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by Keyword: Extracellular matrix

Marhuenda, E, Villarino, A, Narciso, M, Elowsson, L, Almendros, I, Westergren-Thorsson, G, Farre, R, Gavara, N, Otero, J, (2022). Development of a physiomimetic model of acute respiratory distress syndrome by using ECM hydrogels and organ-on-a-chip devices Frontiers In Pharmacology 13, 945134

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome is one of the more common fatal complications in COVID-19, characterized by a highly aberrant inflammatory response. Pre-clinical models to study the effect of cell therapy and anti-inflammatory treatments have not comprehensively reproduced the disease due to its high complexity. This work presents a novel physiomimetic in vitro model for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome using lung extracellular matrix-derived hydrogels and organ-on-a-chip devices. Monolayres of primary alveolar epithelial cells were cultured on top of decellullarized lung hydrogels containing primary lung mesenchymal stromal cells. Then, cyclic stretch was applied to mimic breathing, and an inflammatory response was induced by using a bacteriotoxin hit. Having simulated the inflamed breathing lung environment, we assessed the effect of an anti-inflammatory drug (i.e., dexamethasone) by studying the secretion of the most relevant inflammatory cytokines. To better identify key players in our model, the impact of the individual factors (cyclic stretch, decellularized lung hydrogel scaffold, and the presence of mesenchymal stromal cells) was studied separately. Results showed that developed model presented a more reduced inflammatory response than traditional models, which is in line with what is expected from the response commonly observed in patients. Further, from the individual analysis of the different stimuli, it was observed that the use of extracellular matrix hydrogels obtained from decellularized lungs had the most significant impact on the change of the inflammatory response. The developed model then opens the door for further in vitro studies with a better-adjusted response to the inflammatory hit and more robust results in the test of different drugs or cell therapy.

JTD Keywords: Acute lung injury, Alveolar epithelial cells, Ards, Dexamethasone, Epithelial-mesenchymal transition, Extracellular matrix, Extracellular-matrix, Hydrogels, Inflammation, Lung-on-a-chip, Mesenchymal stromal cells, Oxygen, Stem-cells


Marhuenda, Esther, Villarino, Alvaro, Narciso, Maria Leonor, Camprubí-Rimblas, Marta, Farré, Ramon, Gavara, Núria, Artigas, Antonio, Almendros, Isaac, Otero, Jorge, (2022). Lung Extracellular Matrix Hydrogels Enhance Preservation of Type II Phenotype in Primary Alveolar Epithelial Cells International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 4888

One of the main limitations of in vitro studies on lung diseases is the difficulty of maintaining the type II phenotype of alveolar epithelial cells in culture. This fact has previously been related to the translocation of the mechanosensing Yes-associated protein (YAP) to the nuclei and Rho signaling pathway. In this work, we aimed to culture and subculture primary alveolar type II cells on extracellular matrix lung-derived hydrogels to assess their suitability for phenotype maintenance. Cells cultured on lung hydrogels formed monolayers and maintained type II phenotype for a longer time as compared with those conventionally cultured. Interestingly, cells successfully grew when they were subsequently cultured on a dish. Moreover, cells cultured on a plate showed the active form of the YAP protein and the formation of stress fibers and focal adhesions. The results of chemically inhibiting the Rho pathway strongly suggest that this is one of the mechanisms by which the hydrogel promotes type II phenotype maintenance. These results regarding protein expression strongly suggest that the chemical and biophysical properties of the hydrogel have a considerable impact on the transition from ATII to ATI phenotypes. In conclusion, culturing primary alveolar epithelial cells on lung ECM-derived hydrogels may facilitate the prolonged culturing of these cells, and thus help in the research on lung diseases.

JTD Keywords: adhesion, alveolar cells, expression, hydrogels, pathway, surfactant, type ii phenotype, yap, Extracellular matrix, Transplantation


Almici E, Chiappini V, López-Márquez A, Badosa C, Blázquez B, Caballero D, Montero J, Natera-de Benito D, Nascimento A, Roldán M, Lagunas A, Jiménez-Mallebrera C, Samitier J, (2022). Personalized in vitro Extracellular Matrix Models of Collagen VI-Related Muscular Dystrophies Frontiers In Bioengineering And Biotechnology 10, 851825

Collagen VI-related dystrophies (COL6-RDs) are a group of rare congenital neuromuscular dystrophies that represent a continuum of overlapping clinical phenotypes that go from the milder Bethlem myopathy (BM) to the severe Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy, for which there is no effective treatment. Mutations in one of the three Collagen VI genes alter the incorporation of this protein into the extracellular matrix (ECM), affecting the assembly and the structural integrity of the whole fibrillar network. Clinical hallmarks of COL6-RDs are secondary to the ECM disruption and include muscle weakness, proximal joint contractures, and distal hyperlaxity. Although some traits have been identified in patients’ ECMs, a correlation between the ECM features and the clinical phenotype has not been established, mainly due to the lack of predictive and reliable models of the pathology. Herein, we engineered a new personalized pre-clinical model of COL6-RDs using cell-derived matrices (CDMs) technology to better recapitulate the complexity of the native scenario. We found that CDMs from COL6-RD patients presented alterations in ECM structure and composition, showing a significantly decreased Collagen VI secretion, especially in the more severe phenotypes, and a decrease in Fibrillin-1 inclusion. Next, we examined the Collagen VI-mediated deposition of Fibronectin in the ECM, finding a higher alignment, length, width, and straightness than in patients with COL6-RDs. Overall, these results indicate that CDMs models are promising tools to explore the alterations that arise in the composition and fibrillar architecture due to mutations in Collagen VI genes, especially in early stages of matrix organization. Ultimately, CDMs derived from COL6-RD patients may become relevant pre-clinical models, which may help identifying novel biomarkers to be employed in the clinics and to investigate novel therapeutic targets and treatments. Copyright © 2022 Almici, Chiappini, López-Márquez, Badosa, Blázquez, Caballero, Montero, Natera-de Benito, Nascimento, Roldán, Lagunas, Jiménez-Mallebrera and Samitier.

JTD Keywords: alpha-3 chain, binding, collagen vi related muscular dystrophy, decellularisation, decellularized matrices, deficiency, expression, fibroblasts, fibronectin, in vitro model, patient-derived ecms, skeletal-muscle, ullrich, Cell-derived matrices, Collagen, Collagen vi related muscular dystrophy, Decellularisation, Decellularization, Extracellular matrices, Extracellular matrix, Genes, In vitro model, In-vitro, In-vitro models, Matrix, Matrix model, Muscular dystrophy, Pathology, Patient-derived ecm, Patient-derived ecms, Pre-clinical


Narciso M, Ulldemolins A, Júnior C, Otero J, Navajas D, Farré R, Gavara N, Almendros I, (2022). Novel Decellularization Method for Tissue Slices Frontiers In Bioengineering And Biotechnology 10, 832178

Decellularization procedures have been developed and optimized for the entire organ or tissue blocks, by either perfusion of decellularizing agents through the tissue’s vasculature or submerging large sections in decellularizing solutions. However, some research aims require the analysis of native as well as decellularized tissue slices side by side, but an optimal protocol has not yet been established to address this need. Thus, the main goal of this work was to develop a fast and efficient decellularization method for tissue slices—with an emphasis on lung—while attached to a glass slide. To this end, different decellularizing agents were compared for their effectiveness in cellular removal while preserving the extracellular matrix. The intensity of DNA staining was taken as an indicator of remaining cells and compared to untreated sections. The presence of collagen, elastin and laminin were quantified using immunostaining and signal quantification. Scaffolds resulting from the optimized protocol were mechanically characterized using atomic force microscopy. Lung scaffolds were recellularized with mesenchymal stromal cells to assess their biocompatibility. Some decellularization agents (CHAPS, triton, and ammonia hydroxide) did not achieve sufficient cell removal. Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) was effective in cell removal (1% remaining DNA signal), but its sharp reduction of elastin signal (only 6% remained) plus lower attachment ratio (32%) singled out sodium deoxycholate (SD) as the optimal treatment for this application (6.5% remaining DNA signal), due to its higher elastin retention (34%) and higher attachment ratio (60%). Laminin and collagen were fully preserved in all treatments. The SD decellularization protocol was also successful for porcine and murine (mice and rat) lungs as well as for other tissues such as the heart, kidney, and bladder. No significant mechanical differences were found before and after sample decellularization. The resulting acellular lung scaffolds were shown to be biocompatible (98% cell survival after 72 h of culture). This novel method to decellularize tissue slices opens up new methodological possibilities to better understand the role of the extracellular matrix in the context of several diseases as well as tissue engineering research and can be easily adapted for scarce samples like clinical biopsies. Copyright © 2022 Narciso, Ulldemolins, Júnior, Otero, Navajas, Farré, Gavara and Almendros.

