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Year 2007


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Charles-Harris, M., del Valle, S., Hentges, E., Bleuet, P., Lacroix, D., Planell, J. A., (2007). Mechanical and structural characterisation of completely degradable polylactic acid/calcium phosphate glass scaffolds Biomaterials 28, (30), 4429-4438

This study involves the mechanical and structural characterisation of completely degradable scaffolds for tissue engineering applications. The scaffolds are a composite of polylactic acid (PLA) and a soluble calcium phosphate glass, and are thus completely degradable. A factorial experimental design was applied to optimise scaffold composition prior to simultaneous microtomography and micromechanical testing. Synchrotron X-ray microtomography combined with in situ micromechanical testing was performed to obtain three-dimensional 3D images of the scaffolds under compression. The 3D reconstruction was converted into a finite element mesh which was validated by simulating a compression test and comparing it with experimental results. The experimental design reveals that larger glass particle and pore sizes reduce the stiffness of the scaffolds, and that the porosity is largely unaffected by changes in pore sizes or glass weight content. The porosity ranges between 93% and 96.5%, and the stiffness ranges between 50 and 200 kPa. X-ray projections show a homogeneous distribution of the glass particles within the PLA matrix, and illustrate pore-wall breakage under strain. The 3D reconstructions are used qualitatively to visualise the distribution of the phases of the composite material, and to follow pore deformation under compression. Quantitatively, scaffold porosity, pore interconnectivity and surface/volume ratios have been calculated. Finite element analysis revealed the stress and strain distribution in the scaffold under compression, and could be used in the future to characterise the mechanical properties of the scaffolds.

Keywords: Synchrotron x-ray microtomography, Mechanical test, Biodegradable, Glass, Scaffold, Finite element analysis


Sabella, C., Faszewski, E., Himic, L., Colpitts, K. M., Kaltenbach, J., Burger, M. M., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2007). Cyclosporin A suspends transplantation reactions in the marine sponge Microciona prolifera Journal of Immunology 179, (9), 5927-5935

Sponges are the simplest extant animals but nevertheless possess self-nonself recognition that rivals the specificity of the vertebrate MHC. We have used dissociated cell assays and grafting techniques to study tissue acceptance and rejection in the marine sponge Microciona prolifera. Our data show that allogeneic, but not isogeneic, cell contacts trigger cell death and an increased expression of cell adhesion and apoptosis markers in cells that accumulate in graft interfaces. Experiments investigating the possible existence of immune memory in sponges indicate that faster second set reactions are nonspecific. Among the different cellular types, gray cells have been proposed to be the sponge immunocytes. Fluorescence confocal microscopy results from intact live grafts show the migration of autofluorescent gray cells toward graft contact zones and the inhibition of gray cell movements in the presence of nontoxic concentrations of cyclosporin A. These results suggest that cell motility is an important factor involved in sponge self/nonself recognition. Communication between gray cells in grafted tissues does not require cell contact and is carried by an extracellular diffusible marker. The finding that a commonly used immunosuppressor in human transplantation such as cyclosporin A blocks tissue rejection in marine sponges indicates that the cellular mechanisms for regulating this process in vertebrates might have appeared at the very start of metazoan evolution.


Farre, R., Nacher, M., Serrano-Mollar, A., Galdiz, J. B., Alvarez, F. J., Navajas, D., Montserrat, J. M., (2007). Rat model of chronic recurrent airway obstructions to study the sleep apnea syndrome Sleep 30, (7), 930-933

Study Objectives: To implement a chronic rat model of recurrent airway obstructions to study the obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) syndrome. Design: Prospective controlled animal study. Setting: University laboratory. Patients or Participants: 24 male Sprague-Dawley rats (250-300 g). Interventions: The rats were placed in a setup consisting of a body chamber and a head chamber separated by a neck collar specially designed to apply recurrent airway obstructions with OSA patterns. Rats in the Obstruction group (n=8) were subjected to 5-s obstructions at a rate of 60 per hour, 6 h/day during 4 weeks. Sham rats (n=8) were placed in the setup but no obstructions were applied. Naive rats (n=8) were subjected to no intervention. Measurements and Results: Breathing flow, pressure, CO2 air concentration, and SpO(2) showed that the model mimicked OSA respiratory events (obstructive apneas, increased respiratory efforts, and oxygen saturation dips). Animal stress, assessed by body weight and plasma corticosterone, was not significantly different across Obstruction and Sham groups. This supports the concept that this novel model does not introduce a significant burden of stress in the rat after acclimatization to the chamber. Thromboxane-B2/6-keto-Prostaglandin-F1a ratio in plasma, which is an index of vasoconstriction, was significantly increased in the rats subjected to obstructions. Conclusions: The designed animal model of chronic recurrent airway obstructions is feasible and potentially useful to study the mechanisms involved in the cardiovascular consequences of OSA.

