Pluripotent stem cells can differentiate into nearly all types of cells in the body. This unique potential provides significant promise for cell-based therapies to restore tissues or organs destroyed by injuries, degenerative diseases, aging, or cancer. The discovery of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology offers a possible strategy to generate patient-specific pluripotent stem cells. However, because of concerns about the specificity, efficiency, kinetics, and safety of iPSC reprogramming, improvements or fundamental changes in this process are required before their effective clinical use. A chemical approach is regarded as a promising strategy to improve and change the iPSC process. Dozens of small molecules have been identified that can functionally replace reprogramming factors and significantly improve iPSC reprogramming. In addition to the prospect of deriving patient-specific tissues and organs from iPSCs, another attractive strategy for regenerative medicine is transdifferentiation—the direct conversion of one somatic cell type to another. Recent studies revealed a new paradigm of transdifferentiation: using transcription factors (TFs) employed in iPSC generation to induce transdifferentiation, or iPSC TF-based transdifferentiation. This transdifferentiation not only reveals and utilizes the developmentally plastic intermediates generated during iPSC reprogramming, but also produces a very wide range of cells, including expandable tissue-specific precursor cells. Here, we review recent progress of small-molecule approaches in the generation of iPSCs. In addition, we summarize the new concept of iPSC TF–based transdifferentiation and discuss its application in generating various lineage-specific cells, especially cardiovascular cells.
Reprogramming; iPSC; small molecule; transdifferentiation and cardiovascular cell
Stem cells, including both pluripotent stem cells and multipotent somatic stem cells, hold great potential for interrogating the mechanisms of tissue development, homeostasis and pathology, and for treating numerous devastating diseases. Establishment of in vitro platforms to faithfully maintain and precisely manipulate stem cell fates is essential to understand the basic mechanisms of stem cell biology, and to translate stem cells into regenerative medicine. Chemical approaches have recently provided a number of small molecules that can be used to control cell self-renewal, lineage differentiation, reprogramming and regeneration. These chemical modulators have been proven to be versatile tools for probing stem cell biology and manipulating cell fates toward desired outcomes. Ultimately, this strategy is promising to be a new frontier for drug development aimed at endogenous stem cell modulation.
small molecules; stem cells; self-renewal; differentiation
Transient receptor potential (TRP) channels are a large family of cation channels. The 28 TRP channel subtypes in rodent are divided into 6 subfamilies: TRPC1-7, TRPV1-6, TRPM1-8, TRPP2/3/5, TRPML1-3 and TRPA1. TRP channels are involved in peripheral olfactory transduction. Several TRPC channels are expressed in unidentified neurons in the main olfactory bulb (OB), but the expression of most TRP channels in the OB has not been investigated. The present study employed RT-PCR as an initial survey of the expression of channel mRNAs in the mouse OB and in 3 cell types: external tufted, mitral and granule cells. All TRP channel mRNAs except TRPV5 were detected in OB tissue. Single cell RT-PCR revealed that external tufted, mitral and granule cell populations expressed in aggregate 14 TRP channel mRNAs encompassing members of all 6 subfamilies. These different OB neuron populations expressed 7 to 12 channel mRNAs. Common channel expression was more similar among external tufted and mitral cells than among these cells and granule cells. These results indicate that a large number of TRP channel subtypes are expressed in OB neurons, providing the molecular bases for these channels to regulate OB neuron activity and central olfactory processing.
transient receptor potential (TRP) channel; olfactory bulb; external tufted cell; mitral cell; granule cell; RT-PCR
The discovery that somatic cells can be reprogrammed to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) by the expression of a few transcription factors has attracted enormous interest in biomedical research and the field of regenerative medicine. iPSCs nearly identically resemble embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and can give rise to all cell types in the body, and thus have opened new opportunities for personalized regenerative medicine and new ways of modeling human diseases. Although some studies have raised concerns about genomic stability and epigenetic memory in the resulting cells, better understanding and control of the reprogramming process should enable enhanced efficiency and higher fidelity in reprogramming. Therefore, small molecules regulating reprogramming mechanisms are valuable tools to probe the process of reprogremming and harness cell fate transitions for various applications.
This work summarizes recent progress in the use of small molecules for the expansion and generation of desirable lineage-restricted stem and progenitor cells in vitro and for selectively controlling cell fate of lineage-restricted stem and progenitor cells in vivo, thereby facilitating stem cell-based clinical applications. All of the examples listed suggest that small molecules can be used to facilitate the generation and expansion of desirable lineage-restricted stem and progenitor cells for various purposes, and selectively control the differentiation of lineage-restricted stem and progenitor cells in vitro and in vivo for therapeutics purposes.
