Publications

Year 2013


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Castillo-Fernandez, O., Rodriguez-Trujillo, R., Gomila, G., Samitier, J., (2014). High-speed counting and sizing of cells in an impedance flow microcytometer with compact electronic instrumentation Microfluidics and Nanofluidics 16, (1-2), 91-99

Here we describe a high-throughput impedance flow cytometer on a chip. This device was built using compact and inexpensive electronic instrumentation. The system was used to count and size a mixed cell sample containing red blood cells and white blood cells. It demonstrated a counting capacity of up to ~500 counts/s and was validated through a synchronised high-speed optical detection system. In addition, the device showed excellent discrimination performance under high-throughput conditions.

Keywords: Electronics, Impedance, Microcytometry, Microfluidics, Red blood cells (RBCs), White blood cells (WBCs)


Redondo-Morata, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2013). AFM-based force-clamp indentation: Force-clamp monitors the lipid bilayer failure kinetics Imaging & Microscopy 15, (4), 25-27

The lipid bilayer rupture was here explored by means of AFM-based force clamp. For the first time to our knowledge, this technique has been used to evaluate how lipid membranes respond when compressed under an external constant force in the range of nN. We were able to directly quantify the kinetics of the membrane rupture event and the associated energy barriers, in distinction to the classic studies performed at constant velocity.


Gugutkov, Dencho, Gustavsson, Johan, Ginebra, Maria Pau, Altankov, George, (2013). Fibrinogen nanofibers for guiding endothelial cell behavior Biomaterials Science 1, (10), 1065-1073

This paper describes the biological consequences of presenting electrospun fibrinogen (FBG) to endothelial cells as a spatially organized nanofibrous matrix. Aligned and randomly oriented FBG nanofibers with an average diameter of less than 200 nm were obtained by electrospinning of native FBG solution. Electrophoretic profiling confirmed that the electrospun FBG resembled the native protein structure, and fluorescent tracing of FITC-labeled FBG showed that electrospun fibers withstood immersion in physiological solutions reasonably well for several days. With respect to cellular interactions, the nanofibrous FBG matrix provided better conditions for initial recognition by human umbilical vein endothelial cells compared to pre-adsorbed FBG on a flat surface. Furthermore, the spatial organization of electrospun FBG fibers presented opportunities for guiding the cellular behavior in a way that is not possible when the protein is presented in another form (e.g. adsorbed or soluble). For example, on aligned FBG fibers, cells rapidly oriented themselves along the fibers, and time-lapse recordings revealed pronounced cellular movements restricted to the fiber direction. In great contrast, on randomly deposited fibers, cells acquired a stellate-like morphology and became locally immobilized by the fibers. We also show that the FBG fiber orientation significantly influenced both the cytoskeleton organization in confluent cell layers and the orientation of the extracellular fibronectin matrix secreted by the cells. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that electrospun FBG nanofibers can be a promising tool for guiding endothelial cell behavior for tissue engineering applications.


Coelho, Nuno Miranda, Salmeron-Sanchez, Manuel, Altankov, George, (2013). Fibroblasts remodeling of type IV collagen at a biomaterials interface Biomaterials Science 1, (5), 494-502

This paper describes the fate of adsorbed type IV collagen (Col IV) in contact with fibroblasts on model biomaterial surfaces, varying in wettability, chemistry and charge. We found that fibroblasts not only interact but also tend to remodel differently adsorbed Col IV employing two distinct mechanisms: mechanical reorganization and proteolytic degradation. Apart from the trend of adsorption -NH2 > CH3 > COOH > OH- the cells interact better with NH2 and OH surfaces - i.e. independently of the amount of adsorbed Col IV - evident from the quantitative measurements of cell adhesion and spreading and the improved recruitment of alpha 1 and alpha 2 integrins as well as p-FAK in focal adhesions. The linearly arranged Col IV co-localize with FN fibrils formed from either secreted, or exogenously added protein, which confirms their interdependence during a reorganization process. We further found that this reorganization is better pronounced on hydrophilic OH and positively charged NH2 surfaces correlating with the improved cellular interaction. Conversely, the fibroblasts tend to round on COOH and CH3 surfaces in compliance with the altered integrin signaling and also the increased pericellular proteolysis activity quantified by the increased de-quenching of adsorbed FITC-Col IV and zymography. Taken together, these results show that remodeling of Col IV at a cell-biomaterial interface depends strongly on the surface properties of a material and affects significantly its biological performance.


Gorostiza, Pau, Arosio, Daniele, Bregestovski, Piotr, (2013). Molecular probes and switches for functional analysis of receptors, ion channels and synaptic networks Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience 6, (Article 48), 1-2

Cantini, M., Sousa, M., Moratal, D., Mano, J. F., Salmerón-Sánchez, M., (2013). Non-monotonic cell differentiation pattern on extreme wettability gradients Biomaterials Science 1, (2), 202-212

In this study, we propose a methodology to obtain a family of biomimetic substrates with a hierarchical rough topography at the micro and nanoscale that span the entire range of wettability, from the superhydrophobic to the superhydrophilic regime, through an Ar-plasma treatment at increasing durations. Moreover, we employ the same approach to produce a superhydrophobic-to- superhydrophilic surface gradient along centimetre-length scale distances within the same sample. We characterize the biological activity of these surfaces in terms of protein adsorption and cell response, using fibronectin, a major component of the extracellular matrix, and C2C12 cells, a myoblast cell line. Fibronectin conformation, assessed via binding of the monoclonal antibody HFN7.1, exhibits a non-monotonic dependence on surface wettability, with higher activity on hydrophilic substrates (WCA = 38.6 ± 8.1°). On the other hand, the exposition of cell-binding epitopes is diminished on the surfaces with extreme wetting properties, the conformation being particularly altered on the superhydrophobic substrate. The assessment of cell response via the myogenic differentiation process reveals that a gradient surface promotes a different response with respect to cells cultured on discrete uniform samples: even though in both cases the same non-monotonic differentiation pattern is found, the differential response to the various wettabilities is enhanced along the gradient while the overall levels of differentiation are diminished. On a gradient surface cells are in fact exposed to a range of continuously changing stimuli that foster cell migration and detain the differentiation process.


Izquierdo-Serra, Mercè, Trauner, Dirk, Llobet, Artur, Gorostiza, Pau, (2013). Optical modulation of neurotransmission using calcium photocurrents through the ion channel LiGluR Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience 6, (Article 3), 1-6

A wide range of light-activated molecules (photoswitches and phototriggers) have been used to the study of computational properties of an isolated neuron by acting pre and postsynaptically. However, new tools are being pursued to elicit a presynaptic calcium influx that triggers the release of neurotransmitters, most of them based in calcium-permeable Channelrhodopsin-2 mutants. Here we describe a method to control exocytosis of synaptic vesicles through the use of a light-gated glutamate receptor (LiGluR), which has recently been demonstrated that supports secretion by means of calcium influx in chromaffin cells. Expression of LiGluR in hippocampal neurons enables reversible control of neurotransmission with light, and allows modulating the firing rate of the postsynaptic neuron with the wavelength of illumination. This method may be useful for the determination of the complex transfer function of individual synapses.

Keywords: Calcium, Neurotransmission, Optogenetics, Neural coding, Firing rate, Optical control, Synaptic transfer function


Llopis-Hernández, V., Rico, P., Moratal, D., Altankov, George, Salmeron-Sanchez, Manuel, (2013). Role of material-driven fibronectin fibrillogenesis in protein remodeling BioResearch Open Access 2, (5), 364-373

Protein remodeling at the cell–material interface is an important phenomenon that should be incorporated into the design of advanced biomaterials for tissue engineering. In this work, we address the relationship between fibronectin (FN) activity at the material interface and remodeling, including proteolytic cascades. To do so, we studied FN adsorption on two chemically similar substrates, poly(ethyl acrylate) (PEA) and poly(methyl acrylate) (PMA), which resulted in different distribution and conformation of the protein at the material interface: FN organized spontaneously upon adsorption on PEA into physiological-like fibrils, through a process called material-driven FN fibrillogenesis. The amount of adsorbed FN and its conformation were investigated in two different coating concentrations (2 and 20 


Kim, Jae Hun, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Tambe, Dhananjay T., Zhou, Enhua H., Park, Chan Young, Sadati, Monirosadat, Park, Jin-Ah, Krishnan, Ramaswamy, Gweon, Bomi, Millet, Emil, Butler, James P., Trepat, Xavier, Fredberg, Jeffrey J., (2013). Propulsion and navigation within the advancing monolayer sheet Nature Materials 12, (9), 856-863

As a wound heals, or a body plan forms, or a tumour invades, observed cellular motions within the advancing cell swarm are thought to stem from yet to be observed physical stresses that act in some direct and causal mechanical fashion. Here we show that such a relationship between motion and stress is far from direct. Using monolayer stress microscopy, we probed migration velocities, cellular tractions and intercellular stresses in an epithelial cell sheet advancing towards an island on which cells cannot adhere. We found that cells located near the island exert tractions that pull systematically towards this island regardless of whether the cells approach the island, migrate tangentially along its edge, or paradoxically, recede from it. This unanticipated cell-patterning motif, which we call kenotaxis, represents the robust and systematic mechanical drive of the cellular collective to fill unfilled space.


Theveneau, E., Steventon, B., Scarpa, E., Garcia, S., Trepat, X., Streit, A., Mayor, R., (2013). Chase-and-run between adjacent cell populations promotes directional collective migration Nature Cell Biology 15, (7), 763-772

Collective cell migration in morphogenesis and cancer progression often involves the coordination of multiple cell types. How reciprocal interactions between adjacent cell populations lead to new emergent behaviours remains unknown. Here we studied the interaction between neural crest (NC) cells, a highly migratory cell population, and placodal cells, an epithelial tissue that contributes to sensory organs. We found that NC cells chase placodal cells by chemotaxis, and placodal cells run when contacted by NC. Chemotaxis to Sdf1 underlies the chase, and repulsion involving PCP and N-cadherin signalling is responsible for the run. This chase-and-run requires the generation of asymmetric forces, which depend on local inhibition of focal adhesions. The cell interactions described here are essential for correct NC migration and for segregation of placodes in vivo and are likely to represent a general mechanism of coordinated migration.


