Publications

Year 2017


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Venkova, Tatiana, Juárez, Antonio, Espinosa, Manuel, (2017). Editorial: Modulating prokaryotic lifestyle by DNA-binding proteins: Learning from (apparently) simple systems Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences 3, Article 86

Within the research in Molecular Biology, one important field along the years has been the analyses on how prokaryotes regulate the expression of their genes and what the consequences of these activities are. Prokaryotes have attracted the interests of researchers not only because the processes taking place in their world are important to cells, but also because many of the effects often can be readily measured, both at the single cell level and in large populations. Contributing to the interest of the present topic is the fact that modulation of gene activity involves the sensing of intra- and inter-cellular conditions, DNA binding and DNA dynamics, and interaction with the replication/transcription machinery of the cell. All of these processes are fundamental to the operation of a biological entity and they condition its lifestyle. Further, the discoveries achieved in the bacterial world have been of ample use in eukaryotes. In addition to the fundamental interest of understanding modulation of prokaryotic lifestyle by DNA-binding proteins, there is an added interest from the healthcare point of view. As it is well-known the antibiotic-resistance strains of pathogenic bacteria are a major world problem, so that there is an urgent need of innovative approaches to tackle it. Human and animal infectious diseases impose staggering costs worldwide in terms of loss of human life and livestock, diminished productivity, and the heavy economic burden of disease. The global dimension of international trade, personal travel, and population migration expands at an ever-accelerating rate. This increasing mobility results in broader and quicker dissemination of bacterial pathogens and in rapid spread of antibiotic resistance. The majority of the newly acquired resistances are horizontally spread among bacteria of the same or different species by processes of lateral (horizontal) gene transfer, so that discovery of new antibiotics is not the definitive solution to fighting infectious diseases. There is an absolute need of finding novel alternatives to the “classical” approach to treat infections by bacterial pathogens, and these new ways must include the exploration and introduction of novel antibacterials, the development of alternative strategies, and the finding of novel bacterial targets. However, all these approaches will result in a stalemate if we, researchers, are not able to achieve a better understanding of the mechanistic processes underlying bacterial gene expression. It is, then, imperative to continue gaining insight into the basic mechanisms by which bacterial cells regulate the expression of their genes. That is why our Research Topic hosted by Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences was timely, and the output of it offers novel and up-to-date points of view to the “simple” bacterial world.

Keywords: DNA-protein interactions, Gene regulation in Prokaryotes, Replication control, Regulation of Bacterial Gene Expression, Global Regulatory Networks


Gómez-Santacana, Xavier, Pittolo, Silvia, Rovira, Xavier, Lopez, Marc, Zussy, Charleine, Dalton, James A. R., Faucherre, Adèle, Jopling, Chris, Pin, Jean-Philippe, Ciruela, Francisco, Goudet, Cyril, Giraldo, Jesús, Gorostiza, Pau, Llebaria, Amadeu, (2017). Illuminating phenylazopyridines to photoswitch metabotropic glutamate receptors: From the flask to the animals ACS Central Science 3, (1), 81-91

Phenylazopyridines are photoisomerizable compounds with high potential to control biological functions with light. We have obtained a series of phenylazopyridines with light dependent activity as negative allosteric modulators (NAM) of metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 5 (mGlu5). Here we describe the factors needed to achieve an operational molecular photoisomerization and its effective translation into in vitro and in vivo receptor photoswitching, which includes zebrafish larva motility and the regulation of the antinociceptive effects in mice. The combination of light and some specific phenylazopyridine ligands displays atypical pharmacological profiles, including light-dependent receptor overactivation, which can be observed both in vitro and in vivo. Remarkably, the localized administration of light and a photoswitchable compound in the peripheral tissues of rodents or in the brain amygdalae results in an illumination-dependent analgesic effect. The results reveal a robust translation of the phenylazopyridine photoisomerization to a precise photoregulation of biological activity.


Malinverno, C., Corallino, S., Giavazzi, F., Bergert, M., Li, Q., Leoni, M., Disanza, A., Frittoli, E., Oldani, A., Martini, E., Lendenmann, T., Deflorian, G., Beznoussenko, G. V., Poulikakos, D., Ong, K. H., Uroz, M., Trepat, X., Parazzoli, D., Maiuri, P., Yu, W., Ferrari, A., Cerbino, R., Scita, G., (2017). Endocytic reawakening of motility in jammed epithelia Nature Materials 16, 587–596

Dynamics of epithelial monolayers has recently been interpreted in terms of a jamming or rigidity transition. How cells control such phase transitions is, however, unknown. Here we show that RAB5A, a key endocytic protein, is sufficient to induce large-scale, coordinated motility over tens of cells, and ballistic motion in otherwise kinetically arrested monolayers. This is linked to increased traction forces and to the extension of cell protrusions, which align with local velocity. Molecularly, impairing endocytosis, macropinocytosis or increasing fluid efflux abrogates RAB5A-induced collective motility. A simple model based on mechanical junctional tension and an active cell reorientation mechanism for the velocity of self-propelled cells identifies regimes of monolayer dynamics that explain endocytic reawakening of locomotion in terms of a combination of large-scale directed migration and local unjamming. These changes in multicellular dynamics enable collectives to migrate under physical constraints and may be exploited by tumours for interstitial dissemination.


Garreta, Elena, Oria, Roger, Tarantino, Carolina, Pla-Roca, Mateu, Prado, Patricia, Fernández-Avilés, Francisco, Campistol, Josep Maria, Samitier, Josep, Montserrat, Nuria, (2017). Tissue engineering by decellularization and 3D bioprinting Materials Today 20, (4), 166-178

Discarded human donor organs have been shown to provide decellularized extracellular matrix (dECM) scaffolds suitable for organ engineering. The quest for appropriate cell sources to satisfy the need of multiple cells types in order to fully repopulate human organ-derived dECM scaffolds has opened new venues for the use of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) for recellularization. In addition, three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting techniques are advancing towards the fabrication of biomimetic cell-laden biomaterial constructs. Here, we review recent progress in decellularization/recellularization and 3D bioprinting technologies, aiming to fabricate autologous tissue grafts and organs with an impact in regenerative medicine.


Katuri, Jaideep, Ma, Xing, Stanton, Morgan M., Sánchez, Samuel, (2017). Designing micro- and nanoswimmers for specific applications Accounts of Chemical Research 50, (1), 2-11

Conspectus: Self-propelled colloids have emerged as a new class of active matter over the past decade. These are micrometer sized colloidal objects that transduce free energy from their surroundings and convert it to directed motion. The self-propelled colloids are in many ways, the synthetic analogues of biological self-propelled units such as algae or bacteria. Although they are propelled by very different mechanisms, biological swimmers are typically powered by flagellar motion and synthetic swimmers are driven by local chemical reactions, they share a number of common features with respect to swimming behavior. They exhibit run-and-tumble like behavior, are responsive to environmental stimuli, and can even chemically interact with nearby swimmers. An understanding of self-propelled colloids could help us in understanding the complex behaviors that emerge in populations of natural microswimmers. Self-propelled colloids also offer some advantages over natural microswimmers, since the surface properties, propulsion mechanisms, and particle geometry can all be easily modified to meet specific needs.From a more practical perspective, a number of applications, ranging from environmental remediation to targeted drug delivery, have been envisioned for these systems. These applications rely on the basic functionalities of self-propelled colloids: directional motion, sensing of the local environment, and the ability to respond to external signals. Owing to the vastly different nature of each of these applications, it becomes necessary to optimize the design choices in these colloids. There has been a significant effort to develop a range of synthetic self-propelled colloids to meet the specific conditions required for different processes. Tubular self-propelled colloids, for example, are ideal for decontamination processes, owing to their bubble propulsion mechanism, which enhances mixing in systems, but are incompatible with biological systems due to the toxic propulsion fuel and the generation of oxygen bubbles. Spherical swimmers serve as model systems to understand the fundamental aspects of the propulsion mechanism, collective behavior, response to external stimuli, etc. They are also typically the choice of shape at the nanoscale due to their ease of fabrication. More recently biohybrid swimmers have also been developed which attempt to retain the advantages of synthetic colloids while deriving their propulsion from biological swimmers such as sperm and bacteria, offering the means for biocompatible swimming. In this Account, we will summarize our effort and those of other groups, in the design and development of self-propelled colloids of different structural properties and powered by different propulsion mechanisms. We will also briefly address the applications that have been proposed and, to some extent, demonstrated for these swimmer designs.


Labernadie, A., Kato, T., Brugués, A., Serra-Picamal, X., Derzsi, S., Arwert, E., Weston, A., González-Tarragó, V., Elosegui-Artola, A., Albertazzi, L., Alcaraz, J., Roca-Cusachs, P., Sahai, E., Trepat, X., (2017). A mechanically active heterotypic E-cadherin/N-cadherin adhesion enables fibroblasts to drive cancer cell invasion Nature Cell Biology 19, (3), 224-237

Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) promote tumour invasion and metastasis. We show that CAFs exert a physical force on cancer cells that enables their collective invasion. Force transmission is mediated by a heterophilic adhesion involving N-cadherin at the CAF membrane and E-cadherin at the cancer cell membrane. This adhesion is mechanically active; when subjected to force it triggers β-catenin recruitment and adhesion reinforcement dependent on α-catenin/vinculin interaction. Impairment of E-cadherin/N-cadherin adhesion abrogates the ability of CAFs to guide collective cell migration and blocks cancer cell invasion. N-cadherin also mediates repolarization of the CAFs away from the cancer cells. In parallel, nectins and afadin are recruited to the cancer cell/CAF interface and CAF repolarization is afadin dependent. Heterotypic junctions between CAFs and cancer cells are observed in patient-derived material. Together, our findings show that a mechanically active heterophilic adhesion between CAFs and cancer cells enables cooperative tumour invasion.


Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Conte, Vito, Trepat, Xavier, (2017). Quantifying forces in cell biology Nature Cell Biology 19, (7), 742-751

Cells exert, sense, and respond to physical forces through an astounding diversity of mechanisms. Here we review recently developed tools to quantify the forces generated by cells. We first review technologies based on sensors of known or assumed mechanical properties, and discuss their applicability and limitations. We then proceed to draw an analogy between these human-made sensors and force sensing in the cell. As mechanics is increasingly revealed to play a fundamental role in cell function we envisage that tools to quantify physical forces may soon become widely applied in life-sciences laboratories.


Gállego, Isaac, Manning, Brendan, Prades, Joan Daniel, Mir, Mònica, Samitier, Josep, Eritja, Ramon, (2017). DNA-origami-driven lithography for patterning on gold surfaces with sub-10 nm resolution Advanced Materials 29, 1603233

Aragonès, A. C., Aravena, D., Valverde-Muñoz, F. J., Real, J. A., Sanz, F., Díez-Pérez, I., Ruiz, E., (2017). Metal-controlled magnetoresistance at room temperature in single-molecule devices Journal of the American Chemical Society 139, (16), 5768-5778

The appropriate choice of the transition metal complex and metal surface electronic structure opens the possibility to control the spin of the charge carriers through the resulting hybrid molecule/metal spinterface in a single-molecule electrical contact at room temperature. The single-molecule conductance of a Au/molecule/Ni junction can be switched by flipping the magnetization direction of the ferromagnetic electrode. The requirements of the molecule include not just the presence of unpaired electrons: the electronic configuration of the metal center has to provide occupied or empty orbitals that strongly interact with the junction metal electrodes and that are close in energy to their Fermi levels for one of the electronic spins only. The key ingredient for the metal surface is to provide an efficient spin texture induced by the spin-orbit coupling in the topological surface states that results in an efficient spin-dependent interaction with the orbitals of the molecule. The strong magnetoresistance effect found in this kind of single-molecule wire opens a new approach for the design of room-temperature nanoscale devices based on spin-polarized currents controlled at molecular level.


Carini, M., Ruiz, M. P., Usabiaga, I., Fernández, J. A., Cocinero, E. J., Melle-Franco, M., Diez-Perez, I., Mateo-Alonso, A., (2017). High conductance values in Nature Communications 8, 15195

Folding processes play a crucial role in the development of function in biomacromolecules. Recreating this feature on synthetic systems would not only allow understanding and reproducing biological functions but also developing new functions. This has inspired the development of conformationally ordered synthetic oligomers known as foldamers. Herein, a new family of foldamers, consisting of an increasing number of anthracene units that adopt a folded sigmoidal conformation by a combination of intramolecular hydrogen bonds and aromatic interactions, is reported. Such folding process opens up an efficient through-space charge transport channel across the interacting anthracene moieties. In fact, single-molecule conductance measurements carried out on this series of foldamers, using the scanning tunnelling microscopy-based break-junction technique, reveal exceptionally high conductance values in the order of 10-1 G0 and a low length decay constant of 0.02 Ã…-1 that exceed the values observed in molecular junctions that make use of through-space charge transport pathways.


Agusil, Juan Pablo, Torras, Núria, Duch, Marta, Esteve, Jaume, Pérez-García, Lluïsa, Samitier, Josep, Plaza, José A., (2017). Highly anisotropic suspended planar-array chips with multidimensional sub-micrometric biomolecular patterns Advanced Functional Materials 27, 1605912

Suspended planar-array (SPA) chips embody millions of individual miniaturized arrays to work in extremely small volumes. Here, the basis of a robust methodology for the fabrication of SPA silicon chips with on-demand physical and chemical anisotropies is demonstrated. Specifically, physical traits are defined during the fabrication process with special focus on the aspect ratio, branching, faceting, and size gradient of the final chips. Additionally, the chemical attributes augment the functionality of the chips with the inclusion of complete coverage or patterns of selected biomolecules on the surface of the chips with contact printing techniques, offering an extremely high versatility, not only with the choice of the pattern shape and distribution but also in the choice of biomolecular inks to pattern. This approach increases the miniaturization of printed arrays in 3D structures by two orders of magnitude compared to those previously demonstrated. Finally, functional micrometric and sub-micrometric patterned features are demonstrated with an antibody binding assay with the recognition of the printed spots with labeled antibodies from solution. The selective addition of physical and chemical attributes on the suspended chips represents the basis for future biomedical assays performed within extremely small volumes.

Keywords: Microcontact printing, Microparticles, Molecular multiplexing, Polymer pen lithography, Silicon chip technology


Caballero, D., Palacios, L., Freitas, P. P., Samitier, J., (2017). An interplay between matrix anisotropy and actomyosin contractility regulates 3D-directed cell migration Advanced Functional Materials Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue)

Directed cell migration is essential for many biological processes, such as embryonic development or cancer progression. Cell contractility and adhesion to the extracellular matrix are known to regulate cell locomotion machinery. However, the cross-talk between extrinsic and intrinsic factors at the molecular level on the biophysical mechanism of three dimensional (3D)-directed cell migration is still unclear. In this work, a novel physiologically relevant in vitro model of the extracellular microenvironment is used to reveal how the topological anisotropy of the extracellular matrix synergizes with actomyosin contractility to modulate directional cell migration morphodynamics. This study shows that cells seeded on polarized 3D matrices display asymmetric protrusion morphodynamics and in-vivo-like phenotypes. It is found that matrix anisotropy significantly enhances cell directionality, but strikingly, not the invasion distance of cells. In Rho-inhibited cells, matrix anisotropy counteracts the lack of actomyosin-driven forces to stabilize cell directionality suggesting a myosin-II-independent mechanism for cell guidance. Finally, this study shows that on isotropic 3D environments, cell directionality is independent of actomyosin contractility. Altogether, this study provides novel quantitative data on the biomechanical regulation of directional cell motion and shows the important regulatory role of matrix anisotropy and actomyosin forces to guide cell migration in 3D microenvironments.

