Dr Paola Campagnolo is currently Lecturer of Molecular Cardiovascular Biology in the School of Biosciences and Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. Paola graduated in Biotechnology at the University of Padua, Italy. She then moved to Bristol to work under the supervision of Prof Paolo Madeddu at Bristol Heart Institute. In 2009, Paola completed her PhD in Cardiovascular Biology working on the isolation of a patient derived pro-angiogenic progenitor cell population. Next, Paola joined Prof Qingbo Xu's the BHF Centre of Excellence at King's College London as a BHF Research Associate to explore the use of stem cells for the repopulation of vascular grafts. In 2013, Paola joined Prof Molly Stevens' group at the Department of Materials at Imperial College London to undertake the study of novel bio- and nano- materials for cardiovascular tissue engineering.Paola has published extensively in top journals in the field of cardiovascular biology and material science with a total of over 646 citations.Paola is part of the editorial board of Editorial Board of Cardiovascular Biologics and Regenerative Medicine (specialty section of Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine), act as a reviewer for several journals, including PLoSONE and ATVB and is part of the reviewing board for the French National Agency of Research and the Italian Ministry of Health.
My main research interests are (1) developing improved tissue engineered vascular grafts (2) study cell-cell and cell-material interaction in vascular cell within multicellular co-culture systems (3) long term bioreactor systems for multicellular cardiovascular constructs (4) epigenetic changes in cell-material interactions.
Within the University of Surrey:Dr Kevin Maringer (Department of Microbial Sciences, FHMS)Dr Eirini Velliou (Department of Chemical Engineering, FEPS)Dr Patrizia Camelliti (Department of Biochemical Sciences, FHMS)Dr Costantina Lekakou (Department of Mechanical Engineering, FEPS)
External collaborations:Prof Paolo Madeddu (University of Bristol)Prof Molly Stevens (Imperial College London)Prof Qingbo Xu (Kings College London)Dr Nicola Smart (University of Oxford)Dr Ciro Chiappini (King's College London)
18 AUG 2022
OCTAVA: An open-source toolbox for harmonised analysis of clinical angiography images to support discovery of novel biomarkers
The epicardium has recently gained interest in the cardiovascular field due to its capacity to support heart regeneration after ischemic injury. Models to study the epicardium of large animals in vitro are limited and mainly based on epicardial cell isolation/differentiation from stem cells, followed by 2D cells culture. In this method paper, we describe the procedure to obtain and culture 3D organotypic heart slices presenting an intact epicardium, as a novel model to study the epicardial physiology and activation. Epicardial slices are obtained from porcine hearts using a high-precision vibratome and retain a healthy epicardial layer embedded in its native extracellular environment and connected with other cardiac cells (cardiomyocytes, fibroblasts, vascular cells etc.). Epicardial slices can be cultured for 72 h, providing an ideal model for studying the epicardium physiology or perform pharmacological interventions/gene therapy approaches. We also report on methods to assesses the viability and composition of the epicardial slices, and evaluate their architecture in 3D through tissue decoloration. Finally, we present a potential application for a nanomaterial-based gene transfer method for tracking of epicardial cells within the slice. Crucially, given the similarity in morphology and physiology of porcine heart with its human counterpart, our system provides a platform for translational research while providing a clinically relevant and ethical alternative to the use of small animals in this type of research.
Controlled clinical intervention studies have demonstrated that cocoa flavanols (CF) can decrease blood pressure and arterial stiffness in healthy humans, although a large variability in the effect size across trials has been reported. Here, we evaluated intra- and inter-individual variability of responses to CF in everyday life using a series of n-of-1 trials in healthy free-living individuals with normal blood pressure carrying personal devices. Eleven healthy young humans participated in a repeated cross-over randomized controlled double-blind n-of-1 trial. On eight consecutive days, each volunteer consumed on alternating days 6 CF capsules (862 mg CF) on four days and 6 matched placebo capsules (P, 0 mg CF/day) on another 4 days in one of two randomized sequences (CF-P-CF-P-CF-P-CF-P or P-CF-P-CF-P-CF-P-CF). On each day the capsules were taken at the same time in the morning with breakfast after baseline measurements. Each subject was provided with an upper arm blood pressure monitor and a finger clip that measures pulse wave velocity (PWV). Measurements of blood pressure, heart rate and PWV were taken at least hourly over 12 hours during the day by the participants. On the first 2 days measurements were performed under supervision to provide training. The overall mixed model analysis showed that CF significantly decreased 12 h systolic blood pressure and PWV by -1.4±0.3 mmHg and - -0.11±0.03 m/s, respectively. Peak effects were observed within the first 3 hours (1.5 h SBP: -4.9±2.2 mmHg, PWV: -0.32±0.17 m/s)and again after 8 h post ingestion. Large inter-individual variation in responses was found (intra-cluster correlation coefficients [ICC]: 0.41, 0.41). When analysing single individuals’ datasets, there was also considerable between-day variation in individual responses that varied greatly between subjects (ICC: 0-0.30, 0-0.22, 0-0.45). Effect sizes inversely correlated with baseline blood pressure values both between-- and within-subjects. The data confirm that cocoa can decrease blood pressure and arterial stiffness in everyday life when elevated within the normal range. The large inter- and intra-individual variation in responses call for more personalized nutritional intervention strategies.
Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) performs non-invasive visualization and characterization of microvasculature in research and clinical applications mainly in ophthalmology and dermatology. A wide variety of instruments, imaging protocols, processing methods and metrics have been used to describe the microvasculature, such that comparing different study outcomes is currently not feasible. With the goal of contributing to standardization of OCTA data analysis, we report a user-friendly, open-source toolbox, OCTAVA (OCTA Vascular Analyzer), to automate the pre-processing, segmentation, and quantitative analysis of en face OCTA maximum intensity projection images in a standardized workflow. We present each analysis step, including optimization of filtering and choice of segmentation algorithm, and definition of metrics. We perform quantitative analysis of OCTA images from different commercial and non-commercial instruments and samples and show OCTAVA can accurately and reproducibly determine metrics for characterization of microvasculature. Wide adoption could enable studies and aggregation of data on a scale sufficient to develop reliable microvascular biomarkers for early detection, and to guide treatment, of microvascular disease.
Routine interventions such as balloon angioplasty, result in vascular activation and remodeling, often requiring re-intervention. 2D in vitro models and small animal experiments have enabled the discovery of important mechanisms involved in this process, however the clinical translation is often underwhelming. There is a critical need for an ex vivo model representative of the human vascular physiology and encompassing the complexity of the vascular wall and the physical forces regulating its function. Vascular bioreactors for ex vivo culture of large vessels are viable alternatives, but their custom-made design and insufficient characterization often hinders the reproducibility of the experiments. The objective of the study was to design and validate a novel 3D printed cost-efficient and versatile perfusion system, capable of sustaining the viability and functionality of large porcine arteries for 7 days and enabling early post-injury evaluations. MultiJet Fusion 3D printing was used to engineer the EasyFlow insert, converting a conventional 50 ml centrifuge tube into a mini bioreactor. Porcine carotid arteries either left untreated or injured with an angioplasty balloon, were cultured under pulsatile flow for up to 7 days. Pressure, heart rate, medium viscosity and shear conditions were adjusted to resemble arterial in vivo hemodynamics. Tissue viability, cell activation and matrix remodeling were analyzed by immunohistochemistry, and vascular function was monitored by duplex ultrasound. Culture conditions in the EasyFlow bioreactor preserved endothelial coverage and smooth muscle organization and extracellular matrix structure in the vessel wall, as compared to static culture. Injured arteries presented hallmarks of early remodeling, such as intimal denudation, smooth muscle cell disarray and media/adventitia activation in flow culture. Duplex ultrasound confirmed continuous pulsatile blood flow conditions, dose-dependent vasodilator response to nitroglycerin in untreated vessels and impaired dilator response in angioplastied vessels. The scope of this work is to validate a low-cost, robust and reproducible system to explore the culture of native and injured large arteries under pulsatile flow. While the study of vascular pathology is beyond the scope of the present paper, our system enables future investigations and provides a platform to test novel therapies and devices ex vivo, in a patient relevant system.
Flexible wearable chemical sensors are emerging tools which target diagnosis and monitoring of medical conditions. One of the potential applications of wearable chemical sensors is therapeutic drug monitoring for drugs that have a narrow therapeutic range such as lithium. We have investigated the possibility of developing a fibre-based device for non-invasive lithium drug monitoring in interstitial fluid. A flexible cotton-based lithium sensor was coupled with a carbon fibre-based reference electrode to obtain a potentiometric device. In vitro reverse iontophoresis experiments were performed to extract Li+ from under porcine skin by applying a current density of 0.4 mA cm-2 via two electrodes. Carbon fibre-based reverse iontophoresis electrodes were fabricated and used instead of a conventional silver wire-based version and comparable results were obtained. The fibre-based Li+ sensor and reference electrodes were capable of determining the Li+ concentration in samples collected via reverse iontophoresis and the results compared well to those obtained by ion chromatography. Additionally, biocompatibility of the used materials have been tested. Promising results were obtained which confirm the possibility of monitoring lithium in interstitial fluid using a wearable sensor.