Orenstein, Samantha J., Kuo, Sheng-Hang, Tasset, Inmaculada, Arias, Esperanza, Koga, Hiroshi, Fernandez-Carasa, Irene, Cortes, Etty, Honig, Lawrence S., Dauer, William, Consiglio, Antonella, Raya, Angel, Sulzer, David, Cuervo, Ana Maria, (2013). Interplay of LRRK2 with chaperone-mediated autophagy Nature Neuroscience 16, (4), 394-406

Mutations in leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) are the most common cause of familial Parkinson's disease. We found LRRK2 to be degraded in lysosomes by chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA), whereas the most common pathogenic mutant form of LRRK2, G2019S, was poorly degraded by this pathway. In contrast to the behavior of typical CMA substrates, lysosomal binding of both wild-type and several pathogenic mutant LRRK2 proteins was enhanced in the presence of other CMA substrates, which interfered with the organization of the CMA translocation complex, resulting in defective CMA. Cells responded to such LRRK2-mediated CMA compromise by increasing levels of the CMA lysosomal receptor, as seen in neuronal cultures and brains of LRRK2 transgenic mice, induced pluripotent stem cell–derived dopaminergic neurons and brains of Parkinson's disease patients with LRRK2 mutations. This newly described LRRK2 self-perpetuating inhibitory effect on CMA could underlie toxicity in Parkinson's disease by compromising the degradation of


Cabrera, I., Elizondo, E., Esteban, O., Corchero, J. L., Melgarejo, M., Pulido, D., Córdoba, A., Moreno, E., Unzueta, U., Vazquez, E., Abasolo, I., Schwartz, S., Villaverde, A., Albericio, F., Royo, M., García-Parajo, M. F., Ventosa, N., Veciana, J., (2013). Multifunctional nanovesicle-bioactive conjugates prepared by a one-step scalable method using CO2-expanded solvents Nano Letters 13, (8), 3766-3774

The integration of therapeutic biomolecules, such as proteins and peptides, in nanovesicles is a widely used strategy to improve their stability and efficacy. However, the translation of these promising nanotherapeutics to clinical tests is still challenged by the complexity involved in the preparation of functional nanovesicles and their reproducibility, scalability, and cost production. Here we introduce a simple one-step methodology based on the use of CO2-expanded solvents to prepare multifunctional nanovesicle- bioactive conjugates. We demonstrate high vesicle-to-vesicle homogeneity in terms of size and lamellarity, batch-to-batch consistency, and reproducibility upon scaling-up. Importantly, the procedure is readily amenable to the integration/encapsulation of multiple components into the nanovesicles in a single step and yields sufficient quantities for clinical research. The simplicity, reproducibility, and scalability render this one-step fabrication process ideal for the rapid and low-cost translation of nanomedicine candidates from the bench to the clinic.

Keywords: Bioconjugates, Compressed fluids, Liposomes, Manomedicine, Nanovesicles, Scale-up, Supercritical fluids


Hines, T., Díez-Pérez, I., Nakamura, H., Shimazaki, T., Asai, Y., Tao, N., (2013). Controlling formation of single-molecule junctions by electrochemical reduction of diazonium terminal groups Journal of the American Chemical Society 135, (9), 3319-3322

We report controlling the formation of single-molecule junctions by means of electrochemically reducing two axialdiazonium terminal groups on a molecule, thereby producing direct Au-C covalent bonds in situ between the molecule and gold electrodes. We report a yield enhancement in molecular junction formation as the electrochemical potential of both junction electrodes approach the reduction potential of the diazonium terminal groups. Step length analysis shows that the molecular junction is significantly more stable, and can be pulled over a longer distance than a comparable junction created with amine anchoring bonds. The stability of the junction is explained by the calculated lower binding energy associated with the direct Au-C bond compared with the Au-N bond.


Nevola, L., Martín-Quirós, A., Eckelt, K., Camarero, N., Tosi, S., Llobet, A., Giralt, E., Gorostiza, P., (2013). Light-regulated stapled peptides to inhibit protein-protein interactions involved in clathrin-mediated endocytosis Angewandte Chemie - International Edition 52, (30), 7704-7708

Control of membrane traffic: Photoswitchable inhibitors of protein-protein interactions were applied to photoregulate clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME) in living cells. Traffic light (TL) peptides acting as "stop" and "go" signals for membrane traffic can be used to dissect the role of CME in receptor internalization and in cell growth, division, and differentiation.

Keywords: Clathrin-mediated endocytosis, Optopharmacology, Peptides, Photoswitches, Protein-protein interactions


Mendes, A. C., Smith, K. H., Tejeda-Montes, E., Engel, E., Reis, R. L., Azevedo, H. S., Mata, Alvaro, (2013). Co-assembled and microfabricated bioactive membranes Advanced Functional Materials 23, (4), 430-438

The fabrication of hierarchical and bioactive self-supporting membranes, which integrate physical and biomolecular elements, using a single-step process that combines molecular self-assembly with soft lithography is reported. A positively charged multidomain peptide (with or without the cell-adhesive sequence arginine-glycine-aspartic acid-serine (RGDS)) self-assembles with hyaluronic acid (HA), an anionic biopolymer. Optimization of the assembling conditions enables the realization of membranes with well-controlled and easily tunable features at multiple size scales including peptide sequence, building-block co-assembly, membrane thickness, bioactive epitope availability, and topographical pattern morphology. Membrane structure, morphology, and bioactivity are investigated according to temperature, assembly time, and variations in the experimental setup. Furthermore, to evaluate the physical and biomolecular signaling of the self-assembled microfabricated membranes, rat mesenchymal stem cells are cultured on membranes exhibiting various densities of RGDS and different topographical patterns. Cell adhesion, spreading, and morphology are significantly affected by the surface topographical patterns and the different concentrations of RGDS. The versatility of the combined bottom-up and top-down fabrication processes described may permit the development of hierarchical macrostructures with precise biomolecular and physical properties and the opportunity to fine tune them with spatiotemporal control.

Keywords: Membrane scaffolds, Mesenchymal stem cells, Microfabrication, Self-assembly, Topography


Roca-Cusachs, P., Del Rio, A., Puklin-Faucher, E., Gauthier, N. C., Biais, N., Sheetz, M. P., (2013). Integrin-dependent force transmission to the extracellular matrix by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110, (15), E1361-E1370

Focal adhesions are mechanosensitive elements that enable mechanical communication between cells and the extracellular matrix. Here, we demonstrate a major mechanosensitive pathway in which α-actinin triggers adhesion maturation by linking integrins to actin in nascent adhesions. We show that depletion of the focal adhesion protein α-actinin enhances force generation in initial adhesions on fibronectin, but impairs mechanotransduction in a subsequent step, preventing adhesion maturation. Expression of an α-actinin fragment containing the integrin binding domain, however, dramatically reduces force generation in depleted cells. This behavior can be explained by a competition between talin (which mediates initial adhesion and force generation) and α-actinin for integrin binding. Indeed, we show in an in vitro assay that talin and α-actinin compete for binding to β3 integrins, but cooperate in binding to β1 integrins. Consistently, we find opposite effects of α-actinin depletion and expression of mutants on substrates that bind β3 integrins (fibronectin and vitronectin) versus substrates that only bind β1 integrins (collagen). We thus suggest that nascent adhesions composed of β3 integrins are initially linked to the actin cytoskeleton by talin, and then α-actinin competes with talin to bind β3 integrins. Force transmitted through α-actinin then triggers adhesion maturation. Once adhesions have matured, α-actinin recruitment correlates with force generation, suggesting that α-actinin is the main link transmitting force between integrins and the cytoskeleton in mature adhesions. Such a multistep process enables cells to adjust forces on matrices, unveiling a role of α-actinin that is different from its well-studied function as an actin cross-linker.


Roca-Cusachs, P., Sunyer, R., Trepat, X., (2013). Mechanical guidance of cell migration: lessons from chemotaxis Current Opinion in Cell Biology 25, (5), 543-549

For an organism to develop, for a wound to heal, or for a tumor to invade, cells must be able to migrate following directional cues. It is widely accepted that directed cell migration is enabled by cellular sensing of local gradients in the concentration of chemical factors. The main molecular players involved in this mode of cellular guidance - chemotaxis - have been identified and the combination of modeling and experimental approaches is progressively unveiling a clear picture of the underlying mechanisms. Evidence obtained over the past decade has shown that cells can also be guided by mechanical stimuli such as physical forces or gradients in extracellular matrix stiffness. Mechanical guidance, which we refer here globally as mechanotaxis, is also thought to drive processes in development, cancer, and wound healing, but experimental evidence is scattered and mechanisms remain largely unknown. Here we use the better understood process of chemotaxis as a reference to define the building blocks that are required for cell guidance, and then discuss how these building blocks might be organized in mechanotaxis. We show that both chemotaxis and mechanotaxis involve an exquisite interplay between physical and chemical mechanisms to sense gradients, establish polarization, and drive directed migration.


Álvarez, Zaida, Mateos-Timoneda, Miguel A., Hyrossová, Petra, Castaño, Oscar, Planell, Josep A., Perales, José C., Engel, Elisabeth, Alcántara, Soledad, (2013). The effect of the composition of PLA films and lactate release on glial and neuronal maturation and the maintenance of the neuronal progenitor niche Biomaterials 34, (9), 2221-2233

To develop tissue engineering strategies useful for repairing damage in the central nervous system (CNS) it is essential to design scaffolds that emulate the NSC niche and its tight control of neural cell genesis, growth, and differentiation. In this study we tested two types of poly l/dl lactic acid (PLA95/5 and PLA70/30), a biodegradable material permissive for neural cell adhesion and growth, as materials for nerve regeneration. Both PLA were slightly hydrophobic and negatively charged but differed in crystallinity, stiffness and degradation rate. PLA95/5 films were highly crystalline, stiff (GPa), and did not degrade significantly in the one-month period analyzed in culture. In contrast, PLA70/30 films were more amorphous, softer (MPa) and degraded faster, releasing significant amounts of lactate into the culture medium. PLA70/30 performs better than PLA95/5 for primary cortical neural cell adhesion, proliferation and differentiation, maintaining the pools of neuronal and glial progenitor cells in vitro. l-lactate in the medium recapitulated PLA70/30's maintenance of neuronal restricted progenitors but did not sustain bipotential or glial restricted progenitors in the cultures, as occurred when neural cells were grown on PLA70/30. Our results suggest that PLA70/30 may mimic some of the physical and biochemical characteristics of the NSC niche. Its mechanical and surface properties may act synergistically in the modulation of bipotential and glial restricted progenitor phenotypes, while it is l-lactate, either added to the medium or released by the film that drives the maintenance of neuronal restricted progenitor cell phenotypes.