JTD Keywords: biocompatibility, bioscaffold recellularization, extracellular matrix, flow, impact, lung, scaffolds, tissue slices, Ammonia, Bio-scaffolds, Biocompatibility, Biological organs, Bioscaffold recellularization, Cell removal, Cells, Collagen, Cytology, Decellularization, Dna, Dna signals, Elastin, Extracellular matrices, Extracellular matrix, Extracellular-matrix, Glycoproteins, Laminin, Lung, Mammals, Recellularization, Scaffolds (biology), Sodium deoxycholate, Sulfur compounds, Tissue, Tissue slice, Tissue slices


Beltrán G, Navajas D, García-Aznar JM, (2022). Mechanical modeling of lung alveoli: From macroscopic behaviour to cell mechano-sensing at microscopic level Journal Of The Mechanical Behavior Of Biomedical Materials 126, 105043

The mechanical signals sensed by the alveolar cells through the changes in the local matrix stiffness of the extracellular matrix (ECM) are determinant for regulating cellular functions. Therefore, the study of the mechanical response of lung tissue becomes a fundamental aspect in order to further understand the mechanosensing signals perceived by the cells in the alveoli. This study is focused on the development of a finite element (FE) model of a decellularized rat lung tissue strip, which reproduces accurately the mechanical behaviour observed in the experiments by means of a tensile test. For simulating the complex structure of the lung parenchyma, which consists of a heterogeneous and non-uniform network of thin-walled alveoli, a 3D model based on a Voronoi tessellation is developed. This Voronoi-based model is considered very suitable for recreating the geometry of cellular materials with randomly distributed polygons like in the lung tissue. The material model used in the mechanical simulations of the lung tissue was characterized experimentally by means of AFM tests in order to evaluate the lung tissue stiffness on the micro scale. Thus, in this study, the micro (AFM test) and the macro scale (tensile test) mechanical behaviour are linked through the mechanical simulation with the 3D FE model based on Voronoi tessellation. Finally, a micro-mechanical FE-based model is generated from the Voronoi diagram for studying the stiffness sensed by the alveolar cells in function of two independent factors: the stretch level of the lung tissue and the geometrical position of the cells on the extracellular matrix (ECM), distinguishing between pneumocyte type I and type II. We conclude that the position of the cells within the alveolus has a great influence on the local stiffness perceived by the cells. Alveolar cells located at the corners of the alveolus, mainly type II pneumocytes, perceive a much higher stiffness than those located in the flat areas of the alveoli, which correspond to type I pneumocytes. However, the high stiffness, due to the macroscopic lung tissue stretch, affects both cells in a very similar form, thus no significant differences between them have been observed. © 2021 The Authors

JTD Keywords: rat, scaffolds, stiffness, Afm, Animal cell, Animal experiment, Animal model, Animal tissue, Article, Biological organs, Cell function, Cells, Computational geometry, Cytology, Extracellular matrices, Extracellular matrix, Extracellular-matrix, Geometry, High stiffness, Human, Lung alveolus cell type 1, Lung alveolus cell type 2, Lung parenchyma, Lung tissue, Male, Mechanical behavior, Mechanical modeling, Mechanical simulations, Mechanosensing, Model-based opc, Nonhuman, Physical model, Rat, Rigidity, Stiffness, Stiffness matrix, Tensile testing, Thin walled structures, Three dimensional finite element analysis, Tissue, Type ii, Voronoi tessellations


Júnior C, Narciso M, Marhuenda E, Almendros I, Farré R, Navajas D, Otero J, Gavara N, (2021). Baseline stiffness modulates the non-linear response to stretch of the extracellular matrix in pulmonary fibrosis International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 22, 12928

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a progressive disease that disrupts the mechanical homeostasis of the lung extracellular matrix (ECM). These effects are particularly relevant in the lung context, given the dynamic nature of cyclic stretch that the ECM is continuously subjected to during breathing. This work uses an in vivo model of pulmonary fibrosis to characterize the macro-and micromechanical properties of lung ECM subjected to stretch. To that aim, we have compared the micromechanical properties of fibrotic ECM in baseline and under stretch conditions, using a novel combination of Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and a stretchable membrane-based chip. At the macroscale, fibrotic ECM displayed strain-hardening, with a stiffness one order of magnitude higher than its healthy counterpart. Conversely, at the microscale, we found a switch in the stretch-induced mechanical behaviour of the lung ECM from strain-hardening at physiological ECM stiffnesses to strain-softening at fibrotic ECM stiffnesses. Similarly, we observed solidification of healthy ECM versus fluidization of fibrotic ECM in response to stretch. Our results suggest that the mechanical behaviour of fibrotic ECM under stretch involves a potential built-in mechanotransduction mechanism that may slow down the progression of PF by steering resident fibroblasts away from a pro-fibrotic profile. © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

JTD Keywords: atomic force microscopy, extracellular matrix, fibrosis, mechanics, mechanosensing, strain, system, viscoelasticity, Atomic force microscopy, Extracellular matrix, Fibrosis, Lung fibrosis, Mechanosensing


Ortiz C, Schierwagen R, Schaefer L, Klein S, Trepat X, Trebicka J, (2021). Extracellular Matrix Remodeling in Chronic Liver Disease Current Tissue Microenvironment Reports 2, 1-12

Abstract Purpose of the Review This review aims to summarize the current knowledge of the extracellular matrix remodeling during hepatic fibrosis. We discuss the diverse interactions of the extracellular matrix with hepatic cells and the surrounding matrix in liver fibrosis, with the focus on the molecular pathways and the mechanisms that regulate extracellular matrix remodeling. Recent Findings The extracellular matrix not only provides structure and support for the cells, but also controls cell behavior by providing adhesion signals and by acting as a reservoir of growth factors and cytokines. Summary Hepatic fibrosis is characterized by an excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix. During fibrogenesis, the natural remodeling process of the extracellular matrix varies, resulting in the excessive accumulation of its components, mainly collagens. Signals released by the extracellular matrix induce the activation of hepatic stellate cells, which are the major source of extracellular matrix and most abundant myofibroblasts in the liver. Graphical abstract

JTD Keywords: collagen, extracellular matrix, hepatic stellate cell, liver fibrosis, metalloproteinases, Tgf-?1


Falcones B, Sanz-Fraile H, Marhuenda E, Mendizábal I, Cabrera-Aguilera I, Malandain N, Uriarte JJ, Almendros I, Navajas D, Weiss DJ, Farré R, Otero J, (2021). Bioprintable lung extracellular matrix hydrogel scaffolds for 3d culture of mesenchymal stromal cells Polymers 13, 2350

Mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC)-based cell therapy in acute respiratory diseases is based on MSC secretion of paracrine factors. Several strategies have proposed to improve this are being explored including pre-conditioning the MSCs prior to administration. We here propose a strategy for improving the therapeutic efficacy of MSCs based on cell preconditioning by growing them in native extracellular matrix (ECM) derived from the lung. To this end, a bioink with tunable stiffness based on decellularized porcine lung ECM hydrogels was developed and characterized. The bioink was suitable for 3D culturing of lung-resident MSCs without the need for additional chemical or physical crosslinking. MSCs showed good viability, and contraction assays showed the existence of cell–matrix interactions in the bioprinted scaffolds. Adhesion capacity and length of the focal adhesions formed were increased for the cells cultured within the lung hydrogel scaffolds. Also, there was more than a 20-fold increase of the expression of the CXCR4 receptor in the 3D-cultured cells compared to the cells cultured in plastic. Secretion of cytokines when cultured in an in vitro model of lung injury showed a decreased secretion of pro-inflammatory mediators for the cells cultured in the 3D scaffolds. Moreover, the morphology of the harvested cells was markedly different with respect to conventionally (2D) cultured MSCs. In conclusion, the developed bioink can be used to bioprint structures aimed to improve preconditioning MSCs for therapeutic purposes.