Keywords: Obstructive sleep apnea, Animal model, Airway obstruction


Pla, M., Fernandez, J. G., Mills, C. A., Martinez, E., Samitier, J., (2007). Micro/nanopatterning of proteins via contact printing using high aspect ratio PMMA stamps and NanoImprint apparatus Langmuir 23, (16), 8614-8618

Micro- and nanoscale protein patterns have been produced via a new contact printing method using a nanoimprint lithography apparatus. The main novelty of the technique is the use of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) instead of the commonly used poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) stamps. This avoids printing problems due to roof collapse, which limits the usable aspect ratio in microcontact printing to 10:1. The rigidity of the PMMA allows protein patterning using stamps with very high aspect ratios, up to 300 in this case. Conformal contact between the stamp and the substrate is achieved because of the homogeneous pressure applied via the nanoimprint lithography instrument, and it has allowed us to print lines of protein similar to 150 nm wide, at a 400 nm period. This technique, therefore, provides an excellent method for the direct printing of high-density sub-micrometer scale patterns, or, alternatively, micro-/nanopatterns spaced at large distances. The controlled production of these protein patterns is a key factor in biomedical applications such as cell-surface interaction experiments and tissue engineering.

Keywords: Soft lithography, Cell-adhesion, Microstructures, Fabrication, Stability, Patterns


Rico, Félix, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Sunyer, Raimon, Farré, Ramon, Navajas, Daniel, (2007). Cell dynamic adhesion and elastic properties probed with cylindrical atomic force microscopy cantilever tips Journal of Molecular Recognition John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 20, (6), 459-466

Cell adhesion is required for essential biological functions such as migration, tissue formation and wound healing, and it is mediated by individual molecules that bind specifically to ligands on other cells or on the extracellular matrix. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been successfully used to measure cell adhesion at both single molecule and whole cell levels. However, the measurement of inherent cell adhesion properties requires a constant cell-probe contact area during indentation, a requirement which is not fulfilled in common pyramidal or spherical AFM tips. We developed a procedure using focused ion beam (FIB) technology by which we modified silicon pyramidal AFM cantilever tips to obtain flat-ended cylindrical tips with a constant and known area of contact. The tips were validated on elastic gels and living cells. Cylindrical tips showed a fairly linear force-indentation behaviour on both gels and cells for indentations > 200nm. Cylindrical tips coated with ligands were used to quantify inherent dynamic cell adhesion and elastic properties. Force, work of adhesion and elasticity showed a marked dynamic response. In contrast, the deformation applied to the cells before rupture was fairly constant within the probed dynamic range. Taken together, these results suggest that the dynamic adhesion strength is counterbalanced by the dynamic elastic response to keep a constant cell deformation regardless of the applied pulling rate.

Keywords: AFM, Cell adhesion, Cell mechanics, Cell stiffness


Domènech, Ò., Morros, A., Cabañas, M. E., Teresa Montero, M., Hernéndez-Borrell, J., (2007). Supported planar bilayers from hexagonal phases Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes 1768, (1), 100-106

In this work the presence of inverted hexagonal phases HII of 1-palmitoy-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (POPE) and cardiolipin (CL) (0.8:0.2, mol/mol) in the presence of Ca2+ were observed via 31P-NMR spectroscopy. When suspensions of the same composition were extended onto mica, HII phases transformed into structures which features are those of supported planar bilayers (SPBs). When characterized by atomic force microscopy (AFM), the SPBs revealed the existence of two laterally segregated domains (the interdomain height being ∼ 1 nm). Cytochrome c (cyt c), which binds preferentially to acidic phospholipids like CL, was used to demonstrate the nature of the domains. We used 1-anilinonaphtalen-8-sulfonate (ANS) to demonstrate that in the presence of cyt c, the fluorescence of ANS decreased significantly in lamellar phases. Conversely, the ANS binding to HII phases was negligible. When cyt c was injected into AFM fluid imaging cells, where SPBs of POPE:CL had previously formed poorly defined structures, protein aggregates (∼ 100 nm diameter) were ostensibly observed only on the upper domains, which suggests not only that they are mainly formed by CL, but also provides evidence of bilayer formation from HII phases. Furthermore, a model for the nanostructure of the SPBs is herein proposed.