Keywords: Anisotropy, Directed cell migration, Extracellular matrices, Migration modes, Three dimensional microenvironments


Valon, L., Marín-Llauradó, A., Wyatt, T., Charras, G., Trepat, X., (2017). Optogenetic control of cellular forces and mechanotransduction Nature Communications 8, 14396

Contractile forces are the end effectors of cell migration, division, morphogenesis, wound healing and cancer invasion. Here we report optogenetic tools to upregulate and downregulate such forces with high spatiotemporal accuracy. The technology relies on controlling the subcellular activation of RhoA using the CRY2/CIBN light-gated dimerizer system. We fused the catalytic domain (DHPH domain) of the RhoA activator ARHGEF11 to CRY2-mCherry (optoGEF-RhoA) and engineered its binding partner CIBN to bind either to the plasma membrane or to the mitochondrial membrane. Translocation of optoGEF-RhoA to the plasma membrane causes a rapid and local increase in cellular traction, intercellular tension and tissue compaction. By contrast, translocation of optoGEF-RhoA to mitochondria results in opposite changes in these physical properties. Cellular changes in contractility are paralleled by modifications in the nuclear localization of the transcriptional regulator YAP, thus showing the ability of our approach to control mechanotransductory signalling pathways in time and space.


Aragonès, A. C., Darwish, N., Ciampi, S., Sanz, F., Gooding, J. J., Díez-Pérez, I., (2017). Single-molecule electrical contacts on silicon electrodes under ambient conditions Nature Communications 8, 15056

The ultimate goal in molecular electronics is to use individual molecules as the active electronic component of a real-world sturdy device. For this concept to become reality, it will require the field of single-molecule electronics to shift towards the semiconducting platform of the current microelectronics industry. Here, we report silicon-based single-molecule contacts that are mechanically and electrically stable under ambient conditions. The single-molecule contacts are prepared on silicon electrodes using the scanning tunnelling microscopy break-junction approach using a top metallic probe. The molecular wires show remarkable current-voltage reproducibility, as compared to an open silicon/nano-gap/metal junction, with current rectification ratios exceeding 4,000 when a low-doped silicon is used. The extension of the single-molecule junction approach to a silicon substrate contributes to the next level of miniaturization of electronic components and it is anticipated it will pave the way to a new class of robust single-molecule circuits.


Stanton, Morgan M., Sánchez, Samuel, (2017). Pushing bacterial biohybrids to In Vivo Applications Trends in Biotechnology In Press Corrected Proof

Bacterial biohybrids use the energy of bacteria to manipulate synthetic materials with the goal of solving biomedical problems at the micro- and nanoscale. We explore current in vitro studies of bacterial biohybrids, the first attempts at in vivo biohybrid research, and problems to be addressed for the future.

Keywords: Bacteria, Biohybrid, Microswimmers, Micromotors, Drug delivery


Arroyo, M., Trepat, X., (2017). Hydraulic fracturing in cells and tissues: fracking meets cell biology Current Opinion in Cell Biology 44, 1-6

The animal body is largely made of water. A small fraction of body water is freely flowing in blood and lymph, but most of it is trapped in hydrogels such as the extracellular matrix (ECM), the cytoskeleton, and chromatin. Besides providing a medium for biological molecules to diffuse, water trapped in hydrogels plays a fundamental mechanical role. This role is well captured by the theory of poroelasticity, which explains how any deformation applied to a hydrogel causes pressure gradients and water flows, much like compressing a sponge squeezes water out of it. Here we review recent evidence that poroelastic pressures and flows can fracture essential biological barriers such as the nuclear envelope, the cellular cortex, and epithelial layers. This type of fracture is known in engineering literature as hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’.


Hernández-Vega, Amayra, Marsal, María, Pouille, Philippe-Alexandre, Tosi, Sébastien, Colombelli, Julien, Luque, Tomás, Navajas, Daniel, Pagonabarraga, Ignacio, Martín-Blanco, Enrique, (2017). Polarized cortical tension drives zebrafish epiboly movements EMBO Journal 36, (1), 25-41

The principles underlying the biomechanics of morphogenesis are largely unknown. Epiboly is an essential embryonic event in which three tissues coordinate to direct the expansion of the blastoderm. How and where forces are generated during epiboly, and how these are globally coupled remains elusive. Here we developed a method, hydrodynamic regression (HR), to infer 3D pressure fields, mechanical power, and cortical surface tension profiles. HR is based on velocity measurements retrieved from 2D+T microscopy and their hydrodynamic modeling. We applied HR to identify biomechanically active structures and changes in cortex local tension during epiboly in zebrafish. Based on our results, we propose a novel physical description for epiboly, where tissue movements are directed by a polarized gradient of cortical tension. We found that this gradient relies on local contractile forces at the cortex, differences in elastic properties between cortex components and the passive transmission of forces within the yolk cell. All in all, our work identifies a novel way to physically regulate concerted cellular movements that might be instrumental for the mechanical control of many morphogenetic processes.

Keywords: Epiboly, Hydrodynamics, Mechanics, Morphogenesis, Zebrafish


Stanton, M. M., Park, B. W., Miguel-López, A., Ma, X., Sitti, M., Sánchez, S., (2017). Biohybrid microtube swimmers driven by single captured bacteria Small 13, (19), 1603679

Bacteria biohybrids employ the motility and power of swimming bacteria to carry and maneuver microscale particles. They have the potential to perform microdrug and cargo delivery in vivo, but have been limited by poor design, reduced swimming capabilities, and impeded functionality. To address these challenge, motile Escherichia coli are captured inside electropolymerized microtubes, exhibiting the first report of a bacteria microswimmer that does not utilize a spherical particle chassis. Single bacterium becomes partially trapped within the tube and becomes a bioengine to push the microtube though biological media. Microtubes are modified with "smart" material properties for motion control, including a bacteria-attractant polydopamine inner layer, addition of magnetic components for external guidance, and a biochemical kill trigger to cease bacterium swimming on demand. Swimming dynamics of the bacteria biohybrid are quantified by comparing "length of protrusion" of bacteria from the microtubes with respect to changes in angular autocorrelation and swimmer mean squared displacement. The multifunctional microtubular swimmers present a new generation of biocompatible micromotors toward future microbiorobots and minimally invasive medical applications.

Keywords: Biohybrids, E. coli, Micromotors, Microswimmers, Polydopamine


López-Martínez, Montserrat, Artés, Juan Manuel, Sarasso, Veronica, Carminati, Marco, Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Sanz, Fausto, Gorostiza, Pau, (2017). Differential Electrochemical Conductance Imaging at the Nanoscale Small Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue)

Electron transfer in proteins is essential in crucial biological processes. Although the fundamental aspects of biological electron transfer are well characterized, currently there are no experimental tools to determine the atomic-scale electronic pathways in redox proteins, and thus to fully understand their outstanding efficiency and environmental adaptability. This knowledge is also required to design and optimize biomolecular electronic devices. In order to measure the local conductance of an electrode surface immersed in an electrolyte, this study builds upon the current–potential spectroscopic capacity of electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy, by adding an alternating current modulation technique. With this setup, spatially resolved, differential electrochemical conductance images under bipotentiostatic control are recorded. Differential electrochemical conductance imaging allows visualizing the reversible oxidation of an iron electrode in borate buffer and individual azurin proteins immobilized on atomically flat gold surfaces. In particular, this method reveals submolecular regions with high conductance within the protein. The direct observation of nanoscale conduction pathways in redox proteins and complexes enables important advances in biochemistry and bionanotechnology.

Keywords: Differential electrochemical conductance, ECSTM, Electron transport pathway, Iron passivation, Redox metalloproteins


Aragonès, Albert C., Medina, Ernesto, Ferrer-Huerta, Miriam, Gimeno, Nuria, Teixidó, Meritxell, Palma, Julio L., Tao, Nongjian, Ugalde, Jesus M., Giralt, Ernest, Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Mujica, Vladimiro, (2017). Measuring the spin-polarization power of a single chiral molecule Small 13, (2), 1602519

The electronic spin filtering capability of a single chiral helical peptide is measured. A ferromagnetic electrode source is employed to inject spin-polarized electrons in an asymmetric single-molecule junction bridging an

Keywords: Alpha-helical peptides, Chiral transport, Single-molecule wires, Spin-polarization power, Spin-polarized transmission


Matalonga, J., Glaria, E., Bresque, M., Escande, C., Carbó, J. M., Kiefer, K., Vicente, R., León, T. E., Beceiro, S., Pascual-García, M., Serret, J., Sanjurjo, L., Morón-Ros, S., Riera, A., Paytubi, S., Juarez, A., Sotillo, F., Lindbom, L., Caelles, C., Sarrias, M. R., Sancho, J., Castrillo, A., Chini, E. N., Valledor, A. F., (2017). The nuclear receptor LXR limits bacterial infection of host macrophages through a mechanism that impacts cellular NAD metabolism Cell Reports 18, (5), 1241-1255

Macrophages exert potent effector functions against invading microorganisms but constitute, paradoxically, a preferential niche for many bacterial strains to replicate. Using a model of infection by Salmonella Typhimurium, we have identified a molecular mechanism regulated by the nuclear receptor LXR that limits infection of host macrophages through transcriptional activation of the multifunctional enzyme CD38. LXR agonists reduced the intracellular levels of NAD+ in a CD38-dependent manner, counteracting pathogen-induced changes in macrophage morphology and the distribution of the F-actin cytoskeleton and reducing the capability of non-opsonized Salmonella to infect macrophages. Remarkably, pharmacological treatment with an LXR agonist ameliorated clinical signs associated with Salmonella infection in vivo, and these effects were dependent on CD38 expression in bone-marrow-derived cells. Altogether, this work reveals an unappreciated role for CD38 in bacterial-host cell interaction that can be pharmacologically exploited by activation of the LXR pathway.

Keywords: Bacterial infection, CD38, Cytoskeleton, LXR, Macrophage, NAD, Nuclear receptor


Vilela, D., Stanton, M. M., Parmar, J., Sánchez, S., (2017). Microbots decorated with silver nanoparticles kill bacteria in aqueous media ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 9, (27), 22093-22100

Water contamination is one of the most persistent problems of public health. Resistance of some pathogens to conventional disinfectants can require the combination of multiple disinfectants or increased disinfectant doses, which may produce harmful byproducts. Here, we describe an efficient method for disinfecting Escherichia coli and removing the bacteria from contaminated water using water self-propelled Janus microbots decorated with silver nanoparticles (AgNPs). The structure of a spherical Janus microbot consists of a magnesium (Mg) microparticle as a template that also functions as propulsion source by producing hydrogen bubbles when in contact with water, an inner iron (Fe) magnetic layer for their remote guidance and collection, and an outer AgNP-coated gold (Au) layer for bacterial adhesion and improving bactericidal properties. The active motion of microbots increases the chances of the contact of AgNPs on the microbot surface with bacteria, which provokes the selective Ag+ release in their cytoplasm, and the microbot self-propulsion increases the diffusion of the released Ag+ ions. In addition, the AgNP-coated Au cap of the microbots has a dual capability of capturing bacteria and then killing them. Thus, we have demonstrated that AgNP-coated Janus microbots are capable of efficiently killing more than 80% of E. coli compared with colloidal AgNPs that killed only less than 35% of E. coli in contaminated water solutions in 15 min. After capture and extermination of bacteria, magnetic properties of the cap allow collection of microbots from water along with the captured dead bacteria, leaving water with no biological contaminants. The presented biocompatible Janus microbots offer an encouraging method for rapid disinfection of water.

Keywords: Bactericidal, Magnetic control, Micromotors, Microswimmers, Self-propulsion, Silver nanoparticles


Hoyos-Nogués, M., Velasco, F., Ginebra, M. P., Manero, J. M., Gil, F. J., Mas-Moruno, C., (2017). Regenerating bone via multifunctional coatings: The blending of cell integration and bacterial inhibition properties on the surface of biomaterials ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 9, (26), 21618-21630

In dentistry and orthopedics, it is well accepted that implant fixation is a major goal. However, an emerging concern is bacterial infection. Infection of metallic implants can be catastrophic and significantly reduce patient quality of life. Accordingly, in this work, we focus on multifunctional coatings to simultaneously address and mitigate both these problems. We have developed a tailor-made peptide-based chemical platform that integrates the well-known RGD cell adhesive sequence and the lactoferrin-derived LF1-11 antimicrobial peptide. The platform was covalently grafted on titanium via silanization and the functionalization process characterized by contact angle, XPS, and QCM-D. The presence of the platform statistically improved the adhesion, proliferation and mineralization of osteoblast-like cells compared to control surfaces. At the same time, colonization by representative bacterial strains was significantly reduced on the surfaces. Furthermore, the biological potency of the multifunctional platform was verified in a co-culture in vitro model. Our findings demonstrate that this multifunctional approach can be useful to functionalize biomaterials to both improve cell integration and reduce the risk of bacterial infection.

Keywords: Antimicrobial peptides, Cell adhesive peptides, Multifunctionality, Osseointegration, Surface functionalization


Caballero, D., Samitier, J., (2017). Topological control of extracellular matrix growth: A native-like model for cell morphodynamics studies ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 9, (4), 4159-4170

The interaction of cells with their natural environment influences a large variety of cellular phenomena, including cell adhesion, proliferation, and migration. The complex extracellular matrix network has challenged the attempts to replicate in vitro the heterogeneity of the cell environment and has threatened, in general, the relevance of in vitro studies. In this work, we describe a new and extremely versatile approach to generate native-like extracellular matrices with controlled morphologies for the in vitro study of cellular processes. This general approach combines the confluent culture of fibroblasts with microfabricated guiding templates to direct the three-dimensional growth of well-defined extracellular networks which recapitulate the structural and biomolecular complexity of features typically found in vivo. To evaluate its performance, we studied fundamental cellular processes, including cell cytoskeleton organization, cell-matrix adhesion, proliferation, and protrusions morphodynamics. In all cases, we found striking differences depending on matrix architecture and, in particular, when compared to standard two-dimensional environments. We also assessed whether the engineered matrix networks influenced cell migration dynamics and locomotion strategy, finding enhanced migration efficiency for cells seeded on aligned matrices. Altogether, our methodology paves the way to the development of high-performance models of the extracellular matrix for potential applications in tissue engineering, diagnosis, or stem-cell biology.

Keywords: Biomimetics, Cell migration, Engineered cell-derived matrices, Extracellular matrix, In vitro model


Lagunas, Anna, Tsintzou, Iro, Vida, Yolanda, Collado, Daniel, Pérez-Inestrosa, Ezequiel, Pereira, Cristina Rodríguez, Magalhaes, Joana, Andrades, José A., Samitier, Josep, (2017). Tailoring RGD local surface density at the nanoscale toward adult stem cell chondrogenic commitment Nano Research 10, (6), 1959-1971

Arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD) dendrimer-based nanopatterns on poly(L-lactic acid) were used as bioactive substrates to evaluate the impact of the RGD local surface density on the chondrogenic induction of adult human mesenchymal stem cells. During chondrogenic commitment, active extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling takes place, playing an instructive role in the differentiation process. Although three-dimensional environments such as pellet or micromass cultures are commonly used for in vitro chondrogenic differentiation, these cultures are rather limited with respect to their ability to interrogate cells in cell–ECM interactions. In the present study, the nanopatterns of the tunable RGD surface density were obtained as a function of the initial dendrimer concentration. The local RGD surface density was quantified through probability contour plots for the minimum interparticle distance, constructed from the corresponding atomic force microscopy images, and correlated with the cell adhesion and differentiation response. The results revealed that the local RGD surface density at the nanoscale acts as a regulator of chondrogenic commitment, and that intermediate adhesiveness of cells to the substrates favors mesenchymal cell condensation and early chondrogenic differentiation.


