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1.  Correction: Extracellular Matrix Aggregates from Differentiating Embryoid Bodies as a Scaffold to Support ESC Proliferation and Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):10.1371/annotation/201f73d1-bf44-4528-b71c-b537aad520f3.
PMCID: PMC3810510  PMID: 24204510
2.  Extracellular Matrix Aggregates from Differentiating Embryoid Bodies as a Scaffold to Support ESC Proliferation and Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61856.
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have emerged as potential cell sources for tissue engineering and regeneration owing to its virtually unlimited replicative capacity and the potential to differentiate into a variety of cell types. Current differentiation strategies primarily involve various growth factor/inducer/repressor concoctions with less emphasis on the substrate. Developing biomaterials to promote stem cell proliferation and differentiation could aid in the realization of this goal. Extracellular matrix (ECM) components are important physiological regulators, and can provide cues to direct ESC expansion and differentiation. ECM undergoes constant remodeling with surrounding cells to accommodate specific developmental event. In this study, using ESC derived aggregates called embryoid bodies (EB) as a model, we characterized the biological nature of ECM in EB after exposure to different treatments: spontaneously differentiated and retinoic acid treated (denoted as SPT and RA, respectively). Next, we extracted this treatment-specific ECM by detergent decellularization methods (Triton X-100, DOC and SDS are compared). The resulting EB ECM scaffolds were seeded with undifferentiated ESCs using a novel cell seeding strategy, and the behavior of ESCs was studied. Our results showed that the optimized protocol efficiently removes cells while retaining crucial ECM and biochemical components. Decellularized ECM from SPT EB gave rise to a more favorable microenvironment for promoting ESC attachment, proliferation, and early differentiation, compared to native EB and decellularized ECM from RA EB. These findings suggest that various treatment conditions allow the formulation of unique ESC-ECM derived scaffolds to enhance ESC bioactivities, including proliferation and differentiation for tissue regeneration applications.
PMCID: PMC3630218  PMID: 23637919
3.  Early differentiation patterning of mouse embryonic stem cells in response to variations in alginate substrate stiffness 
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have been implicated to have tremendous impact in regenerative therapeutics of various diseases, including Type 1 Diabetes. Upon generation of functionally mature ESC derived islet-like cells, they need to be implanted into diabetic patients to restore the loss of islet activity. Encapsulation in alginate microcapsules is a promising route of implantation, which can protect the cells from the recipient’s immune system. While there has been a significant investigation into islet encapsulation over the past decade, the feasibility of encapsulation and differentiation of ESCs has been less explored. Research over the past few years has identified the cellular mechanical microenvironment to play a central role in phenotype commitment of stem cells. Therefore it will be important to design the encapsulation material to be supportive to cellular functionality and maturation.
This work investigated the effect of stiffness of alginate substrate on initial differentiation and phenotype commitment of murine ESCs. ESCs grown on alginate substrates tuned to similar biomechanical properties of native pancreatic tissue elicited both an enhanced and incrementally responsive differentiation towards endodermal lineage traits.
The insight into these biophysical phenomena found in this study can be used along with other cues to enhance the differentiation of embryonic stem cells toward a specific lineage fate.
PMCID: PMC3643844  PMID: 23570553
Diabetes; AFM; Pluripotent
4.  Analysis of alternative signaling pathways of endoderm induction of human embryonic stem cells identifies context specific differences 
BMC Systems Biology  2012;6:154.
Lineage specific differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) is largely mediated by specific growth factors and extracellular matrix molecules. Growth factors initiate a cascade of signals which control gene transcription and cell fate specification. There is a lot of interest in inducing hESCs to an endoderm fate which serves as a pathway towards more functional cell types like the pancreatic cells. Research over the past decade has established several robust pathways for deriving endoderm from hESCs, with the capability of further maturation. However, in our experience, the functional maturity of these endoderm derivatives, specifically to pancreatic lineage, largely depends on specific pathway of endoderm induction. Hence it will be of interest to understand the underlying mechanism mediating such induction and how it is translated to further maturation. In this work we analyze the regulatory interactions mediating different pathways of endoderm induction by identifying co-regulated transcription factors.
