Using 3D printing to produce crucial research tools

samluisWith 3D printing set to revolutionise research, IBEC researchers have been exploring the possibilities of using the new technology to already improve their processes and methods.

IBEC recently became home to the first 3D bioprinter in Catalonia, which promises to open up exciting new avenues in tissue and organ regeneration. First, though, in a collaboration with the UPF, the CINVESTAV-Monterrey in Mexico, and the University of Washington, the Barcelona-based scientists developed a new way of producing microfluidic devices – systems in which low volumes of fluids are processed.

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Reaching new depths: a non-invasive solution for the activation of proteins in deep tissues

Researchers at IBEC and their collaborators at the Centre of Regenerative Medicine of Barcelona (CMR[B]) have developed a revolutionary new technique based on photoactivation (light activation), by which cells in deep tissue can activated and tracked in vivo without causing any damage.

Manipulating protein expression to monitor cell behavior is a powerful tool in the field of biology.

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Researchers generate human heart grafts from human pluripotent stem cells

Foto2Scientists from IBEC, in collaboration with the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón in Spain and two other groups in the USA, have made a big leap in heart regeneration advances by achieving heart grafts from human pluripotent stem cells for the first time in less than one month.

The collaborators, working in Spain and the USA, describe in the journal Biomaterials how they decellularized human hearts, all of which had been determined not suitable for transplantation by the Spanish National Transplant Organization. They left the extracellular matrix, the structure that provides cells with structural and biochemical support, intact.

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Looking to the ocean for malaria solutions

Microciona_forwebResearchers have found heparin-like molecules with reduced blood-thinning activity that can be used for therapeutic approaches against malaria – in sea cucumbers, red algae and marine sponges.

Until now, heparin – which has been shown to have antimalarial activity and specific binding affinity for red blood cells infected with the Plasmodium malaria parasite – has not been explored for anti-malarial drug solutions due to its powerful anticoagulating activity. While heparin is able to block the cell adhesion of infected red blood cells to various host receptors and disrupt the growth of the pathogen, its downfall is that the quantities needed for malaria treatment would result in too much blood-thinning and bleeding. There’s also the potential risk of infection, since polysaccharides such as heparin tend to be obtained from mammals.

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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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