O'Neill, R., McCarthy, H. O., Montufar, E. B., Ginebra, M. P., Wilson, D. I., Lennon, A., Dunne, N., (2017). Critical review: Injectability of calcium phosphate pastes and cements Acta Biomaterialia 50, 1-19

Calcium phosphate cements (CPC) have seen clinical success in many dental and orthopaedic applications in recent years. The properties of CPC essential for clinical success are reviewed in this article, which includes properties of the set cement (e.g. bioresorbability, biocompatibility, porosity and mechanical properties) and unset cement (e.g. setting time, cohesion, flow properties and ease of delivery to the surgical site). Emphasis is on the delivery of calcium phosphate (CaP) pastes and CPC, in particular the occurrence of separation of the liquid and solid components of the pastes and cements during injection; and established methods to reduce this phase separation. In addition a review of phase separation mechanisms observed during the extrusion of other biphasic paste systems and the theoretical models used to describe these mechanisms are discussed. Statement of Significance Occurrence of phase separation of calcium phosphate pastes and cements during injection limits their full exploitation as a bone substitute in minimally invasive surgical applications. Due to lack of theoretical understanding of the phase separation mechanism(s), optimisation of an injectable CPC that satisfies clinical requirements has proven difficult. However, phase separation of pastes during delivery has been the focus across several research fields. Therefore in addition to a review of methods to reduce phase separation of CPC and the associated constraints, a review of phase separation mechanisms observed during extrusion of other pastes and the theoretical models used to describe these mechanisms is presented. It is anticipated this review will benefit future attempts to develop injectable calcium phosphate based systems.

Keywords: Bone cements, Calcium phosphates, Injectability, Material properties, Phase separation


Van Onzen, A. H. A. M., Albertazzi, L., Schenning, A. P. H. J., Milroy, L. G., Brunsveld, L., (2017). Hydrophobicity determines the fate of self-assembled fluorescent nanoparticles in cells Chemical Communications 53, (10), 1626-1629

The fate of small molecule nanoparticles (SMNPs) composed of self-assembling intrinsically fluorescent π-conjugated oligomers was studied in cells as a function of side-chain hydrophobicity. While the hydrophobic SMNPs remained intact upon cellular uptake, the more hydrophilic SMNPs disassembled and dispersed throughout the cytosol.


Diez-Escudero, A., Espanol, M., Beats, S., Ginebra, M. P., (2017). In vitro degradation of calcium phosphates: Effect of multiscale porosity, textural properties and composition Acta Biomaterialia In Press, Corrected Proof

The capacity of calcium phosphates to be replaced by bone is tightly linked to their resorbability. However, the relative importance of some textural parameters on their degradation behavior is still unclear. The present study aims to quantify the effect of composition, specific surface area (SSA), and porosity at various length scales (nano-, micro- and macroporosity) on the in vitro degradation of different calcium phosphates. Degradation studies were performed in an acidic medium to mimic the osteoclastic environment. Small degradations were found in samples with interconnected nano- and micropores with sizes below 3 µm although they were highly porous (35–65%), with maximum weight loss of 8 wt%. Biomimetic calcium deficient hydroxyapatite, with high SSA and low crystallinity, presented the highest degradation rates exceeding even the more soluble

Keywords: Calcium phosphates, Degradation, Porosity, Textural properties


Ciapetti, G., Di Pompo, G., Avnet, S., Martini, D., Diez-Escudero, A., Montufar, E. B., Ginebra, M. P., Baldini, N., (2017). Osteoclast differentiation from human blood precursors on biomimetic calcium-phosphate substrates Acta Biomaterialia 50, 102-113

The design of synthetic bone grafts to foster bone formation is a challenge in regenerative medicine. Understanding the interaction of bone substitutes with osteoclasts is essential, since osteoclasts not only drive a timely resorption of the biomaterial, but also trigger osteoblast activity. In this study, the adhesion and differentiation of human blood-derived osteoclast precursors (OCP) on two different micro-nanostructured biomimetic hydroxyapatite materials consisting in coarse (HA-C) and fine HA (HA-F) crystals, in comparison with sintered stoichiometric HA (sin-HA, reference material), were investigated. Osteoclasts were induced to differentiate by RANKL-containing supernatant using cell/substrate direct and indirect contact systems, and calcium (Ca++) and phosphorus (P5+) in culture medium were measured. We observed that OCP adhered to the experimental surfaces, and that osteoclast-like cells formed at a rate influenced by the micro- and nano-structure of HA, which also modulate extracellular Ca++. Qualitative differences were found between OCP on biomimetic HA-C and HA-F and their counterparts on plastic and sin-HA. On HA-C and HA-F cells shared typical features of mature osteoclasts, i.e. podosomes, multinuclearity, tartrate acid phosphatase (TRAP)-positive staining, and TRAP5b-enzyme release. However, cells were less in number compared to those on plastic or on sin-HA, and they did not express some specific osteoclast markers. In conclusion, blood-derived OCP are able to attach to biomimetic and sintered HA substrates, but their subsequent fusion and resorptive activity are hampered by surface micro-nano-structure. Indirect cultures suggest that fusion of OCP is sensitive to topography and to extracellular calcium. Statement of Significance The novelty of the paper is the differentiation of human blood-derived osteoclast precursors, instead of mouse-derived macrophages as used in most studies, directly on biomimetic micro-nano structured HA-based surfaces, as triggered by osteoblast-produced factors (RANKL/OPG), and influenced by chemistry and topography of the substrate(s). Biomimetic HA-surfaces, like those obtained in calcium phosphate cements, are very different from the conventional calcium phosphate ceramics, both in terms of topography and ion exchange. The role of these factors in modulating precursors’ differentiation and activity is analysed. The system is closely reproducing the physiological process of attachment of host cells and further maturation to osteoclasts toward resorption of the substrate, which occurs in vivo after filling bone defects with the calcium phosphate grafts.

Keywords: Bone resorption, Differentiation, Hydroxyapatite, Ionic exchange, Osteoclasts, Topography


Oliveira, H., Catros, S., Castano, O., Rey, S., Siadous, R., Clift, D., Marti-Munoz, J., Batista, M., Bareille, R., Planell, J., Engel, E., Amédée, J., (2017). The proangiogenic potential of a novel calcium releasing composite biomaterial: Orthotopic in vivo evaluation Acta Biomaterialia 54, 377-385

Insufficient angiogenesis remains a major hurdle in current bone tissue engineering strategies. An extensive body of work has focused on the use of angiogenic factors or endothelial progenitor cells. However, these approaches are inherently complex, in terms of regulatory and methodologic implementation, and present a high cost. We have recently demonstrate the potential of electrospun poly(lactic acid) (PLA) fiber-based membranes, containing calcium phosphate (CaP) ormoglass particles, to elicit angiogenesis in vivo, in a subcutaneous model in mice. Here we have devised an injectable composite, containing CaP glass-ceramic particles, dispersed within a (Hydroxypropyl)methyl cellulose (HPMC) matrix, with the capacity to release calcium in a more sustained fashion. We show that by tuning the release of calcium in vivo, in a rat bone defect model, we could improve both bone formation and increase angiogenesis. The bone regeneration kinetics was dependent on the Ca2+ release rate, with the faster Ca2+ release composite gel showing improved bone repair at 3 weeks, in relation to control. In the same line, improved angiogenesis could be observed for the same gel formulation at 6 weeks post implantation. This methodology allows to integrate two fundamental processes for bone tissue regeneration while using a simple, cost effective, and safe approach. Statement of Significance In current bone tissue engineering approaches the achievement of sufficient angiogenesis, during tissue regeneration, is a major limitation in order to attain full tissue functionality. Recently, we have shown that calcium ions, released by the degradation of calcium phosphate ormoglasses (CaP), are effective angiogenic promoters, in both in vitro and in a subcutaneous implantation model. Here, we devised an injectable composite, containing CaP glass-ceramic particles, dispersed within a HPMC matrix, enabling the release of calcium in a more sustained fashion. We show that by tuning the release of calcium in vivo, in a rat bone defect model, we could improve both bone formation and increase angiogenesis. This simple and cost effective approach holds great promise to translate to the clinics.

Keywords: Angiogenesis, Bone regeneration, Calcium phosphate ormoglasses


Maazouz, Y., Montufar, E. B., Malbert, J., Espanol, M., Ginebra, M. P., (2017). Self-hardening and thermoresponsive alpha tricalcium phosphate/pluronic pastes Acta Biomaterialia 49, 563-574

Although calcium phosphate cements (CPCs) are used for bone regeneration in a wide range of clinical applications, various physicochemical phenomena are known to hinder their potential use in minimally invasive surgery or in highly vascularized surgical sites, mainly because of their lack of injectability or their low washout resistance. The present work shows that the combination of CPCs with an inverse-thermoresponsive hydrogel is a good strategy for finely tuning the cohesive and rheological properties of CPCs to achieve clinical acceptable injectability to prevent phase separation during implantation and cohesion to avoid washout of the paste. The thermoresponsive CPC developed combines alpha-tricalcium phosphate with an aqueous solution of pluronic F127, which exhibits an inverse thermoresponsive behaviour, with a gelling transformation at around body temperature. These novel CPCs exhibited temperature-dependent properties. Addition of the polymer enhanced the injectability of the paste, even at a low liquid-to-powder ratio, and allowed the rheological properties of the cement to be tuned, with the injection force decreasing with the temperature of the paste. Moreover, the cohesion of the paste was also temperature-dependent and increased as the temperature of the host medium increased due to gelling induced in the paste. The thermoresponsive cement exhibited excellent cohesion and clinically acceptable setting times at 37 °C, irrespective of the initial temperature of the paste. The addition of pluronic F127 slightly delayed the setting reaction in the early stages but did not hinder the full transformation to calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite. Moreover, the frozen storage of premixed thermoresponsive cement pastes was explored, the main physicochemical properties of the cements being maintained upon thawing, even after 18 months of frozen storage. This avoids the need to mix the cement in the operating theatre and allows its use off-the-shelf. The reverse thermoresponsive cements studied herein open up new perspectives in the surgical field, where the sequential gelling/hardening of these novel cements could allow for a better and safer clinical application. Statement of Significance Calcium phosphate cements are attractive bone substitutes due to their similarity to the bone mineral phase. Although they can be injectable, cohesion and stability of the paste are crucial in terms of performance and safety. A common strategy is the combination with hydrogels. However, this often results in a decrease of viscosity with increasing temperature, which can lead to extravasation and particle leakage from the bone defect. The preferred evolution would be the opposite: a low viscosity would enhance mixing and injection, and an instantaneous increase of viscosity after injection would ensure washout resistance to the blood flow. Here we develop for the first time a calcium phosphate cement exhibiting reverse thermoresponsive properties using a poloxamer featuring inverse thermal gelling.

Keywords: Calcium phosphate cement, Cohesion, Hydroxyapatite, Injectability, Pluronic, Thermoresponsive


Pujals, S., Tao, K., Terradellas, A., Gazit, E., Albertazzi, L., (2017). Studying structure and dynamics of self-Assembled peptide nanostructures using fluorescence and super resolution microscopy Chemical Communications 53, (53), 7294-7297

Understanding the formation and properties of self-Assembled peptide nanostructures is the basis for the design of new architectures for various applications. Here we show the potential of fluorescence and super resolution imaging to unveil the structural and dynamic features of peptide nanofibers with high spatiotemporal resolution.


Grice, L. F., Gauthier, M. E. A., Roper, K. E., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Degnan, S. M., Degnan, B. M., (2017). Origin and evolution of the sponge aggregation factor gene family Molecular Biology and Evolution 34, (5), 1083-1099

Although discriminating self from nonself is a cardinal animal trait, metazoan allorecognition genes do not appear to be homologous. Here, we characterize the Aggregation Factor (AF) gene family, which encodes putative allorecognition factors in the demosponge Amphimedon queenslandica, and trace its evolution across 24 sponge (Porifera) species. The AF locus in Amphimedon is comprised of a cluster of five similar genes that encode Calx-beta and Von Willebrand domains and a newly defined Wreath domain, and are highly polymorphic. Further AF variance appears to be generated through individualistic patterns of RNA editing. The AF gene family varies between poriferans, with protein sequences and domains diagnostic of the AF family being present in Amphimedon and other demosponges, but absent from other sponge classes. Within the demosponges, AFs vary widely with no two species having the same AF repertoire or domain organization. The evolution of AFs suggests that their diversification occurs via high allelism, and the continual and rapid gain, loss and shuffling of domains over evolutionary time. Given the marked differences in metazoan allorecognition genes, we propose the rapid evolution of AFs in sponges provides a model for understanding the extensive diversification of self-nonself recognition systems in the animal kingdom.

Keywords: Aggregation factor, Allorecognition, Intron phase, Polymorphism, Porifera, RNA editing


Urrea, L., Segura-Feliu, M., Masuda-Suzukake, M., Hervera, A., Pedraz, L., Aznar, J. M. G., Vila, M., Samitier, J., Torrents, E., Ferrer, I., Gavín, R., Hagesawa, M., Del Río, J. A., (2017). Involvement of cellular prion protein in Molecular Neurobiology online, 1-14

The cellular prion protein, encoded by the gene Prnp, has been reported to be a receptor of

Keywords: Amyloid spreading, Microfluidic devices, Prnp, Synuclein


Matamoros-Angles, A., Gayosso, L. M., Richaud-Patin, Y., Di Domenico, A., Vergara, C., Hervera, A., Sousa, A., Fernández-Borges, N., Consiglio, A., Gavín, R., López de Maturana, R., Ferrer, I., López de Munain, A., Raya, A., Castilla, J., Sánchez-Pernaute, R., Del Río, J. A., (2017). iPS cell cultures from a Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker patient with the Y218N PRNP mutation recapitulate tau pathology Molecular Neurobiology online

Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker (GSS) syndrome is a fatal autosomal dominant neurodegenerative prionopathy clinically characterized by ataxia, spastic paraparesis, extrapyramidal signs and dementia. In some GSS familiar cases carrying point mutations in the PRNP gene, patients also showed comorbid tauopathy leading to mixed pathologies. In this study we developed an induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell model derived from fibroblasts of a GSS patient harboring the Y218N PRNP mutation, as well as an age-matched healthy control. This particular PRNP mutation is unique with very few described cases. One of the cases presented neurofibrillary degeneration with relevant Tau hyperphosphorylation. Y218N iPS-derived cultures showed relevant astrogliosis, increased phospho-Tau, altered microtubule-associated transport and cell death. However, they failed to generate proteinase K-resistant prion. In this study we set out to test, for the first time, whether iPS cell-derived neurons could be used to investigate the appearance of disease-related phenotypes (i.e, tauopathy) identified in the GSS patient.

Keywords: Cellular prion protein, Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker, Induced pluripotent stem cells, Tau


Gutiérrez-Franco, Ana, Eixarch, Herena, Costa, Carme, Gil, Vanessa, Castillo, Mireia, Calvo-Barreiro, Laura, Montalban, Xavier, Del Río, José A., Espejo, Carmen, (2017). Semaphorin 7A as a potential therapeutic target for multiple sclerosis Molecular Neurobiology 54, (6), 4820-4831

Semaphorin 7A (sema7A) is classified as an immune semaphorin with dual functions in the immune system and in the central nervous system (CNS). These molecules are of interest due to their potential role in multiple sclerosis (MS), which is a chronic demyelinating and neurodegenerative disease of autoimmune origin. In this study, we elucidated the role of sema7A in neuroinflammation using both in vitro and in vivo experimental models. In an in vitro model of neuroinflammation, using cerebellar organotypic slice cultures, we observed that challenge with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) endotoxin did not affect demyelination or cell death in sema7A-deficient cultures compared to wild-type cultures. Moreover, the in vivo outcome of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in sema7A-deficient mice was altered in an antigen- and adjuvant-dose-dependent manner, while no differences were observed in the wild-type counterparts. Altogether, these results indicate that sema7A is involved in peripheral immunity and CNS inflammation in MS pathogenesis. Indeed, these data suggest that sema7A might be a potential therapeutic target to treat MS and autoimmune conditions.