Keywords: Polylactic acid, Degradation, Neurons, Progenitors, Lactate, Glial cells, NSC niche


Barreto, S., Clausen, C. H., Perrault, C. M., Fletcher, D. A., Lacroix, D., (2013). A multi-structural single cell model of force-induced interactions of cytoskeletal components Biomaterials 34, (26), 6119-6126

Several computational models based on experimental techniques and theories have been proposed to describe cytoskeleton (CSK) mechanics. Tensegrity is a prominent model for force generation, but it cannot predict mechanics of individual CSK components, nor explain the discrepancies from the different single cell stimulating techniques studies combined with cytoskeleton-disruptors. A new numerical concept that defines a multi-structural 3D finite element (FE) model of a single-adherent cell is proposed to investigate the biophysical and biochemical differences of the mechanical role of each cytoskeleton component under loading. The model includes prestressed actin bundles and microtubule within cytoplasm and nucleus surrounded by the actin cortex. We performed numerical simulations of atomic force microscopy (AFM) experiments by subjecting the cell model to compressive loads. The numerical role of the CSK components was corroborated with AFM force measurements on U2OS-osteosarcoma cells and NIH-3T3 fibroblasts exposed to different cytoskeleton-disrupting drugs. Computational simulation showed that actin cortex and microtubules are the major components targeted in resisting compression. This is a new numerical tool that explains the specific role of the cortex and overcomes the difficulty of isolating this component from other networks invitro. This illustrates that a combination ofcytoskeletal structures with their own properties is necessary for a complete description of cellular mechanics.

Keywords: Actin bundles, Actin cortex, AFM (atomic force microscopy), Cytoskeleton, Finite element modeling, Microtubules


Valle-Delgado, J. J., Urbán, P., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2013). Demonstration of specific binding of heparin to Plasmodium falciparum-infected vs. non-infected red blood cells by single-molecule force spectroscopy Nanoscale 5, (9), 3673-3680

Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) play an important role in the sequestration of Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells (pRBCs) in the microvascular endothelium of different tissues, as well as in the formation of small clusters (rosettes) between infected and non-infected red blood cells (RBCs). Both sequestration and rosetting have been recognized as characteristic events in severe malaria. Here we have used heparin and pRBCs infected by the 3D7 strain of P. falciparum as a model to study GAG-pRBC interactions. Fluorescence microscopy and fluorescence-assisted cell sorting assays have shown that exogenously added heparin has binding specificity for pRBCs (preferentially for those infected with late forms of the parasite) vs. RBCs. Heparin-pRBC adhesion has been probed by single-molecule force spectroscopy, obtaining an average binding force ranging between 28 and 46 pN depending on the loading rate. No significant binding of heparin to non-infected RBCs has been observed in control experiments. This work represents the first approach to quantitatively evaluate GAG-pRBC molecular interactions at the individual molecule level.


Barreiros dos Santos, M., Agusil, J. P., Prieto-Simón, B., Sporer, C., Teixeira, V., Samitier, J., (2013). Highly sensitive detection of pathogen Escherichia coli O157: H7 by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy Biosensors and Bioelectronics 45, (1), 174-180

The presence of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli bacteria in food can cause serious foodborne disease outbreaks. Early detection and identification of these pathogens is extremely important for public health and safety. Here we present a highly sensitive label-free immunosensor for the detection of pathogenic E. coli O157:H7. Anti-E. coli antibodies were covalently immobilised onto gold electrodes via a self-assembled monolayer (SAM) of mercaptohexadecanoic acid and the pathogenic bacteria were detected by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS). Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) was used to monitor the antibody immobilisation protocol and antibody patterned surfaces were used to demonstrate the specificity of the antibody coated surfaces against the pathogenic bacteria. The immunosensor showed a very low limit of detection (2CFU/mL) and a large linear range (3×10-3×104CFU/mL). Finally, the selectivity of the sensor was demonstrated and no significant adsorption of Salmonella typhimurium was observed.


Jaramillo, M. C., Martínez-Duarte, R., Hüttener, M., Renaud, P., Torrents, E., Juárez, A., (2013). Increasing PCR sensitivity by removal of polymerase inhibitors in environmental samples by using dielectrophoresis Biosensors and Bioelectronics 43, (1), 297-303

Dielectrophoresis (DEP) is a powerful tool to manipulate cells and molecules in microfluidic chips. However, few practical applications using DEP exist. An immediate practical application of a carbon-electrode DEP system, in removing PCR inhibitors from a sample, is reported in this work. We use a high throughput carbon-electrode DEP system to trap yeast cells from a natural sample (fermented grape must) and then in situ remove contaminants that interfere with PCR analysis. Retrieval of this enriched and purified yeast population from the DEP system then allows for a significant increase of sensitivity during PCR analysis. Furthermore, the fact that DEP can discriminate between viable and non-viable cells minimizes the number of false positives commonly obtained when using PCR alone. Experimental results provide clear evidence that the carbon-electrode DEP-based sample preparation step can readily and effectively clean environmental samples from natural contaminants and improve PCR sensitivity.


Tahirbegi, Islam Bogachan, Mir, Monica, Samitier, Josep, (2013). Real-time monitoring of ischemia inside stomach Biosensors and Bioelectronics 40, (1), 323-328

The low pH in the gastric juice of the stomach makes it difficult to fabricate stable and functional all-solid-state pH ISE sensors to sense ischemia, mainly because of anion interference and adhesion problem between the ISE membrane and the electrode surface. In this work, the adhesion of ISE membrane on solid surface at low pH was improved by modifying the surface with a conductive substrate containing hydrophilic and hydrophobic groups. This creates a stable and robust candidate for low pH applications. Moreover, anion interference problem at low pH was solved by integration of all-solid-state ISE and internal reference electrodes on an array. So, the same tendencies of anion interferences for all-solid-state ISE and all-solid-state reference electrodes cancel each other in differential potentiometric detection. The developed sensor presents a novel all-solid-state potentiometric, miniaturized and mass producible pH ISE sensor for detecting ischemia on the stomach tissue on an array designed for endoscopic applications.

Keywords: Index Medicus


Lagunas, A., Comelles, J., Oberhansl, S., Hortigüela, V., Martínez, E., Samitier, J., (2013). Continuous bone morphogenetic protein-2 gradients for concentration effect studies on C2C12 osteogenic fate Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine 9, (5), 694-701

Cells can respond to small changes in a varying concentration of exogenous signaling molecules. Here we propose the use of continuous surface chemical gradients for the in-depth study of dose-dependent effects on cells. A continuous surface gradient of bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) is presented. The gradient covers a narrow range of surface densities (from 1.4 to 2.3 pmol/cm2) with a shallow slope (0.9 pmol/cm3). These characteristics represent a quasi-homogeneous surface concentration at the cell scale, which is crucial for cell screening studies. Cell fate evaluation at early stages of osteogenesis in C2C12 cells, indicates the potential of continuous gradients for in vitro screening applications.


Punet, X., Mauchauffé, R., Giannotti, M. I., Rodríguez-Cabello, J. C., Sanz, F., Engel, E., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Planell, J. A., (2013). Enhanced cell-material interactions through the biofunctionalization of polymeric surfaces with engineered peptides Biomacromolecules 14, (8), 2690-2702

Research on surface modification of polymeric materials to guide the cellular activity in biomaterials designed for tissue engineering applications has mostly focused on the use of natural extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins and short peptides, such as RGD. However, the use of engineered proteins can gather the advantages of these strategies and avoid the main drawbacks. In this study, recombinant engineered proteins called elastin-like recombinamers (ELRs) have been used to functionalize poly(lactic) acid (PLA) model surfaces. The structure of the ELRs has been designed to include the integrin ligand RGDS and the cross-linking module VPGKG. Surface functionalization has been characterized and optimized by means of ELISA and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The results suggest that ELR functionalization creates a nonfouling canvas able to restrict unspecific adsorption of proteins. Moreover, AFM analysis reveals the conformation and disposition of ELRs on the surface. Biological performance of PLA surfaces functionalized with ELRs has been studied and compared with the use of short peptides. Cell response has been assessed for different functionalization conditions in the presence and absence of the bovine serum albumin (BSA) protein, which could interfere with the surface?cell interaction by adsorbing on the interface. Studies have shown that ELRs are able to elicit higher rates of cell attachment, stronger cell anchorages and faster levels of proliferation than peptides. This work has demonstrated that the use of engineered proteins is a more efficient strategy to guide the cellular activity than the use of short peptides, because they not only allow for better cell attachment and proliferation, but also can provide more complex properties such as the creation of nonfouling surfaces. Research on surface modification of polymeric materials to guide the cellular activity in biomaterials designed for tissue engineering applications has mostly focused on the use of natural extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins and short peptides, such as RGD. However, the use of engineered proteins can gather the advantages of these strategies and avoid the main drawbacks. In this study, recombinant engineered proteins called elastin-like recombinamers (ELRs) have been used to functionalize poly(lactic) acid (PLA) model surfaces. The structure of the ELRs has been designed to include the integrin ligand RGDS and the cross-linking module VPGKG. Surface functionalization has been characterized and optimized by means of ELISA and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The results suggest that ELR functionalization creates a nonfouling canvas able to restrict unspecific adsorption of proteins. Moreover, AFM analysis reveals the conformation and disposition of ELRs on the surface. Biological performance of PLA surfaces functionalized with ELRs has been studied and compared with the use of short peptides. Cell response has been assessed for different functionalization conditions in the presence and absence of the bovine serum albumin (BSA) protein, which could interfere with the surface?cell interaction by adsorbing on the interface. Studies have shown that ELRs are able to elicit higher rates of cell attachment, stronger cell anchorages and faster levels of proliferation than peptides. This work has demonstrated that the use of engineered proteins is a more efficient strategy to guide the cellular activity than the use of short peptides, because they not only allow for better cell attachment and proliferation, but also can provide more complex properties such as the creation of nonfouling surfaces.


