All Publications

  • Sonogenetic control of multiplexed genome regulation and base editing. Nature communications Liu, P., Foiret, J., Situ, Y., Zhang, N., Kare, A. J., Wu, B., Raie, M. N., Ferrara, K. W., Qi, L. S. 2023; 14 (1): 6575


    Manipulating gene expression in the host genome with high precision is crucial for controlling cellular function and behavior. Here, we present a precise, non-invasive, and tunable strategy for controlling the expression of multiple endogenous genes both in vitro and in vivo, utilizing ultrasound as the stimulus. By engineering a hyper-efficient dCas12a and effector under a heat shock promoter, we demonstrate a system that can be inducibly activated through thermal energy produced by ultrasound absorption. This system allows versatile thermal induction of gene activation or base editing across cell types, including primary T cells, and enables multiplexed gene activation using a single guide RNA array. In mouse models, localized temperature elevation guided by high-intensity focused ultrasound effectively triggers reporter gene expression in implanted cells. Our work underscores the potential of ultrasound as a clinically viable approach to enhance cell and gene-based therapies via precision genome and epigenome engineering.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-023-42249-8

    View details for PubMedID 37852951

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10584809

  • OMIP-095: 40-Color spectral flow cytometry delineates all major leukocyte populations in murine lymphoid tissues. Cytometry. Part A : the journal of the International Society for Analytical Cytology Kare, A. J., Nichols, L., Zermeno, R., Raie, M. N., Tumbale, S. K., Ferrara, K. W. 2023


    High-dimensional immunoprofiling is essential for studying host response to immunotherapy, infection, and disease in murine model systems. However, the difficulty of multiparameter panel design combined with a lack of existing murine tools has prevented the comprehensive study of all major leukocyte phenotypes in a single assay. Herein, we present a 40-color flow cytometry panel for deep immunophenotyping of murine lymphoid tissues, including the spleen, blood, Peyer's patches, inguinal lymph nodes, bone marrow, and thymus. This panel uses a robust set of surface markers capable of differentiating leukocyte subsets without the use of intracellular staining, thus allowing for the use of cells in downstream functional experiments or multiomic analyses. Our panel classifies T cells, B cells, natural killer cells, innate lymphoid cells, monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, basophils, neutrophils, eosinophils, progenitors, and their functional subsets by using a series of co-stimulatory, checkpoint, activation, migration, and maturation markers. This tool has a multitude of systems immunology applications ranging from serial monitoring of circulating blood signatures to complex endpoint analysis, especially in pre-clinical settings where treatments can modulate leukocyte abundance and/or function. Ultimately, this 40-color panel resolves a diverse array of immune cells on the axes of time, tissue, and treatment, filling the niche for a modern tool dedicated to murine immunophenotyping.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/cyto.a.24788

    View details for PubMedID 37768325

  • Combined near infrared photoacoustic imaging and ultrasound detects vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque. Biomaterials Schneider, M. K., Wang, J., Kare, A., Adkar, S. S., Salmi, D., Bell, C. F., Alsaigh, T., Wagh, D., Coller, J., Mayer, A., Snyder, S. J., Borowsky, A. D., Long, S. R., Lansberg, M. G., Steinberg, G. K., Heit, J. J., Leeper, N. J., Ferrara, K. W. 2023; 302: 122314


    Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process resulting in the deposition of cholesterol and cellular debris, narrowing of the vessel lumen and clot formation. Characterization of the morphology and vulnerability of the lesion is essential for effective clinical management. Here, near-infrared auto-photoacoustic (NIRAPA) imaging is shown to detect plaque components and, when combined with ultrasound imaging, to differentiate stable and vulnerable plaque. In an ex vivo study of photoacoustic imaging of excised plaque from 25 patients, 88.2% sensitivity and 71.4% specificity were achieved using a clinically-relevant protocol. In order to determine the origin of the NIRAPA signal, immunohistochemistry, spatial transcriptomics and spatial proteomics were co-registered with imaging and applied to adjacent plaque sections. The highest NIRAPA signal was spatially correlated with bilirubin and associated blood-based residue and with the cytoplasmic contents of inflammatory macrophages bearing CD74, HLA-DR, CD14 and CD163 markers. In summary, we establish the potential to apply the NIRAPA-ultrasound imaging combination to detect vulnerable carotid plaque and a methodology for fusing molecular imaging with spatial transcriptomic and proteomic methods.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2023.122314

