyor Mutation Detection Kit for standard electrophoresis. The confirmation of a functional clone lead to GFP, which contained the mutation, being chosen for further testing be compared to the wild type GFP. After the GFP D54H mutation was chosen for further testing, it was then cultured from bacteria and wild type GFP and GFP D54H underwent a restriction enzyme digest. The digest resulted in showing that GFP and GFP D54H were the same on a larger level, and that one of the only ways to prove that the mutation was present was through amplification and analysis using the mutation detection kit.

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2017-05

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Germ Cell Specific Safety Switches: Cell Isolation

Description

The process of spermatogenesis, the differentiation of sperm stem cells into spermatozoa, produces a diverse array of descendent cells which express varied morphological and genetic traits throughout their maturation. Beginning with primordial germ cells, these sperm progenitors experience twelve stages

The process of spermatogenesis, the differentiation of sperm stem cells into spermatozoa, produces a diverse array of descendent cells which express varied morphological and genetic traits throughout their maturation. Beginning with primordial germ cells, these sperm progenitors experience twelve stages of differentiation before maturation into their final stage. During their differentiation, these cells reside in the seminiferous tubules within the testes. These tubules are surrounded by somatic cells, primarily Sertoli, Leydig, myoid, and epithelial cells. These cells provide the germ cells with necessary signaling proteins for their progression as well as protection from exterior toxins through the formation of the blood-testis barrier (BTB). However, their close association with germ cells makes extracting these sperm progenitors difficult. Here, I convey the results for an initial trial of harvesting germ cells from two mice. Due to inconclusive qRT-PCR amplification data from the first experiment, future iterations of this harvest will explore other previously published methods. These will include Magnetic-Activated Cell Sorting which will target individual sperm progenitor populations using cell-surface receptors such as GFRα-1 and THY1 to obtain sperm stem cells. Additionally, Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorting may be useful for obtaining multiple groups of meiotic cell types from a heterogenous cell suspension harvested from the seminiferous tubules through the use of Hoechst 33342 staining. Finally, extraction of spermatozoa from the Cauda Epididymis, a storage site for these mature sperm, can be performed either in conjunction with testes collection during necropsy or as an in vivo technique intended for serial sampling of sperm cells over time. Regardless, it is necessary for these methods to produce populations from spermatogonia to spermatozoa with high purity in order to produce representative qRT-PCR results downstream, indicating either presence or lack of genetic mutation enacted by future CRISPR-Cas9 experiments.

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2019-05

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Expanding applications of portable biological systems: enhancements to mammalian gene editing and bacterial quorum sensing networks

Description

The portability of genetic tools from one organism to another is a cornerstone of synthetic biology. The shared biological language of DNA-to-RNA-to-protein allows for expression of polypeptide chains in phylogenetically distant organisms with little modification. The tools and contexts are

The portability of genetic tools from one organism to another is a cornerstone of synthetic biology. The shared biological language of DNA-to-RNA-to-protein allows for expression of polypeptide chains in phylogenetically distant organisms with little modification. The tools and contexts are diverse, ranging from catalytic RNAs in cell-free systems to bacterial proteins expressed in human cell lines, yet they exhibit an organizing principle: that genes and proteins may be treated as modular units that can be moved from their native organism to a novel one. However, protein behavior is always unpredictable; drop-in functionality is not guaranteed.

My work characterizes how two different classes of tools behave in new contexts and explores methods to improve their functionality: 1. CRISPR/Cas9 in human cells and 2. quorum sensing networks in Escherichia coli.

1. The genome-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 has facilitated easily targeted, effective, high throughput genome editing. However, Cas9 is a bacterially derived protein and its behavior in the complex microenvironment of the eukaryotic nucleus is not well understood. Using transgenic human cell lines, I found that gene-silencing heterochromatin impacts Cas9’s ability to bind and cut DNA in a site-specific manner and I investigated ways to improve CRISPR/Cas9 function in heterochromatin.