Marques, J., Valle-Delgado, J. J., Urbán, P., Baró, E., Prohens, R., Mayor, A., Cisteró, P., Delves, M., Sinden, R. E., Grandfils, C., de Paz, J. L., García-Salcedo, J. A., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2017). Adaptation of targeted nanocarriers to changing requirements in antimalarial drug delivery Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine 13, (2), 515-525

The adaptation of existing antimalarial nanocarriers to new Plasmodium stages, drugs, targeting molecules, or encapsulating structures is a strategy that can provide new nanotechnology-based, cost-efficient therapies against malaria. We have explored the modification of different liposome prototypes that had been developed in our group for the targeted delivery of antimalarial drugs to Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (pRBCs). These new models include: (i) immunoliposome-mediated release of new lipid-based antimalarials; (ii) liposomes targeted to pRBCs with covalently linked heparin to reduce anticoagulation risks; (iii) adaptation of heparin to pRBC targeting of chitosan nanoparticles; (iv) use of heparin for the targeting of Plasmodium stages in the mosquito vector; and (v) use of the non-anticoagulant glycosaminoglycan chondroitin 4-sulfate as a heparin surrogate for pRBC targeting. The results presented indicate that the tuning of existing nanovessels to new malaria-related targets is a valid low-cost alternative to the de novo development of targeted nanosystems.

Keywords: Glycosaminoglycans, Malaria, Nanomedicine, Plasmodium, Targeted drug delivery


Caddeo, C., Manca, M. L., Matos, M., Gutierrez, G., Díez-Sales, O., Peris, J. E., Usach, I., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Fadda, A. M., Manconi, M., (2017). Functional response of novel bioprotective poloxamer-structured vesicles on inflamed skin Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine 13, (3), 1127-1136

Resveratrol and gallic acid, a lipophilic and a hydrophilic phenol, were co-loaded in innovative, biocompatible nanovesicles conceived for ensuring the protection of the skin from oxidative- and inflammatory-related affections. The basic vesicles, liposomes and glycerosomes, were produced by a simple, one-step method involving the dispersion of phospholipid and phenols in water or water/glycerol blend, respectively. Liposomes and glycerosomes were modified by the addition of poloxamer, a stabilizer and viscosity enhancer, thus obtaining viscous or semisolid dispersions of structured vesicles. The vesicles were spherical, unilamellar and small in size (~70 nm in diameter). The superior ability of the poloxamer-structured vesicles to promote the accumulation of both phenols in the skin was demonstrated, as well as their low toxicity and great ability to protect fibroblasts from chemically-induced oxidative damage. The in vivo administration of the vesicular phenols on TPA (phorbol ester)-exposed skin led to a significant reduction of oedema and leukocyte infiltration.

Keywords: Fibroblasts, Mice, Phenol, Phospholipid vesicle, Poloxamer, Skin inflammation


Canal, C., Fontelo, R., Hamouda, I., Guillem-Marti, J., Cvelbar, U., Ginebra, M. P., (2017). Plasma-induced selectivity in bone cancer cells death Free Radical Biology and Medicine 110, 72-80

Background: Current therapies for bone cancers - either primary or metastatic – are difficult to implement and unfortunately not completely effective. An alternative therapy could be found in cold plasmas generated at atmospheric pressure which have already demonstrated selective anti-tumor action in a number of carcinomas and in more relatively rare brain tumors. However, its effects on bone cancer are still unknown. Methods: Herein, we employed an atmospheric pressure plasma jet (APPJ) to validate its selectivity towards osteosarcoma cell line vs. osteoblasts & human mesenchymal stem cells. Results: Cytotoxicity following direct interaction of APPJ with cells is comparable to indirect interaction when only liquid medium is treated and subsequently added to the cells, especially on the long-term (72 h of cell culture). Moreover, following contact of the APPJ treated medium with cells, delayed effects are observed which lead to 100% bone cancer cell death through apoptosis (decreased cell viability with incubation time in contact with APPJ treated medium from 24 h to 72 h), while healthy cells remain fully viable and unaffected by the treatment. Conclusions: The high efficiency of the indirect treatment indicates that an important role is played by the reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) in the gaseous plasma stage and then transmitted to the liquid phase, which overall lead to lethal and selective action towards osteosarcoma cells. These findings open new pathways for treatment of metastatic bone disease with a minimally invasive approach.

Keywords: Atmospheric pressure plasma jet, Bone cancer, hMSC, HOb, Liquids, Osteoblasts, Osteosarcoma, SaOS-2


Frau-Méndez, Margalida A., Fernández-Vega, Iván, Ansoleaga, Belén, Blanco, Rosa, Carmona, Margarita, Antonio del Rio, Jose, Zerr, Inga, Llorens, Franc, Zarranz, Juan José, Ferrer, Isidro, (2017). Fatal familial insomnia: Mitochondrial and protein synthesis machinery decline in the mediodorsal thalamus Brain Pathology 27, (1), 95-106

The expression of subunits of mitochondrial respiratory complexes and components of the protein synthesis machinery from the nucleolus to the ribosome was analyzed in the mediodorsal thalamus in seven cases of Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) compared with age-matched controls. NDUFB8 (complex I subunit), SDHB (complex II subunit), UQCRC2 (complex III subunit), COX2 (complex IV subunit) and ATP50 (complex V subunit) expression levels, as revealed by western blotting, were reduced in FFI. Voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) and ATP5H were also reduced due to the marked depopulation of neurons. In contrast, a marked increase in superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) was found in reactive astrocytes thus suggesting that astrocytes are key factors in oxidative stress responses. The histone-binding chaperones nucleolin and nucleoplasmin 3, and histone H3 di-methylated K9 were markedly reduced together with a decrease in the expression of protein transcription elongation factor eEF1A. These findings show severe impairment in the expression of crucial components of mitochondrial function and protein synthesis in parallel with neuron loss in mediodorsal thalamus at terminal stages of FFI. Therapeutic measures must be taken long before the appearance of clinical symptoms to prevent the devastating effects of FFI.

Keywords: Fatal familial insomnia, Mitochondria, Protein synthesis, Mitochondrial respiratory chain, Nucleolus, Ribosome


Valls-Comamala, V., Guivernau, B., Bonet, J., Puig, M., Perálvarez-Marín, A., Palomer, E., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Altafaj, X., Tajes, M., Puig-Pijoan, A., Vicente, R., Oliva, B., Muñoz, F. J., (2017). The antigen-binding fragment of human gamma immunoglobulin prevents amyloid Oncotarget 8, (25), 41154-41165

The amyloid beta-peptide (A

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease, Amyloid, Fab, Immunoglobulin, Oligomers


Neri, L., Lasa, M., Elosegui-Artola, A., D'Avola, D., Carte, B., Gazquez, C., Alve, S., Roca-Cusachs, P., Iñarrairaegui, M., Herrero, J., Prieto, J., Sangro, B., Aldabe, R., (2017). NatB-mediated protein N- Oncotarget 8, (25), 40967-40981

The identification of new targets for systemic therapy of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an urgent medical need. Recently, we showed that hNatB catalyzes the N-

Keywords: CDK2, Cell cycle arrest, Cell-cell junctions, Focal adhesions, Tropomyosin


Schieber, R., Lasserre, F., Hans, M., Fernández-Yagüe, M., Díaz-Ricart, M., Escolar, G., Ginebra, M. P., Mücklich, F., Pegueroles, M., (2017). Direct laser interference patterning of CoCr alloy surfaces to control endothelial cell and platelet response for cardiovascular applications Advanced Healthcare Materials Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue)

The main drawbacks of cardiovascular bare-metal stents (BMS) are in-stent restenosis and stent thrombosis as a result of an incomplete endothelialization after stent implantation. Nano- and microscale modification of implant surfaces is a strategy to recover the functionality of the artery by stimulating and guiding molecular and biological processes at the implant/tissue interface. In this study, cobalt-chromium (CoCr) alloy surfaces are modified via direct laser interference patterning (DLIP) in order to create linear patterning onto CoCr surfaces with different periodicities (≈3, 10, 20, and 32 μm) and depths (≈20 and 800 nm). Changes in surface topography, chemistry, and wettability are thoroughly characterized before and after modification. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells' adhesion and spreading are similar for all patterned and plain CoCr surfaces. Moreover, high-depth series induce cell elongation, alignment, and migration along the patterned lines. Platelet adhesion and aggregation decrease in all patterned surfaces compared to CoCr control, which is associated with changes in wettability and oxide layer characteristics. Cellular studies provide evidence of the potential of DLIP topographies to foster endothelialization without enhancement of platelet adhesion, which will be of high importance when designing new BMS in the future.

Keywords: CoCr, Direct laser interference patterning, Endothelial cells, Linear surface pattern, Platelets


Caddeo, C., Pons, R., Carbone, C., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Cardia, M. C., Maccioni, A. M., Fadda, A. M., Manconi, M., (2017). Physico-chemical characterization of succinyl chitosan-stabilized liposomes for the oral co-delivery of quercetin and resveratrol Carbohydrate Polymers 157, 1853-1861

In the present work, quercetin and resveratrol, natural polyphenols with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, were co-loaded in polymer-associated liposomes conceived for oral delivery, by exploiting the potential of pH-sensitive succinyl-chitosan. Chitosan was succinylated, characterized by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy and Gel Permeation Chromatography, and used to form a protective shell on the surface of liposomes. The physico-chemical properties of the succinyl-chitosan liposomes were assessed by light scattering, zeta potential, cryogenic transmission electron microscopy, and small angle X-ray scattering. Small, spherical, uni- and bilamellar vesicles were produced. The succinyl-chitosan shell increased not only the physical stability of the vesicular system, as demonstrated by accelerated stability tests, but also the release of the polyphenols to a greater extent at pH 7.0, mimicking the intestinal environment. The proposed approach based on polyphenol vesicular formulations may be of value in the treatment of pre-cancerous/cancerous intestinal conditions associated with inflammation and oxidative stress.

Keywords: Antioxidant, Liposome, Oral delivery, Quercetin, Resveratrol, Succinyl-chitosan


Aláez-Versón, C. R., Lantero, E., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2017). Heparin: New life for an old drug Nanomedicine 12, (14), 1727-1744

Heparin is one of the oldest drugs, which nevertheless remains in widespread clinical use as an inhibitor of blood coagulation. The history of its identification a century ago unfolded amid one of the most fascinating scientific controversies turning around the distribution of credit for its discovery. The composition, purification and structure-function relationship of this naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan regarding its classical role as anticoagulant will be dealt with before proceeding to discuss its therapeutic potential in, among other, inflammatory and infectious disease, cancer treatment, cystic fibrosis and Alzheimer's disease. The first bibliographic reference hit using the words 'nanomedicine' and 'heparin' is as recent as 2008. Since then, nanomedical applications of heparin have experienced an exponential growth that will be discussed in detail, with particular emphasis on its antimalarial activity. Some of the most intriguing potential applications of heparin nanomedicines will be exposed, such as those contemplating the delivery of drugs to the mosquito stages of malaria parasites.

Keywords: Anopheles, Antimalarial drugs, Heparin, Malaria, Mosquitoes, Nanomedicine, Nanotechnology, Plasmodium, Targeted drug delivery


Ma, Xing, Sánchez, Samuel, (2017). Self-propelling micro-nanorobots: challenges and future perspectives in nanomedicine Nanomedicine Epub ahead of print

Gómez-Santacana, Xavier, Dalton, James A. R., Rovira, Xavier, Pin, Jean Philippe, Goudet, Cyril, Gorostiza, Pau, Giraldo, Jesús, Llebaria, Amadeu, (2017). Positional isomers of bispyridine benzene derivatives induce efficacy changes on mGlu5 negative allosteric modulation European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 127, 567-576

Modulation of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGlu5) with partial allosteric antagonists has received increased interest due to their favourable in vivo activity profiles compared to the unfavourable side-effects of full inverse agonists. Here we report on a series of bispyridine benzene derivatives with a functional molecular switch affecting antagonistic efficacy, shifting from inverse agonism to partial antagonism with only a single change in the substitution pattern of the benzene ring. These efficacy changes are explained through computational docking, revealing two different receptor conformations of different energetic stability and different positional isomer binding preferences.

Keywords: mGlu5, Isomers, Partial efficacy, NAM, Antagonist, Inverse agonist


Sachot, N., Roguska, A., Planell, J. P., Lewandowska, M., Engel, E., Castaño, O., (2017). Fast-degrading PLA/ORMOGLASS fibrous composite scaffold leads to a calcium-rich angiogenic environment International Journal of Nanomedicine 12, 4901-4919

The success of scaffold implantation in acellular tissue engineering approaches relies on the ability of the material to interact properly with the biological environment. This behavior mainly depends on the design of the graft surface and, more precisely, on its capacity to biodegrade in a well-defined manner (nature of ions released, surface-to-volume ratio, dissolution profile of this release, rate of material resorption, and preservation of mechanical properties). The assessment of the biological behavior of temporary templates is therefore very important in tissue engineering, especially for composites, which usually exhibit complicated degradation behavior. Here, blended polylactic acid (PLA) calcium phosphate ORMOGLASS (organically modified glass) nanofibrous mats have been incubated up to 4 weeks in physiological simulated conditions, and their morphological, topographical, and chemical changes have been investigated. The results showed that a significant loss of inorganic phase occurred at the beginning of the immersion and the ORMOGLASS maintained a stable composition afterward throughout the degradation period. As a whole, the nanostructured scaffolds underwent fast and heterogeneous degradation. This study reveals that an angiogenic calcium-rich environment can be achieved through fast-degrading ORMOGLASS/PLA blended fibers, which seems to be an excellent alternative for guided bone regeneration.

Keywords: Angiogenesis, Calcium release, Electrospinning, Fast degradation, Nanofibers, ORMOGLASSES


Campillo, N., Torres, M., Vilaseca, A., Nonaka, P. N., Gozal, D., Roca-Ferrer, J., Picado, C., Montserrat, J. M., Farré, R., Navajas, D., Almendros, I., (2017). Role of cyclooxygenase-2 on intermittent hypoxia-induced lung tumor malignancy in a mouse model of sleep apnea Scientific Reports 7, 44693

An adverse role for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in cancer epidemiology and outcomes has recently emerged from clinical and animal studies. In animals, intermittent hypoxia (IH) mimicking OSA promotes tumor malignancy both directly and via host immune alterations. We hypothesized that IH could potentiate cancer aggressiveness through activation of the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) pathway and the concomitant increases in prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). The contribution of the COX-2 in IH-induced enhanced tumor malignancy was assessed using celecoxib as a COX-2 specific inhibitor in a murine model of OSA bearing Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC1) tumors. Exposures to IH accelerated tumor progression with a tumor associated macrophages (TAMs) shift towards a pro-tumoral M2 phenotype. Treatment with celecoxib prevented IH-induced adverse tumor outcomes by inhibiting IH-induced M2 polarization of TAMs. Furthermore, TAMs isolated from IH-exposed mice treated with celecoxib reduced the proliferation of LLC1 naïve cells, while the opposite occurred with placebo-treated IH-exposed mice. Finally, in vitro IH exposures of murine macrophages and LLC1 cells showed that both cell types increased PGE2 release in response to IH. These results suggest a crucial role for the COX-2 signaling pathway in the IH-exacerbated malignant processes, and designate macrophages and lung adenocarcinoma cells, as potential sources of PGE2.