Generation and manipulation of lineage-restricted stem and progenitor cells in vitro and/or in vivo are critical for the development of stem cell-based clinical therapeutics. Lineage-restricted stem and progenitor cells have many advantageous qualities, including being able to efficiently engraft and differentiate into desirable cell types in vivo after transplantation, and they are much less tumorigenic than pluripotent cells. Generation of lineage-restricted stem and progenitor cells can be achieved by directed differentiation from pluripotent stem cells or lineage conversion from easily obtained somatic cells. Small molecules can be very helpful in these processes since they offer several important benefits. For example, the risk of tumorigenesis is greatly reduced when small molecules are used to replace integrated transcription factors, which are widely used in cell fate conversion. Furthermore, small molecules are relatively easy to apply, optimize, and manufacture, and they can more readily be developed into conventional pharmaceuticals. Alternatively, small molecules can be used to expand or selectively control the differentiation of lineage-restricted stem and progenitor cells for desirable therapeutics purposes in vitro or in vivo. Here we summarize recent progress in the use of small molecules for the expansion and generation of desirable lineage-restricted stem and progenitor cells in vitro and for selectively controlling cell fate of lineage-restricted stem and progenitor cells in vivo, thereby facilitating stem cell-based clinical applications.
Stem/progenitor cell; Differentiation; Hematopoietic stem cells; Neural stem cell; Stem cell expansion; T cell; Induced pluripotent stem cells; Mesenchymal stem cells; Self-renewal; Cell fate conversion
Induced pluripotent stem cell technology has attracted enormous interests for potential application in regenerative medicine. Here, we reported that a specific glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3) inhibitor, CHIR99021, can induce the reprogramming of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) transduced by only Oct4 and Klf4 two factors. When combined with Parnate (also named tranylcypromine), an inhibitor of lysine-specific demethylase 1, CHIR99021 can result in the reprogramming of human primary keratinocyte transducted with Oct4 and Klf4 two factors. To our knowledge, this is the first time to generate human iPS cells from somatic cells without exogenous Sox2 expression. Our studies suggest that the GSK-3 inhibitor might have a general application to replace transcription factors in both mouse and human reprogramming.
There have been no reports in the literature of esophageal rupture in adults resulting from an explosion of an automobile tire. We report the first case of just such an occurrence after an individual bit into a tire, causing it to explode in his mouth.
A 47-year-old Han Chinese man presented with massive hemorrhage in his left eye after he accidentally bit an automobile tire tube which burst into his mouth. He was diagnosed with esophageal rupture based on a chest computed tomography scan and barium swallow examination. Drainage of empyema (right chest), removal of thoracic esophagus, exposure of cervical esophagus, cardiac ligation and gastrostomy were performed respectively. After that, esophagogastrostomy was performed.
Successful anastomosis was obtained at the neck with no postoperative complications 3 months after the surgery. The patient was discharged with satisfactory outcomes. We present this case report to bring attention to esophageal rupture in adults during the explosion of an automobile tire tube in the mouth.
Automobile tire tube; Esophageal rupture; Esophagogastrostomy; Explosion
Direct reprogramming of adult somatic cells into alternative cell types has been shown for several lineages. We previously showed that GATA4, MEF2C, and TBX5 (GMT) directly reprogrammed nonmyocyte mouse heart cells into induced cardiomyocyte-like cells (iCMs) in vitro and in vivo. However, GMT alone appears insufficient in human fibroblasts, at least in vitro. Here, we show that GMT plus ESRRG and MESP1 induced global cardiac gene-expression and phenotypic shifts in human fibroblasts derived from embryonic stem cells, fetal heart, and neonatal skin. Adding Myocardin and ZFPM2 enhanced reprogramming, including sarcomere formation, calcium transients, and action potentials, although the efficiency remained low. Human iCM reprogramming was epigenetically stable. Furthermore, we found that transforming growth factor β signaling was important for, and improved the efficiency of, human iCM reprogramming. These findings demonstrate that human fibroblasts can be directly reprogrammed toward the cardiac lineage, and lay the foundation for future refinements in vitro and in vivo.
