Immuno-oncology

Immuno-oncology applications
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Immune cell-mediated killing of cancer cells uses the body’s own immune cells to target and destroy tumors. Promising therapies are being developed around:

  • Natural killer (NK) cells
  • Cytotoxic T cells
  • B lymphocytes
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Oncolytic viruses

Simple and sensitive, Axion BioSystems' bioelectronic assays collect continuous data, revealing the full response and kinetic interactions of immune cells and cancer.

Dynamic in vitro potency assays reveal immune cell killing in real time

T cells and natural killer cells have always targeted cancer but immunotherapies seek to improve specificity and their innate cytotoxicity. Engineered cells like chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR T) therapy target tumor cells with greatly increased efficiency.

Assessing potency with endpoint assays are limited to a single snapshot in time. Costly reagents and dyes risk make such assays more expensive and limit the information you can get. The Maestro's impedance assay provides a sensitive, label-free method to continuously monitor cancer cell proliferation and immune cell-mediated cytotoxicity, with automated acquisition and straight-forward analysis.

 

Compare in vitro potency of effector-mediated killing of target cells

Glioblastoma (GBM) is an aggressive form of brain cancer that has no effective treatments.

Activated human T cells targeting U87MG glioma cell monolayers were evaluated on the Maestro platform. Glioma growth curves were measured continuously. The addition of activated human T-cells resulted in glioma cell lysis. The full time course of in vitro immune cell killing was captured.

Kill time50%, or the time required to reach 50% cytolysis, was calculated with one plate and experiment.

Continuous monitoring of impedance over 24 hours.  The addition of activated T-cells reduced the impedance measurement
The kill curve for different densities of activated T-cells
The kill time (50%) at different doses of activated T-cells.

(A) Impedance was continuously monitored on the Maestro Z for U87 glioma cells seeded on the CytoView-Z plate at three different densities (n=12). After 24 hours, activated human T-cells were added in a 10:1 ratio (n=4 wells for each cell density). The addition of activated human T cells resulted in a decrease of the impedance signal consistent with T-cell-mediated lysis of the U87 cells, while untreated wells continued increasing. (B) Percent cytolysis was tracked in real time, enabling (C) computation of 50% kill time (KT50) for each density. A higher density of T cells led to faster killing of U87 cells.

Continuous data reveals the kinetics of cancer cell response to T cells for better mechanistic understanding without the time- and cost-intensive process of repeating multiple endpoint assays.  The Maestro Z impedance assay is a sensitive method to continuously monitor cancer cell proliferation and immune cell-mediated cytotoxicity, providing a powerful means of assessing immune cell potency.

 

Applications of immuno-oncology assays:

  • CAR-T or other immune cell-mediated killing of cancer cells.

  • Stimulation of the immune cells with checkpoint inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies.

  • Potency of oncolytic viruses.

  • Safety and toxicity testing.

 

Advantages of in vitro immune cell killing assays on the Maestro platform:

  • No complicated assay protocols, just simple cell culture techniques.

  • Integrated environmental controls finely regulate temperature and CO2.

  • Analyze the kinetics and responses whether they take minutes or weeks.

  • Research the biology, not the chemistry. No dyes or extra reagents to interfere.

  • Up to 384-wells, save time, cells, and reagents costs.

  • Sensitive to small changes in target:effector ratios.

  • CFR21 Part 11 compliant software available.

  • Meets the high standards of ISO 20391-2 for GLP/GMP labs.

  • More data, less work.

With the Maestro platform, quantifying and understanding the dynamics and kinetics of your in vitro cell potency assay has never been easier.

Immuno-oncology assay protocol steps

Getting started with Maestro impedance platform couldn't be easier. Culture your cells in an Axion multiwell CytoView-Z plate (Day 0). Load this plate into the Maestro system and allow the environmental chamber to automatically equilibrate. Observe target cells adhering to the plate and proliferating as changes in the recorded impedance signal. Add effector cells (e.g. CAR T cells) to the CytoView-Z plate (Day 1-2). Track changes in cell response in the CytoView-Z plate label-free and in real-time with the Impedance Module software.

 

 

Maestro Z user

 

The advantages of measuring immune cell-mediated cell killing on the Maestro Z, ZHT, Pro, and Edge platforms:

  • Continuous cell monitoring – Up to 384 simultaneous live recordings from your cells. Now you can track immune cell-mediated cell killing in real time, even when you are out of the lab.

  • Analyze cell activity label-free –Perform noninvasive electrical measurements from the cultured cell population, circumventing the use of dyes/reporters that can perturb your cell model and confound results.

  • Precise assay environment – No need for an additional cell culture incubator, saving valuable lab space and money. The smart environmental chamber finely controls heat and CO₂ while rejecting electrical noise and mechanical vibrations.

  • See your cells – Sometimes you just want to look at your cells under a microscope. The Cytoview-Z 96-well plates have a viewing window in each well which allows cell visualization.

  • Probe cell models in the same plate they were cultured in – other higher throughput platforms (e.g. flow cytometry) often require cell samples to be transferred into a single-cell suspension before testing. In the case of adherent cells this is not ideal since they exist as a functional network of interlinked cells.

  • Smart phone App for your assay – You can't always be in the lab. But changes in immune cell-mediated cell killing seldom occur at convenient time points. The Maestro Z App allows you to see live results and system status on your smartphone.

  • It’s easy – With effortless assay setup and intuitive analysis software designed for quick export of figures and results, you can now focus on the science.