Keywords: 31P-NMR, AFM, ANS fluorescence, Cytochrome c (cyt c), Hexagonal phase (HII), Liposome, Supported planar bilayers (SPBs)


De Bakker, B. I., De Lange, F., Cambi, A., Korterik, J. P., Van Dijk, E. M. H. P., Van Hulst, N. F., Figdor, C. G., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2007). Nanoscale organization of the pathogen receptor DC-SIGN mapped by single-molecule high-resolution fluorescence microscopy ChemPhysChem 8, (10), 1473-1480

DC-SIGN, a C-type lectin exclusively expressed on dendritic cells (DCs), plays an important role in pathogen recognition by binding with high affinity to a large variety of microorganisms. Recent experimental evidence points to a direct relation between the function of DC-SIGN as a viral receptor and its spatial arrangement on the plasma membrane. We have investigated the nanoscale organization of fluorescently labeled DC-SIGN on intact isolated DCs by means of near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM) combined with single-molecule detection. Fluorescence spots of different intensity and size have been directly visualized by optical means with a spatial resolution of less than 100 nm. Intensity- and size-distribution histograms of the DC-SIGN fluorescent spots confirm that approximately 80% of the receptors are organized in nanosized domains randomly distributed on the cell membrane. Intensity-size correlation analysis revealed remarkable heterogeneity in the molecular packing density of the domains. Furthermore, we have mapped the intermolecular organization within a dense cluster by means of sequential NSOM imaging combined with discrete single-molecule photobleaching. In this way we have determined the spatial coordinates of 13 different individual dyes, with a localization accuracy of 6 nm. Our experimental observations are all consistent with an arrangement of DC-SIGN designed to maximize its chances of binding to a wide range of microorganisms. Our data also illustrate the potential of NSOM as an ultrasensitive, high-resolution technique to probe nanometer-scale organization of molecules on the cell membrane.

Keywords: High-resolution optical microscopy, Lectins, Membranes, Receptors, Single-molecule studies


Mills, C. A., Pla, M., Martin, C., Lee, M., Kuphal, M., Sisquella, X., Martinez, E., Errachid, A., Samitier, J., (2007). Structured thin organic active layers and their use in electrochemical biosensors Measurement & Control 40, (3), 88-91

Rodriguez, Segui, Bucior, I., Burger, M. M., Samitier, J., Errachid, A., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2007). Application of a bio-QCM to study carbohydrates self-interaction in presence of calcium Transducers '07 & Eurosensors Xxi, Digest of Technical Papers 14th International Conference on Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems , IEEE (Lyon, France) 1-2, 1995-1998

In the past years, the quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) has been successfully applied to follow interfacial physical chemistry phenomena in a label free and real time manner. However, carbohydrate self adhesion has only been addressed partially using this technique. Carbohydrates play an important role in cell adhesion, providing a highly versatile form of attachment, suitable for biologically relevant recognition events in the initial steps of adhesion. Here, we provide a QCM study of carbohydrates' self-recognition in the presence of calcium, based on a species-specific cell recognition model provided by marine sponges. Our results show a difference in adhesion kinetics when varying either the calcium concentration (with a constant carbohydrate concentration) or the carbohydrate concentration (with constant calcium concentration).

Keywords: Biomedical materials, Calcium, Cellular biophysics, Microbalances, Porous materials, Quartz, Surface chemistry/ bio-QCM, Carbohydrates self-interaction, Quartz crystal microbalance, Interfacial physical chemistry phenomena, Carbohydrate self adhesion, Biologically relevant recognition events, Marine sponges, Adhesion kinetics, Calcium concentration, Carbohydrate concentration, Biosensors, Biomedical materials, Surface chemistry, Cellular biophysics


Jbari, A., Bellarbi, L., Zine, N., Mills, C. A., Samitier, J., Errachid, A., (2007). Multiplexed frequency spectrum analyzer instrumentation for the characterization of multiple QCM-based biosensors C3 - 2007 SENSORCOMM 2007 International Conference on Sensor Technologies and Applications , IEEE (Valencia, Spain) , 436-440

In this contribution, we present novel multiplexed frequency spectrum analyzer instrumentation to extract operational parameters and completely characterize the frequency response of an array of quartz_crystal microbalance sensors. The effectiveness of the proposed instrumentation is proven by experimental measurements over a range of frequencies.


McMurray, A. A., Ali, Z., Kyselovik, J., Mills, C. A., Renault, N. J., Santha, H., Strohhöfer, C., (2007). A novel point of care diagnostic device: Impedimetric detection of a biomarker in whole blood EMBS 2007 29th Annual International Conference of the IEEE - Engineering in Medicine and Biology , IEEE (Lyon, France) , 115-118

There is an unmet medical need for a more reliable and earlier assessment of patients suspected of having a deep vein thrombosis. We describe a novel approach which is developing a highly reliable, accurate, portable and handheld prototype medical diagnostic device to improve radically the speed, accuracy and reliability with which DVT and related blood clotting conditions can be assessed. The device will measure whole blood concentration of D-dimer, a recognized biomarker of increased blood clotting activity, and through innovation in the development of a novel detection, measurement and reporting system, will offer the opportunity to use the test in the point of care setting. The device combines innovation in antibody bio-engineering for high specificity immunoassay-based diagnostics and nano/micro engineered impedimetric analysis electrodes incorporating a biocompatible polymer substrate with development of a disposable microfluidic manifold specifically enabling diagnostics at the point-of-first-contact.


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