•Human fibroblasts can be directly induced toward a CM-like state by defined factors•Reprogramming of fibroblasts toward a CM state is epigenetically stable•Human and mouse in vitro iCMs display a comparable gene-expression shift•TGF-β signaling is important for human iCM reprogramming
Cardiac hypertrophy is a response of the myocardium to increased workload and is characterised by an increase of myocardial mass and an accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM). As an ECM protein, an integrin ligand, and an angiogenesis inhibitor, all of which are key players in cardiac hypertrophy, mindin is an attractive target for therapeutic intervention to treat or prevent cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure. In this study, we investigated the role of mindin in cardiac hypertrophy using littermate Mindin knockout (Mindin−/−) and wild-type (WT) mice. Cardiac hypertrophy was induced by aortic banding (AB) or angiotensin II (Ang II) infusion in Mindin−/− and WT mice. The extent of cardiac hypertrophy was quantitated by echocardiography and by pathological and molecular analyses of heart samples. Mindin−/− mice were more susceptible to cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis in response to AB or Ang II stimulation than wild type. Cardiac function was also markedly exacerbated during both systole and diastole in Mindin−/− mice in response to hypertrophic stimuli. Western blot assays further showed that the activation of AKT/glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) signalling in response to hypertrophic stimuli was significantly increased in Mindin−/− mice. Moreover, blocking AKT/GSK3β signalling with a pharmacological AKT inhibitor reversed cardiac abnormalities in Mindin−/− mice. Our data show that mindin, as an intrinsic cardioprotective factor, prevents maladaptive remodelling and the transition to heart failure by blocking AKT/GSK3β signalling.
Mindin; Hypertrophy; Remodelling; Signal transduction; AKT
The slow kinetics and low efficiency of reprogramming methods to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) impose major limitations on their utility in biomedical applications. Here we describe a chemical approach that dramatically improves (>200 fold) the efficiency of iPSC generation from human fibroblasts, within seven days of treatment. This will provide a basis for developing safer, more efficient, non-viral methods for reprogramming human somatic cells.
Retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) autologous grafts can be readily derived from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. It is critical to stringently characterize iPS-RPE using standardized and quantifiable methods to be confident that they are safe and adequate replacements for diseased RPE before utilizing them in clinical settings. One important and required function is that the iPS-RPE phagocytose photoreceptor outer segments (POS).
We developed a flow cytometry-based assay to monitor binding and internalization of FITC labeled POS by ARPE-19, human fetal RPE (hfRPE), and two types of iPS-RPE. Expression and density of αvβ5 integrin, CD36, and MerTK receptors, which are required for phagocytosis, were compared.
Trypsinization of treated RPE cells results in the release of bound POS. The number of freed POS, the percentage of cells that internalized POS, the brightness of the FITC signal from the cells, and the surface density of the phagocytosis receptors on single RPE cells were measured using flow cytometry. These assays reveal that receptor density is dynamic during differentiation and this can affect the binding and internalization dynamics of the RPE cells. Highly differentiated iPS-RPE phagocytose POS more efficiently than hfRPE.
Caution should be exercised to not use RPE grafts until demonstrating that they are fully functional. The density of the phagocytosis receptors is dynamic and may be used as a predictor for how well the iPS-RPE cells will function in vivo. The phagocytosis dynamics observed between iPS-RPE and primary RPE is very encouraging and adds to mounting evidence that iPS-RPE may be a viable replacement for dysfunctional or dying RPE in human patients.
In this manuscript, we describe the development and application of a novel, rapid, and quantitative flow cytometry-based assay to assess photoreceptor outer segment phagocytosis by retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells in vitro and have used it to evaluate and compare human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell-derived RPE cells with ARPE-19 and human fetal RPE.
Autologous retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) grafts derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) may be used to cure blinding diseases in which RPE dysfunction results in photoreceptor degeneration. Four, two, and one factor-derived iPS (4F-, 2F-, and 1F-iPSCs, respectively) were differentiated into fully functional cuboidal shaped pigmented cells in polarized monolayers that express RPE-specific markers. 1F-iPS-RPE strongly resemble primary human fetal RPE (hfRPE) based on proteomic and untargeted metabolomic analyses, and, utilizing novel in vivo imaging technology coupled with electroretinography, we demonstrate that 1F-iPS-RPE mediate anatomical and functional rescue of photoreceptors after transplantation in an animal model of RPE-mediated retinal degeneration. 1F-iPS-RPE cells were injected subretinally as a suspension and formed a monolayer dispersed between host RPE cells. Furthermore, 1F-iPS-RPE do not simply provide trophic support to rescue photoreceptors as previously speculated, but actually phagocytose photoreceptor outer segments in vivo and restore visual cycling (based on high-resolution mass spectrometry based detection of recycled photoreceptor protein and lipid end products and electron microscopic analysis). Thus, 1F-iPS-RPE grafts may be superior to conventional iPS-RPE for clinical use since 1F-iPS-RPE closely resemble hfRPE, mediate anatomical and functional photoreceptor rescue in vivo and are generated using a reduced number of potentially oncogenic reprogramming factors.