Serra, T., Planell, J. A., Navarro, M., (2013). High-resolution PLA-based composite scaffolds via 3-D printing technology Acta Biomaterialia 9, (3), 5521-5530

Fabrication of new biodegradable scaffolds that guide and stimulate tissue regeneration is still a major issue in tissue engineering approaches. Scaffolds that possess adequate biodegradability, pore size, interconnectivity, bioactivity and mechanical properties in accordance with the injured tissue are required. This work aimed to develop and characterize three-dimensional (3-D) scaffolds that fulfill the aforementioned requirements. For this, a nozzle-based rapid prototyping system was used to combine polylactic acid and a bioactive CaP glass to fabricate 3-D biodegradable scaffolds with two patterns (orthogonal and displaced double layer). Scanning electron microscopy and micro-computer tomography showed that 3-D scaffolds had completely interconnected porosity, uniform distribution of the glass particles, and a controlled and repetitive architecture. Surface properties were also assessed, showing that the incorporation of glass particles increased both the roughness and the hydrophilicity of the scaffolds. Mechanical tests indicated that compression strength is dependent on the scaffold geometry and the presence of glass. Preliminary cell response was studied with primary mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) and revealed that CaP glass improved cell adhesion. Overall, the results showed the suitability of the technique/materials combination to develop 3-D porous scaffolds and their initial biocompatibility, both being valuable characteristics for tissue engineering applications.

Keywords: Rapid prototyping, Scaffold, Polylactic acid, Biodegradable, Composite


Luque, T., Melo, E., Garreta, E., Cortiella, J., Nichols, J., Farré, R., Navajas, D., (2013). Local micromechanical properties of decellularized lung scaffolds measured with atomic force microscopy Acta Biomaterialia 9, (6), 6852-6859

Bioartificial lungs re-engineered from decellularized organ scaffolds are a promising alternative to lung transplantation. Critical features for improving scaffold repopulation depend on the mechanical properties of the cell microenvironment. However, the mechanics of the lung extracellular matrix (ECM) is poorly defined. The local mechanical properties of the ECM were measured in different regions of decellularized rat lung scaffolds with atomic force microscopy. Lungs excised from rats (n = 11) were decellularized with sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and cut into ∼7 μm thick slices. The complex elastic modulus (G*) of lung ECM was measured over a frequency band ranging from 0.1 to 11.45 Hz. Measurements were taken in alveolar wall segments, alveolar wall junctions and pleural regions. The storage modulus (G′, real part of G*) of alveolar ECM was ∼6 kPa, showing small changes between wall segments and junctions. Pleural regions were threefold stiffer than alveolar walls. G′ of alveolar walls and pleura increased with frequency as a weak power law with exponent 0.05. The loss modulus (G″, imaginary part of G*) was 10-fold lower and showed a frequency dependence similar to that of G′ at low frequencies (0.1-1 Hz), but increased more markedly at higher frequencies. Local differences in mechanical properties and topology of the parenchymal site could be relevant mechanical cues for regulating the spatial distribution, differentiation and function of lung cells.


Montufar, E. B., Maazouz, Y., Ginebra, M. P., (2013). Relevance of the setting reaction to the injectability of tricalcium phosphate pastes Acta Biomaterialia 9, (4), 6188-6198

The aim of the present work was to analyze the influence of the setting reaction on the injectability of tricalcium phosphate (TCP) pastes. Even if the injection was performed early after mixing powder and liquid, powder reactivity was shown to play a significant role in the injectability of TCP pastes. Significant differences were observed between the injection behavior of non-hardening β-TCP pastes and that of self-hardening α-TCP pastes. The differences were more marked at low liquid-to-powder ratios, using fine powders and injecting through thin needles. α-TCP was, in general, less injectable than β-TCP and required higher injection loads. Moreover, clogging was identified as a mechanism hindering or even preventing injectability, different and clearly distinguishable from the filter-pressing phenomenon. α-TCP pastes presented transient clogging episodes, which were not observed in β-TCP pastes with equivalent particle size distribution. Different parameters affecting powder reactivity were also shown to affect paste injectability. Thus, whereas powder calcination resulted in an increased injectability due to lower particle reactivity, the addition of setting accelerants, such as hydroxyapatite nanoparticles, tended to reduce the injectability of the TCP pastes, especially if adjoined simultaneously with a Na2HPO4 solution. Although, as a general trend, faster-setting pastes were less injectable, some exceptions to this rule were found. For example, whereas in the absence of setting accelerants fine TCP powders were more injectable than the coarse ones, in spite of their shorter setting times, this trend was inverted when setting accelerants were added, and coarse powders were more injectable than the fine ones.

Keywords: Calcium phosphate cement, Hydroxyapatite, Injectability, Setting reaction, Tricalcium phosphate


Perez Madrigal, M. M., Giannotti, M. I., Oncins, G., Franco, L., Armelin, E., Puiggali, J., Sanz, F., del Valle, L. J., Aleman, C., (2013). Bioactive nanomembranes of semiconductor polythiophene and thermoplastic polyurethane: thermal, nanostructural and nanomechanical properties Polymer Chemistry 4, (3), 568-583

Free-standing and supported nanomembranes have been prepared by spin-coating mixtures of a semiconducting polythiophene (P3TMA) derivative and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). Thermal studies of TPU:P3TMA blends with 60 : 40, 50 : 50, 40 : 60 and 20 : 80 weight ratios indicate a partial miscibility of the two components. Analysis of the glass transition temperatures allowed us to identify the highest miscibility for the blend with a 40 : 60 weight ratio, this composition being used to prepare both self-standing and supported nanomembranes. The thickness of ultra-thin films made with the 40 : 60 blend ranged from 11 to 93 nm, while the average roughness was 16.3 +/- 0.8 nm. In these films the P3TMA-rich phase forms granules, which are dispersed throughout the rest of the film. Quantitative nanomechanical mapping has been used to determine the Young's modulus value by applying the Derjanguin-Muller-Toporov (DMT) contact mechanics model and the adhesion force of ultra-thin films. The modulus depends on the thickness of the films, values determined for the thicker (80-140 nm)/thinner (10-40 nm) regions of TPU, P3TMA and blend samples being 25/35 MPa, 3.5/12 GPa and 0.9/1.7 GPa, respectively. In contrast the adhesion force is homogeneous through the whole surface of the TPU and P3TMA films (average values: 7.2 and 5.0 nN, respectively), whereas for the blend it depends on the phase distribution. Thus, the adhesion force is higher for the TPU-rich domains than for the P3TMA-rich domains. Finally, the utility of the nanomembranes for tissue engineering applications has been proved by cellular proliferation assays. Results show that the blend is more active as a cellular matrix than each of the two individual polymers.


La Torre, A., Del Mar Masdeu, M., Cotrufo, T., Moubarak, R. S., Del Río, J. A., Comella, J. X., Soriano, E., Ureña, J. M., (2013). A role for the tyrosine kinase ACK1 in neurotrophin signaling and neuronal extension and branching Cell Death and Disease 4, (4), e602

Neurotrophins are involved in many crucial cellular functions, including neurite outgrowth, synapse formation, and plasticity. Although these events have long been known, the molecular determinants underlying neuritogenesis have not been fully characterized. Ack1 (activated Cdc42-associated tyrosine kinase) is a non-receptor tyrosine kinase that is highly expressed in the brain. Here, we demonstrate that Ack1 is a molecular constituent of neurotrophin signaling cascades in neurons and PC12 cells. We report that Ack1 interacts with Trk receptors and becomes tyrosine phosphorylated and its kinase activity is increased in response to neurotrophins. Moreover, our data indicate that Ack1 acts upstream of the Akt and MAPK pathways. We show that Ack1 overexpression induces neuritic outgrowth and promotes branching in neurotrophin-treated neuronal cells, whereas the expression of Ack1 dominant negatives or short-hairpin RNAs counteract neurotrophin-stimulated differentiation. Our results identify Ack1 as a novel regulator of neurotrophin-mediated events in primary neurons and in PC12 cells.

Keywords: Axonal, Branching, Dendritic, Neurotrophins, Tyrosine kinase


Farré, R., Navajas, D., Montserrat, J. M., (2013). Is there an optimal nasal pressure for treating obstructive sleep apnea-and if so, what is it? Sleep 36, (4), 463-464

Berenguer, Jordi, Herrera, Antonio, Vuolo, Laura, Torroba, Blanca, Llorens, Franc, Sumoy, Lauro, Pons, Sebastian, (2013). MicroRNA 22 Regulates Cell Cycle Length in Cerebellar Granular Neuron Precursors Molecular and Cellular Biology 33, (14), 2706-2717

During cerebellum development, Sonic hedgehog (Shh)-induced proliferation of cerebellar granular neuronal precursors (CGNPs) is potently inhibited by bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). We have previously reported the upregulation of TIEG-1 and Mash1, two antimitotic factors that modulate MYCN transcription and N-Myc activity, in response to BMP2. To gain further insight into the BMP antimitotic mechanism, we used microRNA (miRNA) arrays to compare the miRNAs of CGNPs proliferating in response to Shh with those of CGNPs treated with Shh plus BMP2. The array analysis revealed that miRNA 11 (miR-22) levels significantly increased in cells treated with BMP2. Additionally, in P7 mouse cerebellum, miR-22 distribution mostly recapitulated the combination of BMP2 and BMP4 expression patterns. Accordingly, in CGNP cultures, miR-22 overexpression significantly reduced cell proliferation, whereas miR-22 suppression diminished BMP2 antiproliferative activity. In contrast to BMP2, miR-22 did not induce neural differentiation but instead significantly increased cell cycle length. Consistent with the central role played by N-myc on CGNP proliferation, Max was revealed as a direct target of miR-22, and miR-22 expression caused a significant reduction of Max protein levels and N-myc/Max-dependent promoter activity. Therefore, we conclude that, in addition to the previously described mechanisms, miR-22 plays a specific role on downstream BMPs through cerebellum growth.