JTD Keywords: 3d bioprinting, acute lung injury, adhesion, collagen, differentiation, dimension, elastic properties, extracellular matrix, hydrogels, in-vitro, mechanical-properties, mesenchymal stromal cells, microenvironment, potentiate, tissue engineering, 3d bioprinting, Acute lung injury, Extracellular matrix, Hydrogels, Mesenchymal stromal cells, Stem-cells, Tissue engineering


Torp N, Israelsen M, Madsen B, Lutz P, Jansen C, Strassburg C, Mortensen C, Knudsen AW, Sorensen GL, Holmskov U, Schlosser A, Thiele M, Trebicka J, Krag A, (2021). Level of MFAP4 in ascites independently predicts 1-year transplant-free survival in patients with cirrhosis Jhep Rep 3, 100287

Background & Aims: Prognostic models of cirrhosis underestimate disease severity for patients with cirrhosis and ascites. Microfibrillar-associated protein 4 (MFAP4) is an extracellular matrix protein linked to hepatic neoangiogenesis and fibrogenesis. We investigated ascites MFAP4 as a predictor of transplant-free survival in patients with cirrhosis and ascites. Methods: A dual-centre observational study of patients with cirrhosis and ascites recruited consecutively in relation to a paracentesis was carried out. Patients were followed up for 1 year, until death or liver transplantation (LTx). Ascites MFAP4 was tested with the model for end-stage liver disease (MELD-Na), CLIF Consortium Acute Decompensation (CLIF-C AD), and Child-Pugh score in Cox regression models. Results: Ninety-three patients requiring paracentesis were included. Median ascites MFAP4 was 29.7 U/L [22.3–41.3], and MELD-Na was 19 [16–23]. A low MELD-Na score (<20) was observed in 49 patients (53%). During follow-up, 20 patients died (22%), and 6 received LTx (6%). High ascites MFAP4 (>29.7 U/L) was associated with 1-year transplant-free survival (p = 0.002). In Cox regression, ascites MFAP4 and MELD-Na independently predicted 1-year transplant-free survival (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.97, p = 0.03, and HR = 1.08, p = 0.01, respectively). Ascites MFAP4 and CLIF-C AD also predicted survival independently (HR = 0.96, p = 0.02, and HR = 1.05, p = 0.03, respectively), whereas only ascites MFAP4 did, controlling for the Child-Pugh score (HR = 0.97, p = 0.03, and HR = 1.18, p = 0.16, respectively). For patients with MELD-Na <20, ascites MFAP4 but not ascites protein predicted 1-year transplant-free survival (HR 0.91, p = 0.02, and HR = 0.94, p = 0.17, respectively). Conclusions: Ascites MFAP4 predicts 1-year transplant-free survival in patients with cirrhosis and ascites. In patients with low MELD-Na scores, ascites MFAP4, but not total ascites protein, significantly predicted 1-year transplant-free survival. Lay summary: Patients with cirrhosis who have fluid in the abdomen, ascites, are at an increased risk of death and in need for liver transplantation. Our study identified patients with ascites and a poor prognosis by measuring microfibrillar associated protein 4 (MFAP4), a protein present in the abdominal fluid. Patients with low levels of the MFAP4 protein are at particularly increased risk of death or liver transplantation, suggesting that clinical care should be intensified in this group of patients. © 2021 The Authors

JTD Keywords: biomarker, clif-c ad, clif consortium acute decompensation, cps, child-pugh score, crp, c-reactive protein, ct, computed tomography, decompensated, ecm, extracellular matrix, fibrosis, fluid protein, gfr, glomerular filtration rate, hr, hazard ratio, inr, internationalised normal ratio, liver disease, liver-cirrhosis, ltx, liver transplantation, markers, meld-na, model for end-stage liver disease, mfap4, microfibrillar associated protein 4, mortality, nash, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, natural-history, prognosis, risk-factors, sbp, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, scores, stage, Biomarker, Decompensated, Egfr, estimated gfr, Fibrosis, Liver disease, Mortality, Prognosis, Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis


Elosegui-Artola A, (2021). The extracellular matrix viscoelasticity as a regulator of cell and tissue dynamics Current Opinion In Cell Biology 72, 10-18

The extracellular matrix mechanical properties regulate processes in development, cancer, and fibrosis. Among the distinct mechanical properties, the vast majority of research has focused on the extracellular matrix's elasticity as the primary determinant of cell and tissue behavior. However, both cells and the extracellular matrix are not only elastic but also viscous. Despite viscoelasticity being a universal feature of living tissues, our knowledge of the influence of the extracellular matrix's viscoelasticity in cell behavior is limited. This mini-review describes some of the recent findings that have highlighted the role of the extracellular matrix's viscoelasticity in cell and tissue dynamics.

JTD Keywords: behavior, cell adhesion, cell mechanics, cell migration, deformability, extracellular matrix, extracellular matrix mechanics, fluidity, forces, hydrogels, mechanobiology, mechanotransduction, tissue mechanics, viscoelasticity, viscosity, Cell adhesion, Cell mechanics, Cell migration, Extracellular matrix, Extracellular matrix mechanics, Fluidity, Mechanobiology, Mechanotransduction, Migration, Tissue mechanics, Viscoelasticity, Viscosity


Ben Hamouda S, Vargas A, Boivin R, Miglino MA, da Palma RK, Lavoie JP, (2021). Recellularization of Bronchial Extracellular Matrix With Primary Bronchial Smooth Muscle Cells Journal Of Equine Veterinary Science 96, 103313

© 2020 Elsevier Inc. Severe asthma is associated with an increased airway smooth muscle (ASM) mass and altered composition of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Studies have indicated that ECM-ASM cell interactions contribute to this remodeling and its limited reversibility with current therapy. Three-dimensional matrices allow the study of complex cellular responses to different stimuli in an almost natural environment. Our goal was to obtain acellular bronchial matrices and then develop a recellularization protocol with ASM cells. We studied equine bronchi as horses spontaneously develop a human asthma-like disease. The bronchi were decellularized using Triton/Sodium Deoxycholate. The obtained scaffolds retained their anatomical and histological properties. Using immunohistochemistry and a semi-quantitative score to compare native bronchi to scaffolds revealed no significant variation for matrixial proteins. DNA quantification and electrophoresis revealed that most DNA was 29.6 ng/mg of tissue ± 5.6, with remaining fragments of less than 100 bp. Primary ASM cells were seeded on the scaffolds. Histological analysis of the recellularizations showed that ASM cells migrated and proliferated primarily in the decellularized smooth muscle matrix, suggesting a chemotactic effect of the scaffolds. This is the first report of primary ASM cells preferentially repopulating the smooth muscle matrix layer in bronchial matrices. This protocol is now being used to study the molecular interactions occurring between the asthmatic ECMs and ASM to identify effectors of asthmatic bronchial remodeling.

JTD Keywords: 2d, airway smooth muscle cells, asthma, decellularization, disease, elastin, extracellular matrix, lung scaffolds, migration, peptide, recellularization, tissues, Airway smooth muscle cells, Asthma, Culture-systems, Decellularization, Extracellular matrix, Recellularization


Rubi-Sans, G., Castaño, O., Cano, I., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Perez-Amodio, S., Engel, E., (2020). Engineering cell-derived matrices: From 3D models to advanced personalized therapies Advanced Functional Materials 30, (44), e2000496

Regenerative medicine and disease models have evolved in recent years from two to three dimensions, providing in vitro constructs that are more similar to in vivo tissues. By mimicking native tissues, cell-derived matrices (CDMs) have emerged as new modifiable extracellular matrices for a variety of tissues, allowing researchers to study basic cellular processes in tissue-like structures, test tissue regeneration approaches, and model disease development. In this review, different fabrication techniques and characterization methods of CDMs are presented and examples of their application in cell behavior studies, tissue regeneration, and disease models are provided. In addition, future guidelines and perspectives in the field of CDMs are discussed.