Impedance Technology

Impedance - General

 

Impedance: For real-time cell analysis

Impedance-based cell analysis is a well-established technique for monitoring the presence, morphology, and behavior of cells in culture. Impedance describes the obstruction to alternating current flow. To measure impedance, small electrical currents are delivered to electrodes embedded in a cell culture substrate. The opposition to current flow from one electrode to another defines the impedance of the cell-electrode interface. When cells are present and attached to the substrate, they block these electrical currents and are detected as an increase in impedance.

Impedance is sensitive to many aspects of cell behavior: attachment, spreading, shape,  cell-cell connections (e.g. tight junctions), and death. Even small transient changes, such as swelling or signaling, are detectable by impedance. Because impedance is noninvasive and label free, the dynamics of these changes can be monitored in real time over minutes, hours, or even days without disturbing the biology.

Interdigitated electrodes embedded in the cell culture substrate at the bottom of each well detect small changes in the impedance of current flow caused by cell presence, attachment, and behavior.

Interdigitated electrodes embedded in the cell culture substrate at the bottom of each well detect small changes in the impedance of current flow caused by cell presence, attachment, and behavior.

In the example below, the electrodes are initially uncovered before cells are added. The electrical current passes easily and the impedance is low. When cells begin to attach and cover the electrodes, less electrical current passes and the impedance is high. After dosing with a cytotoxic agent, cells die or detach, and the impedance decreases back towards baseline.

Cells on electrode
Dosing cells and recording impedance

Impedance measures how much electrical signal (orange arrows) is blocked by the cell-electrode interface. Impedance increases as cells cover the electrode and decreases back to baseline due to cell death.

 

Continuous cell monitoring

Many cell-based assays are endpoint assays, limited to a single snapshot in time. Repeating these assays at multiple time points can be labor intensive, time consuming, and costly. Key time points can be easily missed. Impedance-based cell analysis is nondestructive and label free, meaning that cellular dynamics can be monitored continuously.

The impedance assay can be used to characterize dynamic cell profiles, revealing how cells grow, attach, and interact over time. Each cell type exhibits a different cell profile, or “fingerprint”, of dynamic cell behavior. These profiles are sensitive to cell type, density, purity, and environmental factors. In this example, the Maestro Z impedance assay readily distinguished cell profiles across different cell densities and cell types.

HeLa cells were seeded on a CytoView-Z plate at varying densities and the impedance was continuously monitored by the Maestro Z
Impedance scaled proportionally with cell density and readily distinguished different densities of the same cell type.
Maestro monitored the growth of three cell types, HeLa, A549, and Calu-3, and readily distinguishes their distinct cell profiles over time.

(A, B) HeLa cells were seeded on a CytoView-Z plate at varying densities and the impedance was continuously monitored by the Maestro Z. Impedance scaled proportionally with cell density and readily distinguished different densities of the same cell type. (C) Maestro monitored the growth of three cell types, HeLa, A549, and Calu-3, and readily distinguishes their distinct cell profiles over time.

 

 

The Maestro Z impedance assay can also be used to capture the kinetics of cell responses to drugs or immune cell therapies. The kinetics, which cannot be captured by endpoint assays, often provide key insights into the efficacy of novel therapies. In the example below, the Maestro Z impedance assay was used to quantify the kinetics of cytotoxicity of chemotherapy agents.

A549 were dosed with Doxorubicin, vehicle (DMSO), or Tergazyme. Wells dosed with Tergazyme showed an immediate decrease in impedance, reflecting complete cell death.
Cells dosed with 1 uM doxorubicin reached 50% cytolysis at 31 hrs.
Higher doses of Doxorubicin resulted in a slower decrease in impedance and cell death

A549 cells were dosed with dox, vehicle (DMSO), or tergazyme. Wells dosed with tergazyme showed an immediate decrease in impedance, reflecting complete cell death. Higher doses of dox resulted in a slower decrease in impedance and cell death. Cells dosed with 1 μM dox reached 50% cytolysis at 31 hrs.

 

Different frequencies reveal cell properties

Impedance varies with frequency, such that different frequencies reveal different aspects of cell biology. The small currents used to measure impedance will always take the path of least resistance. At low frequencies, such as 1 kHz, the impedance of the cell membrane is relatively high, forcing the current to flow under and between the cells. Low frequencies provide details about barrier integrity, the presence of gap junctions, and transepithelial or transendothelial resistance (TEER).

At high frequencies, such as 41.5 kHz, the impedance (and capacitive reactance) of the cell membrane is relatively low. Thus, most of the current couples capacitively through the cell membranes, providing information about the cell layer such as confluency and coverage.

In other words, low frequencies are sensitive to “what” cells are there, whereas high frequencies are sensitive to “how many” cells are there. The Maestro Z impedance assay uses multiple frequencies to provide the most information about the cells, simultaneously, continuously, and in real time.

Multiple frequencies were used to simultaneously and continuously monitory the coverage and barrier function
TEER, measured at 1 kHz, reveals that only Calu-3 cells form a strong barrier, as they express tight junctions to block flow between neighboring cells.

Multiple frequencies were used to simultaneously and continuously monitor the coverage and barrier function (TEER) of Calu-3 and A549 cells. Coverage, measured as resistance at 41.5 kHz, increases over time for both cell types. TEER, measured at 1 kHz, reveals that only Calu-3 cells form a strong barrier, as they express tight junctions to block flow between neighboring cells.