Schillers, H., Rianna, C., Schäpe, J., Luque, T., Doschke, H., Wälte, M., Uriarte, J. J., Campillo, N., Michanetzis, G. P. A., Bobrowska, J., Dumitru, A., Herruzo, E. T., Bovio, S., Parot, P., Galluzzi, M., Podestà, A., Puricelli, L., Scheuring, S., Missirlis, Y., Garcia, R., Odorico, M., Teulon, J. M., Lafont, F., Lekka, M., Rico, F., Rigato, A., Pellequer, J. L., Oberleithner, H., Navajas, D., Radmacher, M., (2017). Standardized nanomechanical atomic force microscopy procedure (SNAP) for measuring soft and biological samples Scientific Reports 7, (1), 5117

We present a procedure that allows a reliable determination of the elastic (Young's) modulus of soft samples, including living cells, by atomic force microscopy (AFM). The standardized nanomechanical AFM procedure (SNAP) ensures the precise adjustment of the AFM optical lever system, a prerequisite for all kinds of force spectroscopy methods, to obtain reliable values independent of the instrument, laboratory and operator. Measurements of soft hydrogel samples with a well-defined elastic modulus using different AFMs revealed that the uncertainties in the determination of the deflection sensitivity and subsequently cantilever's spring constant were the main sources of error. SNAP eliminates those errors by calculating the correct deflection sensitivity based on spring constants determined with a vibrometer. The procedure was validated within a large network of European laboratories by measuring the elastic properties of gels and living cells, showing that its application reduces the variability in elastic moduli of hydrogels down to 1%, and increased the consistency of living cells elasticity measurements by a factor of two. The high reproducibility of elasticity measurements provided by SNAP could improve significantly the applicability of cell mechanics as a quantitative marker to discriminate between cell types and conditions.


Bianchi, M. V., Awaja, F., Altankov, G., (2017). Dynamic adhesive environment alters the differentiation potential of young and ageing mesenchymal stem cells Materials Science and Engineering C 78, 467-474

Engineering dynamic stem cell niche-like environment offers opportunity to obtain better control of the fate of stem cells. We identified, for the first time, that periodic changes in the adhesive environment of human adipose derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADSCs) alters dramatically their asymmetric division but not their ability for symmetric renewal. Hereby, we used smart thermo-responsive polymer (PNIPAM) to create a dynamic adhesive environment for ADSCs by applying periodic temperature cycles to perturb adsorbed adhesive proteins to substratum interaction. Cumulative population doubling time (CPDT) curves showed insignificant decline in the symmetric cell growth studied for up to 13th passages accompanied with small changes in the overall cell morphology and moderately declined fibronectin (FN) matrix deposition probably as a functional consequence of ADSCs ageing. However, a substantial alteration in the differentiation potential of ADSCs from both early and late passages (3rd and 14th, respectively) was found when the cells were switched to osteogenic differentiation conditions. This behavior was evidenced by the significantly altered alkaline phosphatase activity and Ca deposition (Alizarin red) assayed at 3, 14 and 21 day in comparison to the control samples of regular TC polystyrene processed under same temperature settings.

Keywords: Cell ageing, Dynamic adhesive environment, Extracellular matrix, Mesenchymal stem cells, PNIPAM, Stem cell niche, Symmetric and asymmetric cell growth, Thermo-cycling, Thermo-responsive polymer


Moles, E., Marcos, J., Imperial, S., Pozo, O. J., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2017). 2-picolylamine derivatization for high sensitivity detection of abscisic acid in apicomplexan blood-infecting parasites Talanta 168, 130-135

We have developed a new liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry methodology based on 2-picolylamine derivatization and positive ion mode detection for abscisic acid (ABA) identification. The selected reaction leads to the formation of an amide derivative which contains a highly active pyridyl group. The enhanced ionization allows for a 700-fold increase over commonly monitored unmodified ABA, which in turn leads to excellent limits of detection and quantification values of 0.03 and 0.15 ng mL-1, respectively. This method has been validated in the highly complex matrix of a red blood cell extract. In spite of the high sensitivity achieved, ABA could not be detected in Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells, suggesting that, if present, it will be found either in ultratrace amounts or as brief bursts at defined time points within the intraerythrocytic cycle and/or in the form of a biosynthetic analogue.

Keywords: Abscisic acid, Apicomplexa, Liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry, Malaria, Picolylamine, Plasmodium falciparum


Vitonyte, J., Manca, M. L., Caddeo, C., Valenti, D., Peris, J. E., Usach, I., Nacher, A., Matos, M., Gutiérrez, G., Orrù, G., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Fadda, A. M., Manconi, M., (2017). Bifunctional viscous nanovesicles co-loaded with resveratrol and gallic acid for skin protection against microbial and oxidative injuries European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics 114, 278-287

Resveratrol and gallic acid were co-loaded in phospholipid vesicles aiming at protecting the skin from external injuries, such as oxidative stress and microbial infections. Liposomes were prepared using biocompatible phospholipids dispersed in water. To improve vesicle stability and applicability, the phospholipids and the phenols were dispersed in water/propylene glycol or water/glycerol, thus obtaining PEVs and glycerosomes, respectively. The vesicles were characterized by size, morphology, physical stability, and their therapeutic efficacy was investigated in vitro. The vesicles were spherical, unilamellar and small in size: liposomes and glycerosomes were around 70 nm in diameter, while PEVs were larger (∼170 nm). The presence of propylene glycol or glycerol increased the viscosity of the vesicle systems, positively affecting their stability. The ability of the vesicles to promote the accumulation of the phenols (especially gallic acid) in the skin was demonstrated, as well as their low toxicity and great ability to protect keratinocytes and fibroblasts from oxidative damage. Additionally, an improvement of the antimicrobial activity of the phenols was shown against different skin pathogens. The co-loading of resveratrol and gallic acid in modified phospholipid vesicles represents an innovative, bifunctional tool for preventing and treating skin affections.

Keywords: Fibroblasts, Keratinocytes, Phenol, Phospholipid vesicle, Skin pathogens


Biagi, Maria Chiara, Badino, Giorgio, Fabregas, Rene, Gramse, Georg, Fumagalli, Laura, Gomila, Gabriel, (2017). Direct mapping of the electric permittivity of heterogeneous non-planar thin films at gigahertz frequencies by scanning microwave microscopy Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 19, (5), 3884-3893

We obtained maps of the electric permittivity at ~19 GHz frequencies on non-planar thin film heterogeneous samples by means of combined atomic force-scanning microwave microscopy (AFM-SMM). We show that the electric permittivity maps can be obtained directly from the capacitance images acquired in contact mode, after removing the topographic cross-talk effects. This result demonstrates the possibility to identify the electric permittivity of different materials in a thin film sample irrespectively of their thickness by just direct imaging and processing. We show, in addition, that quantitative maps of the electric permittivity can be obtained with no need of any theoretical calculation or complex quantification procedure when the electric permittivity of one of the materials is known. To achieve these results the use of contact mode imaging is a key factor. For non-contact imaging modes the effects of the local sample thickness and of the imaging distance makes the interpretation of the capacitance images in terms of the electric permittivity properties of the materials much more complex. Present results represent a substantial contribution to the field of nanoscale microwave dielectric characterization of thin film materials with important implications for the characterization of novel 3D electronic devices and 3D nanomaterials.


Jorba, I., Uriarte, J. J., Campillo, N., Farré, R., Navajas, D., (2017). Probing micromechanical properties of the extracellular matrix of soft tissues by atomic force microscopy Journal of Cellular Physiology 232, (1), 19-26

The extracellular matrix (ECM) determines 3D tissue architecture and provides structural support and chemical and mechanical cues to the cells. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has unique capabilities to measure ECM mechanics at the scale at which cells probe the mechanical features of their microenvironment. Moreover, AFM measurements can be readily combined with bright field and fluorescence microscopy. Performing reliable mechanical measurements with AFM requires accurate calibration of the device and correct computation of the mechanical parameters. A suitable approach to isolate ECM mechanics from cell contribution is removing the cells by means of an effective decellularization process that preserves the composition, structure and mechanical properties of the ECM. AFM measurement of ECM micromechanics provides important insights into organ biofabrication, cell-matrix mechanical crosstalk and disease-induced tissue stiffness alterations.


Gugutkov, D., Gustavsson, J., Cantini, M., Salmeron-Sánchez, M., Altankov, G., (2017). Electrospun fibrinogen-PLA nanofibres for vascular tissue engineering Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine

Here we report on the development of a new type of hybrid fibrinogen-polylactic acid (FBG-PLA) nanofibres (NFs) with improved stiffness, combining the good mechanical properties of PLA with the excellent cell recognition properties of native FBG. We were particularly interested in the dorsal and ventral cell response to the nanofibres' organization (random or aligned), using human umbilical endothelial cells (HUVECs) as a model system. Upon ventral contact with random NFs, the cells developed a stellate-like morphology with multiple projections. The well-developed focal adhesion complexes suggested a successful cellular interaction. However, time-lapse analysis shows significantly lowered cell movements, resulting in the cells traversing a relatively short distance in multiple directions. Conversely, an elongated cell shape and significantly increased cell mobility were observed in aligned NFs. To follow the dorsal cell response, artificial wounds were created on confluent cell layers previously grown on glass slides and covered with either random or aligned NFs. Time-lapse analysis showed significantly faster wound coverage (within 12 h) of HUVECs on aligned samples vs. almost absent directional migration on random ones. However, nitric oxide (NO) release shows that endothelial cells possess lowered functionality on aligned NFs compared to random ones, where significantly higher NO production was found. Collectively, our studies show that randomly organized NFs could support the endothelization of implants while aligned NFs would rather direct cell locomotion for guided neovascularization.

Keywords: Electrospun nanofibers, Endothelial cells, Fibrinogen, Guided cellular behavior, Polylactic acid, Vascular tissue engineering


Reiberger, T., Trebicka, J., (2017). New liver – Fresh microbiome: Implications on brain function Liver Transplantation 23, (7), 873-874

Blanch-Mercader, C., Vincent, R., Bazellières, E., Serra-Picamal, X., Trepat, X., Casademunt, J., (2017). Effective viscosity and dynamics of spreading epithelia: a solvable model Soft Matter 13, (6), 1235-1243

Collective cell migration in spreading epithelia in controlled environments has become a landmark in our current understanding of fundamental biophysical processes in development, regeneration, wound healing or cancer. Epithelial monolayers are treated as thin layers of a viscous fluid that exert active traction forces on the substrate. The model is exactly solvable and shows a broad range of applicabilities for the quantitative analysis and interpretation of force microscopy data of monolayers from a variety of experiments and cell lines. In addition, the proposed model provides physical insights into how the biological regulation of the tissue is encoded in a reduced set of time-dependent physical parameters. In particular the temporal evolution of the effective viscosity entails a mechanosensitive regulation of adhesion. Besides, the observation of an effective elastic tensile modulus can be interpreted as an emergent phenomenon in an active fluid.


Mattotti, M., Alvarez, Z., Delgado, L., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Aparicio, C., Planell, J. A., Alcántara, S., Engel, E., (2017). Differential neuronal and glial behavior on flat and micro patterned chitosan films Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 158, 569-577

Chitosan is a biodegradable natural polysaccharide that has been widely studied for regenerative purposes in the central nervous system. In this study we assessed the in vitro glial and neuronal cells response to chitosan either flat or patterned with grooves in the micrometric range. Chitosan demonstrated to be a good substrate for the attachment and growth of both neurons and glial cells. Chitosan micropatterns promoted glial cell maturation, suggesting astroglial activation. Nevertheless, those mature/reactive glial cells were permissive for axonal growth. Axons aligned and organized along the patterned grooves and the size of the linear topographic patterns is also affecting neurite and cell response. Patterns with 10

Keywords: Brain, Chitosan, Glia, Micropattern, Neuron


Moreno, Sergio Oller, Cominetti, Ornella, Galindo, Antonio Núñez, Irincheeva, Irina, Corthésy, John, Astrup, Arne, Saris, Wim H. M., Hager, Jörg, Kussmann, Martin, Dayon, Loïc, (2017). The differential plasma proteome of obese and overweight individuals undergoing a nutritional weight loss and maintenance intervention PROTEOMICS - Clinical Applications Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue), Accepted Article

Purpose : The nutritional intervention program “DiOGenes” focuses on how obesity can be prevented and treated from a dietary perspective. We generated differential plasma proteome profiles in the DiOGenes cohort to identify proteins associated with weight loss and maintenance and explore their relation to body mass index, fat mass, insulin resistance and sensitivity. Experimental Design : Relative protein quantification was obtained at baseline and after combined weight loss/maintenance phases using isobaric tagging and MS/MS. A Welch t-test determined proteins differentially present after intervention. Protein relationships with clinical variables were explored using univariate linear models, considering collection center, gender and age as confounding factors. Results : 473 subjects were measured at baseline and end of the intervention; 39 proteins were longitudinally differential. Proteins with largest changes were sex hormone-binding globulin, adiponectin, C-reactive protein, calprotectin, serum amyloid A, and proteoglycan 4 (PRG4), whose association with obesity and weight loss is known. We identified new putative biomarkers for weight loss/maintenance. Correlation between PRG4 and proline-rich acidic protein 1 (PRAP1) variation and Matsuda insulin sensitivity increment was showed. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance : MS-based proteomic analysis of a large cohort of non-diabetic overweight and obese individuals concomitantly identified known and novel proteins associated with weight loss and maintenance.

Keywords: Biomarker, Diabetes, Large-scale study, Mass spectrometry, Obesity, Proteomics


González-Tarragó, V., Elosegui-Artola, A., Bazellières, E., Oria, R., Pérez-González, C., Roca-Cusachs, P., (2017). Binding of ZO-1 to Molecular Biology of the Cell 28, (14), 1847-1852

Fundamental processes in cell adhesion, motility, and rigidity adaptation are regulated by integrin-mediated adhesion to the extracellular matrix (ECM). The link between the ECM component fibronectin (fn) and integrin


Punet, X., Levato, R., Bataille, I., Letourneur, D., Engel, E., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., (2017). Polylactic acid organogel as versatile scaffolding technique Polymer 113, 81-91

Tissue engineering requires scaffolding techniques based on non-toxic processes that permits the fabrication of constructs with tailored properties. Here, a two-step methodology based on the gelation and precipitation of the poly(lactic) acid/ethyl lactate organogel system is presented. With this technique nanofibrous matrices that resemble natural extracellular matrix can be easily obtained, while allowing control over the mechanical properties of the device. Gelation temperature and the dynamics of the gelation of the organogel system are characterized, and the final mechanical and viscoelastic properties, as well as porosity, as function of the initial polymer concentration are described. We show that gelation temperature of the system is concentration independent and below 44.5 °C, which permits gelation at room temperature. Furthermore, mechanical properties are found in the range of the soft organic tissues, and the obtained micro-network architecture gives place to a flexible structure. Such structure presents tuneable elastic modulus and viscoelastic properties as function of nanofibers density. Moreover, centimetre-long tubular scaffolds with the diameter of medium-caliber blood vessels were produced. The fibrous nano-architecture mimics the native extracellular matrix fibres diameter and morphology was proven to be suitable to support endothelialization of the lumen of the tube. Thus, this strategy, based on biocompatible green compound might be promising for the fabrication of large 3D scaffolds for tissue engineering applications.

Keywords: Gel, Gelation, Nanofibrous, Organogel, PLA, Poly(lactic) acid, Scaffold


Juarez, A., Villa, J. A., Lanza, V. F., Lázaro, B., Cruz, F., Alvarez, H. M., Moncalián, G., (2017). Nutrient starvation leading to triglyceride accumulation activates the Entner Doudoroff pathway in Rhodococcus jostii RHA1 Microbial Cell Factories 16, 35

Background: Rhodococcus jostii RHA1 and other actinobacteria accumulate triglycerides (TAG) under nutrient starvation. This property has an important biotechnological potential in the production of sustainable oils. Results: To gain insight into the metabolic pathways involved in TAG accumulation, we analysed the transcriptome of R jostii RHA1 under nutrient-limiting conditions. We correlate these physiological conditions with significant changes in cell physiology. The main consequence was a global switch from catabolic to anabolic pathways. Interestingly, the Entner-Doudoroff (ED) pathway was upregulated in detriment of the glycolysis or pentose phosphate pathways. ED induction was independent of the carbon source (either gluconate or glucose). Some of the diacylglycerol acyltransferase genes involved in the last step of the Kennedy pathway were also upregulated. A common feature of the promoter region of most upregulated genes was the presence of a consensus binding sequence for the cAMP-dependent CRP regulator. Conclusion: This is the first experimental observation of an ED shift under nutrient starvation conditions. Knowledge of this switch could help in the design of metabolomic approaches to optimize carbon derivation for single cell oil production.