Despite the steady increase in the number of studies focusing on the development of tissue engineered constructs, solutions delivered to the clinic are still limited. Specifically, the lack of mature and functional vasculature greatly limits the size and complexity of vascular scaffold models. If tissue engineering aims to replace large portions of tissue with the intention of repairing significant defects, a more thorough understanding of the mechanisms and players regulating the angiogenic process is required in the field. This review will present the current material and technological advancements addressing the imperfect formation of mature blood vessels within tissue engineered structures.
The development of synthetic vascular grafts for coronary artery bypass is challenged by insufficient endothelialization, which exposes to the risk of thrombosis, and lack of native cellular constituents, which favours pathological remodelling. Here, an bifunctional electrospun poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) scaffold with potential for synthetic vascular graft applications is presented. This scaffold incorporates two tethered peptides: the osteopontin-derived peptide (Adh) on the ‘luminal’ side and a heparin-binding peptide (Hep) on the ‘abluminal’ side. Additionally, the ‘abluminal’ side of the scaffold is seeded with saphenous vein-derived pericytes (SVPs) as a source of pro-angiogenic growth factors. The Adh peptide significantly increase endothelial cell adhesion, while the Hep peptide promote accumulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) secreted by SVPs. SVPs increase endothelial migration both in a transwell assay and a modified scratch assay performed on the PCL scaffold. Seeding of SVPs on the ‘abluminal’/Hep side of the scaffold further increase endothelial cell density, indicating a combinatory effect of the peptides and pericytes. Lastly, SVP-seeded scaffolds are preserved by freezing in a xeno-free medium, maintaining good cell viability and function. In conclusion, this engineered scaffold combines patient-derived pericytes and spatially organized functionalities, which synergistically increase endothelial cell density and growth factor retention.
The epicardium constitutes an untapped reservoir for cardiac regeneration. Upon heart injury, the adult epicardium re-activates, leading to epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), migration and differentiation. While interesting mechanistic and therapeutic findings arose from lower vertebrates and rodent models, the introduction of an experimental system representative of large mammals would undoubtedly facilitate translational advancements. Here, we apply innovative protocols to obtain living 3D organotypic epicardial slices from porcine hearts, encompassing the epicardial/myocardial interface. In culture, our slices preserve the in vivo architecture and functionality, presenting a continuous epicardium overlaying a healthy and connected myocardium. Upon thymosin β4 treatment of the slices, the epicardial cells become activated upregulating epicardial and EMT genes, resulting in epicardial cell mobilization and differentiation into epicardial-derived mesenchymal cells. Our 3D organotypic model enables to investigate the reparative potential of the adult epicardium, offering an advanced tool to explore ex vivo the complex 3D interactions occurring within the native heart environment
Finding a suitable cell source for endothelial cells (ECs) for cardiovascular regeneration is a challenging issue for regenerative medicine. In this paper, we describe a novel mechanism regulating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) differentiation into ECs, with a particular focus on miRNAs and their targets. We first established a protocol using collagen IV and VEGF to drive the functional differentiation of iPSCs into ECs and compared the miRNA signature of differentiated and undifferentiated cells. Among the miRNAs overrepresented in differentiated cells, we focused on microRNA-21 (miR-21) and studied its role in iPSC differentiation. Overexpression of miR-21 in predifferentiated iPSCs induced EC marker up-regulation and in vitro and in vivo capillary formation; accordingly, inhibition of miR-21 produced the opposite effects. Importantly, miR-21 overexpression increased TGF-2 mRNA and secreted protein level, consistent with the strong up-regulation of TGF-2 during iPSC differentiation. Indeed, treatment of iPSCs with TGF-2 induced EC marker expression and in vitro tube formation. Inhibition of SMAD3, a downstream effector of TGF-2, strongly decreased VE-cadherin expression. Furthermore,TGF-2 neutralization and knockdown inhibited miR-21-induced EC marker expression. Finally, we confirmed the PTEN/Akt pathway as a direct target of miR-21, and we showed that PTEN knockdown is required for miR-21-mediated endothelial differentiation. In conclusion, we elucidated a novel signaling pathway that promotes the differentiation of iPSC into functional ECs suitable for regenerative medicine applications.