    View details for PubMedID 37776766

  • Multiomic analysis for optimization of combined focal and immunotherapy protocols in murine pancreatic cancer. Theranostics Wang, J., Fite, B. Z., Kare, A. J., Wu, B., Raie, M., Tumbale, S. K., Zhang, N., Davis, R. R., Tepper, C. G., Aviran, S., Newman, A. M., King, D. A., Ferrara, K. W. 2022; 12 (18): 7884-7902


    Background: Although combination immunotherapies incorporating local and systemic components have shown promising results in treating solid tumors, varied tumor microenvironments (TMEs) can impact immunotherapeutic efficacy. Method: We designed and evaluated treatment strategies for breast and pancreatic cancer combining magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) ablation and antibody therapies. With a combination of single-cell sequencing, spectral flow cytometry, and histological analyses, we profiled an immune-suppressed KPC (Kras+/LSL-G12D; Trp53+/LSL-R172H; Pdx1-Cre) pancreatic adenocarcinoma (MT4) model and a dense epithelial neu deletion (NDL) HER2+ mammary adenocarcinoma model with a greater fraction of lymphocytes, natural killer cells and activated dendritic cells. We then performed gene ontology analysis, spectral and digital cytometry to assess the immune response to combination immunotherapies and correlation with survival studies. Result: Based on gene ontology analysis, adding ablation to immunotherapy enriched immune cell migration pathways in the pancreatic cancer model and extensively enriched wound healing pathways in the breast cancer model. With CIBERSORTx digital cytometry, aCD40 + aPD-1 immunotherapy combinations enhanced dendritic cell activation in both models. In the MT4 TME, adding the combination of aCD40 antibody and checkpoint inhibitors (aPD-1 and aCTLA-4) with ablation was synergistic, increasing activated natural killer cells and T cells in distant tumors. Furthermore, ablation with immunotherapy upregulated critical Ly6c myeloid remodeling phenotypes that enhance T-cell effector function and increased granzyme and protease encoding genes by as much as 100-fold. Ablation combined with immunotherapy then extended survival in the MT4 model to a greater extent than immunotherapy alone. Conclusion: In summary, TME profiling informed a successful multicomponent treatment protocol incorporating ablation and facilitated differentiation of TMEs in which ablation is most effective.

    View details for DOI 10.7150/thno.73218

    View details for PubMedID 36451859

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9706583

  • Interleukin-2 superkines by computational design. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Ren, J., Chu, A. E., Jude, K. M., Picton, L. K., Kare, A. J., Su, L., Montano Romero, A., Huang, P. S., Garcia, K. C. 2022; 119 (12): e2117401119


    SignificanceWhile computational engineering of therapeutic proteins is a desirable goal, in practice the optimization of protein-protein interactions requires substantial experimental intervention. We present here a computational approach that focuses on stabilizing core protein structures rather than engineering the protein-protein interface. Using this approach, we designed thermostabilized interleukin-2 (IL-2) variants that bind tightly to their receptor without experimental optimization, mimicking the properties of the yeast-display engineered IL-2 variant "super-2." Our results suggest that structure-guided stabilization may be a general method for in silico affinity maturation of protein-protein interactions.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2117401119

    View details for PubMedID 35294290

  • Pre-clinical evaluation of immunoPET imaging using agonist CD40 monoclonal antibody in pancreatic tumor-bearing mice. Nuclear medicine and biology Aghevlian, S., Wu, B., Raie, M. N., Tumbale, S. K., Kare, A. J., Seo, J. W., Ferrara, K. W. 2021; 98-99: 8–17


