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1.  Mesenchymal stem cells engineered to express selectin ligands and IL-10 exert enhanced therapeutic efficacy in murine experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis 
Biomaterials  2015;77:87-97.
Systemic administration of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) affords the potential to ameliorate the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in both preclinical and clinical studies. However, the efficacy of MSC-based therapy for MS likely depends on the number of cells that home to inflamed tissues and on the controlled production of paracrine and immunomodulatory factors. Previously, we reported that engineered MSCs expressing P-selectin glycoprotein ligand-1 (PSGL-1) and Sialyl-Lewisx (SLeX) via mRNA transfection facilitated the targeted delivery of anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) to inflamed ear. Here, we evaluated whether targeted delivery of MSCs with triple PSGL1/SLeX/IL-10 engineering improves therapeutic outcomes in mouse experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a murine model for human MS. We found PSGL-1/SLeX mRNA transfection significantly enhanced MSC homing to the inflamed spinal cord. This is consistent with results from in vitro flow chamber assays in which PSGL-1/SleX mRNA transfection significantly increased the percentage of rolling and adherent cells on activated brain microvascular endothelial cells, which mimic the inflamed endothelium of blood brain/spinal cord barrier in EAE. In addition, IL-10-transfected MSCs show significant inhibitory activity on the proliferation of CD4+ T lymphocytes from EAE mice. In vivo treatment with MSCs engineered with PSGL-1/SLeX/IL-10 in EAE mice exhibited a superior therapeutic function over native (unmodified) MSCs, evidenced by significantly improved myelination and decreased lymphocytes infiltration into the white matter of the spinal cord. Our strategy of targeted delivery of performance-enhanced MSCs could potentially be utilized to increase the effectiveness of MSC-based therapy for MS and other central nervous system (CNS) disorders.
PMCID: PMC4684451  PMID: 26584349
Mesenchymal stem cell; MSC, Multiple sclerosis; mRNA transfection; Cell Homing; EAE
2.  Intramyocardial injection of hydrogel with high interstitial spread does not impact action potential propagation 
Acta biomaterialia  2015;26:13-22.
Injectable biomaterials have been evaluated as potential new therapies for myocardial infarction (MI) and heart failure. These materials have improved left ventricular (LV) geometry and ejection fraction, yet there remain concerns that biomaterial injection may create a substrate for arrhythmia. Since studies of this risk are lacking, we utilized optical mapping to assess the effects of biomaterial injection and interstitial spread on cardiac electrophysiology. Healthy and infarcted rat hearts were injected with a model poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogel with varying degrees of interstitial spread. Activation maps demonstrated delayed propagation of action potentials across the LV epicardium in the hydrogel-injected group when compared to saline and no-injection groups. However, the degree of the electrophysiological changes depended on the spread characteristics of the hydrogel, such that hearts injected with highly spread hydrogels showed no conduction abnormalities. Conversely, the results of this study indicate that injection of a hydrogel exhibiting minimal interstitial spread may create a substrate for arrhythmia shortly after injection by causing LV activation delays and reducing gap junction density at the site of injection. Thus, this work establishes site of delivery and interstitial spread characteristics as important factors in the future design and use of biomaterial therapies for MI treatment.
Graphical Abstract
PMCID: PMC4772723  PMID: 26265060
biomaterial; myocardial infarction; optical mapping; electrophysiology
3.  Delivery of an engineered HGF fragment in an extracellular matrix-derived hydrogel prevents negative LV remodeling post-myocardial infarction 
Biomaterials  2015;45:56-63.
Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) has been shown to have anti-fibrotic, pro-angiogenic, and cardioprotective effects; however, it is highly unstable and expensive to manufacture, hindering its clinical translation. Recently, a HGF fragment (HGF-f), an alternative c-MET agonist, was engineered to possess increased stability and recombinant expression yields. In this study, we assessed the potential of HGF-f, delivered in an extracellular matrix (ECM)-derived hydrogel, as a potential treatment for myocardial infarction (MI). HGF-f protected cardiomyocytes from serum-starvation and induced down-regulation of fibrotic markers in whole cardiac cell isolate compared to the untreated control. The ECM hydrogel prolonged release of HGF-f compared to collagen gels, and in vivo delivery of HGF-f from ECM hydrogels mitigated negative remodeling, improved fractional area change (FAC), and increased arteriole density in rat myocardial infarction model. These results indicate that HGF-f may be a viable alternative to using recombinant HGF, and that an ECM hydrogel can be employed to increase growth factor retention and efficacy.