Iron oxide nanostructures have been widely developed for biomedical applications, due to their magnetic properties and biocompatibility. In clinical application, the stabilization of these nanostructures against aggregation and non-specific interactions is typically achieved using weakly anchored polysaccharides, with better-defined and more strongly anchored synthetic polymers not commercially adopted due to complexity of synthesis and use. Here, we show for the first time stabilization and biocompatibilization of iron oxide nanoparticles by a synthetic homopolymer with strong surface anchoring and a history of clinical use in other applications, poly(2-methacryloyloxyethy phosphorylcholine) (poly(MPC)). For the commercially important case of spherical particles, binding of poly(MPC) to iron oxide surfaces and highly effective individualization of magnetite nanoparticles (20 nm) are demonstrated. Next-generation highaspect ratio nanowires (both magnetite/maghemite and core-shell iron/iron oxide) are furthermore stabilized by poly(MPC)-coating, with nanowire cytotoxicity at large concentrations significantly reduced. The synthesis approach is exploited to incorporate functionality into the poly(MPC) chain is demonstrated by random copolymerization with an alkyne-containing monomer for click-chemistry. Taking these results together, poly(MPC) homopolymers and random copolymers offer a significant improvement over current iron oxide nanoformulations, combining straightforward synthesis, strong surface-anchoring and well-defined molecular weight.
The recent development of tissue engineering provides exciting new perspectives for the replacement of failing organs and the repair of damaged tissues. Perivascular cells, including vascular smooth muscle cells, pericytes and other tissue specific populations residing around blood vessels, have been isolated from many organs and are known to participate to the in situ repair process and angiogenesis. Their potential has been harnessed for cell therapy of numerous pathologies; however, in this Review we will discuss the potential of perivascular cells in the development of tissue engineering solutions for healthcare. We will examine their application in the engineering of vascular grafts, cardiac patches and bone substitutes as well as other tissue engineering applications and we will focus on their extensive use in the vascularization of engineered constructs. Additionally, we will discuss the emerging potential of human pericytes for the development of efficient, vascularized and non-immunogenic engineered constructs.
The simple and effective approach of “dipping and drying” cotton yarn in a dispersion of poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)-poly(styrene sulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) resulted in the development of a highly conductive and flexible cotton fibres. Subsequent polyaniline (PANi) deposition yielded electrodes with significant biocompatible and antibacterial properties that could be fabricated (alongside quasi-reference electrodes) into solid-state wearable pH sensors, which achieve rapid, selective, and Nernstian responses (-61 ± 2 mV pH-1) over a wide pH range (2.0 – 12.0), even in a pH-adjusted artificial sweat matrix. This development represents an important progression towards the realisation of real-time, on-body, wearable sensors.
Dengue is the most prevalent arthropod-borne viral disease affecting humans, with severe dengue typified by potentially fatal microvascular leakage and hypovolaemic shock. Blood vessels of the microvasculature are composed of a tubular structure of endothelial cells ensheathed by perivascular cells (pericytes). Pericytes support endothelial cell barrier formation and maintenance through paracrine and contact-mediated signalling, and are critical to microvascular integrity. Pericyte dysfunction has been linked to vascular leakage in noncommunicable pathologies such as diabetic retinopathy, but has never been linked to infection-related vascular leakage. Dengue vascular leakage has been shown to result in part from the direct action of the secreted dengue virus (DENV) non-structural protein NS1 on endothelial cells. Using primary human vascular cells, we show here that NS1 also causes pericyte dysfunction, and that NS1-induced endothelial hyperpermeability is more pronounced in the presence of pericytes. Notably, NS1 specifically disrupted the ability of pericytes to support endothelial cell function in a 3D microvascular assay, with no effect on pericyte viability or physiology. These effects are mediated at least in part through contact-independent paracrine signals involved in endothelial barrier maintenance by pericytes. We therefore identify a role for pericytes in amplifying NS1-induced microvascular hyperpermeability in severe dengue, and thus show that pericytes can play a critical role in the aetiology of an infectious vascular leakage syndrome. These findings open new avenues of research for the development of drugs and diagnostic assays for combating infection-induced vascular leakage, such as severe dengue.