Culturing patient-derived malignant hematopoietic stem cells in engineered and fully humanized 3D niches
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Human malignant hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) reside in bone marrow (BM) niches, which remain challenging to explore due to limited in vivo accessibility and constraints with humanized animal models. Several in vitro systems have been established to culture patient-derived HSPCs in specific microenvironments, but they do not fully recapitulate the complex features of native bone marrow. Our group previously reported that human osteoblastic BM niches (O-N), engineered by culturing mesenchymal stromal cells within three-dimensional (3D) porous scaffolds under perfusion flow in a bioreactor system, are capable of maintaining, expanding, and functionally regulating healthy human cord blood-derived HSPCs. Here, we first demonstrate that this 3D O-N can sustain malignant CD34+ cells from acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myeloproliferative neoplasm patients for up to 3 wk. Human malignant cells distributed in the bioreactor system mimicking the spatial distribution found in native BM tissue, where most HSPCs remain linked to the niches and mature cells are released to the circulation. Using human adipose tissue-derived stromal vascular fraction cells, we then generated a stromal-vascular niche and demonstrated that O-N and stromal-vascular niche differentially regulate leukemic UCSD-AML1 cell expansion, immunophenotype, and response to chemotherapy. The developed system offers a unique platform to investigate human leukemogenesis and response to drugs in customized environments, mimicking defined features of native hematopoietic niches and compatible with the establishment of personalized settings.