JTD Keywords: 3D models, Biomaterials, Cell-derived matrices, Extracellular matrix, Personalized therapies


Madsen, B. S., Thiele, M., Detlefsen, S., Sørensen, M. D., Kjærgaard, M., Møller, L. S., Rasmussen, D. N., Schlosser, A., Holmskov, U., Trebicka, J., Sorensen, G. L., Krag, A., (2020). Prediction of liver fibrosis severity in alcoholic liver disease by human microfibrillar-associated protein 4 Liver International 40, (7), 1701-1712

Background: Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is a public health concern that is the cause of half of all cirrhosis-related deaths. Early detection of fibrosis, ideally in the precirrhotic stage, is a key strategy for improving ALD outcomes and for preventing progression to cirrhosis. Previous studies identified the blood-borne marker human microfibrillar-associated protein 4 (MFAP4) as a biomarker for detection of hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related fibrosis. Aim: To evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of MFAP4 to detect ALD-induced fibrosis. Method: We performed a prospective, liver biopsy-controlled study involving 266 patients with prior or current alcohol overuse. Patients were split into a training and a validation cohort. Results: MFAP4 was present in fibrotic hepatic tissue and serum MFAP4 levels increased with fibrosis grade. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) for detection of cirrhosis was 0.91 (95% CI 0.85-0.96) in the training cohort and 0.91 (95% CI 0.79-1.00) in the validation cohort. For detection of advanced fibrosis, the AUROC was 0.88 (95% CI 0.81-0.94) in the training cohort and 0.92 (95% CI 0.83-1.00) in the validation cohort. The diagnostic accuracy did not differ between MFAP4 and the enhanced liver fibrosis (ELF) test or transient elastography (TE) in an intention-to-diagnose analysis. MFAP4 did not predict hepatic decompensation in a time-to-decompensation analysis in a subgroup of patients with cirrhosis. Conclusion: MFAP4 is a novel biomarker that can detect ALD-related fibrosis with high accuracy.

JTD Keywords: Biomarker, Cirrhosis, Extracellular matrix protein, Liver biopsy, Non-invasive testing


Otero, J., Navajas, D., Alcaraz, J., (2020). Characterization of the elastic properties of extracellular matrix models by atomic force microscopy Methods in Cell Biology (ed. Caballero, David, Kundu, Subhas C., Reis, Rui L.), Academic Press (Cambridge, USA) 156, 59-83

Tissue elasticity is a critical regulator of cell behavior in normal and diseased conditions like fibrosis and cancer. Since the extracellular matrix (ECM) is a major regulator of tissue elasticity and function, several ECM-based models have emerged in the last decades, including in vitro endogenous ECM, decellularized tissue ECM and ECM hydrogels. The development of such models has urged the need to quantify their elastic properties particularly at the nanometer scale, which is the relevant length scale for cell-ECM interactions. For this purpose, the versatility of atomic force microscopy (AFM) to quantify the nanomechanical properties of soft biomaterials like ECM models has emerged as a very suitable technique. In this chapter we provide a detailed protocol on how to assess the Young's elastic modulus of ECM models by AFM, discuss some of the critical issues, and provide troubleshooting guidelines as well as illustrative examples of AFM measurements, particularly in the context of cancer.

JTD Keywords: 3D ECM hydrogels, Atomic force microscopy, Decellularized tissue, Elastic modulus, Endogenous ECM, Extracellular matrix


Almici, Enrico, Caballero, David, Montero, Joan, Samitier, Josep, (2020). Engineering cell-derived matrices with controlled 3D architectures for pathophysiological studies Methods in Cell Biology (ed. Caballero, David, Kundu, Subhas C., Reis, Rui Luís), Academic Press (Cambridge, USA) 156, 161-183

The composition and architecture of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and their dynamic alterations, play an important regulatory role on numerous cellular processes. Cells embedded in 3D scaffolds show phenotypes and morphodynamics reminiscent of the native scenario. This is in contrast to flat environments, where cells display artificial phenotypes. The structural and biomolecular properties of the ECM are critical in regulating cell behavior via mechanical, chemical and topological cues, which induce cytoskeleton rearrangement and gene expression. Indeed, distinct ECM architectures are encountered in the native stroma, which depend on tissue type and function. For instance, anisotropic geometries are associated with ECM degradation and remodeling during tumor progression, favoring tumor cell invasion. Overall, the development of innovative in vitro ECM models of the ECM that reproduce the structural and physicochemical properties of the native scenario is of upmost importance to investigate the mechanistic determinants of tumor dissemination. In this chapter, we describe an extremely versatile technique to engineer three-dimensional (3D) matrices with controlled architectures for the study of pathophysiological processes in vitro. To this aim, a confluent culture of “sacrificial” fibroblasts was seeded on top of microfabricated guiding templates to induce the 3D ECM growth with specific isotropic or anisotropic architectures. The resulting matrices, and cells seeded on them, recapitulated the structure, composition, phenotypes and morphodynamics typically found in the native scenario. Overall, this method paves the way for the development of in vitro ECMs for pathophysiological studies with potential clinical relevance.

JTD Keywords: Extracellular matrix, Cell-derived matrix, 3D model, Biomimicry, Anisotropy


Kechagia, Jenny Z., Ivaska, Johanna, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, (2019). Integrins as biomechanical sensors of the microenvironment Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 20, (8), 457-473

Integrins, and integrin-mediated adhesions, have long been recognized to provide the main molecular link attaching cells to the extracellular matrix (ECM) and to serve as bidirectional hubs transmitting signals between cells and their environment. Recent evidence has shown that their combined biochemical and mechanical properties also allow integrins to sense, respond to and interact with ECM of differing properties with exquisite specificity. Here, we review this work first by providing an overview of how integrin function is regulated from both a biochemical and a mechanical perspective, affecting integrin cell-surface availability, binding properties, activation or clustering. Then, we address how this biomechanical regulation allows integrins to respond to different ECM physicochemical properties and signals, such as rigidity, composition and spatial distribution. Finally, we discuss the importance of this sensing for major cell functions by taking cell migration and cancer as examples.

JTD Keywords: Cell migration, Extracellular matrix, Integrins, Mechanotransduction, Single-molecule biophysics


Lehmann, J., Praktiknjo, M., Nielsen, M. J., Schierwagen, R., Meyer, C., Thomas, D., Violi, F., Strassburg, C. P., Bendtsen, F., Moller, S., Krag, A., Karsdal, M. A., Leeming, D. J., Trebicka, J., (2019). Collagen type IV remodelling gender-specifically predicts mortality in decompensated cirrhosis Liver International 39, (5), 885-893

Background & Aims: Remodelling of extracellular matrix is crucial in progressive liver fibrosis. Collagen type III desposition has been shown in acute decompensation. Extratracellular matrix is compiled of deposition of various components. The role of basement membrane collagen type IV in advanced cirrhosis and acute decompensation is unclear and investigated in this study. Methods: Patients with decompensated cirrhosis from the prospective NEPTUN cohort (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03628807), who underwent transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt procedure were included. Clinical and laboratory parameters, PRO-C4 and C4M levels were measured in blood samples from portal and hepatic veins just before transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt placement. Results: Levels of C4M and PRO-C4 are significantly lower in patients with massive ascites and impaired renal sodium excretion. C4M and PRO-C4 show gender-specific profiles with significantly lower levels in females compared to males. Females with higher C4M levels show higher mortality. By contrast, males with higher C4M levels show lower mortality. In multivariate Cox regression analysis, C4M is an independent predictor of survival in female patients. Conclusion: This study shows that markers of collagen type IV remodelling do not accumulate in severe renal dysfunction. Although collagen type IV degradation markers derive from the liver, portal venous C4M levels are relevant for survival. Moreover, it demonstrates that circulating C4M shows gender-specific profiles, which can independently predict survival in female patients with decompensated cirrhosis.