Ordoñez-Gutiérrez, L., Torres, J. M., Gavín, R., Antón, M., Arroba-Espinosa, A. I., Espinosa, J. C., Vergara, C., del Río, J. A., Wandosell, F., (2013). Cellular prion protein modulates Neurobiology of Aging 34, (12), 2793-2804

Alzheimer's disease and prion diseases are neuropathological disorders that are caused by abnormal processing and aggregation of amyloid and prion proteins. Interactions between amyloid precursor protein (APP) and PrPc proteins have been described at the neuron level. Accordingly to this putative interaction, we investigated whether β-amyloid accumulation may affect prion infectivity and, conversely, whether different amounts of PrP may affect β-amyloid accumulation. For this purpose, we used the APPswe/PS1dE9 mouse line, a common model of Alzheimer's disease, crossed with mice that either overexpress (Tga20) or that lack prion protein (knock-out) to generate mice that express varying amounts of prion protein and deposit β-amyloid. On these mouse lines, we investigated the influence of each protein on the evolution of both diseases. Our results indicated that although the presence of APP/PS1 and β-amyloid accumulation had no effect on prion infectivity, the accumulation of β-amyloid deposits was dependent on PrPc, whereby increasing levels of prion protein were accompanied by a significant increase in β-amyloid aggregation associated with aging.

Keywords: Aging, Amyloid, Neurodegeneration, Prion, Signaling


Isetta, V., Lopez-Agustina, C., Lopez-Bernal, E., Amat, M., Vila, M., Valls, C., Navajas, D., Farre, R., (2013). Cost-effectiveness of a new internet-based monitoring tool for neonatal post-discharge home care Journal of Medical Internet Research 15, (2), e38

Background: The application of information and communication technologies in nursing care is becoming more widespread, but few applications have been reported in neonatal care. A close monitoring of newborns within the first weeks of life is crucial to evaluating correct feeding, growth, and health status. Conventional hospital-based postdischarge monitoring could be improved in terms of costs and clinical effectiveness by using a telemedicine approach. Objective: To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a new Internet-based system for monitoring low-risk newborns after discharge compared to the standard hospital-based follow-up, with specific attention to prevention of emergency department (ED) visits in the first month of life. Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of two low-risk newborn patient groups. One group, born between January 1, 2011, and June 30, 2011, received the standard hospital-based follow-up visit within 48 hours after discharge. After implementing an Internet-based monitoring system, another group, born between July 19, 2011, and January 19, 2012, received their follow-up with this system. Results: A total of 18 (15.8%) out of 114 newborns who received the standard hospital-based follow-up had an ED visit in the first month of life compared with 5 (5.6%; P=.026) out of 90 infants who were monitored by the Internet-based system. The cost of the hospital-based follow-up was 182.1 per patient, compared with 86.1 for the Internet-based follow-up. Conclusion: Our Internet-based monitoring approach proved to be both more effective and less costly than the conventional hospital-based follow-up, particularly through reducing subsequent ED visits.

Keywords: Cost-effectiveness, Internet, Neonatology, Telemedicine, Telenursing


Novo, S., Penon, O., Barrios, L., Nogués, C., Santaló, J., Durán, S., Gómez-Matínez, R., Samitier, J., Plaza, J. A., Pérez-García, L., Ibáñez, E., (2013). Direct embryo tagging and identification system by attachment of biofunctionalized polysilicon barcodes to the zona pellucida of mouse embryos Human Reproduction 28, (6), 1519-1527

STUDY QUESTION Is the attachment of biofunctionalized polysilicon barcodes to the outer surface of the zona pellucida an effective approach for the direct tagging and identification of cultured embryos? SUMMARY ANSWER The results achieved provide a proof of concept for a direct embryo tagging system using biofunctionalized polysilicon barcodes, which could help to minimize the risk of mismatching errors (mix-ups) in human assisted reproduction technologies. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Even though the occurrence of mix-ups is rare, several cases have been reported in fertility clinics around the world. Measures to prevent the risk of mix-ups in human assisted reproduction technologies are therefore required. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION Mouse embryos were tagged with 10 barcodes and the effectiveness of the tagging system was tested during fresh in vitro culture (n=140) and after embryo cryopreservation (n = 84). Finally, the full-term development of tagged embryos was evaluated (n =105). PARTICIPANTS/ MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS Mouse pronuclear embryos were individually rolled over wheat germ agglutinin-biofunctionalized polysilicon barcodes to distribute them uniformly around the ZONA PELLUCIDA surface. Embryo viability and retention of barcodes were determined during 96 h of culture. The identification of tagged embryos was performed every 24 h in an inverted microscope and without embryo manipulation to simulate an automatic reading procedure. Full-term development of the tagged embryos was assessed after their transfer to pseudo-pregnant females. To test the validity of the embryo tagging system after a cryopreservation process, tagged embryos were frozen at the 2-cell stage using a slow freezing protocol, and followed in culture for 72 h after thawing. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE Neither the in vitro or in vivo development of tagged embryos was adversely affected. The tagging system also proved effective during an embryo cryopreservation process. Global identification rates higher than 96 and 92% in fresh and frozen-thawed tagged embryos, respectively, were obtained when simulating an automatic barcode reading system, although these rates could be increased to 100% by simply rotating the embryos during the reading process. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION The direct embryo tagging developed here has exclusively been tested in mouse embryos. Its effectiveness in other species, such as the human, is currently being tested. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS The direct embryo tagging system developed here, once tested in human embryos, could provide fertility clinics with a novel tool to reduce the risk of mix-ups in human assisted reproduction technologies. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) This study was supported by Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (TEC2011-29140-C03) and by the Generalitat de Catalunya (2009SGR-00282).

Keywords: Assisted reproductive technologies (ART), Biofunctionalization, Embryo tagging, Mix-ups, Traceability


Karpas, Z., Guamán, A. V., Pardo, A., Marco, S., (2013). Comparison of the performance of three ion mobility spectrometers for measurement of biogenic amines Analytica Chimica Acta 758, (3), 122-129

The performance of three different types of ion mobility spectrometer (IMS) devices: GDA2 with a radioactive ion source (Airsense, Germany), UV-IMS with a photo-ionization source (G.A.S. Germany) and VG-Test with a corona discharge source (3QBD, Israel) was studied. The gas-phase ion chemistry in the IMS devices affected the species formed and their measured reduced mobility values. The sensitivity and limit of detection for trimethylamine (TMA), putrescine and cadaverine were compared by continuous monitoring of a stream of air with a given concentration of the analyte and by measurement of headspace vapors of TMA in a sealed vial. Preprocessing of the mobility spectra and the effectiveness of multivariate curve resolution techniques (MCR-LASSO) improved the accuracy of the measurements by correcting baseline effects and adjusting for variations in drift time as well as enhancing the signal to noise ratio and deconvolution of the complex data matrix to their pure components. The limit of detection for measurement of the biogenic amines by the three IMS devices was between 0.1 and 1.2 ppm (for TMA with the VG-Test and GDA, respectively) and between 0.2 and 0.7 ppm for putrescine and cadaverine with all three devices. Considering the uncertainty in the LOD determination there is almost no statistically significant difference between the three devices although they differ in their operating temperature, ionization method, drift tube design and dopant chemistry. This finding may have general implications on the achievable performance of classic IMS devices.

Keywords: Biogenic amines, Comparison of performance, Ion mobility spectrometry, Sensitivity, Signal processing, Vapor concentration


Gustavsson, J., Planell, J., Engel, E., (2013). Ion-selective electrodes to monitor osteoblast-like cellular influence on the extracellular concentration of calcium Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine 7, (8), 609-620

In bone tissue engineering, the composition of the ionic extracellular environment (IEE) can determine both cellular fate and a biomaterial's development and performance. Therefore, precise control of the IEE and a perfect understanding of the dynamic changes that it can be subject to due to cellular activity is highly desired. To achieve this, we initially monitored how two standard osteoblast-like cell models that expressed either high or low alkaline phosphatase activity - SAOS-2 and MG63 cells, respectively - affected the extracellular concentrations of calcium and phosphate during long-term cultures. It was observed that cellular influence on the IEE varied greatly between the two models and could be linked to the capacity of cells to deposit calcium in the extracellular matrix. Miniaturized ion-selective electrodes that could allow for real-time monitoring of calcium in a minimally invasive way were then constructed. The electrodes were characterized in standard in vitro cell culture environments, prior to being successfully applied for periods of 24h, to record the dynamics of cell-induced deposition of calcium in the extracellular matrix, while using osteogenic media of either high or low concentrations of phosphate. As a result, this study provides the background and technological means for the non-destructive evaluation of the IEE in vitro and allows for the optimization and development of better models of bone tissue construction.

Keywords: Extracellular ions, Ion-selective electrode, MG63, Mineralization, Osteoblasts, Saos-2, Sensor, Tissue engineering


Perez, R. A., Altankov, G., Jorge-Herrero, E., Ginebra, M. P., (2013). Micro- and nanostructured hydroxyapatite-collagen microcarriers for bone tissue-engineering applications Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine 7, (5), 353-361

Novel hydroxyapatite (HA)-collagen microcarriers (MCs) with different micro/nanostructures were developed for bone tissue-engineering applications. The MCs were fabricated via calcium phosphate cement (CPC) emulsion in oil. Collagen incorporation in the liquid phase of the CPC resulted in higher MC sphericity. The MCs consisted of a porous network of entangled hydroxyapatite crystals, formed as a result of the CPC setting reaction. The addition of collagen to the MCs, even in an amount as small as 0.8wt%, resulted in an improved interaction with osteoblast-like Saos-2 cells. The micro/nanostructure and the surface texture of the MCs were further tailored by modifying the initial particle size of the CPC. A synergistic effect between the presence of collagen and the nanosized HA crystals was found, resulting in significantly enhanced alkaline phosphatase activity on the collagen-containing nanosized HA MCs.