2. Bacteria use quorum sensing to monitor population density and regulate group behaviors such as virulence, motility, and biofilm formation. Homoserine lactone (HSL) quorum sensing networks are of particular interest to synthetic biologists because they can function as “wires” to connect multiple genetic circuits. However, only four of these networks have been widely implemented in engineered systems. I selected ten quorum sensing networks based on their HSL production profiles and confirmed their functionality in E. coli, significantly expanding the quorum sensing toolset available to synthetic biologists.

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2017

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Validating a novel CRISPR/Cas9 system for simultaneous gene modification and transcriptional regulation

Description

A novel clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated (CRISPR/Cas) tool for simultaneous gene editing and regulation was designed and tested. This study used the CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) endonuclease in complex with a 14-nucleotide (nt) guide RNA (gRNA) to repress

A novel clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated (CRISPR/Cas) tool for simultaneous gene editing and regulation was designed and tested. This study used the CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) endonuclease in complex with a 14-nucleotide (nt) guide RNA (gRNA) to repress a gene of interest using the Krüppel associated box (KRAB) domain, while also performing a separate gene modification using a 20-nt gRNA targeted to a reporter vector. DNA Ligase IV (LIGIV) was chosen as the target for gene repression, given its role in nonhomologous end joining, a common DNA repair process that competes with the more precise homology-directed repair (HDR).

To test for gene editing, a 20-nt gRNA was designed to target a disrupted enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) gene present in a reporter vector. After the gRNA introduced a double-stranded break, cells attempted to repair the cut site via HDR using a DNA template within the reporter vector. In the event of successful gene editing, the EGFP sequence was restored to a functional state and green fluorescence was detectable by flow cytometry. To achieve gene repression, a 14-nt gRNA was designed to target LIGIV. The gRNA included a com protein recruitment domain, which recruited a Com-KRAB fusion protein to facilitate gene repression via chromatin modification of LIGIV. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used to quantify repression.

This study expanded upon earlier advancements, offering a novel and versatile approach to genetic modification and transcriptional regulation using CRISPR/Cas9. The overall results show that both gene editing and repression were occurring, thereby providing support for a novel CRISPR/Cas system capable of simultaneous gene modification and regulation. Such a system may enhance the genome engineering capabilities of researchers, benefit disease research, and improve the precision with which gene editing is performed.

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2018

The Effect of GATA6 Expression and Its Neighborhood Impact Factor on Regulating Cell Fate

Description

A genetically engineered line of human induced pluripotent stem cells was used to study the effects of gene expression on cell fate. These cells were designed to activate expression of the gene GATA6 when exposed to the small molecule

A genetically engineered line of human induced pluripotent stem cells was used to study the effects of gene expression on cell fate. These cells were designed to activate expression of the gene GATA6 when exposed to the small molecule doxycycline. This gene was chosen because it plays an important role in the developmental biology stages of liver formation. Because of the way the cells were engineered, a given population would have a heterogeneous expression of GATA6 because each cell could have a different copy number of the exogenous gene. This variation allows for the differentiation of multiple cell types, and is used to grow liver organoids. The early liver organoid samples were studied via immunofluorescent staining, imaging, and quantitative image analysis. It was originally hypothesized that absolute gene expression was not the most important factor in determining cell fate, but relative gene expression was. This meant that the spatial location of the cells and their local environment were critical in determining cell fate. In other words, the level of GATA6 of a cell is important, but so is the level of GATA6 in the surrounding cells, or neighborhood, of that cell. This hypothesis was analyzed with the creation of various Neighborhood Impact Factor (NIF) methods. Multiple time points of growth were analyzed to study the temporal effect, in addition to the gene expression and NIF influence on a cell’s fate. Direct gene expression level showed correlation with certain cell fate markers. In addition to GATA6 expression levels, NIF results from early and late time point experiments show statistical significance with relatively small neighborhood radii. The NIF analysis was useful for examining the effect of neighboring cells and determining the size of the neighborhood – how far cells influence one another. While these systems are complex, the NIF analysis provides a way to look at gene expression and its influence in spatial context.

