Doctor of Philosophy, Universitat Graz (2010)
Doctor of Medicine, Universitat Graz (2006)
Ravindra Majeti, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
The β-haemoglobinopathies, such as sickle cell disease and β-thalassaemia, are caused by mutations in the β-globin (HBB) gene and affect millions of people worldwide. Ex vivo gene correction in patient-derived haematopoietic stem cells followed by autologous transplantation could be used to cure β-haemoglobinopathies. Here we present a CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing system that combines Cas9 ribonucleoproteins and adeno-associated viral vector delivery of a homologous donor to achieve homologous recombination at the HBB gene in haematopoietic stem cells. Notably, we devise an enrichment model to purify a population of haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells with more than 90% targeted integration. We also show efficient correction of the Glu6Val mutation responsible for sickle cell disease by using patient-derived stem and progenitor cells that, after differentiation into erythrocytes, express adult β-globin (HbA) messenger RNA, which confirms intact transcriptional regulation of edited HBB alleles. Collectively, these preclinical studies outline a CRISPR-based methodology for targeting haematopoietic stem cells by homologous recombination at the HBB locus to advance the development of next-generation therapies for β-haemoglobinopathies.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nature20134
View details for PubMedID 27820943
Xenotransplantation models represent powerful tools for the investigation of healthy and malignant human hematopoiesis. However, current models do not fully mimic the components of the human bone marrow (BM) microenvironment, and they enable only limited engraftment of samples from some human malignancies. Here we show that a xenotransplantation model bearing subcutaneous humanized ossicles with an accessible BM microenvironment, formed by in situ differentiation of human BM-derived mesenchymal stromal cells, enables the robust engraftment of healthy human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, as well as primary acute myeloid leukemia (AML) samples, at levels much greater than those in unmanipulated mice. Direct intraossicle transplantation accelerated engraftment and resulted in the detection of substantially higher leukemia-initiating cell (LIC) frequencies. We also observed robust engraftment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) and myelofibrosis (MF) samples, and identified LICs in these malignancies. This humanized ossicle xenotransplantation approach provides a system for modeling a wide variety of human hematological diseases.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nm.4103
View details for Web of Science ID 000379366900021
View details for PubMedID 27213817
Autologous endothelial cells are promising alternative angiogenic cell sources in trials of therapeutic vasculogenesis, in the treatment of vascular diseases and in the field of tissue engineering. A population of endothelial cells (ECs) with long-term proliferative capability, endothelial colony-forming cells (ECFCs), can be isolated from human peripheral blood. ECFCs are considered an endothelial precursor population. They can be expanded in cell factories in sufficient numbers for clinical applications, but because the number of isolated primary ECs is low, the culture period required may be long. Another EC population that is easily available in the autologous setting and may be expanded in vitro through several population doublings are ECs from adipose tissue (AT-ECs).Through extensive comparisons using whole-genome microarray analysis, morphology, phenotype and functional assays, we wanted to evaluate the potential of these EC populations for use in clinical neovascularization.Global gene expression profiling of ECFCs, AT-ECs and the classical EC population, human umbilical vein ECs, showed that the EC populations clustered as unique populations, but very close to each other. By cell surface phenotype and vasculogenic potential in vitro and in vivo, we also found the ECFCs to be extremely similar to AT-ECs.These properties, together with easy access in the autologous setting, suggest that both AT-ECs and ECFCs may be useful in trials of therapeutic neovascularization. However, AT-ECs may be a more practical alternative for obtaining large quantities of autologous ECs.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jcyt.2015.10.009
View details for Web of Science ID 000369124900009
View details for PubMedID 26669908
Recurrent mutations in cohesin complex proteins have been identified in pre-leukemic hematopoietic stem cells and during the early development of acute myeloid leukemia and other myeloid malignancies. Although cohesins are involved in chromosome separation and DNA damage repair, cohesin complex functions during hematopoiesis and leukemic development are unclear. Here, we show that mutant cohesin proteins block differentiation of human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) in vitro and in vivo and enforce stem cell programs. These effects are restricted to immature HSPC populations, where cohesin mutants show increased chromatin accessibility and likelihood of transcription factor binding site occupancy by HSPC regulators including ERG, GATA2, and RUNX1, as measured by ATAC-seq and ChIP-seq. Epistasis experiments show that silencing these transcription factors rescues the differentiation block caused by cohesin mutants. Together, these results show that mutant cohesins impair HSPC differentiation by controlling chromatin accessibility and transcription factor activity, possibly contributing to leukemic disease.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.stem.2015.09.017
View details for PubMedID 26607380
Evidence for the cancer stem cell model was first demonstrated in xenotransplanted blood and bone marrow samples from patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) almost two decades ago, supporting the concept that a rare clonal and mutated leukemic stem cell (LSC) population is sufficient to drive leukemic growth. The inability to eliminate LSCs with conventional therapies is thought to be the primary cause of disease relapse in AML patients, and as such, novel therapies with the ability to target this population are required to improve patient outcomes. An important step towards this goal is the identification of common immunophenotypic surface markers and biological properties that distinguish LSCs from normal hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) across AML patients. This work has resulted in the development of a large number of potential LSC-selective therapies that target cell surface molecules, intracellular signaling pathways, and the bone marrow microenvironment. Here, we will review the basic biology, immunophenotypic detection, and clinical relevance of LSCs, as well as emerging biological and small-molecule strategies that either directly target LSCs or indirectly target these cells through modulation of their microenvironment.