Keywords: Bone regeneration, Calcium phosphate cement, Cell response, Collagen, Hydroxyapatite, Microcarrier


Lima, Lia M. C., Giannotti, M. I., Redondo-Morata, L., Vale, M. L. C., Marques, E. F., Sanz, F., (2013). Morphological and nanomechanical behavior of supported lipid bilayers on addition of cationic surfactants Langmuir 29, (30), 9352-9361

The addition of surfactants to lipid bilayers is important for the modulation of lipid bilayer properties (e.g., in protein reconstitution and development of nonviral gene delivery vehicles) and to provide insight on the properties of natural biomembranes. In this work, the thermal behavior, organization, and nanomechanical stability of model cationic lipid?surfactant bilayers have been investigated. Two different cationic surfactants, hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) and a novel derivative of the amino acid serine (Ser16TFAc), have been added (up to 50 mol %) to both liposomes and supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) composed by the zwitterionic phospholipid DPPC. The thermal phase behavior of mixed liposomes has been probed by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and the morphology and nanomechanical properties of mixed SLBs by atomic force microscopy-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS). Although DSC thermograms show different results for the two mixed liposomes, when both are deposited on mica substrates similar trends on the morphology and the mechanical response of the lipid?surfactant bilayers are observed. DSC thermograms indicate microdomain formation in both systems, but while CTAB decreases the degree of organization on the liposome bilayer, Ser16TFAc ultimately induces the opposite effect. Regarding the AFM-FS studies, they show that microphase segregation occurs for these systems and that the effect is dependent on the surfactant content. In both SLB systems, different microdomains characterized by their height and breakthrough force Fb are formed. The molecular organization and composition is critically discussed in the light of our experimental results and literature data on similar lipid?surfactant systems. The addition of surfactants to lipid bilayers is important for the modulation of lipid bilayer properties (e.g., in protein reconstitution and development of nonviral gene delivery vehicles) and to provide insight on the properties of natural biomembranes. In this work, the thermal behavior, organization, and nanomechanical stability of model cationic lipid?surfactant bilayers have been investigated. Two different cationic surfactants, hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) and a novel derivative of the amino acid serine (Ser16TFAc), have been added (up to 50 mol %) to both liposomes and supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) composed by the zwitterionic phospholipid DPPC. The thermal phase behavior of mixed liposomes has been probed by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and the morphology and nanomechanical properties of mixed SLBs by atomic force microscopy-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS). Although DSC thermograms show different results for the two mixed liposomes, when both are deposited on mica substrates similar trends on the morphology and the mechanical response of the lipid?surfactant bilayers are observed. DSC thermograms indicate microdomain formation in both systems, but while CTAB decreases the degree of organization on the liposome bilayer, Ser16TFAc ultimately induces the opposite effect. Regarding the AFM-FS studies, they show that microphase segregation occurs for these systems and that the effect is dependent on the surfactant content. In both SLB systems, different microdomains characterized by their height and breakthrough force Fb are formed. The molecular organization and composition is critically discussed in the light of our experimental results and literature data on similar lipid?surfactant systems.


Otero, J., Baños, R., González, L., Torrents, E., Juárez, A., Puig-Vidal, M., (2013). Quartz tuning fork studies on the surface properties of Pseudomonas aeruginosa during early stages of biofilm formation Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 102, 117-123

Scanning probe microscopy techniques are powerful tools for studying the nanoscale surface properties of biofilms, such as their morphology and mechanical behavior. Typically, these studies are conducted using atomic force microscopy probes, which are force nanosensors based on microfabricated cantilevers. In recent years, quartz tuning fork (QTF) probes have been used in morphological studies due to their better performance in certain experiments with respect to standard AFM probes. In the present work QTF probes were used to measure not only the morphology but also the nanomechanical properties of Pseudomonas aeruginosa during early stages of biofilm formation. Changes in bacterium size and the membrane spring constant were determined in biofilms grown for 20, 24 and 28. h on gold with and without glucose in the culture media. The results obtained using the standard AFM and QTF probes were compared. Both probes showed that the bacteria forming the biofilm increased in size over time, but that there was no dependence on the presence of glucose in the culture media. On the other hand, the spring constant increased over time and there was a clear difference between biofilms grown with and without glucose. This is the first time that QTF probes have been used to measure the nanomechanical properties of microbial cell surfaces and the results obtained highlight their potential for studying biological samples beyond topographic measurements.


González-García, C., Cantini, M., Moratal, D., Altankov, G., Salmerón-Sánchez, M., (2013). Vitronectin alters fibronectin organization at the cell-material interface Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 111, 618-625

Cells assemble fibronectin (FN) into fibrils in a process mediated by integrins. For this process to occur, it is known that the presence of other serum proteins is necessary. However, the individual effect of these proteins on FN fibrillogenesis has not been addressed so far. In this study, the effect of vitronectin (VN), an ECM adhesion protein, on material-driven FN fibrillogenesis and cell-mediated FN reorganization is investigated. Poly(ethyl acrylate), PEA, which has previously shown the ability to induce the organization of FN into well-developed physiological-like networks upon adsorption, was employed as a material substrate. FN adsorption, cell adhesion and cellular FN reorganization in the presence or absence of VN were studied. Both FN surface density, quantified via western blot, and its distribution on PEA surfaces, determined via atomic force microscopy, were altered when FN was adsorbed competitively with VN at certain compositions. Moreover, the presence of VN on the material surfaces enhanced cell-mediated FN reorganization and secretion, in comparison with the process which took place in the presence of serum proteins.


Marí-Buyé, N., Luque, T., Navajas, D., Semino, C. E., (2013). Development of a three-dimensional bone-like construct in a soft self-assembling peptide matrix Tissue Engineering Part A 19, (7-8), 870-881

This work describes the development of a three-dimensional (3D) model of osteogenesis using mouse preosteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells and a soft synthetic matrix made out of self-assembling peptide nanofibers. By adjusting the matrix stiffness to very low values (around 120 Pa), cells were found to migrate within the matrix, interact forming a cell-cell network, and create a contracted and stiffer structure. Interestingly, during this process, cells spontaneously upregulate the expression of bone-related proteins such as collagen type I, bone sialoprotein, and osteocalcin, indicating that the 3D environment enhances their osteogenic potential. However, unlike MC3T3-E1 cultures in 2D, the addition of dexamethasone is required to acquire a final mature phenotype characterized by features such as matrix mineralization. Moreover, a slight increase in the hydrogel stiffness (threefold) or the addition of a cell contractility inhibitor (Rho kinase inhibitor) abrogates cell elongation, migration, and 3D culture contraction. However, this mechanical inhibition does not seem to noticeably affect the osteogenic process, at least at early culture times. This 3D bone model intends to emphasize cell-cell interactions, which have a critical role during tissue formation, by using a compliant unrestricted synthetic matrix.


Llorens, F., Carulla, P., Villa, A., Torres, J. M., Fortes, P., Ferrer, I., Del Río, J. A., (2013). PrPC regulates epidermal growth factor receptor function and cell shape dynamics in Neuro2a cells Journal of Neurochemistry 127, (1), 124-138

The prion protein (PrP) plays a key role in prion disease pathogenesis. Although the misfolded and pathologic variant of this protein (PrPSC) has been studied in depth, the physiological role of PrPC remains elusive and controversial. PrPC is a cell-surface glycoprotein involved in multiple cellular functions at the plasma membrane, where it interacts with a myriad of partners and regulates several intracellular signal transduction cascades. However, little is known about the gene expression changes modulated by PrPC in animals and in cellular models. In this article, we present PrPC-dependent gene expression signature in N2a cells and its implication in the most overrepresented functions: cell cycle, cell growth and proliferation, and maintenance of cell shape. PrPC over-expression enhances cell proliferation and cell cycle re-entrance after serum stimulation, while PrPC silencing slows down cell cycle progression. In addition, MAP kinase and protein kinase B (AKT) pathway activation are under the regulation of PrPC in asynchronous cells and following mitogenic stimulation. These effects are due in part to the modulation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) by PrPC in the plasma membrane, where the two proteins interact in a multimeric complex. We also describe how PrPC over-expression modulates filopodia formation by Rho GTPase regulation mainly in an AKT-Cdc42-N-WASP-dependent pathway.

Keywords: Cell signaling, Cellular prion protein, Filopodia, Gene expression, Microarray, Proliferation


Aragonès, A. C., Palacios-Padrós, A., Caballero-Briones, F., Sanz, F., (2013). Study and improvement of aluminium doped ZnO thin films: Limits and advantages Electrochimica Acta 109, 117-124

ZnO:Al films were deposited at 70°C at a fixed -1.1V potential onto ITO substrates from a 0.01M Zn(NO3)2+x Al(NO3)3·9H2O electrochemical bath, with Al3+ concentrations between 0 and 2mM. Electrodeposition conditions were optimized to remove bubbles, increase grain size homogeneity and ensure adherence. Films were characterized by field emission scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, UV-vis transmittance, electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and photocurrent spectroscopy. Films were crystalline with the wurtzite structure and present a morphology made of hexagonal nano-pillars. It was found that Al incorporation increases gradually up to ~11at% for samples prepared within the concentration range 0.0-0.3mM Al3+ in the bath. For higher Al3+ contents (>0.4mM) an amorphous Al2O3-like compound develops on top of the films. In the grown films with Al contents up to 11at%, changes in the optical band gap from 2.88eV to 3.45eV and in the carrier densities from 1019 to 1020cm-3 were observed. The blue shift in the band gap energy was attributed to the Burstein-Moss effect. Changes in the photocurrent response and the electronic disorder were also discussed in the light of Al doping. Optical transmittances up to 60% at 550nm were obtained, thus making these films suitable as transparent and conductive oxide films.


Palacios-Padrós, A., Caballero-Briones, F., Díez-Pérez, I., Sanz, F., (2013). Tin passivation in alkaline media: Formation of SnO microcrystals as hydroxyl etching product Electrochimica Acta 111, 837-845

The mechanism of the electrochemical passivation on Tin electrodes in 0.1 M NaOH is studied at low scan rates in a wide potential range. To this aim, tin oxide layers were grown on a polycrystalline tin surface under potentiostatic conditions in both the active and passive electrochemical potential ranges, and characterized by field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), Raman spectroscopy and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS). The results show that the first anodic process in the active region corresponds to the formation of a SnO·nH2O prepassive layer that is removed upon increasing the applied potential due to surface etching occurring at the metal/oxide interface. During the etching process, Sn 2+ ions supersaturate at the electrode vicinity thus forming a SnO crystalline phase on top of the electrode surface in the presence of the alkaline medium. At higher anodic potentials, near the passive plateau, the etching process ceases and the current drops due to the formation of a n-type Sn(IV)-based oxide at the metal/SnO interface that provides an efficient electronic passivation of the electrode.