    BACKGROUND: A novel [64Cu]Cu-NOTA-aCD40 immunoPET tracer was developed to image a CD40+ pancreatic tumor model in C57BL/6 mice and to study the biodistribution profile of the agonist CD40 (aCD40) monoclonal antibody (mAb) alone or combined with other mAbs.PROCEDURES: Copper-64 ([64Cu]Cu) labeled NOTA-aCD40 and NOTA-IgG (10 mug; 7 MBq) were injected intravenously into C57BL/6 mice with subcutaneous mT4 tumors to assess specificity 48 h post injection (p.i.) through positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) imaging and biodistribution studies (n = 5). [64Cu]Cu-NOTA-aCD40 was injected alone or simultaneously in combination with a therapeutic mass of cold aCD40 (100 mug), aPD-1 (200 mug) and aCTLA-4 (200 mug) mAbs. A group of mice with or without tumor received the second round of injections 1 or 3 weeks apart, respectively. PET/CT imaging and biodistribution studies were performed at 48 h p.i. The organ dose for [64Cu]Cu was estimated based on biodistribution studies with 2 mug [64Cu]Cu-NOTA-aCD40 (corresponds to 5 mg patient dose) in non-tumor bearing mice.RESULTS: [64Cu]Cu-NOTA-aCD40 accumulation was 2.3- and 7.8-fold higher than [64Cu]Cu-NOTA-IgG in tumors and spleen, respectively, indicating the specificity of aCD40 mAb in a mouse pancreatic tumor model. Tumor accumulation of [64Cu]Cu-NOTA-aCD40 was 21.2 ± 7.3%ID/g at 48 h after injection. Co-injection of [64Cu]Cu-NOTA-aCD40 with cold aCD40 mAb alone or with PD-1 and CTLA-4 mAbs reduced both spleen and tumor uptake, whereas liver uptake was increased. With the second round of injections, the liver was the only organ with substantial uptake. With a 2 mug administered dose of [64Cu]Cu-NOTA-aCD40 in a dosimetry study, the liver to spleen ratio was greater compared to the 10 mug dose (2.8 vs 0.37; respectively). The human equivalent for the highest dose organ (liver) was 198 ± 28.7 muSv/MBq.CONCLUSIONS: A CD40-immunoreactive [64Cu]Cu-NOTA-aCD40 probe was developed. The ratio of spleen to liver accumulation exceeded that of the IgG isotype and was greatest with a single small, injected mass. The safety of human patient imaging with [64Cu]Cu was established based on extrapolation of the organ specificity to human imaging.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.nucmedbio.2021.04.001

    View details for PubMedID 33962357

  • Immune modulation resulting from MR-guided high intensity focused ultrasound in a model of murine breast cancer. Scientific reports Fite, B. Z., Wang, J., Kare, A. J., Ilovitsh, A., Chavez, M., Ilovitsh, T., Zhang, N., Chen, W., Robinson, E., Zhang, H., Kheirolomoom, A., Silvestrini, M. T., Ingham, E. S., Mahakian, L. M., Tam, S. M., Davis, R. R., Tepper, C. G., Borowsky, A. D., Ferrara, K. W. 2021; 11 (1): 927


    High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) rapidly and non-invasively destroys tumor tissue. Here, we sought to assess the immunomodulatory effects of MR-guided HIFU and its combination with the innate immune agonist CpG and checkpoint inhibitor anti-PD-1. Mice with multi-focal breast cancer underwent ablation with a parameter set designed to achieve mechanical disruption with minimal thermal dose or a protocol in which tumor temperature reached 65°C. Mice received either HIFU alone or were primed with the toll-like receptor 9 agonist CpG and the checkpoint modulator anti-PD-1. Both mechanical HIFU and thermal ablation induced a potent inflammatory response with increased expression of Nlrp3, Jun, Mefv, Il6 and Il1beta and alterations in macrophage polarization compared to control. Furthermore, HIFU upregulated multiple innate immune receptors and immune pathways, including Nod1, Nlrp3, Aim2, Ctsb, Tlr1/2/4/7/8/9, Oas2, and RhoA. The inflammatory response was largely sterile and consistent with wound-healing. Priming with CpG attenuated Il6 and Nlrp3 expression, further upregulated expression of Nod2, Oas2, RhoA, Pycard, Tlr1/2 and Il12, and enhanced T-cell number and activation while polarizing macrophages to an anti-tumor phenotype. The tumor-specific antigen, cytokines and cell debris liberated by HIFU enhance response to innate immune agonists.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-020-80135-1