Keywords: CRP, Entner-Doudoroff pathway, Nutrient starvation, Rhodococcus, RNA-Seq, Triacylglycerol


Elosegui-Artola, A., Roca-Cusachs, P., (2017). Amoebae as mechanosensitive tanks Biophysical Journal 112, (12), 2457-2458

Whether employed to search for nutrients or to rearrange tissues, cell migration is essential to the function of uni- and multicellular systems, both in healthy conditions and in disease. Among the several described modes of migration, amoeboid migration is particularly intriguing due to its apparent simplicity. Indeed, it requires only low levels of cell-substrate adhesion, which does not even have to be mediated by specific molecular bonds. This type of migration can be observed across a broad range of cell types including neutrophils, lymphocytes, and tumor cells, although the best-studied case is that of the amoeba of the lower eukaryote Dictyostelium discoideum.


Diez-Escudero, A., Espanol, M., Montufar, E. B., Di Pompo, G., Ciapetti, G., Baldini, N., Ginebra, M. P., (2017). Focus ion beam/scanning electron microscopy characterization of osteoclastic resorption of calcium phosphate substrates Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods 23, (2), 118-124

This article presents the application of dual focused ion beam/scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM) imaging for preclinical testing of calcium phosphates with osteoclast precursor cells and how this high-resolution imaging technique is able to reveal microstructural changes at a level of detail previously not possible. Calcium phosphate substrates, having similar compositions but different microstructures, were produced using low-and high-Temperature processes (biomimetic calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite [CDHA] and stoichiometric sintered hydroxyapatite, respectively). Human osteoclast precursor cells were cultured for 21 days before evaluating their resorptive potential on varying microstructural features. Alternative to classical morphological evaluation of osteoclasts (OC), FIB-SEM was used to observe the subjacent microstructure by transversally sectioning cells and observing both the cells and the substrates. Resorption pits, indicating OC activity, were visible on the smoother surface of high-Temperature sintered hydroxyapatite. FIB-SEM analysis revealed signs of acidic degradation on the grain surface under the cells, as well as intergranular dissolution. No resorption pits were evident on the surface of the rough CDHA substrates. However, whereas no degradation was detected by FIB sections in the material underlying some of the cells, early stages of OC-mediated acidic degradation were observed under cells with more spread morphology. Collectively, these results highlight the potential of FIB to evaluate the resorptive activity of OC, even in rough, irregular, or coarse surfaces where degradation pits are otherwise difficult to visualize.

Keywords: Bone Regeneration, Calcium Phosphate, Focus Ion Beam, Osteoclast, Resorption, Scanning Electron Microscopy


Schierwagen, R., Uschner, F. E., Magdaleno, F., Klein, S., Trebicka, J., (2017). Rationale for the use of statins in liver disease American Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 312, (5), G407-G412

The evolution of chronic liver injuries from benign and manageable dysfunction to life threatening end-stage liver disease with severe complications renders chronic liver disease a global health burden. Because of the lack of effective medication, transplantation remains the only and final curative option for end-stage liver disease. Since the demand for organ transplants by far exceeds the supply, other treatment options are urgently required to prevent progression and improve end-stage liver disease. Statins are primarily cholesterol-lowering drugs used for primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases. In addition to the primary effect, statins act beneficially through different pleiotropic mechanisms on inflammation, fibrosis, endothelial function, thrombosis, and coagulation to improve chronic liver diseases. However, concerns remain about the efficacy and safety of statin treatment because of their potential hepatotoxic risks, and as of now, these risks impede broader use of statins in the treatment of chronic liver diseases. The aim of this review is to comprehensively describe the mechanisms by which statins improve prospects for different chronic liver diseases with special focus on the pathophysiological rationale and the clinical experience of statin use in the treatment of liver diseases.


Estrada, L., Torres, A., Sarlabous, L., Jané, R., (2017). Onset and offset estimation of the neural inspiratory time in surface diaphragm electromyography: A pilot study in healthy subjects IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics Epub ahead of print

This study evaluates the onset and offset of neural inspiratory time estimated from surface diaphragm electromyographic (EMGdi) recordings. EMGdi and airflow signals were recorded in ten healthy subjects according to two respiratory protocols based on respiratory rate (RR) increments, from 15 to 40 breaths per minute (bpm), and fractional inspiratory time (Ti/Ttot) decrements, from 0.54 to 0.18. The analysis of diaphragm electromyographic (EMGdi) signal amplitude is an alternative approach for the quantification of neural respiratory drive (NRD). The EMGdi amplitude was estimated using the fixed sample entropy computed over a 250 ms moving window of the EMGdi signal (EMGdifse). The neural onset was detected through a dynamic threshold over the EMGdifse using the kernel density estimation method, while neural offset was detected by finding when the EMGdifse had decreased to 70 % of the peak value reached during inspiration. The Bland-Altman analysis between airflow and neural onsets showed a global bias of 46 ms in the RR protocol and 22 ms in the Ti/Ttot protocol. The Bland-Altman analysis between airflow and neural offsets reveals a global bias of 11 ms in the RR protocol and -2 ms in the Ti/Ttot protocol. The relationship between pairs of RR values (Pearson’s correlation coefficient of 0.99, Bland- Altman limits of -2.39 to 2.41 bpm, and mean bias of 0.01 bpm) and between pairs of Ti/Ttot values (Pearson’s correlation coefficient of 0.86, Bland-Altman limits of -0.11 to 0.10, and mean bias of -0.01) showed a good agreement. In conclusion, we propose a method for determining neural onset and neural offset based on non-invasive recordings of the electrical activity of the diaphragm that requires no filtering of cardiac muscle interference.

Keywords: Kernel density estimation (KDE),, Surface diaphragm electromyographic,, (EMGdi) signal,, Inspiratory time,, Neural respiratory drive (NRD),, Neural inspiratory time,, Fixed sample entropy (fSampEn)


Ramos, E., Pardo, W. A., Mir, M., Samitier, J., (2017). Dependence of carbon nanotubes dispersion kinetics on surfactants Nanotechnology 28, (13), 135702

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been the subject of many studies due to their unique structure and desirable properties. However, the ability to solubilize and separate single CNTs from the bundles they form is still a challenge that needs to be overcome in order to extend their applications in the field of Nanotechnology. Covalent interactions are designed to modify CNTs surface and so prevent agglomeration. Though, this method alters the structures and intrinsic properties of CNTs. In the present work, noncovalent approaches to functionalize and solubilize CNTs are studied in detail. A dispersion kinetic study was performed to characterize the ability of different type of surfactants (non-ionic, anionic, cationic and biopolymer) to unzip CNT bundles. The dispersion kinetic study performed depicts the distinct CNTs bundles unzipping behavior of the different type of surfactants and the results elucidate specific wavelengths in relation with the degree of CNT clustering, which provides new tools for a deeper understanding and characterization of CNTs. Small angle x-ray scattering and transmission electron microscopy results are in agreement with UV-vis-NIR observations, revealing perfectly monodispersed CNTs for the biopolymer and cationic surfactant.

Keywords: Dispersion, DNA, Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), Small angle x-ray scattering (SAXS), Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), Surfactant, Triton X-100


Castellanos, M. I., Mas-Moruno, C., Grau, A., Serra-Picamal, X., Trepat, X., Albericio, F., Joner, M., Gil, F. J., Ginebra, M. P., Manero, J. M., Pegueroles, M., (2017). Functionalization of CoCr surfaces with cell adhesive peptides to promote HUVECs adhesion and proliferation Applied Surface Science 393, 82-92

Biomimetic surface modification with peptides that have specific cell-binding moieties is a promising approach to improve endothelialization of metal-based stents. In this study, we functionalized CoCr surfaces with RGDS, REDV, YIGSR peptides and their combinations to promote endothelial cells (ECs) adhesion and proliferation. An extensive characterization of the functionalized surfaces was performed by XPS analysis, surface charge and quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D), which demonstrated the successful immobilization of the peptides to the surface. Cell studies demonstrated that the covalent functionalization of CoCr surfaces with an equimolar combination of RGDS and YIGSR represents the most powerful strategy to enhance the early stages of ECs adhesion and proliferation, indicating a positive synergistic effect between the two peptide motifs. Although these peptide sequences slightly increased smooth muscle cells (SMCs) adhesion, these values were ten times lower than those observed for ECs. The combination of RGDS with the REDV sequence did not show synergistic effects in promoting the adhesion or proliferation of ECs. The strategy presented in this study holds great potential to overcome clinical limitations of current metal stents by enhancing their capacity to support surface endothelialization.

Keywords: Cell adhesive peptides, CoCr alloy, Endothelialization, HUVEC proliferation, SMCs adhesion, Surface functionalization


Jorba, I., Menal, M. J., Torres, M., Gozal, D., Piñol-Ripoll, G., Colell, A., Montserrat, J. M., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I., (2017). Ageing and chronic intermittent hypoxia mimicking sleep apnea do not modify local brain tissue stiffness in healthy mice Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials 71, 106-113

Recent evidence suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may increase the risk of Alzheimer´s disease (AD), with the latter promoting alterations in brain tissue stiffness, a feature of ageing. Here, we assessed the effects of age and intermittent hypoxia (IH) on brain tissue stiffness in a mouse model of OSA. Two-month-old and 18-month-old mice (N=10 each) were subjected to IH (20% O2 40 s – 6% O2 20 s) for 8 weeks (6 h/day). Corresponding control groups for each age were kept under normoxic conditions in room air (RA). After sacrifice, the brain was excised and 200-micron coronal slices were cut with a vibratome. Local stiffness of the cortex and hippocampus were assessed in brain slices placed in an Atomic Force Microscope. For both brain regions, the Young's modulus (E) in each animal was computed as the average values from 9 force-indentation curves. Cortex E mean (±SE) values were 442±122 Pa (RA) and 455±120 (IH) for young mice and 433±44 (RA) and 405±101 (IH) for old mice. Hippocampal E values were 376±62 (RA) and 474±94 (IH) for young mice and 486±93 (RA) and 521±210 (IH) for old mice. For both cortex and hippocampus, 2-way ANOVA indicated no statistically significant effects of age or challenge (IH vs. RA) on E values. Thus, neither chronic IH mimicking OSA nor ageing up to late middle age appear to modify local brain tissue stiffness in otherwise healthy mice.

Keywords: Atomic Force Microscopy, Brain mechanics, Cortex stiffness, Hippocampus stiffness, Obstructive sleep apnea, Young's modulus


Echalier, C., Levato, R., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Castaño, O., Déjean, S., Garric, X., Pinese, C., Noël, D., Engel, E., Martinez, J., Mehdi, A., Subra, G., (2017). Modular bioink for 3D printing of biocompatible hydrogels: sol-gel polymerization of hybrid peptides and polymers RSC Advances 7, (20), 12231-12235

An unprecedented generic system allowing the 3D printing of peptide-functionalized hydrogels by soft sol-gel inorganic polymerization is presented. Hybrid silylated inorganic/bioorganic blocks are mixed in biological buffer in an appropriate ratio, to yield a multicomponent bioink that can be printed as a hydrogel without using any photochemical or organic reagent. Hydrolysis and condensation of the silylated precursors occur during the printing process and result in a covalent network in which molecules are linked through siloxane bonds. The viscosity of the colloidal solution used as bioink was monitored in order to set up the optimal conditions for extrusion printing. Grid-patterned hydrogel scaffolds containing a hybrid integrin ligand were printed using a pressure-driven rapid prototyping machine. Finally, they were seeded with mesenchymal stem cells, demonstrating their suitability for cell culture. The versatility of the sol-gel process and its biocompatibility makes this approach highly promising for the preparation of tailor-made cell-laden scaffolds.


Castellanos, M. I., Guillem-Marti, J., Mas-Moruno, C., Díaz-Ricart, M., Escolar, G., Ginebra, M. P., Gil, F. J., Pegueroles, M., Manero, J. M., (2017). Cell adhesive peptides functionalized on CoCr alloy stimulate endothelialization and prevent thrombogenesis and restenosis Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A 105, (4), 973-983

Immobilization of bioactive peptide sequences on CoCr surfaces is an effective route to improve endothelialization, which is of great interest for cardiovascular stents. In this work, we explored the effect of physical and covalent immoblization of RGDS, YIGSR and their equimolar combination peptides on endothelial cells (EC) and smooth muscle cell (SMC) adhesion and on thrombogenicity. We extensively investigated using RT-qPCR, the expression by ECs cultured on functionalised CoCr surfaces of different genes. Genes relevant for adhesion (ICAM-1 and VCAM-1), vascularization (VEGFA, VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2) and anti-thrombogenicity (tPA and eNOS) were over-expressed in the ECs grown to covalently functionalized CoCr surfaces compared to physisorbed and control surfaces. Pro-thrombogenic genes expression (PAI-1 and vWF) decreased over time. Cell co-cultures of ECs/SMCs found that functionalization increased the amount of adhered ECs onto modified surfaces compared to plain CoCr, independently of the used peptide and the strategy of immobilization. SMCs adhered less compared to ECs in all surfaces. All studied peptides showed a lower platelet cell adhesion compared to TCPS. Covalent functionalization of CoCr surfaces with an equimolar combination of RGDS and YIGSR represented prevailing strategy to enhance the early stages of ECs adhesion and proliferation, while preventing SMCs and platelet adhesion.

Keywords: Cell coculture, CoCr alloy, Functionalization, Gene expression, Platelet adhesion


Gugutkov, D., Awaja, F., Belemezova, K., Keremidarska, M., Krasteva, N., Kuyrkchiev, S., GallegoFerrer, G., Seker, S., Elcin, A. E., Elcin, Y. M., Altankov, G., (2017). Osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells using hybrid nanofibers with different configurations and dimensionality Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A 105, (7), 2065-2074

Novel hybrid, fibrinogen/polylactic acid (FBG/PLA) nanofibers with different configuration (random vs. aligned) and dimensionality (2D vs.3D environment) were used to control the overall behaviour and the osteogenic differentiation of human Adipose Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells (ADMSCs). Aligned nanofibers in both the 2D and 3D configurations are proved to be favoured for osteo-differentiation. Morphologically we found that on randomly configured nanofibers, the cells developed a stellate-like morphology with multiple projections, however, time-lapse analysis showed significantly diminished cell movements. Conversely, an elongated cell shape with advanced cell spreading and extended actin cytoskeleton accompanied with significantly increased cell mobility were observed when cells attached on aligned nanofibers. Moreover, a clear tendency for higher alkaline phosphatase activity was also found on aligned fibres when ADMSCs were switched to osteogenic induction medium. The strongest accumulation of Alizarin red (AR) and von Kossa stain at 21 day of culture in osteogenic medium were found on 3D aligned constructs while the rest showed lower and rather undistinguishable activity. Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis for Osteopontin (OSP) and RUNX 2 generally confirmed this trend showing favourable expression of osteogenic genes activity in 3D environment particularly in aligned configuration.

