In tissue engineering research, stem cells have been used as starting material in the synthesis of mammalian cells for the treatment of various cell based diseases. This is done by manipulating the DNA content of the cells to induce a specific effect such as increased proliferation or developing a new cell type through the process of differentiation. Such controlled gene expression of stem cells is achieved by the method of transfection, where exogenous plasmid deoxyribonucleic acid (pDNA) is inserted into a stem cell using chemical, viral or physical methods. In this research, we used femtosecond (fs) laser pulses from a home-build microscope system to perforate the cellular membrane and allow entry of selected pDNA to alter the behaviour of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs). In one set of experiments, we induce fluorescence on mESCs using green fluorescence protein plasmid (pGFP) while in other tests; differentiation of mESCs into endoderm cells is performed using Sox-17 plasmid DNA (pSox-17). Primitive endoderm formation was thereafter confirmed using polymerase chain reactions (PCR) and the Sox-17 primer. Cell viability studies using adenosine triphosphate were also conducted. From the data, it was concluded that the photo-transfection method is biocompatible since it was able to induce fluorescence in mESCs. Secondly, it was confirmed that Sox-17 was photo-transfected successfully using 6 μW laser power, 128 fs pulses and 1kHz pulse repetition rate.
Optical trapping has emerged as an essential tool for manipulating single biological material and performing sophisticated spectroscopy analysis on individual cell. The optical trapping technique has been used to grab and immobilize cells from a tightly focused laser beam emitted through a high numerical aperture objective lens. Coupling optical trapping with other technologies is possible and allows stable sample trapping, while also facilitating molecular, chemical and spectroscopic analysis. For this reason, we are exploring laser trapping combined with laser spectroscopy as a potential non-invasive method of interrogating individual cells with a high degree of specificity in terms of information generated. Thus, for the delivery of as much pathological information as possible, we use a home-build optical trapping and spectroscopy system for real time probing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) infected and uninfected single cells. Briefly, our experimental rig comprises an infrared continuous wave laser at 1064 nm with power output of 1.5 W, a 100X high numerical aperture oil-immersion microscope objective used to capture and immobilise individual cell samples as well as an excitation source. Spectroscopy spectral patterns obtained by the 1064 nm laser beam excitation provide information on HIV-1 infected and uninfected cells. We present these preliminary findings which may be valuable for the development of an HIV-1 point of care detection system.
Embryonic stem cells have great promise in regenerative medicine because of their ability to self-renew and differentiate into various cell types. Delivery of therapeutic genes into cells has already been achieved using of chemical agents and viral vectors with high transfection efficiencies. However, these methods have also been documented as toxic and in the latter case they can cause latent cell infections. In this study we use femtosecond laser pulses to optically deliver genetic material in mouse embryonic stem cells. Femtosecond laser pulses in contrast to the conventional approach, minimises the risk of unwanted side effects because photons are used to create transient pores on the membrane which allow free entry of molecules with no need for delivery agents. Using an Olympus microscope, fluorescence imaging of the samples post irradiation was performed and decreased expression of stage specific embryonic antigen one (SSEA-1) consistent with on-going cellular differentiation was observed. Our results also show that femtosecond laser pulses were effective in delivering SOX 17 plasmid DNA (pSOX17) which resulted in the differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells into endoderm cells. We thus concluded that laser transfection of stem cells for the purpose of differentiation, holds potential for applications in tissue engineering as a method of generating new cell lines.
Cellular manipulation by delivery of molecules into cells has been applied extensively in tissue engineering research for medical applications . The different molecular delivery techniques used range from viral and chemical agents to physical and electrical methods. Although successful in most studies, these techniques have inherent difficulties such as toxicity, unwanted genetic mutations and low reproducibility respectively. Literature recognizes pulsed lasers at femtosecond level to be most efficient in photonic interactions with biological material. As of late, laser pulses have been used for drug and DNA delivery into cells via transient optical perforation of the cellular membrane. Thus in this study, we design and construct an optical system coupled to a femtosecond laser for the purpose of phototransfection or insertion of plasmid DNA (pDNA) into cells using lasers. We used fluorescent green protein (pGFP) to transfect mouse embryonic stem cells as our model. Secondly, we applied fluorescence imaging to view the extent of DNA delivery using this method. We also assessed the biocompatibility of our system by performing molecular assays of the cells post irradiation using adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH).