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3D Visualization and Quantification of Bioplastic PHA in a Living Bacterial Cell
3D holographic microscopy leads to in-depth analysis of bacterial cells accumulating the bacterial bioplastic, polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) A research team at KAIST has observed how bioplastic granule is being accumulated in living bacteria cells through 3D holographic microscopy. Their 3D imaging and quantitative analysis of the bioplastic ‘polyhydroxyalkanoate’ (PHA) via optical diffraction tomography provides insights into biosynthesizing sustainable substitutes for petroleum-based plastics. The bio-degradable polyester polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) is being touted as an eco-friendly bioplastic to replace existing synthetic plastics. While carrying similar properties to general-purpose plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene, PHA can be used in various industrial applications such as container packaging and disposable products. PHA is synthesized by numerous bacteria as an energy and carbon storage material under unbalanced growth conditions in the presence of excess carbon sources. PHA exists in the form of insoluble granules in the cytoplasm. Previous studies on investigating in vivo PHA granules have been performed by using fluorescence microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and electron cryotomography. These techniques have generally relied on the statistical analysis of multiple 2D snapshots of fixed cells or the short-time monitoring of the cells. For the TEM analysis, cells need to be fixed and sectioned, and thus the investigation of living cells was not possible. Fluorescence-based techniques require fluorescence labeling or dye staining. Thus, indirect imaging with the use of reporter proteins cannot show the native state of PHAs or cells, and invasive exogenous dyes can affect the physiology and viability of the cells. Therefore, it was difficult to fully understand the formation of PHA granules in cells due to the technical limitations, and thus several mechanism models based on the observations have been only proposed. The team of metabolic engineering researchers led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee and Physics Professor YongKeun Park, who established the startup Tomocube with his 3D holographic microscopy, reported the results of 3D quantitative label-free analysis of PHA granules in individual live bacterial cells by measuring the refractive index distributions using optical diffraction tomography. The formation and growth of PHA granules in the cells of Cupriavidus necator, the most-studied native PHA (specifically, poly(3-hydroxybutyrate), also known as PHB) producer, and recombinant Escherichia coli harboring C. necator PHB biosynthesis pathway were comparatively examined. From the reconstructed 3D refractive index distribution of the cells, the team succeeded in the 3D visualization and quantitative analysis of cells and intracellular PHA granules at a single-cell level. In particular, the team newly presented the concept of “in vivo PHA granule density.” Through the statistical analysis of hundreds of single cells accumulating PHA granules, the distinctive differences of density and localization of PHA granules in the two micro-organisms were found. Furthermore, the team identified the key protein that plays a major role in making the difference that enabled the characteristics of PHA granules in the recombinant E. coli to become similar to those of C. necator. The research team also presented 3D time-lapse movies showing the actual processes of PHA granule formation combined with cell growth and division. Movies showing the living cells synthesizing and accumulating PHA granules in their native state had never been reported before. Professor Lee said, “This study provides insights into the morphological and physical characteristics of in vivo PHA as well as the unique mechanisms of PHA granule formation that undergo the phase transition from soluble monomers into the insoluble polymer, followed by granule formation. Through this study, a deeper understanding of PHA granule formation within the bacterial cells is now possible, which has great significance in that a convergence study of biology and physics was achieved. This study will help develop various bioplastics production processes in the future.” This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries (Grants NRF-2012M1A2A2026556 and NRF-2012M1A2A2026557) and the Bio & Medical Technology Development Program (Grant No. 2021M3A9I4022740) from the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea to S.Y.L. This work was also supported by the KAIST Cross-Generation Collaborative Laboratory project. -PublicationSo Young Choi, Jeonghun Oh, JaeHwang Jung, YongKeun Park, and Sang Yup Lee. Three-dimensional label-free visualization and quantification of polyhydroxyalkanoates in individualbacterial cell in its native state. PNAS(https://doi.org./10.1073/pnas.2103956118) -ProfileDistinguished Professor Sang Yup LeeMetabolic Engineering and Synthetic Biologyhttp://mbel.kaist.ac.kr/ Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering KAIST Endowed Chair Professor YongKeun ParkBiomedical Optics Laboratoryhttps://bmokaist.wordpress.com/ Department of PhysicsKAIST
Deep-Learning and 3D Holographic Microscopy Beats Scientists at Analyzing Cancer Immunotherapy
Live tracking and analyzing of the dynamics of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells targeting cancer cells can open new avenues for the development of cancer immunotherapy. However, imaging via conventional microscopy approaches can result in cellular damage, and assessments of cell-to-cell interactions are extremely difficult and labor-intensive. When researchers applied deep learning and 3D holographic microscopy to the task, however, they not only avoided these difficultues but found that AI was better at it than humans were. Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping researchers decipher images from a new holographic microscopy technique needed to investigate a key process in cancer immunotherapy “live” as it takes place. The AI transformed work that, if performed manually by scientists, would otherwise be incredibly labor-intensive and time-consuming into one that is not only effortless but done better than they could have done it themselves. The research, conducted by the team of Professor YongKeun Park from the Department of Physics, appeared in the journal eLife last December. A critical stage in the development of the human immune system’s ability to respond not just generally to any invader (such as pathogens or cancer cells) but specifically to that particular type of invader and remember it should it attempt to invade again is the formation of a junction between an immune cell called a T-cell and a cell that presents the antigen, or part of the invader that is causing the problem, to it. This process is like when a picture of a suspect is sent to a police car so that the officers can recognize the criminal they are trying to track down. The junction between the two cells, called the immunological synapse, or IS, is the key process in teaching the immune system how to recognize a specific type of invader. Since the formation of the IS junction is such a critical step for the initiation of an antigen-specific immune response, various techniques allowing researchers to observe the process as it happens have been used to study its dynamics. Most of these live imaging techniques rely on fluorescence microscopy, where genetic tweaking causes part of a protein from a cell to fluoresce, in turn allowing the subject to be tracked via fluorescence rather than via the reflected light used in many conventional microscopy techniques. However, fluorescence-based imaging can suffer from effects such as photo-bleaching and photo-toxicity, preventing the assessment of dynamic changes in the IS junction process over the long term. Fluorescence-based imaging still involves illumination, whereupon the fluorophores (chemical compounds that cause the fluorescence) emit light of a different color. Photo-bleaching or photo-toxicity occur when the subject is exposed to too much illumination, resulting in chemical alteration or cellular damage. One recent option that does away with fluorescent labelling and thereby avoids such problems is 3D holographic microscopy or holotomography (HT). In this technique, the refractive index (the way that light changes direction when encountering a substance with a different density—why a straw looks like it bends in a glass of water) is recorded in 3D as a hologram. Until now, HT has been used to study single cells, but never cell-cell interactions involved in immune responses. One of the main reasons is the difficulty of “segmentation,” or distinguishing the different parts of a cell and thus distinguishing between the interacting cells; in other words, deciphering which part belongs to which cell. Manual segmentation, or marking out the different parts manually, is one option, but it is difficult and time-consuming, especially in three dimensions. To overcome this problem, automatic segmentation has been developed in which simple computer algorithms perform the identification. “But these basic algorithms often make mistakes,” explained Professor YongKeun Park, “particularly with respect to adjoining segmentation, which of course is exactly what is occurring here in the immune response we’re most interested in.” So, the researchers applied a deep learning framework to the HT segmentation problem. Deep learning is a type of machine learning in which artificial neural networks based on the human brain recognize patterns in a way that is similar to how humans do this. Regular machine learning requires data as an input that has already been labelled. The AI “learns” by understanding the labeled data and then recognizes the concept that has been labelled when it is fed novel data. For example, AI trained on a thousand images of cats labelled “cat” should be able to recognize a cat the next time it encounters an image with a cat in it. Deep learning involves multiple layers of artificial neural networks attacking much larger, but unlabeled datasets, in which the AI develops its own ‘labels’ for concepts it encounters. In essence, the deep learning framework that KAIST researchers developed, called DeepIS, came up with its own concepts by which it distinguishes the different parts of the IS junction process. To validate this method, the research team applied it to the dynamics of a particular IS junction formed between chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells and target cancer cells. They then compared the results to what they would normally have done: the laborious process of performing the segmentation manually. They found not only that DeepIS was able to define areas within the IS with high accuracy, but that the technique was even able to capture information about the total distribution of proteins within the IS that may not have been easily measured using conventional techniques. “In addition to allowing us to avoid the drudgery of manual segmentation and the problems of photo-bleaching and photo-toxicity, we found that the AI actually did a better job,” Professor Park added. The next step will be to combine the technique with methods of measuring how much physical force is applied by different parts of the IS junction, such as holographic optical tweezers or traction force microscopy. -Profile Professor YongKeun Park Department of Physics Biomedical Optics Laboratory http://bmol.kaist.ac.kr KAIST
Microscopy Approach Poised to Offer New Insights into Liver Diseases