hESCs were induced towards endoderm using activin A and 4 different growth factors (FGF2 (F), BMP4 (B), PI3KI (P), and WNT3A (W)) and their combinations thereof, resulting in 15 total experimental conditions. At the end of differentiation each condition was analyzed by qRT-PCR for 12 relevant endoderm related transcription factors (TFs). As a first approach, we used hierarchical clustering to identify which growth factor combinations favor up-regulation of different genes. In the next step we identified sets of co-regulated transcription factors using a biclustering algorithm. The high variability of experimental data was addressed by integrating the biclustering formulation with bootstrap re-sampling to identify robust networks of co-regulated transcription factors. Our results show that the transition from early to late endoderm is favored by FGF2 as well as WNT3A treatments under high activin. However, induction of late endoderm markers is relatively favored by WNT3A under high activin.
Use of FGF2, WNT3A or PI3K inhibition with high activin A may serve well in definitive endoderm induction followed by WNT3A specific signaling to direct the definitive endoderm into late endodermal lineages. Other combinations, though still feasible for endoderm induction, appear less promising for pancreatic endoderm specification in our experiments.
PMCID: PMC3547704  PMID: 23241383
Human embryonic stem cells; Endoderm; Hierarchical clustering; Biclustering; Bootstrap
5.  An integer optimization algorithm for robust identification of non-linear gene regulatory networks 
BMC Systems Biology  2012;6:119.
Reverse engineering gene networks and identifying regulatory interactions are integral to understanding cellular decision making processes. Advancement in high throughput experimental techniques has initiated innovative data driven analysis of gene regulatory networks. However, inherent noise associated with biological systems requires numerous experimental replicates for reliable conclusions. Furthermore, evidence of robust algorithms directly exploiting basic biological traits are few. Such algorithms are expected to be efficient in their performance and robust in their prediction.
We have developed a network identification algorithm to accurately infer both the topology and strength of regulatory interactions from time series gene expression data in the presence of significant experimental noise and non-linear behavior. In this novel formulism, we have addressed data variability in biological systems by integrating network identification with the bootstrap resampling technique, hence predicting robust interactions from limited experimental replicates subjected to noise. Furthermore, we have incorporated non-linearity in gene dynamics using the S-system formulation. The basic network identification formulation exploits the trait of sparsity of biological interactions. Towards that, the identification algorithm is formulated as an integer-programming problem by introducing binary variables for each network component. The objective function is targeted to minimize the network connections subjected to the constraint of maximal agreement between the experimental and predicted gene dynamics. The developed algorithm is validated using both in silico and experimental data-sets. These studies show that the algorithm can accurately predict the topology and connection strength of the in silico networks, as quantified by high precision and recall, and small discrepancy between the actual and predicted kinetic parameters. Furthermore, in both the in silico and experimental case studies, the predicted gene expression profiles are in very close agreement with the dynamics of the input data.
Our integer programming algorithm effectively utilizes bootstrapping to identify robust gene regulatory networks from noisy, non-linear time-series gene expression data. With significant noise and non-linearities being inherent to biological systems, the present formulism, with the incorporation of network sparsity, is extremely relevant to gene regulatory networks, and while the formulation has been validated against in silico and E. Coli data, it can be applied to any biological system.
PMCID: PMC3444924  PMID: 22937832
Gene regulatory networks; Non-linear dynamics; S-system; Robust network identification; Bootstrapping; Integer programming; Optimization algorithm
6.  Analysis of Regulatory Network Involved in Mechanical Induction of Embryonic Stem Cell Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35700.
