・Recapitulation of human embryonic heartbeat to promote differentiation of hepatic endoderm to hepatoblasts  (2016- )

 ・2018 - 2019  

 Hepatic development requires multiple sequential physicochemical environmental changes in an embryo, and human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) allow for the elucidation of this embryonic developmental process. However, the current in vitro methods for hPSC-hepatic differentiation, which employ various biochemical substances, produce hPSC-derived hepatocytes with less functionality than primary hepatocytes, due to a lack of physical stimuli, such as heart beating. Here, we developed a microfluidic platform that recapitulates the beating of a human embryonic heart to improve the functionality of hepatoblasts derived from hepatic endoderm (HE) in vitro. This microfluidic platform facilitates the application of multiple mechanical stretching forces, to mimic heart beating, to cultured hepatic endoderm cells to identify the optimal stimuli. Results show that stimulated HE-derived hepatoblasts increased cytochrome P450 3A (CYP3A) metabolic activity, as well as the expression of hepatoblast functional markers (albumin, cytokeratin 19 and CYP3A7), compared to unstimulated hepatoblasts. This approach of hepatic differentiation from hPSCs with the application of mechanical stimuli will facilitate improved methods for studying human embryonic liver development, as well as accurate pharmacological testing with functional liver cells.

(Yoshimoto et.al., Frontiers in B&B, 2020)

 ・2016 - 2018  (K. Kamei et.al. Biomedical Microdevices 2019-)(Contribution: fabrication of the device )

   "Three-dimensional cultured liver-on-a-Chip with mature hepatocyte-like cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells"

Liver-on-a-Chip technology holds considerable potential for applications in drug screening and chemical-safety testing. To establish such platforms, functional hepatocytes are required; however, primary hepatocytes are commonly used, despite problems involving donor limitations, lot-to-lot variation, and unsatisfactory two-dimensional culture methods. Although human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) may represent a strong alternative contender to address the aforementioned issues, remaining technological challenges include the robust, highly efficient production of high-purity hepatic clusters. In addition, current Liver-on-a-Chip platforms are relatively complicated and not applicable for high-throughput experiments. Here, we develop a very simple Liver-on-a-Chip platform with mature and functional hepatocyte-like cells derived from hPSCs. To establish a method for hepatic differentiation of hPSCs, cells were first treated by inhibiting the phosphoinositide 3-kinase- and Rho-associated protein kinase-signaling pathways to stop self-renewal and improve survival, respectively, which enabled the formation of a well-defined endoderm and facilitated hepatocyte commitment. Next, a simple microfluidic device was used to create a three-dimensional (3D) culture environment that enhanced the maturation and function of hepatocyte-like cells by increasing the expression of both hepatic maturation markers and cytochrome P450. Finally, we confirmed improvements in hepatic functions, such as drug uptake/excretion capabilities, in >90% of 3D-matured hepatocyte-like cells by indocyanin green assay. These results indicated that the incorporation of hPSC-derived hepatocytes on our Liver-on-a-Chip platform may serve to enhance the processes involved in drug screening and chemical-safety testing.

Nano-on-micro fibrous extracellular matrices for scalable expansion of human ES/iPS cells" (2016- )

   ・2016 - 2017   (Li Liu, et.al., Biomaterials 2017 -) (Contribution: fabrication of  fiber-on-fiber)

    "Nano-on-micro fibrous extracellular matrices for scalable expansion of human ES/iPS cells"

Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) hold great potential for industrial and clinical applications. Clinical-grade scaffolds and high-quality hPSCs are required for cell expansion as well as easy handling and manipulation of the products. Current hPSC culture methods do not fulfill these requirements because of a lack of proper extracellular matrices (ECMs) and cell culture wares. We developed a layered nano-on-micro fibrous cellular matrix mimicking ECM, named “fiber-on-fiber (FF)” matrix, which enables easy handling and manipulation of cultured cells. While non-woven sheets of cellulose and polyglycolic acid were used as a microfiber layer facilitating mechanical stability, electrospun gelatin nanofibers were crosslinked on the microfiber layer, generating a mesh structure with connected nanofibers facilitating cell adhesion and growth. Our results showed that the FF matrix supports effective hPSC culture with maintenance of their pluripotency and normal chromosomes over two months, as well as effective scaled-up expansion, with fold increases of 54.1 ± 15.6 and 40.4 ± 8.4 in cell number per week for H1 human embryonic stem cells and 253G1 human induced pluripotent stem cells, respectively. This simple approach to mimick the ECM may have important implications after further optimization to generate lineage-specific products.