Researchers have developed a new way to visualize the progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in mouse models of the disease. The new microscopy method provides a high-resolution 3D view that could lead to important new insights into NAFLD, a condition in which too much fat is stored in the liver. “It is estimated that a quarter of the adult global population has NAFLD, yet an effective treatment strategy has not been found,” said professor Pilhan Kim from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST. “NAFLD is associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes and can sometimes progress to liver failure in serious case.” In the Optical Society (OSA) journal Biomedical Optics Express, Professor Kim and colleagues reported their new imaging technique and showed that it can be used to observe how tiny droplets of fat, or lipids, accumulate in the liver cells of living mice over time. “It has been challenging to find a treatment strategy for NAFLD because most studies examine excised liver tissue that represents just one timepoint in disease progression,” said Professor Kim. “Our technique can capture details of lipid accumulation over time, providing a highly useful research tool for identifying the multiple parameters that likely contribute to the disease and could be targeted with treatment.” Capturing the dynamics of NAFLD in living mouse models of the disease requires the ability to observe quickly changing interactions of biological components in intact tissue in real-time. To accomplish this, the researchers developed a custom intravital confocal and two-photon microscopy system that acquires images of multiple fluorescent labels at video-rate with cellular resolution. “With video-rate imaging capability, the continuous movement of liver tissue in live mice due to breathing and heart beating could be tracked in real time and precisely compensated,” said Professor Kim. “This provided motion-artifact free high-resolution images of cellular and sub-cellular sized individual lipid droplets.” The key to fast imaging was a polygonal mirror that rotated at more than 240 miles per hour to provide extremely fast laser scanning. The researchers also incorporated four different lasers and four high-sensitivity optical detectors into the setup so that they could acquire multi-color images to capture different color fluorescent probes used to label the lipid droplets and microvasculature in the livers of live mice. “Our approach can capture real-time changes in cell behavior and morphology, vascular structure and function, and the spatiotemporal localization of biological components while directly visualizing of lipid droplet development in NAFLD progression,” said Professor Kim. “It also allows the analysis of the highly complex behaviors of various immune cells as NAFLD progresses.” The researchers demonstrated their approach by using it to observe the development and spatial distribution of lipid droplets in individual mice with NAFLD induced by a methionine and choline-deficient diet. Next, they plan to use it to study how the liver microenvironment changes during NAFLD progression by imaging the same mouse over time. They also want to use their microscope technique to visualize various immune cells and lipid droplets to better understand the complex liver microenvironment in NAFLD progression.
High Resolution 3D Blood Vessel Endoscope System Developed
Professor Wangyeol Oh of KAIST’s Mechanical Engineering Department has succeeded in developing an optical imaging endoscope system that employs an imaging velocity, which is up to 3.5 times faster than the previous systems. Furthermore, he has utilized this endoscope to acquire the world’s first high-resolution 3D images of the insides of in vivo blood vessel. Professor Oh’s work is Korea’s first development of blood vessel endoscope system, possessing an imaging speed, resolution, imaging quality, and image-capture area. The system can also simultaneously perform a functional imaging, such as polarized imaging, which is advantageous for identifying the vulnerability of the blood vessel walls. The Endoscopic Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) System provides the highest resolution that is used to diagnose cardiovascular diseases, represented mainly by myocardial infarction. However, the previous system was not fast enough to take images inside of the vessels, and therefore it was often impossible to accurately identify and analyze the vessel condition. To achieve an in vivo blood vessel optical imaging in clinical trials, the endoscope needed to be inserted, after which a clear liquid flows instantly, and pictures can be taken in only a few seconds. The KAIST research team proposed a solution for such problem by developing a high-speed, high-resolution optical tomographic imaging system, a flexible endoscope with a diameter of 0.8 mm, as well as a device that can scan the imaging light within the blood vessels at high speed. Then, these devices were combined to visualize the internal structure of the vessel wall. Using the developed system, the researchers were able to obtain high-resolution images of about 7 cm blood vessels of a rabbit’s aorta, which is similar size to human’s coronary arteries. The tomography scan took only 5.8 seconds, at a speed of 350 scans per second in all three directions with a resolution of 10~35㎛. If the images are taken every 200 ㎛, like the currently available commercial vascular imaging endoscopes, a 7cm length vessel can be imaged in only one second. Professor Wangyeol Oh said, “Our newly developed blood vessel endoscope system was tested by imaging a live animal’s blood vessels, which is similar to human blood vessels. The result was very successful.” “Collaborating closely with hospitals, we are preparing to produce the imaging of an animal’s coronary arteries, which is similar in size to the human heart,” commented Professor Oh on the future clinical application and commercialization of the endoscope system. He added, “After such procedures, the technique can be applied in clinical patients within a few years.” Professor Oh’s research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea and the Global Frontier Project by the Korean government. The research results were published in the 2014 January’s edition of Biomedical Optics Express. Figure 1: End portion of optical endoscope (upper left) Figure 2: High-speed optical scanning unit of the endoscope (top right) Figure 3: High-resolution images of the inside of in vivo animal blood vessels (in the direction of vascular circumference and length) Figure 4: High-resolution images of the inside of in vivo animal blood vessels (in the direction of the vein depth)
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