Retinal pigment epithelium; induced pluripotent stem cells; differentiation; small molecules
Autologous retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) grafts derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) may be used to cure blinding diseases in which RPE dysfunction results in photoreceptor degeneration. Four-, two-, and one-factor-derived iPSCs (4F-, 2F-, and 1F-iPSCs, respectively) were differentiated into fully functional cuboidal pigmented cells in polarized monolayers that express RPE-specific markers. 1F-iPSC-RPE (1F-iPS-RPE) strongly resembles primary human fetal RPE (hfRPE) based on proteomic and untargeted metabolomic analyses, and using novel in vivo imaging technology coupled with electroretinography, we demonstrated that 1F-iPS-RPE mediate anatomical and functional rescue of photoreceptors after transplantation in an animal model of RPE-mediated retinal degeneration. 1F-iPS-RPE cells were injected subretinally as a suspension and formed a monolayer dispersed between host RPE cells. Furthermore, 1F-iPS-RPE do not simply provide trophic support to rescue photoreceptors as previously speculated but actually phagocytose photoreceptor outer segments in vivo and maintain visual cycling. Thus, 1F-iPS-RPE grafts may be superior to conventional iPS-RPE for clinical use because 1F-iPS-RPE closely resemble hfRPE, mediate anatomical and functional photoreceptor rescue in vivo, and are generated using a reduced number of potentially oncogenic reprogramming factors.
Retina; Induced pluripotent stem cells; Differentiation; Small molecules; Stem cell transplantation; Aging
The advances in stem cell biology hold a great potential to treat retinal degeneration. Importantly, specific cell types can be generated efficiently with small molecules and maintained stably over numerous passages. Here, we investigated whether neural stem cell (NSC) derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESC) by small molecules can preserve vision following grafting into the Royal College Surgeon (RCS) rats; a model for retinal degeneration.
A cell suspension containing 3 × 104 NSCs or NSCs labeled with green fluorescent protein (GFP) was injected into the subretinal space or the vitreous cavity of RCS rats at postnatal day (P) 22; animals injected with cell-carry medium and those left untreated were used as controls. The efficacy of treatment was evaluated by testing optokinetic response, recording luminance threshold, and examining retinal histology.
NSCs offered significant preservation of both photoreceptors and visual function. The grafted NSCs survived for long term without evidence of tumor formation. Functionally, NSC treated eyes had significantly better visual acuity and lower luminance threshold than controls. Morphologically, photoreceptors and retinal connections were well preserved. There was an increase in expression of cillary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) in Müller cells in the graft-protected retina.
This study reveals that NSCs derived from hESC by small molecules can survive and preserve vision for long term following subretinal transplantation in the RCS rats. These cells migrate extensively in the subretinal space and inner retina; there is no evidence of tumor formation or unwanted changes after grafting into the eyes.
The NSCs derived from hESC by small molecules can be generated efficiently and provide an unlimited supply of cells for the treatment of some forms of human outer retinal degenerative diseases. The capacity of NSCs migrating into inner retina offers a potential as a vehicle to delivery drugs/factors to treat inner retinal disorders.
neural stem cells; small molecules; retinal degeneration; visual function
Small molecules have been playing important roles in elucidating basic biology and treatment of a vast number of diseases for nearly a century, making their use in the field of stem cell biology a comparatively recent phenomenon. Nonetheless, the power of biology-oriented chemical design and synthesis, coupled with significant advances in screening technology, has enabled the discovery of a growing number of small molecules that have improved our understanding of stem cell biology and allowed us to manipulate stem cells in unprecedented ways. This review focuses on recent small molecule studies of (i) the key pathways governing stem cell homeostasis, (ii) the pluripotent stem cell niche, (iii) the directed differentiation of stem cells, (iv) the biology of adult stem cells, and (v) somatic cell reprogramming. In a very short period of time, small molecules have defined a perhaps universally attainable naive ground state of pluripotency, and are facilitating the precise, rapid and efficient differentiation of stem cells into somatic cell populations relevant to the clinic. Finally, following the publication of numerous groundbreaking studies at a pace and consistency unusual for a young field, we are closer than ever to completely eliminating the need for genetic modification in reprogramming.