Llorens, Franc, Banez-Coronel, Monica, Pantano, Lorena, del Rio, Jose, Ferrer, Isidre, Estivill, Xavier, Marti, Eulalia, (2013). A highly expressed miR-101 isomiR is a functional silencing small RNA BMC Genomics 14, (1), 104

BACKGROUND:MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding regulatory RNAs that control gene expression usually producing translational repression and gene silencing. High-throughput sequencing technologies have revealed heterogeneity at length and sequence level for the majority of mature miRNAs (IsomiRs). Most isomiRs can be explained by variability in either Dicer1 or Drosha cleavage during miRNA biogenesis at 5' or 3' of the miRNA (trimming variants). Although isomiRs have been described in different tissues and organisms, their functional validation as modulators of gene expression remains elusive. Here we have characterized the expression and function of a highly abundant miR-101 5'-trimming variant (5'-isomiR-101).RESULTS:The analysis of small RNA sequencing data in several human tissues and cell lines indicates that 5'-isomiR-101 is ubiquitously detected and a highly abundant, especially in the brain. 5'-isomiR-101 was found in Ago-2 immunocomplexes and complementary approaches showed that 5'-isomiR-101 interacted with different members of the silencing (RISC) complex. In addition, 5'-isomiR-101 decreased the expression of five validated miR-101 targets, suggesting that it is a functional variant. Both the binding to RISC members and the degree of silencing were less efficient for 5'-isomiR-101 compared with miR-101. For some targets, both miR-101 and 5'-isomiR-101 significantly decreased protein expression with no changes in the respective mRNA levels. Although a high number of overlapping predicted targets suggest similar targeted biological pathways, a correlation analysis of the expression profiles of miR-101 variants and predicted mRNA targets in human brains at different ages, suggest specific functions for miR-101- and 5'-isomiR-101.CONCLUSIONS:These results suggest that isomiRs are functional variants and further indicate that for a given miRNA, the different isomiRs may contribute to the overall effect as quantitative and qualitative fine-tuners of gene expression.


Llorens, F., Hummel, M., Pantano, L., Pastor, X., Vivancos, A., Castillo, E., Mattlin, H., Ferrer, A., Ingham, M., Noguera, M., Kofler, R., Dohm, J. C., Pluvinet, R., Bayés, M., Himmelbauer, H., del Rio, J. A., Martí, E., Sumoy, L., (2013). Microarray and deep sequencing cross-platform analysis of the mirRNome and isomiR variation in response to epidermal growth factor BMC Genomics 14, (1), 1-15

Background: Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) plays an important function in the regulation of cell growth, proliferation, and differentiation by binding to its receptor (EGFR) and providing cancer cells with increased survival responsiveness. Signal transduction carried out by EGF has been extensively studied at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. Little is known about the involvement of microRNAs (miRNAs) in the EGF signaling pathway. miRNAs have emerged as major players in the complex networks of gene regulation, and cancer miRNA expression studies have evidenced a direct involvement of miRNAs in cancer progression.Results: In this study, we have used an integrative high content analysis approach to identify the specific miRNAs implicated in EGF signaling in HeLa cells as potential mediators of cancer mediated functions. We have used microarray and deep-sequencing technologies in order to obtain a global view of the EGF miRNA transcriptome with a robust experimental cross-validation. By applying a procedure based on Rankprod tests, we have delimited a solid set of EGF-regulated miRNAs. After validating regulated miRNAs by reverse transcription quantitative PCR, we have derived protein networks and biological functions from the predicted targets of the regulated miRNAs to gain insight into the potential role of miRNAs in EGF-treated cells. In addition, we have analyzed sequence heterogeneity due to editing relative to the reference sequence (isomiRs) among regulated miRNAs.Conclusions: We propose that the use of global genomic miRNA cross-validation derived from high throughput technologies can be used to generate more reliable datasets inferring more robust networks of co-regulated predicted miRNA target genes.


Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2013). Amyloid fibrils in neurodegenerative diseases: villains or heroes? Future Medicinal Chemistry 5, (16), 1903-1906

Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2013). Heparin-functionalized nanocapsules: Enabling targeted delivery of antimalarial drugs Future Medicinal Chemistry 5, (7), 737-739

Pomareda, Victor, Lopez-Vidal, Silvia, Calvo, Daniel, Pardo, Antonio, Marco, Santiago, (2013). A novel differential mobility analyzer as VOCs detector and multivariate techniques for identification and quantification Analyst 138, (12), 3512-3521

A Differential Mobility Analyser (DMA) is a specific configuration of an Ion Mobility Spectrometer (IMS) where ions with different electrical mobilities are separated in space, instead of in time of drift, as in classical drift-time IMS. This work presents an instrument developed by the company Ioner, a parallel plate DMA instrument, but with crucial differences in the sheath flow and detection system when compared to other instruments in the market. These differences improve the resolving powers and sensitivities of the instrument. Additionally, datasets from IMS or DMA instruments are typically processed with univariate techniques when only qualitative detection is of interest. However, good performance in quantitative measurements can be achieved using multivariate data processing. This work presents for the first time, measurements with a stand alone DMA instrument and the multivariate data processing related for VOCs and environmental interesting samples.


Sachot, N., Castaño, Oscar, Mateos-Timoneda, Miguel A., Engel, Elisabeth, Planell, Josep A., (2013). Hierarchically engineered fibrous scaffolds for bone regeneration Journal of The Royal Society Interface Journal of the Royal Society Interface , 10, (88), 20130684

Surface properties of biomaterials play a major role in the governing of cell functionalities. It is well known that mechanical, chemical and nanotopographic cues, for example, influence cell proliferation and differentiation. Here, we present a novel coating protocol to produce hierarchically engineered fibrous scaffolds with tailorable surface characteristics, which mimic bone extracellular matrix. Based on the sol–gel method and a succession of surface treatments, hollow electrospun polylactic acid fibres were coated with a silicon–calcium–phosphate bioactive organic–inorganic glass. Compared with pure polymeric fibres that showed a completely smooth surface, the coated fibres exhibited a nanostructured topography and greater roughness. They also showed improved hydrophilic properties and a Young's modulus sixfold higher than non-coated ones, while remaining fully flexible and easy to handle. Rat mesenchymal stem cells cultured on these fibres showed great cellular spreading and interactions with the material. This protocol can be transferred to other structures and glasses, allowing the fabrication of various materials with well-defined features. This novel approach represents therefore a valuable improvement in the production of artificial matrices able to direct stem cell fate through physical and chemical interactions.


Caballero, D., Fumagalli, L., Teixidor, F., Samitier, J., Errachid, A., (2013). Directing polypyrrole growth by chemical micropatterns: A study of high-throughput well-ordered arrays of conductive 3D microrings Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 177, 1003-1009

An array of well-ordered conducting polypyrrole microrings doped with cobaltabisdicarbollide [Co(C2B9H11) 2]- anions was fabricated by means of electropolymerization and submerged micro-contact printing techniques. The different conductive properties of the micropatterned thiols acted as a template for directing the electrochemical 3D growth of the microstructures over large areas. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy characterization confirmed the presence of this unusual doping anion within the polymer. Its intrinsic properties together with hydrophobic interactions with the thiols guided the formation of the ring structures. A topographic study by atomic force microscopy gave insights into the PPy/[Co(C2B9H11) 2]- growing mechanism which is in agreement with the theoretical model of metal growth. Finally, the conductive properties of the microstructures were addressed by conductive-atomic force microscopy, showing a highly conductive behaviour. This methodology using cobaltabisdicarbollide as dopant anion could have important applications in organic microelectronics for the development of biosensors, in cell microarrays and for the fabrication of polymer-based microencapsulators.


Ziyatdinov, A., Diaz, E. Fernández, Chaudry, A., Marco, S., Persaud, K., Perera, A., (2013). A software tool for large-scale synthetic experiments based on polymeric sensor arrays Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 177, 596-604

This manuscript introduces a software tool that allows for the design of synthetic experiments in machine olfaction. The proposed software package includes both, a virtual sensor array that reproduces the diversity and response of a polymer array and tools for data generation. The synthetic array of sensors allows for the generation of chemosensor data with a variety of characteristics: unlimited number of sensors, support of multicomponent gas mixtures and full parametric control of the noise in the system. The artificial sensor array is inspired from a reference database of seventeen polymeric sensors with concentration profiles for three analytes. The main features in the sensor data, like sensitivity, diversity, drift and sensor noise, are captured by a set of models under simplified assumptions. The generator of sensor signals can be used in applications related to test and benchmarking of signal processing methods, neuromorphic simulations in machine olfaction and educational tools. The software is implemented in R language and can be freely accessed.

Keywords: Gas Sensor Array, Conducting Polymers, Electronic Nose, Sensor Simulation, Synthetic Dataset, Benchmark, Educational Tool


Fonollosa, Jordi, Fernérndez, Luis, Huerta, Ramón, Gutiérrez-Gálvez, Agustín, Marco, Santiago, (2013). Temperature optimization of metal oxide sensor arrays using Mutual Information Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical Elsevier 187, (0), 331-339

The sensitivity and selectivity of metal oxide (MOX) gas sensors change significantly when the sensors operate at different temperatures. While previous investigations have presented systematic approaches to optimize the operating temperature of a single MOX sensor, in this paper we present a methodology to select the optimal operating temperature of all the MOX sensors constituent of a gas sensor array based on the multivariate response of all the sensing elements. Our approach estimates a widely used Information Theory measure, the so-called Mutual Information (MI), which quantifies the amount of information that the state of one random variable (response of the gas sensor array) can provide from the state of another random variable representing the gas quality. More specifically, our methodology builds sensor models from experimental data to solve the technical problem of populating the joint probability distribution for the MI estimation. We demonstrate the relevance of our approach by maximizing the MI and selecting the best operating temperatures of a four-sensor array sampled at 94 different temperatures to optimize the discrimination task of ethanol, acetic acid, 2-butanone, and acetone. In addition to being applicable in principle to sensor arrays of any size, our approach gives precise information on the ability of the system to discriminate odors according to the temperature of the MOX sensors, for either the optimal set of temperatures or the temperatures that may render inefficient operation of the system itself.

