Single Cell Investigations of the Functional Heterogeneity Within Immune Cell Populations: a Microchip-based Study
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Immune cell populations are constantly divided into smaller and smaller subsets defined by newly emerging cellular markers. However, there is a growing awareness of the functional heterogeneities in between cells even within small populations, in addition to the heterogeneity over time. One may ask whether a population is correctly defined only by cellular markers or if the functionality should be regarded as well? Many of today’s techniques only measure at the population level, giving an average estimate of the behavior of that pool of cells, but failing to detect rare possibly important events. Thus, high-throughput experimental approaches to analyze single cells over time are required to address cellular heterogeneity.
Progress in the fields of microfabrication, microscopy and computing have paved the way for increasingly efficient tools for studies on the single cell level, and a variety of devices have been described by others. However, few of them are suitable for long-term imaging of dynamic events such as cell-cell interactions or migration. In addition, for efficient recording of many individual events it is desirable to scale down the cells’ interaction volume; not only to shorten the time to interaction, but also to increase the number of individual events in a given area; thereby pushing a screening approach.
To address these questions, a complete microwell array system for imaging of immune cell responses with single-cell resolution was designed. The platform consists of a range of silicon-glass microchips with arrays of miniature wells for incubation of cells and a custom made holder that fits conventional microscopes. The device has been designed to allow cells to be kept viable for several days in the wells, to be easy to use and to allow high-resolution imaging. Five different designs were fabricated; all with a specific type of assay in mind, and were evaluated regarding biocompatibility and functionality. Here, the design aimed for screening applications is the main focus. In this approach a large amount, tens of thousands, of small wells are imaged two to three times: first directly post-seeding of effector and target cells to register the well’s content, and second after some time has passed to allow for cell-cell interactions. The final read-out is the number of killed target cells in each well, making an automatic cell counting protocol necessary in order to analyze the massive amount of data generated.
We here show that our silicon microwell platform allows long-term studies with the possibility of both time-lapse and high-resolution imaging of a variety of immune cell behavior. Using both time-lapse imaging and the screening approach we confirmed and investigated immune cell heterogeneity within NK cell populations in regards to both cytotoxicity and migrational behavior. In addition, two different types of cytolytic behavior in NK cells, termed fast and slow killing, were described and evaluated in regards to dynamic parameters; like conjugation and attachment time. We could also quantify the type of cytolytic response in relation to serial killing NK cells, and saw that serial killing NK cells more often induced fast target cell death. Further investigations using the screening approach have shown that serial killing NK cells also differ from other NK cells in their morphology, being both larger and with a more elongated shape. So far the platform has been used to gain better understanding of some aspects of NK cell biology, but there is still much left to explore. With the addition of an automatic counting program, the large numbers of wells that can be simultaneously imaged will provide new statistical information and enable higher throughput.
Altogether, our family of techniques enables novel types of cellular imaging assays allowing data collection at a level of resolution not previously obtained – this was shown to be important for performing basic cell biological studies, but may also prove valuable in the proposed future medical applications such as adoptive cell therapy and stem cell transplantation.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2014. , viii, 61 p.
TRITA-FYS, ISSN 0280-316X ; 2014:08
Immunology in the medical area Immunology
Research subject Biological Physics
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-142472ISBN: 978-91-7595-028-0OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-142472DiVA: diva2:703081
2014-03-25, Air and Fire, Science for Life Laboratories, Tomtebodavägen 23A, 17165, Solna, 09:30 (English)
Watzl, Carsten, Professor
Önfelt, Björn, DocentBrismar, Hjalmar, Professor
FunderSwedish Research CouncilSwedish Cancer SocietySwedish Foundation for Strategic Research
QC 201403062014-03-062014-03-052014-03-06Bibliographically approved
List of papers