JTD Keywords: ACLF, Acute decompensation, Acute-on-chronic liver failure, Cirrhosis, Collagen type IV, Extracellular matrix remodelling, Gender, Liver, Portal hypertension, Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt


Garcia-Puig, A., Mosquera, J. L., Jiménez-Delgado, S., García-Pastor, C., Jorba, I., Navajas, D., Canals, F., Raya, A., (2019). Proteomics analysis of extracellular matrix remodeling during zebrafish heart regeneration Molecular & cellular proteomics 18, (9), 1745-1755

Adult zebrafish, in contrast to mammals, are able to regenerate their hearts in response to injury or experimental amputation. Our understanding of the cellular and molecular bases that underlie this process, although fragmentary, has increased significantly over the last years. However, the role of the extracellular matrix (ECM) during zebrafish heart regeneration has been comparatively rarely explored. Here, we set out to characterize the ECM protein composition in adult zebrafish hearts, and whether it changed during the regenerative response. For this purpose, we first established a decellularization protocol of adult zebrafish ventricles that significantly enriched the yield of ECM proteins. We then performed proteomic analyses of decellularized control hearts and at different times of regeneration. Our results show a dynamic change in ECM protein composition, most evident at the earliest (7 days post-amputation) time-point analyzed. Regeneration associated with sharp increases in specific ECM proteins, and with an overall decrease in collagens and cytoskeletal proteins. We finally tested by atomic force microscopy that the changes in ECM composition translated to decreased ECM stiffness. Our cumulative results identify changes in the protein composition and mechanical properties of the zebrafish heart ECM during regeneration.

JTD Keywords: Animal models, Atomic force microscopy, Cardiovascular disease, Cardiovascular function or biology, Developmental biology, Extracellular matrix, Heart regeneration, Proteomic analysis


Malandrino, Andrea, Trepat, Xavier, Kamm, Roger D., Mak, Michael, (2019). Dynamic filopodial forces induce accumulation, damage, and plastic remodeling of 3D extracellular matrices PLoS Computational Biology 15, (4), e1006684

The mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM)–a complex, 3D, fibrillar scaffold of cells in physiological environments–modulate cell behavior and can drive tissue morphogenesis, regeneration, and disease progression. For simplicity, it is often convenient to assume these properties to be time-invariant. In living systems, however, cells dynamically remodel the ECM and create time-dependent local microenvironments. Here, we show how cell-generated contractile forces produce substantial irreversible changes to the density and architecture of physiologically relevant ECMs–collagen I and fibrin–in a matter of minutes. We measure the 3D deformation profiles of the ECM surrounding cancer and endothelial cells during stages when force generation is active or inactive. We further correlate these ECM measurements to both discrete fiber simulations that incorporate fiber crosslink unbinding kinetics and continuum-scale simulations that account for viscoplastic and damage features. Our findings further confirm that plasticity, as a mechanical law to capture remodeling in these networks, is fundamentally tied to material damage via force-driven unbinding of fiber crosslinks. These results characterize in a multiscale manner the dynamic nature of the mechanical environment of physiologically mimicking cell-in-gel systems.

JTD Keywords: Collagens, Fibrin, Extracellular matrix, Cross-linking, Cell physiology, Deformation, Fluorescence imaging, Cell biology


Magdaleno, Fernando, Schierwagen, R., Uschner, Frank E., Trebicka, J., (2018). “Tipping” extracellular matrix remodeling towards regression of liver fibrosis: novel concepts Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica , 64, (1), 51-61

Fibrosis development was initially conceived as an incessant progressive condition. Nowadays, it has become evident that fibrotic tissue undergoes a continuous two-way process: fibrogenesis and fibrinolysis, characterizing the remodeling of extracellular matrix (ECM). However, in established fibrosis, this two-way process is tipped towards fibrogenesis and this leads to a self-perpetuating accumulation of ECM, a distinct metabolic unit, together with other cells and processes promoting fibrosis deposition. Several mechanisms promote fibrosis regression, such as degradation of ECM, infiltration of restorative macrophages, prevention of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition of hepatocytes, restoration of the liver sinusoidal endothelial cells’ differentiation phenotype, and reversion to quiescence, apoptosis and senescence of hepatic stellate cells (HSC). Hence, fibrosis is the result of an unbalanced two-way process of matrix remodeling. At the late stage of the disease, antifibrotic interventions could become necessary to reverse self-perpetuating fibrogenesis and accelerate regression of fibrosis even if cause and cofactors of hepatic injury have been eliminated. This review outlines some of the important mechanisms leading towards regression of liver fibrosis.

JTD Keywords: Hepatic stellate cells, Extracellular matrix, remodeling, Rho-associated kinases, Janus kinases


Alcaraz, J., Otero, J., Jorba, I., Navajas, D., (2018). Bidirectional mechanobiology between cells and their local extracellular matrix probed by atomic force microscopy Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology 73, 71-81

There is growing recognition that the mechanical interactions between cells and their local extracellular matrix (ECM) are central regulators of tissue development, homeostasis, repair and disease progression. The unique ability of atomic force microscopy (AFM) to probe quantitatively mechanical properties and forces at the nanometer or micrometer scales in all kinds of biological samples has been instrumental in the recent advances in cell and tissue mechanics. In this review we illustrate how AFM has provided important insights on our current understanding of the mechanobiology of cells, ECM and cell-ECM bidirectional interactions, particularly in the context of soft acinar tissues like the mammary gland or pulmonary tissue. AFM measurements have revealed that intrinsic cell micromechanics is cell-type specific, and have underscored the prominent role of β1 integrin/FAK(Y397) signaling and the actomyosin cytoskeleton in the mechanoresponses of both parenchymal and stromal cells. Moreover AFM has unveiled that the micromechanics of the ECM obtained by tissue decellularization is unique for each anatomical compartment, which may support both its specific function and cell differentiation. AFM has also enabled identifying critical mechanoregulatory proteins involved in branching morphogenesis (MMP14) and acinar differentiation (α3β1 integrin), and has clarified the role of altered tissue mechanics and architecture in a variety of pathologic conditions. Critical technical issues of AFM mechanical measurements like tip geometry effects are also discussed.

JTD Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Beta1 integrin, Elastic modulus, Extracellular matrix, Morphogenesis, Tissue decellularization


Caballero, D., Samitier, J., (2017). Topological control of extracellular matrix growth: A native-like model for cell morphodynamics studies ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 9, (4), 4159-4170

The interaction of cells with their natural environment influences a large variety of cellular phenomena, including cell adhesion, proliferation, and migration. The complex extracellular matrix network has challenged the attempts to replicate in vitro the heterogeneity of the cell environment and has threatened, in general, the relevance of in vitro studies. In this work, we describe a new and extremely versatile approach to generate native-like extracellular matrices with controlled morphologies for the in vitro study of cellular processes. This general approach combines the confluent culture of fibroblasts with microfabricated guiding templates to direct the three-dimensional growth of well-defined extracellular networks which recapitulate the structural and biomolecular complexity of features typically found in vivo. To evaluate its performance, we studied fundamental cellular processes, including cell cytoskeleton organization, cell-matrix adhesion, proliferation, and protrusions morphodynamics. In all cases, we found striking differences depending on matrix architecture and, in particular, when compared to standard two-dimensional environments. We also assessed whether the engineered matrix networks influenced cell migration dynamics and locomotion strategy, finding enhanced migration efficiency for cells seeded on aligned matrices. Altogether, our methodology paves the way to the development of high-performance models of the extracellular matrix for potential applications in tissue engineering, diagnosis, or stem-cell biology.

JTD Keywords: Biomimetics, Cell migration, Engineered cell-derived matrices, Extracellular matrix, In vitro model


Bianchi, M. V., Awaja, F., Altankov, G., (2017). Dynamic adhesive environment alters the differentiation potential of young and ageing mesenchymal stem cells Materials Science and Engineering: C 78, 467-474

Engineering dynamic stem cell niche-like environment offers opportunity to obtain better control of the fate of stem cells. We identified, for the first time, that periodic changes in the adhesive environment of human adipose derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADSCs) alters dramatically their asymmetric division but not their ability for symmetric renewal. Hereby, we used smart thermo-responsive polymer (PNIPAM) to create a dynamic adhesive environment for ADSCs by applying periodic temperature cycles to perturb adsorbed adhesive proteins to substratum interaction. Cumulative population doubling time (CPDT) curves showed insignificant decline in the symmetric cell growth studied for up to 13th passages accompanied with small changes in the overall cell morphology and moderately declined fibronectin (FN) matrix deposition probably as a functional consequence of ADSCs ageing. However, a substantial alteration in the differentiation potential of ADSCs from both early and late passages (3rd and 14th, respectively) was found when the cells were switched to osteogenic differentiation conditions. This behavior was evidenced by the significantly altered alkaline phosphatase activity and Ca deposition (Alizarin red) assayed at 3, 14 and 21 day in comparison to the control samples of regular TC polystyrene processed under same temperature settings.

JTD Keywords: Cell ageing, Dynamic adhesive environment, Extracellular matrix, Mesenchymal stem cells, PNIPAM, Stem cell niche, Symmetric and asymmetric cell growth, Thermo-cycling, Thermo-responsive polymer


Li, Haiyue, Xu, Bin, Zhou, Enhua H., Sunyer, Raimon, Zhang, Yanhang, (2017). Multiscale measurements of the mechanical properties of collagen matrix ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering 3, (11), 2815-2824

The underlying mechanisms by which extracellular matrix (ECM) mechanics influences cell and tissue function remain to be elucidated because the events associated with this process span size scales from tissue to molecular level. Furthermore, ECM has an extremely complex hierarchical 3D structure and the load distribution is highly dependent on the architecture and mechanical properties of ECM. In the present study, the macro- and microscale mechanical properties of collagen gel were studied. Dynamic rheological testing was performed to study the macroscale mechanical properties of collagen gel. The microscale mechanical properties of collagen gel were measured using optical magnetic twisting cytometry (OMTC). Ferromagnetic beads embedded in the matrix were used as mechanical probes. Our study on the multiscale mechanical properties of collage matrix suggests several interesting differences between macro and microscale mechanical properties originated from the scales of measurements. At the macroscopic scale, storage and loss modulus increase with collagen concentrations. Nonaffine collagen fibril structural network deformation plays an important role in determining the macroscopic mechanical properties of the collagen matrix. At the microscopic scale, however, the local mechanical properties are less sensitive to changes in collagen concentration because of the more immediate/direct deformation of collagen fibrils in the OMTC measurements through forces exerted by locally attached ferromagnetic beads. The loss modulus is more affected by the local interstitial fluid environment, leading to a rather dramatic increase in viscosity with frequency, especially at higher frequencies (>10 Hz). A finite element model was developed to study the geometric factors in the OMTC measurements when the collagen matrix was considered to be hyperelastic. Our results show that the geometric factors are dependent on collagen concentration, or the stiffness of matrix, when nonlinear material properties of the matrix are considered, and thus interpretation of the apparent modulus from OMTC measurements should be conducted carefully.

JTD Keywords: Keywords: collagen, Extracellular matrix, Geometric factor, Nonaffine deformation, Optical magnetic twisting cytometry


Giménez, A., Uriarte, J. J., Vieyra, J., Navajas, D., Alcaraz, J., (2017). Elastic properties of hydrogels and decellularized tissue sections used in mechanobiology studies probed by atomic force microscopy Microscopy Research and Technique , 80, (1), 85-96

The increasing recognition that tissue elasticity is an important regulator of cell behavior in normal and pathologic conditions such as fibrosis and cancer has driven the development of cell culture substrata with tunable elasticity. Such development has urged the need to quantify the elastic properties of these cell culture substrata particularly at the nanometer scale, since this is the relevant length scale involved in cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) mechanical interactions. To address this need, we have exploited the versatility of atomic force microscopy to quantify the elastic properties of a variety of cell culture substrata used in mechanobiology studies, including floating collagen gels, ECM-coated polyacrylamide gels, and decellularized tissue sections. In this review we summarize major findings in this field from our group within the context of the state-of-the-art in the field, and provide a critical discussion on the applicability and complementarity of currently available cell culture assays with tunable elasticity. In addition, we briefly describe how the limitations of these assays provide opportunities for future research, which is expected to continue expanding our understanding of the mechanobiological aspects that support both normal and diseased conditions.

JTD Keywords: 3D culture, Atomic force microscopy, Elastic modulus, Extracellular matrix, Polyacrylamide


Garreta, E., de Oñate, L., Fernández-Santos, M. E., Oria, R., Tarantino, C., Climent, A. M., Marco, A., Samitier, M., Martínez, Elena, Valls-Margarit, M., Matesanz, R., Taylor, D. A., Fernández-Avilés, F., Izpisua Belmonte, J. C., Montserrat, N., (2016). Myocardial commitment from human pluripotent stem cells: Rapid production of human heart grafts Biomaterials 98, 64-78

Genome editing on human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) together with the development of protocols for organ decellularization opens the door to the generation of autologous bioartificial hearts. Here we sought to generate for the first time a fluorescent reporter human embryonic stem cell (hESC) line by means of Transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) to efficiently produce cardiomyocyte-like cells (CLCs) from hPSCs and repopulate decellularized human heart ventricles for heart engineering. In our hands, targeting myosin heavy chain locus (MYH6) with mCherry fluorescent reporter by TALEN technology in hESCs did not alter major pluripotent-related features, and allowed for the definition of a robust protocol for CLCs production also from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) in 14 days. hPSCs-derived CLCs (hPSCs-CLCs) were next used to recellularize acellular cardiac scaffolds. Electrophysiological responses encountered when hPSCs-CLCs were cultured on ventricular decellularized extracellular matrix (vdECM) correlated with significant increases in the levels of expression of different ion channels determinant for calcium homeostasis and heart contractile function. Overall, the approach described here allows for the rapid generation of human cardiac grafts from hPSCs, in a total of 24 days, providing a suitable platform for cardiac engineering and disease modeling in the human setting.

JTD Keywords: Cardiac function, Extracellular matrix, Gene targeting, Pluripotent stem cells


Levato, R., Planell, J. A., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Engel, E., (2015). Role of ECM/peptide coatings on SDF-1α triggered mesenchymal stromal cell migration from microcarriers for cell therapy Acta Biomaterialia 18, 59-67

Many cell therapies rely on the ability of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) to diffuse and localize throughout the target tissue-such as tumoral and ischemic tissues-, in response to specific cytokine signals, rather than being concentrated at the site of implantation. Therefore, it is fundamental to engineer biomaterial carriers as reservoirs, from which cells can migrate, possibly in a controlled manner. In this work, microcarriers (μCs) made of polylactic acid are characterized as MSC delivery vehicles capable of modulating key chemotactic pathways. The effect of different functionalization strategies on MSC migratory behavior from the μCs is studied in vitro in relation to SDF-1α/CXCR4 axis,-a major actor in MSC recruitment, chemotaxis and homing. Collagen and arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD) peptides were either covalently grafted or physisorbed on μC surface. While stable covalent modifications promoted better cell adhesion and higher proliferation compared to physisorption, the functionalization method of the μCs also affected the cells migratory behavior in response to SDF-1α (CXCL12) stimulation. Less stable coatings (physisorbed) showed sensibly higher number of migrating cells than covalent collagen/RGD coatings. The combination of physic-chemical cues provided by protein/peptide functionalization and stimuli induced by 3D culture on μCs improved MSC expression of CXCR4, and exerted a control over cell migration, a condition suitable to promote cell homing after transplantation in vivo. These are key findings to highlight the impact of surface modification approaches on chemokine-triggered cell release, and allow designing biomaterials for efficient and controlled cell delivery to damaged tissues.

JTD Keywords: Cell therapy, Chemotaxis, ECM (extracellular matrix), Mesenchymal stromal cells, Surface modification


Crosas-Molist, E., Meirelles, T., López-Luque, J., Serra-Peinado, C., Selva, J., Caja, L., Gorbenko Del Blanco, D., Uriarte, J. J., Bertran, E., Mendizábal, Y., Hernández, V., García-Calero, C., Busnadiego, O., Condom, E., Toral, D., Castellà, M., Forteza, A., Navajas, D., Sarri, E., Rodríguez-Pascual, F., Dietz, H. C., Fabregat, I., Egea, G., (2015). Vascular smooth muscle cell phenotypic changes in patients with marfan syndrome Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology , 35, (4), 960-972

Objective - Marfan's syndrome is characterized by the formation of ascending aortic aneurysms resulting from altered assembly of extracellular matrix microfibrils and chronic tissue growth factor (TGF)-β signaling. TGF-β is a potent regulator of the vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) phenotype. We hypothesized that as a result of the chronic TGF-β signaling, VSMC would alter their basal differentiation phenotype, which could facilitate the formation of aneurysms. This study explores whether Marfan's syndrome entails phenotypic alterations of VSMC and possible mechanisms at the subcellular level. Approach and Results - Immunohistochemical and Western blotting analyses of dilated aortas from Marfan patients showed overexpression of contractile protein markers (α-smooth muscle actin, smoothelin, smooth muscle protein 22 alpha, and calponin-1) and collagen I in comparison with healthy aortas. VSMC explanted from Marfan aortic aneurysms showed increased in vitro expression of these phenotypic markers and also of myocardin, a transcription factor essential for VSMC-specific differentiation. These alterations were generally reduced after pharmacological inhibition of the TGF-β pathway. Marfan VSMC in culture showed more robust actin stress fibers and enhanced RhoA-GTP levels, which was accompanied by increased focal adhesion components and higher nuclear localization of myosin-related transcription factor A. Marfan VSMC and extracellular matrix measured by atomic force microscopy were both stiffer than their respective controls. Conclusions - In Marfan VSMC, both in tissue and in culture, there are variable TGF-β-dependent phenotypic changes affecting contractile proteins and collagen I, leading to greater cellular and extracellular matrix stiffness. Altogether, these alterations may contribute to the known aortic rigidity that precedes or accompanies Marfan's syndrome aneurysm formation.