Keywords: Mesenchymal stem cells, Nanofibers, Osteogenic, Fibrinogen, Cell movements


Simmchen, Juliane, Baeza, Alejandro, Miguel-Lopez, Albert, Stanton, Morgan M., Vallet-Regi, Maria, Ruiz-Molina, Daniel, Sánchez, Samuel, (2017). Dynamics of novel photoactive AgCl microstars and their environmental applications ChemNanoMat 3, (1), 65-71

In the field of micromotors many efforts are taken to find a substitute for peroxide as fuel. While most approaches turn towards other toxic high energy chemicals such as hydrazine, we introduce an energy source that is widely used in nature: light. Light is an ideal source of energy and some materials, such as AgCl, have the inherent property to transform light energy for chemical processes, which can be used to achieve propulsion. In the case of silver chloride, one observed process after light exposure is surface modification which leads to the release of ions generating chemo-osmotic gradients. Here we present endeavours to use those processes to propel uniquely shaped micro objects of micro star morphology with a high surface to volume ratio, study their dynamics and present approaches to go towards real environmental applications.

Keywords: Self-propellers, Silver chloride, Environmental applications, Photoactive colloids, Anti bacterial


Sarlabous, Leonardo, Torres, Abel, Fiz, José A., Martínez-Llorens, Juana M., Gea, Joaquim, Jané, Raimon, (2017). Inspiratory muscle activation increases with COPD severity as confirmed by non-invasive mechanomyographic analysis PLoS ONE 12, (5), e0177730

There is a lack of instruments for assessing respiratory muscle activation during the breathing cycle in clinical conditions. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the usefulness of the respiratory muscle mechanomyogram (MMG) for non-invasively assessing the mechanical activation of the inspiratory muscles of the lower chest wall in both patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and healthy subjects, and to investigate the relationship between inspiratory muscle activation and pulmonary function parameters. Both inspiratory mouth pressure and respiratory muscle MMG were simultaneously recorded under two different respiratory conditions, quiet breathing and incremental ventilatory effort, in 13 COPD patients and 7 healthy subjects. The mechanical activation of the inspiratory muscles was characterised by the non-linear multistate Lempel–Ziv index (MLZ) calculated over the inspiratory time of the MMG signal. Subsequently, the efficiency of the inspiratory muscle mechanical activation was expressed as the ratio between the peak inspiratory mouth pressure to the amplitude of the mechanical activation. This activation estimated using the MLZ index correlated strongly with peak inspiratory mouth pressure throughout the respiratory protocol in both COPD patients (r = 0.80, p<0.001) and healthy (r = 0.82, p<0.001). Moreover, the greater the COPD severity in patients, the greater the level of muscle activation (r = -0.68, p = 0.001, between muscle activation at incremental ventilator effort and FEV1). Furthermore, the efficiency of the mechanical activation of inspiratory muscle was lower in COPD patients than healthy subjects (7.61±2.06 vs 20.42±10.81, respectively, p = 0.0002), and decreased with increasing COPD severity (r = 0.78, p<0.001, between efficiency of the mechanical activation at incremental ventilatory effort and FEV1). These results suggest that the respiratory muscle mechanomyogram is a good reflection of inspiratory effort and can be used to estimate the efficiency of the mechanical activation of the inspiratory muscles. Both, inspiratory muscle activation and inspiratory muscle mechanical activation efficiency are strongly correlated with the pulmonary function. Therefore, the use of the respiratory muscle mechanomyogram can improve the assessment of inspiratory muscle activation in clinical conditions, contributing to a better understanding of breathing in COPD patients.


Vilaseca, A., Campillo, N., Torres, M., Musquera, M., Gozal, D., Montserrat, J. M., Alcaraz, A., Touijer, K. A., Farré, R., Almendros, I., (2017). Intermittent hypoxia increases kidney tumor vascularization in a murine model of sleep apnea PLoS ONE 12, (6),

We investigate the effects of intermittent hypoxia (IH), a characteristic feature of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), on renal cancer progression in an animal and cell model. An in vivo mouse model (Balb/c, n = 50) of kidney cancer was used to assess the effect of IH on tumor growth, metastatic capacity, angiogenesis and tumor immune response. An in vitro model tested the effect of IH on RENCA cells, macrophages and endothelial cells. Tumor growth, metastatic capacity, circulating vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and content of endothelial cells, tumor associated macrophages and their phenotype were assessed in the tumor. In vitro, VEGF cell expression was quantified.Although IH did not boost tumor growth, it significantly increased endothelial cells (p = 0.001) and circulating VEGF (p<0.001) in the in vivo model. Macrophages exposed to IH in vitro increased VEGF expression, whereas RENCA cells and endothelial cells did not. These findings are in keeping with previous clinical data suggesting that OSA has no effect on kidney cancer size and that the association observed between OSA and higher Fuhrman grade of renal cell carcinoma may be mediated though a proangiogenic process, with a key role of macrophages.


Lozano-García, M., Fiz, J. A., Martínez-Rivera, C., Torrents, A., Ruiz-Manzano, J., Jané, R., (2017). Novel approach to continuous adventitious respiratory sound analysis for the assessment of bronchodilator response PLoS ONE 12, (2), e0171455

Background A thorough analysis of continuous adventitious sounds (CAS) can provide distinct and complementary information about bronchodilator response (BDR), beyond that provided by spirometry. Nevertheless, previous approaches to CAS analysis were limited by certain methodology issues. The aim of this study is to propose a new integrated approach to CAS analysis that contributes to improving the assessment of BDR in clinical practice for asthma patients. Methods Respiratory sounds and flow were recorded in 25 subjects, including 7 asthma patients with positive BDR (BDR+), assessed by spirometry, 13 asthma patients with negative BDR (BDR-), and 5 controls. A total of 5149 acoustic components were characterized using the Hilbert spectrum, and used to train and validate a support vector machine classifier, which distinguished acoustic components corresponding to CAS from those corresponding to other sounds. Once the method was validated, BDR was assessed in all participants by CAS analysis, and compared to BDR assessed by spirometry. Results BDR+ patients had a homogenous high change in the number of CAS after bronchodilation, which agreed with the positive BDR by spirometry, indicating high reversibility of airway obstruction. Nevertheless, we also found an appreciable change in the number of CAS in many BDR- patients, revealing alterations in airway obstruction that were not detected by spirometry. We propose a categorization for the change in the number of CAS, which allowed us to stratify BDR- patients into three consistent groups. From the 13 BDR- patients, 6 had a high response, similar to BDR+ patients, 4 had a noteworthy medium response, and 1 had a low response.Conclusions In this study, a new non-invasive and integrated approach to CAS analysis is proposed as a high-sensitive tool for assessing BDR in terms of acoustic parameters which, together with spirometry parameters, contribute to improving the stratification of BDR levels in patients with obstructive pulmonary diseases.


Zaffino, R. L., Mir, M., Samitier, J., (2017). Oligonucleotide probes functionalization of nanogap electrodes Electrophoresis Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue)

Nanogap electrodes have attracted a lot of consideration as promising platform for molecular electronic and biomolecules detection. This is mainly for their higher aspect ratio, and because their electrical properties are easily accessed by current-voltage measurements. Nevertheless, application of standard current-voltages measurements used to characterize nanogap response, and/or to modify specific nanogap electrodes properties, represents an issue. Since the strength of electrical fields in nanoscaled devices can reach high values, even at low voltages. Here, we analyzed the effects induced by different methods of surface modification of nanogap electrodes, in test-voltage application, employed for the electrical detection of a desoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) target. Nanogap electrodes were functionalized with two antisymmetric oligo-probes designed to have 20 terminal bases complementary to the edges of the target, which after hybridization bridges the nanogap, closing the electrical circuit. Two methods of functionalization were studied for this purpose; a random self-assembling of a mixture of the two oligo-probes (OPs) used in the platform, and a selective method that controls the position of each OP at selected side of nanogap electrodes. We used for this aim, the electrophoretic effect induced on negatively charged probes by the application of an external direct current voltage. The results obtained with both functionalization methods where characterized and compared in terms of electrode surface covering, calculated by using voltammetry analysis. Moreover, we contrasted the electrical detection of a DNA target in the nanogap platform either in site-selective and in randomly assembled nanogap. According to our results, a denser, although not selective surface functionalization, is advantageous for such kind of applications.

Keywords: Biosensor bioelectronics, DNA electrophoresis, Nanogap electrodes, Self-assembled monolayers, Site-selective deposition


Aviles, A. I., Widlak, T., Casals, A., Nillesen, M. M., Ammari, H., (2017). Robust cardiac motion estimation using ultrafast ultrasound data: A low-rank topology-preserving approach Physics in Medicine and Biology 62, (12), 4831-4851

Cardiac motion estimation is an important diagnostic tool for detecting heart diseases and it has been explored with modalities such as MRI and conventional ultrasound (US) sequences. US cardiac motion estimation still presents challenges because of complex motion patterns and the presence of noise. In this work, we propose a novel approach to estimate cardiac motion using ultrafast ultrasound data. Our solution is based on a variational formulation characterized by the L 2-regularized class. Displacement is represented by a lattice of b-splines and we ensure robustness, in the sense of eliminating outliers, by applying a maximum likelihood type estimator. While this is an important part of our solution, the main object of this work is to combine low-rank data representation with topology preservation. Low-rank data representation (achieved by finding the k-dominant singular values of a Casorati matrix arranged from the data sequence) speeds up the global solution and achieves noise reduction. On the other hand, topology preservation (achieved by monitoring the Jacobian determinant) allows one to radically rule out distortions while carefully controlling the size of allowed expansions and contractions. Our variational approach is carried out on a realistic dataset as well as on a simulated one. We demonstrate how our proposed variational solution deals with complex deformations through careful numerical experiments. The low-rank constraint speeds up the convergence of the optimization problem while topology preservation ensures a more accurate displacement. Beyond cardiac motion estimation, our approach is promising for the analysis of other organs that exhibit motion.

Keywords: Cardiac analysis, Low-rank representation, Motion estimation, Topology preservation, Ultrafast ultrasound


Obiols-Rabasa, M., Oncins, G., Sanz, F., Tadros, T. F., Solans, C., Levecke, B., Booten, K., Esquena, J., (2017). Investigation of the elastic and adhesion properties of adsorbed hydrophobically modified inulin films on latex particles using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects 524, 185-192

Graft polymer surfactants provide very good colloidal stability because of strong steric repulsions between adsorbed surfactant films. The elastic and adhesion properties of adsorbed hydrophobically modified inulin polymer surfactant (INUTEC NRA) have been directly measured using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) measurements. For this purpose, poly(methyl methacrylate/butyl acrylate), P(MMA/BuA), latexes prepared in the presence of the hydrophobically modified inulin (INUTEC NRA) were used. These latexes (diameter 118 nm and polydispersity index of 1.05) showed a very high colloidal stability in water and in the presence of electrolyte (up to 0.2 mol dm−3 KBr). The latexes were deposited on mica, which was silanated to enhance the adhesion of the latex particles to the surface. A silicon nitride tip with approximately 10 nm diameter that also contained an adsorbed layer of surfactant was used in the AFM apparatus. The tip was allowed to approach, contact thereafter the particles with an applied force of 12.5 nN, and finally detach from the film. Both elastic (Young’s) modulus of the film and adhesion force were studied. The results showed that the adsorbed surfactant films are highly elastic and their elastic modulus and adhesion force did not change significantly with the presence of Na2SO4 up to 0.05 mol dm−3. The high elastic contribution to the steric interaction ensures strong repulsion between the latex particles both in water and at high electrolyte concentrations. In addition, the lack of dependence of adhesion force on electrolyte concentration ensures uniform deposition of the latex particles on a flat substrate as for example in coating applications. These results show the advantages of using a graft polymer surfactant for enhancing the stability of particle suspensions, as illustrated in previous investigations.

Keywords: AFM, Colloidal stability, Interaction forces, Steric repulsion


Pomareda, V., Magrans, R., Jiménez-Soto, J., Martínez, D., Tresánchez, M., Burgués, J., Palacín, J., Marco, S., (2017). Chemical source localization fusing concentration information in the presence of chemical background noise Sensors 17, (4), 904

We present the estimation of a likelihood map for the location of the source of a chemical plume dispersed under atmospheric turbulence under uniform wind conditions. The main contribution of this work is to extend previous proposals based on Bayesian inference with binary detections to the use of concentration information while at the same time being robust against the presence of background chemical noise. For that, the algorithm builds a background model with robust statistics measurements to assess the posterior probability that a given chemical concentration reading comes from the background or from a source emitting at a distance with a specific release rate. In addition, our algorithm allows multiple mobile gas sensors to be used. Ten realistic simulations and ten real data experiments are used for evaluation purposes. For the simulations, we have supposed that sensors are mounted on cars which do not have among its main tasks navigating toward the source. To collect the real dataset, a special arena with induced wind is built, and an autonomous vehicle equipped with several sensors, including a photo ionization detector (PID) for sensing chemical concentration, is used. Simulation results show that our algorithm, provides a better estimation of the source location even for a low background level that benefits the performance of binary version. The improvement is clear for the synthetic data while for real data the estimation is only slightly better, probably because our exploration arena is not able to provide uniform wind conditions. Finally, an estimation of the computational cost of the algorithmic proposal is presented.

Keywords: Machine olfaction, Odor robots, Chemical sensors, Bayesian inference


Ma, X., Sánchez, S., (2017). Bio-catalytic mesoporous Janus nano-motors powered by catalase enzyme Tetrahedron 73, (33), 4883-4886

Enzyme triggered bio-catalytic reactions convert chemical energy into mechanical force to power micro/nano-machines. Though there have been reports about enzymes powered micro/nano-motors, enzymatic Janus nano-motor smaller than 100 nm has not been reported yet. Here, we prepared an enzyme powered Janus nano-motor by half-capping a thin layer of silicon dioxide (4 nm SiO2) onto a mesoporous silica nanoparticle (MSNP) of 90 nm, enabling asymmetry to the nano-architecture. The nano-motors are chemically powered by the decomposition of H2O2 triggered by the enzyme catalase located at one face of the nanoparticles. The self-propulsion is characterized by dynamic light scattering (DLS) and optical microscopy. The apparent diffusion coefficient was enhanced by 150% compared to their Brownian motion at low H2O2 concentration (i.e. below 3 wt%). Mesoporous nano-motors might serve as active drug delivery nano-systems in future biomedical applications such as intracellular drug delivery.

Keywords: Enzyme catalysis, Janus particles, Mesoporous silica, Nano-motors, Nanomachine, Self-propulsion


Páez-Avilés, C., van Rijnsoever, F. J., Juanola-Feliu, E., Samitier, J., (2017). Multi-disciplinarity breeds diversity: the influence of innovation project characteristics on diversity creation in nanotechnology Journal of Technology Transfer online, 1-24

Nanotechnology is an emerging and promising field of research. Creating sufficient technological diversity among its alternatives is important for the long-term success of nanotechnologies, as well as for other emerging technologies. Diversity prevents early lock-in, facilitates recombinant innovation, increases resilience, and allows market growth. Creation of new technological alternatives usually takes place in innovation projects in which public and private partners often collaborate. Currently, there is little empirical evidence about which characteristics of innovation projects influence diversity. In this paper we study the influence of characteristics of EU-funded nanotechnology projects on the creation of technological diversity. In addition to actor diversity and the network of the project, we also include novel variables that have a plausible influence on diversity creation: the degree of multi-disciplinarity of the project and the size of the joint knowledge base of project partners. We apply topic modelling (Latent Dirichlet allocation) as a novel method to categorize technological alternatives. Using an ordinal logistic regression model, our results show that the largest contribution to diversity comes from the multi-disciplinary nature of a project. The joint knowledge base of project partners and the geographical distance between them were positively associated with technological diversity creation. In contrast, the number and diversity of actors and the degree of clustering showed a negative association with technological diversity creation. These results extend current micro-level explanations of how the diversity of an emerging technology is created. The contribution of this study could also be helpful for policy makers to influence the level of diversity in a technological field, and hence to contribute to survival of emerging technologies.