PMCID: PMC4326250  PMID: 25662495
myocardial infarction; growth factor; extracellular matrix; decellularization; hydrogel
4.  Exogenous marker-engineered mesenchymal stem cells detect cancer and metastases in a simple blood assay 
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are adult multipotent stem cells that possess regenerative and immunomodulatory properties. They have been widely investigated as therapeutic agents for a variety of disease conditions, including tissue repair, inflammation, autoimmunity, and organ transplantation. Importantly, systemically infused MSCs selectively home to primary and metastatic tumors, though the molecular mechanisms of tumor tropism of MSCs remain incompletely understood. We have exploited the active and selective MSCs homing to cancer microenvironments to develop a rapid and selective blood test for the presence of cancer.
We tested the concept of using transplanted MSCs as the basis for a simple cancer blood test. MSCs were engineered to express humanized Gaussia luciferase (hGluc). In a minimally invasive fashion, hGluc secreted by MSCs into circulation as a reporter for cancer presence, was assayed to probe whether MSCs co-localize with and persist in cancerous tissue.
In vitro, hGluc secreted by engineered MSCs was detected stably over a period of days in the presence of serum. In vivo imaging showed that MSCs homed to breast cancer lung metastases and persisted longer in tumor-bearing mice than in tumor-free mice (P < 0.05). hGluc activity in blood of tumor-bearing mice was significantly higher than in their tumor-free counterparts (P < 0.05).
Both in vitro and in vivo data show that MSCs expressing hGluc can identify and report small tumors or metastases in a simple blood test format. Our novel and simple stem cell-based blood test can potentially be used to screen, detect, and monitor cancer and metastasis at early stages and during treatment.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13287-015-0151-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4578609  PMID: 26391980
5.  Both retention and recirculation contribute to long-lived regulatory T cell accumulation in the thymus 
European journal of immunology  2014;44(9):2712-2720.
Natural regulatory T cells (Tregs) acquire their lineage-determining transcription factor Foxp3 during development in the thymus and play an important role in maintaining immunologic tolerance. Here we analyzed the composition of the thymic Treg pool using RAG2-GFP/FoxP3-RFP dual reporter mice and found that a population of long-lived GFP− Tregs exists in the thymus. These long-lived Tregs substantially increased with age, to a point where these Tregs represent >90% of the total thymic Treg pool at 6 months of age. In contrast, long-lived conventional T cells remained at ~15% of the total thymic pool at 6 months of age. Consistent with these studies, we noticed that host-derived Tregs represented a large fraction (~10%) of the total thymic Treg pool in bone marrow chimeras, suggesting that long-lived Tregs also reside in the thymus of these mice. The pool of long-lived Tregs in the thymus was sustained by retention of Tregs in the thymus and by recirculation of peripheral Tregs back into the thymus. These long-lived Tregs were functionally similar to wildtype splenic Tregs, and were able to suppress T cell proliferation to an equivalent extent. Together, these data demonstrate that long-lived Tregs accumulate in the thymus by both retention and recirculation.
PMCID: PMC4177035  PMID: 24894919
Treg Cells; Thymus; Treg Homeostasis
6.  Losing TREC with age 
Immunity  2012;36(2):163-165.
PMCID: PMC4026262  PMID: 22365662
7.  Cinnamoyl-based Nrf2-Activators Targeting Human Skin Cell Photo-oxidative Stress 
Free radical biology & medicine  2008;45(4):385-395.