JTD Keywords: Actin, Aortic aneurysms, Aortic stiffness, Extracellular matrix, Focal adhesion, Myocardin, RhoA, TGF-β


Perea-Gil, I., Uriarte, J. J., Prat-Vidal, C., Gálvez-Montón, C., Roura, S., Llucià-Valldeperas, A., Soler-Botija, C., Farré, R., Navajas, D., Bayes-Genis, A., (2015). In vitro comparative study of two decellularization protocols in search of an optimal myocardial scaffold for recellularization American Journal of Translational Research , 7, (3), 558-573

Introduction. Selection of a biomaterial-based scaffold that mimics native myocardial extracellular matrix (ECM) architecture can facilitate functional cell attachment and differentiation. Although decellularized myocardial ECM accomplishes these premises, decellularization processes may variably distort or degrade ECM structure. Materials and methods. Two decellularization protocols (DP) were tested on porcine heart samples (epicardium, mid myocardium and endocardium). One protocol, DP1, was detergent-based (SDS and Triton X-100), followed by DNase I treatment. The other protocol, DP2, was focused in trypsin and acid with Triton X-100 treatments. Decellularized myocardial scaffolds were reseeded by embedding them in RAD16-I peptidic hydrogel with adipose tissue-derived progenitor cells (ATDPCs). Results. Both protocols yielded acellular myocardial scaffolds (~82% and ~94% DNA reduction for DP1 and DP2, respectively). Ultramicroscopic assessment of scaffolds was similar for both protocols and showed filamentous ECM with preserved fiber disposition and structure. DP1 resulted in more biodegradable scaffolds (P = 0.04). Atomic force microscopy revealed no substantial ECM stiffness changes post-decellularization compared to native tissue. The Young’s modulus did not differ between heart layers (P = 0.69) or decellularization protocols (P = 0.15). After one week, recellularized DP1 scaffolds contained higher cell density (236 ± 106 and 98 ± 56 cells/mm2 for recellularized DP1 and DP2 scaffolds, respectively; P = 0.04). ATDPCs in both DP1 and DP2 scaffolds expressed the endothelial marker isolectin B4, but only in the DP1 scaffold ATDPCs expressed the cardiac markers GATA4, connexin43 and cardiac troponin T. Conclusions. In our hands, DP1 produced myocardial scaffolds with higher cell repopulation and promotes ATDPCs expression of endothelial and cardiomyogenic markers.

JTD Keywords: Acellular myocardial scaffold, Adipose tissue-derived progenitor cells, Decellularization protocols, Extracellular matrix, Myocardial infarction, Recellularization


Andreu, I., Luque, T., Sancho, A., Pelacho, B., Iglesias-García, O., Melo, E., Farré, R., Prósper, F., Elizalde, M. R., Navajas, D., (2014). Heterogeneous micromechanical properties of the extracellular matrix in healthy and infarcted hearts Acta Biomaterialia 10, (7), 3235-3242

Infarcted hearts are macroscopically stiffer than healthy organs. Nevertheless, although cell behavior is mediated by the physical features of the cell niche, the intrinsic micromechanical properties of healthy and infarcted heart extracellular matrix (ECM) remain poorly characterized. Using atomic force microscopy, we studied ECM micromechanics of different histological regions of the left ventricle wall of healthy and infarcted mice. Hearts excised from healthy (n = 8) and infarcted mice (n = 8) were decellularized with sodium dodecyl sulfate and cut into 12 μm thick slices. Healthy ventricular ECM revealed marked mechanical heterogeneity across histological regions of the ventricular wall with the effective Young's modulus ranging from 30.2 ± 2.8 to 74.5 ± 8.7 kPa in collagen- and elastin-rich regions of the myocardium, respectively. Infarcted ECM showed a predominant collagen composition and was 3-fold stiffer than collagen-rich regions of the healthy myocardium. ECM of both healthy and infarcted hearts exhibited a solid-like viscoelastic behavior that conforms to two power-law rheology. Knowledge of intrinsic micromechanical properties of the ECM at the length scale at which cells sense their environment will provide further insight into the cell-scaffold interplay in healthy and infarcted hearts.

JTD Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Extracellular matrix, Heart scaffold, Nanoindentation, Viscoelasticity


Melo, E., Cárdenes, N., Garreta, E., Luque, T., Rojas, M., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2014). Inhomogeneity of local stiffness in the extracellular matrix scaffold of fibrotic mouse lungs Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials , 37, 186-195

Lung disease models are useful to study how cell engraftment, proliferation and differentiation are modulated in lung bioengineering. The aim of this work was to characterize the local stiffness of decellularized lungs in aged and fibrotic mice. Mice (2- and 24-month old; 14 of each) with lung fibrosis (N=20) and healthy controls (N=8) were euthanized after 11 days of intratracheal bleomycin (fibrosis) or saline (controls) infusion. The lungs were excised, decellularized by a conventional detergent-based (sodium-dodecyl sulfate) procedure and slices of the acellular lungs were prepared to measure the local stiffness by means of atomic force microscopy. The local stiffness of the different sites in acellular fibrotic lungs was very inhomogeneous within the lung and increased according to the degree of the structural fibrotic lesion. Local stiffness of the acellular lungs did not show statistically significant differences caused by age. The group of mice most affected by fibrosis exhibited local stiffness that were ~2-fold higher than in the control mice: from 27.2±1.64 to 64.8±7.1. kPa in the alveolar septa, from 56.6±4.6 to 99.9±11.7. kPa in the visceral pleura, from 41.1±8.0 to 105.2±13.6. kPa in the tunica adventitia, and from 79.3±7.2 to 146.6±28.8. kPa in the tunica intima. Since acellular lungs from mice with bleomycin-induced fibrosis present considerable micromechanical inhomogeneity, this model can be a useful tool to better investigate how different degrees of extracellular matrix lesion modulate cell fate in the process of organ bioengineering from decellularized lungs.

JTD Keywords: Ageing, Atomic force microscopy, Decellularization, Lung fibrosis, Tissue engineering, Atomic force microscopy, Biological organs, Peptides, Sodium dodecyl sulfate, Sodium sulfate, Tissue engineering, Ageing, Decellularization, Extracellular matrices, Healthy controls, Inhomogeneities, Lung fibrosis, Micro-mechanical, Statistically significant difference, Mammals, bleomycin, adventitia, animal experiment, animal model, article, atomic force microscopy, bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis, cell fate, controlled study, extracellular matrix, female, intima, lung alveolus, lung fibrosis, lung mechanics, mechanical probe, microenvironment, mouse, nonhuman, pleura, priority journal, rigidity, tissue engineering


Nonaka, P. N., Uriarte, J. J., Campillo, N., Melo, E., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Oliveira, L. V. F., (2014). Mechanical properties of mouse lungs along organ decellularization by sodium dodecyl sulfate Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology , 200, 1-5

Lung decellularization is based on the use of physical, chemical, or enzymatic methods to break down the integrity of the cells followed by a treatment to extract the cellular material from the lung scaffold. The aim of this study was to characterize the mechanical changes throughout the different steps of lung decellularization process. Four lungs from mice (C57BL/6) were decellularized by using a conventional protocol based on sodium dodecyl sulfate. Lungs resistance (RL) and elastance (EL) were measured along decellularization steps and were computed by linear regression fitting of tracheal pressure, flow, and volume during mechanical ventilation. Transients differences found were more distinct in an intermediate step after the lungs were rinsed with deionized water and treated with 1% SDS, whereupon the percentage of variation reached approximately 80% for resistance values and 30% for elastance values. In conclusion, although a variation in extracellular matrix stiffness was observed during the decellularization process, this variation can be considered negligible overall because the resistance and elastance returned to basal values at the final decellularization step.