small molecules; stem cells; signalling; metabolites; reprogramming; transdifferentiation
Prolyl 4-hydroxylases are ascorbate-dependent oxygenases that play key roles in a variety of eukaryotic biological processes including oxygen sensing, siRNA regulation, and collagen folding. They perform their functions by catalyzing the post-translational hydroxylation of specific proline residues on target proteins to form (2S,4R)-4-hydroxyproline. Thus far, our ability to study these post-translational modifications has been limited by the lack of a prokaryotic recombinant expression system for producing hydroxylated proteins. By introducing a biosynthetic shunt to produce ascorbate-like molecules in Eschericia coli cells that heterologously express human prolyl 4-hydroxylase (P4H), we have created a strain of Escherichia coli that produces collagenous proteins with high levels of (2S,4R)-4-hydroxyproline. Using this new system, we have observed hydroxylation patterns indicative of a processive catalytic mode for P4H that is active even in the absence of ascorbate. Our results provide insights into P4H enzymology, and create a foundation for better understanding how post-translational hydroxylation affects proteins.
Monodisperse protein polymers engineered by biosynthetic techniques are well suited to serve as a basis for creating comb-like polymer architectures for biomaterial applications. We have developed a new class of linear, cationic, random-coil protein polymers designed to act as scaffolds for multivalent display. These polymers contain evenly spaced lysine residues that allow for chemical or enzymatic conjugation of pendant functional groups. Circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy and turbidity experiments have confirmed that these proteins have a random coil structure and are soluble up to at least 65 °C. Cell viability assays suggest these constructs are non-toxic in solution up to a concentration of 100 μM. We have successfully attached a small bioactive peptide, a peptoid-peptide hybrid, a poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) polymer, and a fluorophore to the protein polymers by chemical or enzymatic coupling, demonstrating their suitability to serve as multivalent scaffolds in solutions or as gels.
Protein polymer; genetic engineering; multivalent scaffold; tissue transglutaminase
Biomaterials that mimic the extracellular matrix in both modularity and crosslinking chemistry have the potential to recapitulate the instructive signals that ultimately control cell fate. Toward this goal, modular protein polymer-based hydrogels were created through genetic engineering and enzymatic crosslinking. Animal derived tissue transglutaminase (tTG) and recombinant human transglutaminase (hTG) enzymes were used for coupling two classes of protein polymers containing either lysine or glutamine, which have the recognition substrates for enzymatic crosslinking, evenly spaced along the protein backbone. Utilizing tTG under physiological conditions, crosslinking occurred within two minutes, as determined by particle tracking microrheology. Hydrogel composition impacted the elastic storage modulus of the gel over 4-fold and also influenced microstructure and degree of swelling, but did not appreciably effect degradation by plasmin. Mouse 3T3 and primary human fibroblasts were cultured in both 2- and 3-dimensions without a decrease in cell viability and displayed spreading in 2D. The properties of these gels, which are controlled through the specific nature of the protein polymer precursors, render these gels valuable for in situ therapies. Furthermore, the modular hydrogel composition allows tailoring of mechanical and physical properties for specific tissue engineering applications.
Diabetic wounds remain a major medical challenge with often disappointing outcomes despite the best available care. An impaired response to tissue hypoxia and insufficient angiogenesis are major factors responsible for poor healing in diabetic wounds. Here we show that the antimycotic drug ciclopirox olamine (CPX) can induce therapeutic angiogenesis in diabetic wounds. Treatment with CPX in vitro led to upregulation of multiple angiogenic genes and increased availability of HIF-1α. Using an excisional wound splinting model in diabetic mice, we showed that serial topical treatment with CPX enhanced wound healing compared to vehicle control treatment, with significantly accelerated wound closure, increased angiogenesis, and increased dermal cellularity. These findings offer a promising new topical pharmacologic therapy for the treatment of diabetic wounds.
Somatic cells can be reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) by defined factors. The low efficiency of reprogramming and genomic integration of oncogenes and viral vectors limited the potential application of iPSCs. Here we report that Lithium (Li), a drug used to treat mood disorders, greatly enhances iPSC generation from both mouse embryonic fibroblast and human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Li facilitates iPSC generation with one (Oct4) or two factors (OS or OK). The effect of Li on promoting reprogramming only partially depends on its major target GSK3β. Unlike other GSK3β inhibitors, Li not only increases the expression of Nanog, but also enhances the transcriptional activity of Nanog. We also found that Li exerts its effect by promoting epigenetic modifications via downregulation of LSD1, a H3K4-specific histone demethylase. Knocking down LSD1 partially mimics Li's effect in enhancing reprogramming. Our results not only provide a straightforward method to improve the iPSC generation efficiency, but also identified a histone demethylase as a critical modulator for somatic cell reprogramming.
lithium; induced pluripotent stem cells; iPS; GSK3β; Nanog; LSD1; histone demethylase