Strong experimental evidence suggests the involvement of photo-oxidative stress mediated by reactive oxygen species as a crucial mechanism of solar damage relevant to human skin photoaging and photocarcinogenesis. Based on the established role of antioxidant response element (ARE)-mediated gene expression in cancer chemoprevention, we tested the hypothesis that small molecule Nrf2-activators may serve a photo-chemopreventive role by targeting skin cell photo-oxidative stress. A luciferase-based reporter gene assay was used as a primary screen for the identification of novel agents that modulate the Nrf2-Keap1 signaling pathway. A series of cinnamoyl-based electrophilic Michael acceptors including cinnamic aldehyde and methyl-1-cinnamoyl-5-oxo-2-pyrrolidine-carboxylate was identified as potent Nrf2-activators. Hit confirmation was performed in a secondary screen, based on immunodetection of Nrf2 protein upregulation in human Hs27 skin fibroblasts, HaCaT keratinocytes, and primary skin keratinocytes. Bioefficacy profiling of positive test compounds in skin cells demonstrated compound-induced upregulation of hemeoxygenase I and NAD(P)H-quinone oxidoreductase, two Nrf2 target genes involved in the cellular antioxidant response. Pretreatment with cinnamoyl-based Nrf2-activators suppressed intracellular oxidative stress and protected against photo-oxidative induction of apoptosis in skin cells exposed to high doses of singlet oxygen. Our pilot studies suggest feasibility of developing cinnamoyl-based Nrf2-activators as novel photo-chemopreventive agents targeting skin cell photo-oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3710742  PMID: 18482591
Nrf2; skin cancer; photo-oxidative stress; photo-chemoprevention; Michael acceptor; cinnamic aldehyde; singlet oxygen
9.  Expression of Functional PSGL-1 on Hematopoietic Progenitors is Developmentally Regulated1 
T cell development requires periodic importation of hematopoietic progenitors into the thymus. The receptor-ligand pair P-selectin and P-selectin glycoprotein ligand 1 (PSGL-1) are critically involved in this process. In this study we examined the expression of functional PSGL-1 on BM hematopoietic progenitors. We demonstrate that functional PSGL-1 is expressed at low levels on hematopoietic stem cells, but upregulated on the cell surface of progenitors that bear other homing molecules known to be important for thymic settling. We found that progenitors able to home to the thymus expressed high levels of PSGL-1 transcripts compared to hematopoietic stem cells. We further demonstrate that hematopoietic progenitors lacking Fucosyltransferase 4 and 7 do not express functional PSGL-1, and do not home efficiently to the thymus. These studies provide insight into the developmentally regulated expression of a critical determinant involved in progenitor homing to the thymus.
PMCID: PMC3331963  PMID: 22461691
Hematopoiesis; T cells development; Thymus settling; PSGL-1
10.  The Anti-inflammatory TIPE2 Is an Inhibitor of the Oncogenic Ras 
Molecular Cell  2012;45(5):610-618.
The connection between cancer and inflammation is widely recognized; yet the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. We report here that TIPE2 provides a molecular bridge from inflammation to cancer by targeting the Ras signaling pathway. TIPE2 binds the Ras-interacting domain of the RalGDS family of proteins, which are essential effectors of activated Ras. This binding prevented Ras from forming an active complex, thereby inhibiting the activation of the downstream signaling molecules Ral and AKT. Consequently, TIPE2 deficiency led to heightened activation of Ral and AKT, resistance to cell death, increased migration, and dysregulation of exocyst complex formation. Conversely, TIPE2 overexpression induced cell death and significantly inhibited Ras-induced tumorigenesis in mice. Importantly, TIPE2 expression was either completely lost or significantly down-regulated in human hepatic cancer. Thus, TIPE2 is an inhibitor of both inflammation and cancer, and potential drug target for inflammatory and neoplastic diseases.
PMCID: PMC3299909  PMID: 22326055
Ras; apoptosis; oncogenesis; inflammation; cytoskeleton
11.  Behavioral and Neural Analysis of GABA in the Acquisition, Consolidation, Reconsolidation, and Extinction of Fear Memory 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2010;35(8):1625-1652.