    View details for PubMedID 33441763

  • In situ T-cell transfection by anti-CD3-conjugated lipid nanoparticles leads to T-cell activation, migration, and phenotypic shift. Biomaterials Kheirolomoom, A., Kare, A. J., Ingham, E. S., Paulmurugan, R., Robinson, E. R., Baikoghli, M., Inayathullah, M., Seo, J. W., Wang, J., Fite, B. Z., Wu, B., Tumbale, S. K., Raie, M. N., Cheng, R. H., Nichols, L., Borowsky, A. D., Ferrara, K. W. 2021; 281: 121339


    Ex vivo programming of T cells can be efficacious but is complex and expensive; therefore, the development of methods to transfect T cells in situ is important. We developed and optimized anti-CD3-targeted lipid nanoparticles (aCD3-LNPs) to deliver tightly packed, reporter gene mRNA specifically to T cells. In vitro, targeted LNPs efficiently delivered mCherry mRNA to Jurkat T cells, and T-cell activation and depletion were associated with aCD3 antibody coating on the surface of LNPs. aCD3-LNPs, but not non-targeted LNPs, accumulated within the spleen following systemic injection, with mCherry and Fluc signals visible within 30 min after injection. At 24 h after aCD3-LNP injection, 2-4% of all splenic T cells and 2-7% of all circulating T cells expressed mCherry, and this was dependent on aCD3 coating density. Targeting and transfection were accompanied by systemic CD25+, OX40+, and CD69+ T-cell activation with temporary CD3e ligand loss and depletion of splenic and circulating subsets. Migration of splenic CD8a+ T cells from the white-pulp to red-pulp, and differentiation from naïve to memory and effector phenotypes, followed upon aCD3-LNP delivery. Additionally, aCD3-LNP injection stimulated the secretion of myeloid-derived chemokines and T-helper cytokines into plasma. Lastly, we administered aCD3-LNPs to tumor bearing mice and found that transfected T cells localized within tumors and tumor-draining lymph nodes following immunotherapy treatment. In summary, we show that CD3-targeted transfection is feasible, yet associated with complex immunological consequences that must be further studied for potential therapeutic applications.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.121339

    View details for PubMedID 35078042

  • Low-frequency ultrasound-mediated cytokine transfection enhances T cell recruitment at local and distant tumor sites. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Ilovitsh, T. n., Feng, Y. n., Foiret, J. n., Kheirolomoom, A. n., Zhang, H. n., Ingham, E. S., Ilovitsh, A. n., Tumbale, S. K., Fite, B. Z., Wu, B. n., Raie, M. N., Zhang, N. n., Kare, A. J., Chavez, M. n., Qi, L. S., Pelled, G. n., Gazit, D. n., Vermesh, O. n., Steinberg, I. n., Gambhir, S. S., Ferrara, K. W. 2020


    Robust cytotoxic T cell infiltration has proven to be difficult to achieve in solid tumors. We set out to develop a flexible protocol to efficiently transfect tumor and stromal cells to produce immune-activating cytokines, and thus enhance T cell infiltration while debulking tumor mass. By combining ultrasound with tumor-targeted microbubbles, membrane pores are created and facilitate a controllable and local transfection. Here, we applied a substantially lower transmission frequency (250 kHz) than applied previously. The resulting microbubble oscillation was significantly enhanced, reaching an effective expansion ratio of 35 for a peak negative pressure of 500 kPa in vitro. Combining low-frequency ultrasound with tumor-targeted microbubbles and a DNA plasmid construct, 20% of tumor cells remained viable, and ∼20% of these remaining cells were transfected with a reporter gene both in vitro and in vivo. The majority of cells transfected in vivo were mucin 1+/CD45- tumor cells. Tumor and stromal cells were then transfected with plasmid DNA encoding IFN-β, producing 150 pg/106 cells in vitro, a 150-fold increase compared to no-ultrasound or no-plasmid controls and a 50-fold increase compared to treatment with targeted microbubbles and ultrasound (without IFN-β). This enhancement in secretion exceeds previously reported fourfold to fivefold increases with other in vitro treatments. Combined with intraperitoneal administration of checkpoint inhibition, a single application of IFN-β plasmid transfection reduced tumor growth in vivo and recruited efficacious immune cells at both the local and distant tumor sites.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1914906117

    View details for PubMedID 32430322