Keywords: Innovation projects, Multi-disciplinarity, Nanotechnology, Social networks, Technological diversity, Topic models


Beiert, T., Tiyerili, V., Knappe, V., Effelsberg, V., Linhart, M., Stöckigt, F., Klein, S., Schierwagen, R., Trebicka, J., Nickenig, G., Schrickel, J. W., Andrié, R. P., (2017). Relaxin reduces susceptibility to post-infarct atrial fibrillation in mice due to anti-fibrotic and anti-inflammatory properties Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 490, (3), 643-649

Background Relaxin-2 (RLX) is a peptide hormone that exerts beneficial anti-fibrotic and anti-inflammatory effects in diverse models of cardiovascular disease. The goal of this study was to determine the effects of RLX treatment on the susceptibility to atrial fibrillation (AF) after myocardial infarction (MI). Methods Mice with cryoinfarction of the left anterior ventricular wall were treated for two weeks with either RLX (75

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation, Atrial fibrosis, Myocardial infarction, Relaxin-2


Laiou, Petroula, Andrzejak, Ralph G., (2017). Coupling strength versus coupling impact in nonidentical bidirectionally coupled dynamics Physical Review E 95, (1), 012210

The understanding of interacting dynamics is important for the characterization of real-world networks. In general, real-world networks are heterogeneous in the sense that each node of the network is a dynamics with different properties. For coupled nonidentical dynamics symmetric interactions are not straightforwardly defined from the coupling strength values. Thus, a challenging issue is whether we can define a symmetric interaction in this asymmetric setting. To address this problem we introduce the notion of the coupling impact. The coupling impact considers not only the coupling strength but also the energy of the individual dynamics, which is conveyed via the coupling. To illustrate this concept, we follow a data-driven approach by analyzing signals from pairs of coupled model dynamics using two different connectivity measures. We find that the coupling impact, but not the coupling strength, correctly detects a symmetric interaction between pairs of coupled dynamics regardless of their degree of asymmetry. Therefore, this approach allows us to reveal the real impact that one dynamics has on the other and hence to define symmetric interactions in pairs of nonidentical dynamics.


Guduric, V., Metz, C., Siadous, R., Bareille, R., Levato, R., Engel, E., Fricain, J. C., Devillard, R., Luzanin, O., Catros, S., (2017). Layer-by-layer bioassembly of cellularized polylactic acid porous membranes for bone tissue engineering Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine 28, (5), 78

Abstract: The conventional tissue engineering is based on seeding of macroporous scaffold on its surface (“top–down” approach). The main limitation is poor cell viability in the middle of the scaffold due to poor diffusion of oxygen and nutrients and insufficient vascularization. Layer-by-Layer (LBL) bioassembly is based on “bottom–up” approach, which considers assembly of small cellularized blocks. The aim of this work was to evaluate proliferation and differentiation of human bone marrow stromal cells (HBMSCs) and endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) in two and three dimensions (2D, 3D) using a LBL assembly of polylactic acid (PLA) scaffolds fabricated by 3D printing. 2D experiments have shown maintain of cell viability on PLA, especially when a co-cuture system was used, as well as adequate morphology of seeded cells. Early osteoblastic and endothelial differentiations were observed and cell proliferation was increased after 7 days of culture. In 3D, cell migration was observed between layers of LBL constructs, as well as an osteoblastic differentiation. These results indicate that LBL assembly of PLA layers could be suitable for BTE, in order to promote homogenous cell distribution inside the scaffold and gene expression specific to the cells implanted in the case of co-culture system.


Andrzejak, Ralph G., Ruzzene, G., Malvestio, I., (2017). Generalized synchronization between chimera states Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science 27, (5), 053114

Networks of coupled oscillators in chimera states are characterized by an intriguing interplay of synchronous and asynchronous motion. While chimera states were initially discovered in mathematical model systems, there is growing experimental and conceptual evidence that they manifest themselves also in natural and man-made networks. In real-world systems, however, synchronization and desynchronization are not only important within individual networks but also across different interacting networks. It is therefore essential to investigate if chimera states can be synchronized across networks. To address this open problem, we use the classical setting of ring networks of non-locally coupled identical phase oscillators. We apply diffusive drive-response couplings between pairs of such networks that individually show chimera states when there is no coupling between them. The drive and response networks are either identical or they differ by a variable mismatch in their phase lag parameters. In both cases, already for weak couplings, the coherent domain of the response network aligns its position to the one of the driver networks. For identical networks, a sufficiently strong coupling leads to identical synchronization between the drive and response. For non-identical networks, we use the auxiliary system approach to demonstrate that generalized synchronization is established instead. In this case, the response network continues to show a chimera dynamics which however remains distinct from the one of the driver. Hence, segregated synchronized and desynchronized domains in individual networks congregate in generalized synchronization across networks.

Keywords: Oscillators, Synchronisation


Isetta, V., Torres, M., González, K., Ruiz, C., Dalmases, M., Embid, C., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Montserrat, J. M., (2017). A New mHealth application to support treatment of sleep apnoea patients Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare 23, (1), 14-18

Introduction: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the first-choice treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), but adherence is frequently suboptimal. Innovative, patient-centred interventions are, therefore, needed to enhance compliance. Due to its low cost and ubiquity, mobile health (mHealth) technology seems particularly suited for this purpose. We endeavoured to develop an mHealth application called “APPnea,” aimed at promoting patient self-monitoring of CPAP treatment. We then assessed the feasibility and acceptability of APPnea in a group of OSA patients. Methods: Consecutive OSA patients used APPnea for six weeks. APPnea gave patients daily reminders to answer three questions about their OSA treatment (CPAP use, physical activity, and diet) and prompted them to upload their body weight weekly. Answers were saved to a secure server for further analysis. After completing the study, patients gave their anonymous opinions about APPnea. Results: We enrolled 60 patients with OSA receiving CPAP treatment. The mean age was 56 ± 10 years and the apnoea–hypopnea index was 47 ± 25 events/hour. In total, 63% of participants completed the daily questionnaire for more than 66% of the study period. Objective CPAP compliance was generally high (5.3 ± 1.6 hours/night). In a subset of 38 patients naïve to CPAP, those who used APPnea regularly had significantly higher CPAP compliance. Satisfaction levels were high for the majority of users. Conclusion: This mHealth intervention is not only feasible but also satisfactory to patients. Although larger randomized trials and cost-effectiveness studies should be performed, this study shows that APPnea could promote participation and improve compliance among patients with OSA, thereby improving outcomes.

Keywords: CPAP, MHealth, sleep apnoea, Smartphone application


Schwab, S., Lehmann, J., Lutz, P., Jansen, C., Appenrodt, B., Lammert, F., Strassburg, C. P., Spengler, U., Nischalke, H. D., Trebicka, J., (2017). Influence of genetic variations in the SOD1 gene on the development of ascites and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in decompensated liver cirrhosis European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 29, (7), 800-804

Background The balance between generation and elimination of reactive oxygen species by superoxide dismutase (SOD) is crucially involved in the pathophysiology of liver cirrhosis. Reactive oxygen species damage cells and induce inflammation/fibrosis, but also play a critical role in immune defense from pathogens. As both processes are involved in the development of liver cirrhosis and its complications, genetic variation of the SOD1 gene was investigated. Patients and methods Two SOD1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1041740 and rs3844942) were analyzed in 49 cirrhotic patients undergoing liver transplantation. In addition, 344 cirrhotic patients with ascites were analyzed in a cohort of 521 individuals in terms of the relationship of these polymorphisms with spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP). Results Although rs3844942 showed no associations with complications of cirrhosis, we observed a significant association between rs1041740 and the presence of ascites and SBP in the discovery cohort of patients with cirrhosis. Importantly, the association with SBP was not confirmed in the validation cohort of patients with ascites. By contrast, a trend toward lower SBP rates was observed in carriers of rs1041740. In this cohort, rs1041740 was not associated with survival. Conclusion These data suggest a complex role of SOD1 in different processes leading to complications of liver cirrhosis. rs1041740 might be associated with the development of ascites and possibly plays a role in SBP once ascites has developed.

Keywords: Ascites, Genetic polymorphism, Liver cirrhosis, Reactive oxygen stress, Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, Superoxide dismutases


Garde, A., Sörnmo, L., Laguna, P., Jané, R., Benito, S., Bayés-Genís, A., Giraldo, B. F., (2017). Assessment of respiratory flow cycle morphology in patients with chronic heart failure Medical and Biological Engineering and Computing 55, (2), 245-255

Breathing pattern as periodic breathing (PB) in chronic heart failure (CHF) is associated with poor prognosis and high mortality risk. This work investigates the significance of a number of time domain parameters for characterizing respiratory flow cycle morphology in patients with CHF. Thus, our primary goal is to detect PB pattern and identify patients at higher risk. In addition, differences in respiratory flow cycle morphology between CHF patients (with and without PB) and healthy subjects are studied. Differences between these parameters are assessed by investigating the following three classification issues: CHF patients with PB versus with non-periodic breathing (nPB), CHF patients (both PB and nPB) versus healthy subjects, and nPB patients versus healthy subjects. Twenty-six CHF patients (8/18 with PB/nPB) and 35 healthy subjects are studied. The results show that the maximal expiratory flow interval is shorter and with lower dispersion in CHF patients than in healthy subjects. The flow slopes are much steeper in CHF patients, especially for PB. Both inspiration and expiration durations are reduced in CHF patients, mostly for PB. Using the classification and regression tree technique, the most discriminant parameters are selected. For signals shorter than 1 min, the time domain parameters produce better results than the spectral parameters, with accuracies for each classification of 82/78, 89/85, and 91/89 %, respectively. It is concluded that morphologic analysis in the time domain is useful, especially when short signals are analyzed.

Keywords: Chronic heart failure, Ensemble average, Periodic and non-periodic breathing, Respiratory pattern


Leguia, Marc G., Andrzejak, Ralph G., Levnaji, (2017). Evolutionary optimization of network reconstruction from derivative-variable correlations Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical 50, (33), 334001

Topologies of real-world complex networks are rarely accessible, but can often be reconstructed from experimentally obtained time series via suitable network reconstruction methods. Extending our earlier work on methods based on statistics of derivative-variable correlations, we here present a new method built on integrating an evolutionary optimization algorithm into the derivative-variable correlation method. Results obtained from our modification of the method in general outperform the original results, demonstrating the suitability of evolutionary optimization logic in network reconstruction problems. We show the method’s usefulness in realistic scenarios where the reconstruction precision can be limited by the nature of the time series. We also discuss important limitations coming from various dynamical regimes that time series can belong to.


Giménez, A., Uriarte, J. J., Vieyra, J., Navajas, D., Alcaraz, J., (2017). Elastic properties of hydrogels and decellularized tissue sections used in mechanobiology studies probed by atomic force microscopy Microscopy Research and Technique 80, (1), 85-96

The increasing recognition that tissue elasticity is an important regulator of cell behavior in normal and pathologic conditions such as fibrosis and cancer has driven the development of cell culture substrata with tunable elasticity. Such development has urged the need to quantify the elastic properties of these cell culture substrata particularly at the nanometer scale, since this is the relevant length scale involved in cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) mechanical interactions. To address this need, we have exploited the versatility of atomic force microscopy to quantify the elastic properties of a variety of cell culture substrata used in mechanobiology studies, including floating collagen gels, ECM-coated polyacrylamide gels, and decellularized tissue sections. In this review we summarize major findings in this field from our group within the context of the state-of-the-art in the field, and provide a critical discussion on the applicability and complementarity of currently available cell culture assays with tunable elasticity. In addition, we briefly describe how the limitations of these assays provide opportunities for future research, which is expected to continue expanding our understanding of the mechanobiological aspects that support both normal and diseased conditions.

Keywords: 3D culture, Atomic force microscopy, Elastic modulus, Extracellular matrix, Polyacrylamide


Vilela, D., Hortelao, A. C., Balderas-Xicohtencatl, R., Hirscher, M., Hahn, K., Ma, X., Sanchez, S., (2017). Facile fabrication of mesoporous silica micro-jets with multi-functionalities Nanoscale In press

Self-propelled micro/nano-devices have been proved as powerful tools in various applications given their capability of both autonomous motion and on-demand task fulfilment. Tubular micro-jets stand out as an important member in the family of self-propelled micro/nano-devices and are widely explored with respect to their fabrication and functionalization. A few methods are currently available for the fabrication of tubular micro-jets, nevertheless there is still a demand to explore the fabrication of tubular micro-jets made of versatile materials and with the capability of multi-functionalization. Here, we present a facile strategy for the fabrication of mesoporous silica micro-jets (MSMJs) for tubular micromotors which can carry out multiple tasks depending on their functionalities. The synthesis of MSMJs does not require the use of any equipment, making it facile and cost-effective for future practical use. The MSMJs can be modified inside, outside or both with different kinds of metal nanoparticles, which provide these micromotors with a possibility of additional properties, such as the anti-bacterial effect by silver nanoparticles, or biochemical sensing based on surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) by gold nanoparticles. Because of the high porosity, high surface area and also the easy surface chemistry process, the MSMJs can be employed for the efficient removal of heavy metals in contaminated water, as well as for the controlled and active drug delivery, as two proof-of-concept examples of environmental and biomedical applications, respectively. Therefore, taking into account the new, simple and cheap method of fabrication, highly porous structure, and multiple functionalities, the mesoporous silica based micro-jets can serve as efficient tools for desired applications.


Castaño, O., Pérez, S., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Engel, E., (2017). Cell Interactions with Calcium Phosphate Glasses RSC Smart Materials (ed. Boccaccini, Aldo R., Brauer, Delia S., Hupa, L.), Royal Society of Chemistry (London, UK) Bioactive Glasses: Fundamentals, Technology and Applications, 303-315

This chapter will review the interactions between calcium phosphate (CaP) glasses and different cell types. These glasses are less established in the biomaterials field than silicate-based glasses, but phosphate glasses generate interest owing to their higher solubility. CaP glasses have been less studied than silicate-based glasses, possibly due to the commercialization of Hench's Bioglass that allowed many laboratory groups to use them for different studies, including cell culture studies, without having to prepare them in-house. Studies on CaP glasses focused on compositional modification in order to elicit different properties to enhance biodegradability and bioactivity, two main properties for the application of these glasses. These properties have opened the application of these glasses and have enhanced the effect on cells allowing exploration of the bioactivity of ions released by these exceptionally interesting biomaterials.


Bosch, M., Castro, J., Sur, M., Hayashi, Y., (2017). Photomarking relocalization technique for correlated two-photon and electron microcopy imaging of single stimulated synapses Synapse Development - Methods and Protocols (Methods in Molecular Biology) (ed. Poulopoulos , A.), Humana Press (New York, USA) 1538, 185-214

Synapses learn and remember by persistent modifications of their internal structures and composition but, due to their small size, it is difficult to observe these changes at the ultrastructural level in real time. Two-photon fluorescence microscopy (2PM) allows time-course live imaging of individual synapses but lacks ultrastructural resolution. Electron microscopy (EM) allows the ultrastructural imaging of subcellular components but cannot detect fluorescence and lacks temporal resolution. Here, we describe a combination of procedures designed to achieve the correlated imaging of the same individual synapse under both 2PM and EM. This technique permits the selective stimulation and live imaging of a single dendritic spine and the subsequent localization of the same spine in EM ultrathin serial sections. Landmarks created through a photomarking method based on the 2-photon-induced precipitation of an electrodense compound are used to unequivocally localize the stimulated synapse. This technique was developed to image, for the first time, the ultrastructure of the postsynaptic density in which long-term potentiation was selectively induced just seconds or minutes before, but it can be applied for the study of any biological process that requires the precise relocalization of micron-wide structures for their correlated imaging with 2PM and EM.

Keywords: Correlated imaging, DAB, Dendritic spine, Photobranding, Photoetching, Photomarking, Postsynaptic density, Serial-section transmission electron microscopy, Synapse, Time-lapse live two-photon fluorescence microscopy


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