Tracking bacterial virulence: global modulators as indicators

Barcelona researchers and their collaborators have defined new bacterial virulence markers that could help track and prevent outbreaks of E. coli.

Most E. coli bacterial strains occur naturally in the human gut and pose no harm to health, except for particular serotypes that always hit the news because they cause food poisoning that can become life threatening in certain patients. One such serotype is O104:H4, that caused a large outbreak with a high prevalence of associated hemolytic–uremic syndrome (HUS) in Germany in 2011, a newly emerged strain that caused the highest frequency of HUS and death from E. coli ever recorded.

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The enzymes that enable bacteria to make themselves at home

torrentsFig2_webIBEC researchers have come a step closer to understanding how bacteria can cause chronic infections by identifying the key enzymes that allow them to create the right conditions for infection.

When P. aeruginosa bacteria cause chronic lung infections in patients with cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it means they have been able to form a mature biofilm in situ that lets them grow and adapt. This biofilm not only enhances cell-to-cell communication for the bacteria, thus allowing the infection to increase and thrive, but it also increases the chances of developing new antibiotic resistance and escape from the body’s immune system.

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How tissue stiffness activates cancer

pere ncb new imageResearchers at IBEC have revealed how tissue rigidity activates cancer, new knowledge that could potentially lead to new strategies to impair or even halt the growth of tumours.

The scientists and their collaborators at the Georgia Institute of Technology, publishing in and on the cover of Nature Cell Biology, have identified the mechanism by which tissue stiffness activates a protein called YAP, a major oncogene. This discovery is the result of many years’ work spent studying the forces that cells apply to their surrounding tissue – forces which determine how cells proliferate, differentiate, and move, which in turn sheds light on how development, tumorigenesis or wound healing are regulated. The discovery belongs to a family of patents in place.

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IBEC and UB scientists solve long-standing enigma in chemistry

Nature Diez_web500This image shows the first-ever catalysis of a chemical reaction using an electric field, which could revolutionise the way we produce chemicals for applications in daily life.

Researchers at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), the University of Barcelona (UB) and two universities in Australia have introduced a new way of catalysing (speeding up) chemical reactions by applying an electric field between the reacting molecules. This opens the door for the fabrication of chemical compounds, used in drugs and materials, in a faster and cheaper way.

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Playing with molecular Lego to build the next generation of drug delivery vectors

albertazzi ACS nanoMany drugs are hindered in their therapeutic potential by issues such as too-fast clearance by the kidneys, undesirable properties, lack of selectivity, and poor internalization in the cell. Nanotechnology has the potential to alter the landscape of medicine by providing targeted solutions for the delivery of small-molecule drugs and biopharmaceuticals.

Now, new IBEC junior group leader Lorenzo Albertazzi and his former colleagues at the Eindhoven University of Technology, working together with industry partner Novartis, have made a leap in drug delivery vectors by developing a new type of carrier with some groundbreaking improvements.

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Micromotors use surface variations for docking and guiding

Researchers at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), the Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and the University of Stuttgart have revealed in an article in Nature Communications today that micromotors can be guided using tiny topographical patterns on the surfaces over which they swim.

Samuel Sánchez and Mykola Tasinkevych’s ‘microswimmers’ are usually guided through fluids using specially engineered magnetic multilayer coatings, which combined with external magnetic fields, helps to control their trajectory.

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Collaboration with clinicians leads to new non-invasive monitoring of COPD

raimon febA collaboration between IBEC’s Biomedical Signal Processing and Interpretation group and two local hospitals has resulted in a new non-invasive method of evaluating the efficiency of the respiratory muscles in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Respiratory muscle dysfunction is a common problem in patients with COPD, mostly related to pulmonary hyperinflation. Diaphragm shortening and deleterious changes in the muscle force-length relationship cause a reduction in the muscles’ capacity to generate pressure, placing them at a mechanical disadvantage.

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Shrinking technologies to dig deeper into the body’s secrets

Advanced materials_ AgusilA team of scientists including IBEC researchers have developed a brand new technique that miniaturizes the way we study biomolecular interactions, allowing multiple analyses inside living cells for the first time.

Published in Advanced Materials, the study describes a new technology, Suspended Planar-Array chips, whose extraordinary degree of miniaturization permits their use at the microscale. The new technique uses a single suspended chip to identify, quantify and determine of biochemical and physiological changes in small volumes, a reduction so dramatic that it even permits analysis inside living cells.

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