Embryonic stem cells are conventionally differentiated by modulating specific growth factors in the cell culture media. Recently the effect of cellular mechanical microenvironment in inducing phenotype specific differentiation has attracted considerable attention. We have shown the possibility of inducing endoderm differentiation by culturing the stem cells on fibrin substrates of specific stiffness [1]. Here, we analyze the regulatory network involved in such mechanically induced endoderm differentiation under two different experimental configurations of 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional culture, respectively. Mouse embryonic stem cells are differentiated on an array of substrates of varying mechanical properties and analyzed for relevant endoderm markers. The experimental data set is further analyzed for identification of co-regulated transcription factors across different substrate conditions using the technique of bi-clustering. Overlapped bi-clusters are identified following an optimization formulation, which is solved using an evolutionary algorithm. While typically such analysis is performed at the mean value of expression data across experimental repeats, the variability of stem cell systems reduces the confidence on such analysis of mean data. Bootstrapping technique is thus integrated with the bi-clustering algorithm to determine sets of robust bi-clusters, which is found to differ significantly from corresponding bi-clusters at the mean data value. Analysis of robust bi-clusters reveals an overall similar network interaction as has been reported for chemically induced endoderm or endodermal organs but with differences in patterning between 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional culture. Such analysis sheds light on the pathway of stem cell differentiation indicating the prospect of the two culture configurations for further maturation.
PMCID: PMC3338716  PMID: 22558203
7.  Population Based Model of Human Embryonic Stem Cell (hESC) Differentiation during Endoderm Induction 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32975.
The mechanisms by which human embryonic stem cells (hESC) differentiate to endodermal lineage have not been extensively studied. Mathematical models can aid in the identification of mechanistic information. In this work we use a population-based modeling approach to understand the mechanism of endoderm induction in hESC, performed experimentally with exposure to Activin A and Activin A supplemented with growth factors (basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF2) and bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4)). The differentiating cell population is analyzed daily for cellular growth, cell death, and expression of the endoderm proteins Sox17 and CXCR4. The stochastic model starts with a population of undifferentiated cells, wherefrom it evolves in time by assigning each cell a propensity to proliferate, die and differentiate using certain user defined rules. Twelve alternate mechanisms which might describe the observed dynamics were simulated, and an ensemble parameter estimation was performed on each mechanism. A comparison of the quality of agreement of experimental data with simulations for several competing mechanisms led to the identification of one which adequately describes the observed dynamics under both induction conditions. The results indicate that hESC commitment to endoderm occurs through an intermediate mesendoderm germ layer which further differentiates into mesoderm and endoderm, and that during induction proliferation of the endoderm germ layer is promoted. Furthermore, our model suggests that CXCR4 is expressed in mesendoderm and endoderm, but is not expressed in mesoderm. Comparison between the two induction conditions indicates that supplementing FGF2 and BMP4 to Activin A enhances the kinetics of differentiation than Activin A alone. This mechanistic information can aid in the derivation of functional, mature cells from their progenitors. While applied to initial endoderm commitment of hESC, the model is general enough to be applicable either to a system of adult stem cells or later stages of ESC differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3299713  PMID: 22427920
8.  An integer programming formulation to identify the sparse network architecture governing differentiation of embryonic stem cells 
Bioinformatics  2010;26(10):1332-1339.
Motivation: Primary purpose of modeling gene regulatory networks for developmental process is to reveal pathways governing the cellular differentiation to specific phenotypes. Knowledge of differentiation network will enable generation of desired cell fates by careful alteration of the governing network by adequate manipulation of cellular environment.
Results: We have developed a novel integer programming-based approach to reconstruct the underlying regulatory architecture of differentiating embryonic stem cells from discrete temporal gene expression data. The network reconstruction problem is formulated using inherent features of biological networks: (i) that of cascade architecture which enables treatment of the entire complex network as a set of interconnected modules and (ii) that of sparsity of interconnection between the transcription factors. The developed framework is applied to the system of embryonic stem cells differentiating towards pancreatic lineage. Experimentally determined expression profile dynamics of relevant transcription factors serve as the input to the network identification algorithm. The developed formulation accurately captures many of the known regulatory modes involved in pancreatic differentiation. The predictive capacity of the model is tested by simulating an in silico potential pathway of subsequent differentiation. The predicted pathway is experimentally verified by concurrent differentiation experiments. Experimental results agree well with model predictions, thereby illustrating the predictive accuracy of the proposed algorithm.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2865861  PMID: 20363729

Results 1-8 (8)