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2017

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Synthesis of Biological and Mathematical Methods for Gene Network Control

Description

Synthetic biology is an emerging field which melds genetics, molecular biology, network theory, and mathematical systems to understand, build, and predict gene network behavior. As an engineering discipline, developing a mathematical understanding of the genetic circuits being studied is of

Synthetic biology is an emerging field which melds genetics, molecular biology, network theory, and mathematical systems to understand, build, and predict gene network behavior. As an engineering discipline, developing a mathematical understanding of the genetic circuits being studied is of fundamental importance. In this dissertation, mathematical concepts for understanding, predicting, and controlling gene transcriptional networks are presented and applied to two synthetic gene network contexts. First, this engineering approach is used to improve the function of the guide ribonucleic acid (gRNA)-targeted, dCas9-regulated transcriptional cascades through analysis and targeted modification of the RNA transcript. In so doing, a fluorescent guide RNA (fgRNA) is developed to more clearly observe gRNA dynamics and aid design. It is shown that through careful optimization, RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) driven gRNA transcripts can be strong enough to exhibit measurable cascading behavior, previously only shown in RNA Polymerase III (Pol III) circuits. Second, inherent gene expression noise is used to achieve precise fractional differentiation of a population. Mathematical methods are employed to predict and understand the observed behavior, and metrics for analyzing and quantifying similar differentiation kinetics are presented. Through careful mathematical analysis and simulation, coupled with experimental data, two methods for achieving ratio control are presented, with the optimal schema for any application being dependent on the noisiness of the system under study. Together, these studies push the boundaries of gene network control, with potential applications in stem cell differentiation, therapeutics, and bio-production.

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Date Created
2018

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A rapid lipid-based approach for normalization of quantum dot-detected biomarker expression on extracellular vesicles in complex biological samples

Description

Extracellular Vesicles (EVs), particularly exosomes, are of considerable interest as tumor biomarkers since tumor-derived EVs contain a broad array of information about tumor pathophysiology including its metabolic and metastatic status. However, current EV based assays cannot distinguish between EV biomarker

Extracellular Vesicles (EVs), particularly exosomes, are of considerable interest as tumor biomarkers since tumor-derived EVs contain a broad array of information about tumor pathophysiology including its metabolic and metastatic status. However, current EV based assays cannot distinguish between EV biomarker changes by altered secretion of EVs during diseased conditions like cancer, inflammation, etc. that express a constant level of a given biomarker, stable secretion of EVs with altered biomarker expression, or a combination of these two factors. This issue was addressed by developing a nanoparticle and dye-based fluorescent immunoassay that can distinguish among these possibilities by normalizing EV biomarker level(s) to EV abundance, revealing average expression levels of EV biomarker under observation. In this approach, EVs are captured from complex samples (e.g. serum), stained with a lipophilic dye and hybridized with antibody-conjugated quantum dot probes for specific EV surface biomarkers. EV dye signal is used to quantify EV abundance and normalize EV surface biomarker expression levels. EVs from malignant (PANC-1) and nonmalignant pancreatic cell lines (HPNE) exhibited similar staining, and probe-to-dye ratios did not change with EV abundance, allowing direct analysis of normalized EV biomarker expression without a separate EV quantification step. This EV biomarker normalization approach markedly improved the ability of serum levels of two pancreatic cancer biomarkers, EV EpCAM, and EV EphA2, to discriminate pancreatic cancer patients from nonmalignant control subjects. The streamlined workflow and robust results of this assay are suitable for rapid translation to clinical applications and its flexible design permits it to be rapidly adapted to quantitate other EV biomarkers by the simple swapping of the antibody-conjugated quantum dot probes for those that recognize a different disease-specific EV biomarker utilizing a workflow that is suitable for rapid clinical translation.

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Date Created
2019