JTD Keywords: Lung bioengineering, Lung decellularization, Organ scaffold, dodecyl sulfate sodium, animal tissue, article, artificial ventilation, compliance (physical), controlled study, enzyme chemistry, extracellular matrix, female, flow, lung, lung decellularization, lung pressure, lung resistance, mouse, nonhuman, positive end expiratory pressure, priority journal, rigidity, tissue engineering, trachea pressure


Pérez-Amodio, Soledad, Engel, Elisabeth, (2014). Bone biology and Regeneration Bio-Ceramics with Clinical Applications (ed. Vallet-Regí, M.), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (Chichester, UK) , 315-342

Each bone of the skeleton constantly undergoes modeling during life to help it to adapt to changing biomechanical forces as well as remodeling to remove old bone and replace it with new, mechanically stronger bone to help preserve bone strength. Bone remodeling involves the removal of mineralized bone by osteoclasts, followed by the formation of bone matrix through the osteoblasts that subsequently become mineralized. All these assets make bone a suitable model for regeneration. Bone tissue can be grossly divided into inorganic mineral material (mostly HA), and organic material from cells and the extracellular matrix. This chapter outlines some of the bone diseases such as osteoporosis and Paget's disease. Bone can be considered as a biphasic composite material, with two phases: one the mineral and the other collagen. This combination confers better mechanical properties on the tissue than each component itself.

JTD Keywords: Bone biology, Bone cells, Bone diseases, Bone extracellular matrix, Bone mechanics, Bone remodeling, Bone tissue regeneration, Skeleton


Pegueroles, M., Aparicio, C., Bosio, M., Engel, E., Gil, F. J., Planell, J. A., Altankov, G., (2010). Spatial organization of osteoblast fibronectin matrix on titanium surfaces: Effects of roughness, chemical heterogeneity and surface energy Acta Biomaterialia 6, (1), 291-301

We investigated the early events of bone matrix formation, and specifically the role of fibronectin (FN) in the initial osteoblast interaction and the subsequent organization of a provisional FN matrix on different rough titanium (Ti) surfaces. Fluorescein isothiocyanate-label led FN was preadsorbed on these surfaces and studied for its three-dimensional (3-D) organization by confocal microscopy, while its amount was quantified after NaOH extraction. An irregular pattern of adsorption with a higher amount of protein on topographic peaks than on valleys was observed and attributed to the physicochemical heterogeneity of the rough Ti surfaces. MG63 osteoblast-like cells were further cultured on FN-preadsorbed Ti surfaces and an improved initial cellular interaction was observed with increasing roughness. 3-D reconstruction of the immunofluorescence images after 4 days of incubation revealed that osteoblasts deposit FN fibrils in a specific facet-like pattern that is organized within the secreted total matrix overlying the top of the samples. The thickness of this FN layer increased when the roughness of the underlying topography was increased, but not by more than half of the total maximum peak-to-valley distance, as demonstrated with images showing simultaneous reconstruction of fluorescence and topography after 7 days of cell culture.

JTD Keywords: Fibronectin, Extracellular matrix organization, Titanium, Surface topography, Surface energy


Gugutkov, D., Altankov, G., Hernandez, J. C. R., Pradas, M. M., Sanchez, M. S., (2010). Fibronectin activity on substrates with controlled -OH density Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A , 92A, (1), 322-331

Adhesion of human fibroblast to a family of fibronectin (FN) coated model substrates consisting of copolymers of ethyl acrylate and hydroxyl ethylacrylate in different ratios to obtain a controlled surface density of -OH groups was investigated. Cell adhesion and spreading surprisingly decreased as the fraction of -OH groups on the Surface increased. AFM studies of FN conformation revealed formation of a protein network on the more hydrophobic surfaces. The density of this network diminished as the fraction of -OH groups in the sample increased, up to a maximal -OH concentration at which, instead of the network, only IN aggregates were observed. The kinetics of network development was followed at different adsorption times. Immunofluorescence for vinculin revealed the formation of well-developed focal adhesion complexes on the more hydrophobic surface (similar to the control glass), which became less defined as the fraction of -OH groups increased. Thus, the efficiency of cell adhesion is enhanced by the formation of FN networks on the substrate, directly revealing the importance of the adsorbed protein conformation for cell adhesion. However, cell-dependent reorganization of substrate-associated FN, which usually takes place on more hydrophilic substrates (as do at the control glass slides), was not observed in this system, suggesting the increased strength of protein-to-substrate interaction. Instead, the late FN matrix formation-after 3 days of culture-was again better pronounced on the more hydrophobic substrates and decreased as the fraction of -OH groups increase, which is in a good agreement with the results for overall cell morphology and focal adhesion formation.

JTD Keywords: Cell adhesion, Fibronectin, Fibroblast, Extracellular matrix, AFM


Gavara, N., Roca-Cusachs, P., Sunyer, R., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2008). Mapping cell-matrix stresses during stretch reveals inelastic reorganization of the cytoskeleton Biophysical Journal , 95, (1), 464-471

The mechanical properties of the living cell are intimately related to cell signaling biology through cytoskeletal tension. The tension borne by the cytoskeleton (CSK) is in part generated internally by the actomyosin machinery and externally by stretch. Here we studied how cytoskeletal tension is modified during stretch and the tensional changes undergone by the sites of cell-matrix interaction. To this end we developed a novel technique to map cell-matrix stresses during application of stretch. We found that cell-matrix stresses increased with imposition of stretch but dropped below baseline levels on stretch release. Inhibition of the actomyosin machinery resulted in a larger relative increase in CSK tension with stretch and in a smaller drop in tension after stretch release. Cell-matrix stress maps showed that the loci of cell adhesion initially bearing greater stress also exhibited larger drops in traction forces after stretch removal. Our results suggest that stretch partially disrupts the actin-myosin apparatus and the cytoskeletal structures that support the largest CSK tension. These findings indicate that cells use the mechanical energy injected by stretch to rapidly reorganize their structure and redistribute tension.

JTD Keywords: Cell Line, Computer Simulation, Cytoskeleton/ physiology, Elasticity, Epithelial Cells/ physiology, Extracellular Matrix/ physiology, Humans, Mechanotransduction, Cellular/ physiology, Models, Biological, Stress, Mechanical


Gustavsson, J., Altankov, G., Errachid, A., Samitier, J., Planell, J. A., Engel, E., (2008). Surface modifications of silicon nitride for cellular biosensor applications Journal of Materials Science-Materials in Medicine , 19, (4), 1839-1850

Thin films of silicon nitride (Si3N4) can be used in several kinds of micro-sized biosensors as a material to monitor fine environmental changes related to the process of bone formation in vitro. We found however that Si3N4 does not provide optimal conditions for osseointegration as osteoblast-like MG-63 cells tend to detach from the surface when cultured over confluence. Therefore Si3N4 was modified with self-assembled monolayers bearing functional end groups of primary amine (NH2) and carboxyl (COOH) respectively. Both these modifications enhanced the interaction with confluent cell layers and thus improve osseointegration over Si3N4. Furthermore it was observed that the NH2 functionality increased the adsorption of fibronectin (FN), promoted cell proliferation, but delayed the differentiation. We also studied the fate of pre-adsorbed and secreted FN from cells to learn more about the impact of above functionalities for the development of provisional extracellular matrix on materials interface. Taken together our data supports that Si3N4 has low tissue integration but good cellular biocompatibility and thus is appropriate in cellular biosensor applications such as the ion-sensitive field effect transistor (ISFET). COOH and NH2 chemistries generally improve the interfacial tissue interaction with the sensor and they are therefore suitable substrates for monitoring cellular growth or matrix deposition using electrical impedance spectroscopy.

JTD Keywords: Adsorption, Amines/chemistry, Biocompatible Materials/ chemistry, Biosensing Techniques, Cell Differentiation, Cell Line, Cell Proliferation, Electric Impedance, Extracellular Matrix/metabolism, Fibronectins/chemistry, Humans, Materials Testing, Osteoblasts/ cytology, Silicon Compounds/ chemistry, Surface Properties