The current review systematically documents the role of γ-amino-butyric acid (GABA) in different aspects of fear memory—acquisition and consolidation, reconsolidation, and extinction, and attempts to resolve apparent contradictions in the data in order to identify the function of GABAA receptors in fear memory. First, numerous studies have shown that pre- and post-training administration of drugs that facilitate GABAergic transmission disrupt the initial formation of fear memories, indicating a role for GABAA receptors, possibly within the amygdala and hippocampus, in the acquisition and consolidation of fear memories. Similarly, recent evidence indicates that these drugs are also detrimental to the restorage of fear memories after their reactivation. This suggests a role for GABAA receptors in the reconsolidation of fear memories, although the precise neural circuits are yet to be identified. Finally, research regarding the role of GABA in extinction has shown that GABAergic transmission is also disruptive to the formation of newly acquired extinction memories. We argue that contradictions to these patterns are the result of variations in (a) the location of drug infusion, (b) the dosage of the drug and/or (c) the time point of drug administration. The question of whether these GABA-induced memory deficits reflect deficits in retrieval is discussed. Overall, the evidence implies that the processes mediating memory stability consequent to initial fear learning, memory reactivation, and extinction training are dependent on a common mechanism of reduced GABAergic neurotransmission.
PMCID: PMC3055480  PMID: 20410874
GABA; fear; memory; extinction; consolidation; reconsolidation; GABA; Learning & Memory; Neurochemistry; Neuroanatomy; fear; acquisition; consolidation; reconsolidation; extinction
12.  Fusion of EML4 and ALK is associated with development of lung adenocarcinomas lacking EGFR and KRAS mutations and is correlated with ALK expression 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:188.
The anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene is frequently involved in translocations that lead to gene fusions in a variety of human malignancies, including lymphoma and lung cancer. Fusion partners of ALK include NPM, EML4, TPM3, ATIC, TFG, CARS, and CLTC. Characterization of ALK fusion patterns and their resulting clinicopathological profiles could be of great benefit in better understanding the biology of lung cancer.
RACE-coupled PCR sequencing was used to assess ALK fusions in a cohort of 103 non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) patients. Within this cohort, the EML4-ALK fusion gene was identified in 12 tumors (11.6%). Further analysis revealed that EML4-ALK was present at a frequency of 16.13% (10/62) in patients with adenocarcinomas, 19.23% (10/52) in never-smokers, and 42.80% (9/21) in patients with adenocarcinomas lacking EGFR and KRAS mutations. The EML4-ALK fusion was associated with non-smokers (P = 0.03), younger age of onset (P = 0.03), and adenocarcinomas without EGFR/KRAS mutations (P = 0.04). A trend towards improved survival was observed for patients with the EML4-ALK fusion, although it was not statistically significant (P = 0.20). Concurrent deletion in EGFR exon 19 and fusion of EML4-ALK was identified for the first time in a Chinese female patient with an adenocarcinoma. Analysis of ALK expression revealed that ALK mRNA levels were higher in tumors positive for the EML-ALK fusion than in negative tumors (normalized intensity of 21.99 vs. 0.45, respectively; P = 0.0018). However, expression of EML4 did not differ between the groups.
The EML4-ALK fusion gene was present at a high frequency in Chinese NSCLC patients, particularly in those with adenocarcinomas lacking EGFR/KRAS mutations. The EML4-ALK fusion appears to be tightly associated with ALK mRNA expression levels. RACE-coupled PCR sequencing is a highly sensitive method that could be used clinically for the identification of EML4-ALK-positive patients.
PMCID: PMC2908583  PMID: 20624322
13.  Controllable Microfluidic Synthesis of Multiphase Drug-Carrying Lipospheres for Site-Targeted Therapy 
Biotechnology progress  2009;25(4):938-945.
We report the production of micrometer-sized gas-filled lipospheres using digital microfluidics technology for chemotherapeutic drug delivery. Advantages of on-chip synthesis include a monodisperse size distribution (polydispersity index (σ) values of <5%) with consistent stability and uniform drug loading. Photolithography techniques are applied to fabricate novel PDMS-based microfluidic devices that feature a combined dual hydrodynamic flow-focusing region and expanding nozzle geometry with a narrow orifice. Spherical vehicles are formed through flow-focusing by the self-assembly of phospholipids to a lipid layer around the gas core, followed by a shear-induced break off at the orifice. The encapsulation of an extra oil layer between the outer lipid shell and inner bubble gaseous core allows the safe transport of highly hydrophobic and toxic drugs at high concentrations. Doxorubicin (Dox) entrapment is estimated at 15 mg mL−1 of particles packed in a single ordered layer. In addition, the attachment of targeting ligands to the lipid shell allows for direct vehicle binding to cancer cells. Preliminary acoustic studies of these monodisperse gas lipospheres reveal a highly uniform echo correlation of greater than 95%. The potential exists for localized drug concentration and release with ultrasound energy.