View details for DOI 10.1053/j.seminhematol.2015.03.008
View details for Web of Science ID 000357433800002
In the last decade there has been a rapid expansion in clinical trials using mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) from a variety of tissues. However, despite similarities in morphology, immunophenotype and differentiation behavior in vitro, MSCs sourced from distinct tissues do not necessarily have equivalent biological properties. We performed a genome-wide methylation, transcription and in vivo evaluation of MSCs from human bone marrow (BM), white adipose tissue, umbilical cord and skin cultured in humanized media. Surprisingly, only BM-derived MSCs spontaneously formed a bone marrow cavity through a vascularized cartilage intermediate in vivo that was progressively replaced by hematopoietic tissue and bone. Only BM-derived MSCs exhibited a chondrogenic transcriptional program with hypomethylation and increased expression of RUNX3, RUNX2, BGLAP, MMP13 and ITGA10 consistent with a latent and primed skeletal developmental potential. The humanized MSC-derived microenvironment permitted homing and maintenance of long-term murine SLAM(+) hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) as well as human CD34(+)/CD38(-)/CD90(+)/CD45RA(+) HSCs after cord blood transplantation. These studies underscore the profound differences in developmental potential between MSC sources independent of donor age with implications for their clinical use. We also demonstrate a tractable human niche model for studying homing and engraftment of human hematopoietic cells in normal and neoplastic states.
View details for DOI 10.1182/blood-2014-04-572255
View details for Web of Science ID 000350810200014
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is associated with deregulation of DNA methylation; however, many cases do not bear mutations in known regulators of CpG methylation. We found that mutations in WT1, IDH2, and CEBPA were strongly linked to DNA hypermethylation in AML using a novel integrative analysis of TCGA data based on Boolean implications, if-then rules that identify all individual CpG sites that are hypermethylated in the presence of a mutation. Introduction of mutant WT1 (WT1mut) into wildtype AML cells induced DNA hypermethylation, confirming mutant WT1 to be causally associated with DNA hypermethylation. Methylated genes in WT1mut primary patient samples were highly enriched for polycomb repressor complex 2 (PRC2) targets, implicating PRC2 dysregulation in WT1mut leukemogenesis. We found that PRC2 target genes were aberrantly repressed in WT1mut AML, and that expression of mutant WT1 in CD34+ cord blood cells induced myeloid differentiation block. Treatment of WT1mut AML cells with shRNA or pharmacologic PRC2/EZH2 inhibitors promoted myeloid differentiation, suggesting EZH2 inhibitors may be active in this AML subtype. Our results highlight a strong association between mutant WT1 and DNA hypermethylation in AML, and demonstrate that Boolean implications can be used to decipher mutation-specific methylation patterns that may lead to therapeutic insights.
View details for DOI 10.1182/blood-2014-03-566018
View details for Web of Science ID 000350810200020
View details for PubMedID 25398938
This article describes a new acquisition and reconstruction concept for positive contrast imaging of cells labeled with superparamagnetic iron oxides (SPIOs). Overcoming the limitations of a negative contrast representation as gained with gradient echo and fully balanced steady state (bSSFP), the proposed method delivers a spatially localized contrast with high cellular sensitivity not accomplished by other positive contrast methods. Employing a 3D radial bSSFP pulse sequence with half-echo sampling, positive cellular contrast is gained by adding artificial global frequency offsets to each half-echo before image reconstruction. The new contrast regime is highlighted with numerical intravoxel simulations including the point-spread function for 3D half-echo acquisitions. Furthermore, the new method is validated on the basis of in vitro cell phantom measurements on a clinical MRI platform, where the measured contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) of the new approach exceeds even the negative contrast of bSSFP. Finally, an in vivo proof of principle study based on a mouse model with a clear depiction of labeled cells within a subcutaneous cell islet containing a cell density as low as 7 cells/mm(3) is presented. The resultant isotropic images show robustness to motion and a high CNR, in addition to an enhanced specificity due to the positive contrast of SPIO-labeled cells.
View details for DOI 10.1002/nbm.3229
View details for Web of Science ID 000345983100010
View details for PubMedID 25379657