PMCID: PMC2782552  PMID: 19455647
14.  Nrf2 enhances resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic drugs, the dark side of Nrf2 
Carcinogenesis  2008;29(6):1235-1243.
Drug resistance during chemotherapy is the major obstacle to the successful treatment of many cancers. Here, we report that inhibition of NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) may be a promising strategy to combat chemoresistance. Nrf2 is a critical transcription factor regulating a cellular protective response that defends cells against toxic insults from a broad spectrum of chemicals. Under normal conditions, the low constitutive amount of Nrf2 protein is maintained by the Kelch-like ECH-associated protein1 (Keap1)-mediated ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation system. Upon activation, this Keap1-dependent Nrf2 degradation mechanism is quickly inactivated, resulting in accumulation and activation of the antioxidant response element (ARE)-dependent cytoprotective genes. Since its discovery, Nrf2 has been viewed as a ‘good’ transcription factor that protects us from many diseases. In this study, we demonstrate the dark side of Nrf2: stable overexpression of Nrf2 resulted in enhanced resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents including cisplatin, doxorubicin and etoposide. Inversely, downregulation of the Nrf2-dependent response by overexpression of Keap1 or transient transfection of Nrf2–small interfering RNA (siRNA) rendered cancer cells more susceptible to these drugs. Upregulation of Nrf2 by the small chemical tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) also enhanced the resistance of cancer cells, indicating the feasibility of using small chemical inhibitors of Nrf2 as adjuvants to chemotherapy to increase the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents. Furthermore, we provide evidence that the strategy of using Nrf2 inhibitors to increase efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents is not limited to certain cancer types or anticancer drugs and thus can be applied during the course of chemotherapy to treat many cancer types.
PMCID: PMC3312612  PMID: 18413364
15.  Keap1 Controls Postinduction Repression of the Nrf2-Mediated Antioxidant Response by Escorting Nuclear Export of Nrf2▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(18):6334-6349.
The transcription factor Nrf2 regulates cellular redox homeostasis. Under basal conditions, Keap1 recruits Nrf2 into the Cul3-containing E3 ubiquitin ligase complex for ubiquitin conjugation and subsequent proteasomal degradation. Oxidative stress triggers activation of Nrf2 through inhibition of E3 ubiquitin ligase activity, resulting in increased levels of Nrf2 and transcriptional activation of Nrf2-dependent genes. In this study, we identify Keap1 as a key postinduction repressor of Nrf2 and demonstrate that a nuclear export sequence (NES) in Keap1 is required for termination of Nrf2-antioxidant response element (ARE) signaling by escorting nuclear export of Nrf2. We provide evidence that ubiquitination of Nrf2 is carried out in the cytosol. Furthermore, we show that Keap1 nuclear translocation is independent of Nrf2 and the Nrf2-Keap1 complex does not bind the ARE. Collectively, our results suggest the following mechanism of postinduction repression: upon recovery of cellular redox homeostasis, Keap1 translocates into the nucleus to dissociate Nrf2 from the ARE. The Nrf2-Keap1 complex is then transported out of the nucleus by the NES in Keap1. Once in the cytoplasm, the Keap1-Nrf2 complex associates with the E3 ubiquitin ligase, resulting in degradation of Nrf2 and termination of the Nrf2 signaling pathway. Hence, postinduction repression of the Nrf2-mediated antioxidant response is controlled by the nuclear export function of Keap1 in alliance with the cytoplasmic ubiquitination and degradation machinery.
PMCID: PMC2099624  PMID: 17636022

Results 1-15 (15)