Keywords: MOX gas sensor, Temperature optimization, Limit of detection, Mutual Information, E-nose, Sensor array, Information Theory, Chemical sensing


Gramse, G., Dols-Perez, A., Edwards, M. A., Fumagalli, L., Gomila, G., (2013). Nanoscale measurement of the dielectric constant of supported lipid bilayers in aqueous solutions with electrostatic force microscopy Biophysical Journal 104, (6), 1257-1262

We present what is, to our knowledge, the first experimental demonstration of dielectric constant measurement and quantification of supported lipid bilayers in electrolyte solutions with nanoscale spatial resolution. The dielectric constant was quantitatively reconstructed with finite element calculations by combining thickness information and local polarization forces which were measured using an electrostatic force microscope adapted to work in a liquid environment. Measurements of submicrometric dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine lipid bilayer patches gave dielectric constants of εr ∼ 3, which are higher than the values typically reported for the hydrophobic part of lipid membranes (εr ∼ 2) and suggest a large contribution of the polar headgroup region to the dielectric response of the lipid bilayer. This work opens apparently new possibilities in the study of biomembrane electrostatics and other bioelectric phenomena.


Izquierdo-Serra, Mercè, Trauner, Dirk, Llobet, Artur, Gorostiza, Pau, (2013). Optical control of calcium-regulated exocytosis Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - General Subjects 1830, (3), 2853-2860

Background Neurons signal to each other and to non-neuronal cells as those in muscle or glands, by means of the secretion of neurotransmitters at chemical synapses. In order to dissect the molecular mechanisms of neurotransmission, new methods for directly and reversibly triggering neurosecretion at the presynaptic terminal are necessary. Here we exploit the calcium permeability of the light-gated channel LiGluR in order to reversibly manipulate cytosolic calcium concentration, thus controlling calcium-regulated exocytosis. Methods Bovine chromaffin cells expressing LiGluR were stimulated with light. Exocytic events were detected by amperometry or by whole-cell patch-clamp to quantify membrane capacitance and calcium influx. Results Amperometry reveals that optical stimulation consistently triggers exocytosis in chromaffin cells. Secretion of catecholamines can be adjusted between zero and several Hz by changing the wavelength of illumination. Differences in secretion efficacy are found between the activation of LiGluR and native voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs). Our results show that the distance between sites of calcium influx and vesicles ready to be released is longer when calcium influx is triggered by LiGluR instead of native VGCCs. Conclusion and general significance LiGluR activation directly and reversibly increases the intracellular calcium concentration. Light-gated calcium influx allows for the first time to control calcium-regulated exocytosis without the need of applying depolarizing solutions or voltage clamping in chromaffin cells. Thus, LiGluR is a useful tool to study the secretory mechanisms and their spatiotemporal patterns in neurotransmission, and opens a window to study other calcium-dependent processes such as muscular contraction or cell migration.

Keywords: Optical control, Calcium, Exocytosis, Light-gated glutamate receptor (LiGluR), Neurotransmission, Optogenetics


Castangia, I., Manca, M. L., Matricardi, P., Sinico, C., Lampis, S., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Fadda, A. M., Manconi, M., (2013). Effect of diclofenac and glycol intercalation on structural assembly of phospholipid lamellar vesicles International Journal of Pharmaceutics 456, (1), 1-9

The aim of the current study was to improve the knowledge of drug-glycol-phospholipid-interactions and their effects in lamellar vesicle suitability as drug delivery systems. Liposomes were prepared using hydrogenated soy phosphatidylcholine (P90H, 60. mg/ml) and diclofenac sodium salt at two concentrations (5-10. mg/ml). To obtain innovative vesicles two permeation enhancers with glycol group, diethyleneglycol monoethyl ether and propylene glycol, were added to the water phase at different ratios (5%, 10%, and 20%).Vesicle organization was deeply investigated by physico-chemical characterization, including differential scanning calorimetry and small-angle diffraction signal analysis while macroscopic structure behavior was evaluated by rheological studies. Results evidenced that the presence of the penetration enhancer and diclofenac sodium salt led to structural rearrangements within and among vesicles forming a tridimensional and complex architecture in which vesicles were closely packed and interconnected. This new design allowed a change in the physical state of dispersions that became highly viscous liquid or soft-solid-like, thus forming an ideal system for topical application able of both adhering to the skin and delivering the drug.


López-Bosque, M. J., Tejeda-Montes, E., Cazorla, M., Linacero, J., Atienza, Y., Smith, K. H., Lladó, A., Colombelli, J., Engel, E., Mata, Alvaro, (2013). Fabrication of hierarchical micro-nanotopographies for cell attachment studies Nanotechnology 24, (25), 255305

We report on the development of micro/nanofabrication processes to create hierarchical surface topographies that expand from 50 nm to microns in size on different materials. Three different approaches (named FIB1, FIB2, and EBL) that combine a variety of techniques such as photolithography, reactive ion etching, focused ion beam lithography, electron beam lithography, and soft lithography were developed, each one providing different advantages and disadvantages. The EBL approach was employed to fabricate substrates comprising channels with features between 200 nm and 10 μm in size on polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), which were then used to investigate the independent or competitive effects of micro- and nanotopographies on cell adhesion and morphology. Rat mesenchymal stem cells (rMSCs) were cultured on four different substrates including 10 μm wide and 500 nm deep channels separated by 10 μm distances (MICRO), 200 nm wide and 100 nm deep nanochannels separated by 200 nm distances (NANO), their combination in parallel (PARAL), and in a perpendicular direction (PERP). Rat MSCs behaved differently on all tested substrates with a high degree of alignment (as measured by both number of aligned cells and average angle) on both NANO and MICRO. Furthermore, cells exhibited the highest level of alignment on PARAL, suggesting a synergetic effect of the two scales of topographies. On the other hand, cells on PERP exhibited the lowest alignment and a consistent change in morphology over time that seemed to be the result of interactions with both micro- and nanochannels positioned in the perpendicular direction, also suggesting a competitive effect of the topographies.


Gomila, G., Esteban-Ferrer, D., Fumagalli, L., (2013). Quantification of the dielectric constant of single non-spherical nanoparticles from polarization forces: Eccentricity effects Nanotechnology 24, (50), 505713

We analyze by means of finite-element numerical calculations the polarization force between a sharp conducting tip and a non-spherical uncharged dielectric nanoparticle with the objective of quantifying its dielectric constant from electrostatic force microscopy (EFM) measurements. We show that for an oblate spheroid nanoparticle of given height the strength of the polarization force acting on the tip depends linearly on the eccentricity, e, of the nanoparticle in the small eccentricity and low dielectric constant regimes (1 < e < 2 and 1 < εr; < 10), while for higher eccentricities (e > 2) the dependence is sub-linear and finally becomes independent of e for very large eccentricities (e > 30). These results imply that a precise account of the nanoparticle shape is required to quantify EFM data and obtain the dielectric constants of non-spherical dielectric nanoparticles. Experimental results obtained on polystyrene, silicon dioxide and aluminum oxide nanoparticles and on single viruses are used to illustrate the main findings.


Gramse, G., Edwards, M.A., Fumagalli, L., Gomila, G., (2013). Theory of amplitude modulated electrostatic force microscopy for dielectric measurements in liquids at MHz frequencies Nanotechnology 24, (41), 415709

A theoretical analysis of amplitude modulated electrostatic force microscopy (AM-EFM) in liquid media at MHz frequencies, based on a simple tip–sample parallel plate model, is presented. The model qualitatively explains the main features of AM-EFM in liquid media and provides a simple explanation of how the measured electric forces are affected by: the frequency of the applied voltage, the tip–sample distance, the ionic concentration, the relative dielectric constant of the solution, and the relative dielectric constant and thickness of the sample. These results provide a simple framework for the design of AM-EFM measurements for localized dielectric characterization in liquid media.


Puig, F., Fuster, G., Adda, M., Blanch, L., Farre, R., Navajas, D., Artigas, A., (2013). Barrier-protective effects of activated protein C in human alveolar epithelial cells PLoS ONE 8, (2), e56965

Acute lung injury (ALI) is a clinical manifestation of respiratory failure, caused by lung inflammation and the disruption of the alveolar-capillary barrier. Preservation of the physical integrity of the alveolar epithelial monolayer is of critical importance to prevent alveolar edema. Barrier integrity depends largely on the balance between physical forces on cell-cell and cell-matrix contacts, and this balance might be affected by alterations in the coagulation cascade in patients with ALI. We aimed to study the effects of activated protein C (APC) on mechanical tension and barrier integrity in human alveolar epithelial cells (A549) exposed to thrombin. Cells were pretreated for 3 h with APC (50 μg/ml) or vehicle (control). Subsequently, thrombin (50 nM) or medium was added to the cell culture. APC significantly reduced thrombin-induced cell monolayer permeability, cell stiffening, and cell contraction, measured by electrical impedance, optical magnetic twisting cytometry, and traction microscopy, respectively, suggesting a barrier-protective response. The dynamics of the barrier integrity was also assessed by western blotting and immunofluorescence analysis of the tight junction ZO-1. Thrombin resulted in more elongated ZO-1 aggregates at cell-cell interface areas and induced an increase in ZO-1 membrane protein content. APC attenuated the length of these ZO-1 aggregates and reduced the ZO-1 membrane protein levels induced by thrombin. In conclusion, pretreatment with APC reduced the disruption of barrier integrity induced by thrombin, thus contributing to alveolar epithelial barrier protection.


Chen, Zaozao, Lessey, Elizabeth, Berginski, Matthew E., Cao, Li, Li, Jonathan, Trepat, Xavier, Itano, Michelle, Gomez, Shawn M., Kapustina, Maryna, Huang, Cai, Burridge, Keith, Truskey, George, Jacobson, Ken, (2013). Gleevec, an Abl family inhibitor, produces a profound change in cell shape and migration PLoS ONE 8, (1), e52233

The issue of how contractility and adhesion are related to cell shape and migration pattern remains largely unresolved. In this paper we report that Gleevec (Imatinib), an Abl family kinase inhibitor, produces a profound change in the shape and migration of rat bladder tumor cells (NBTII) plated on collagen-coated substrates. Cells treated with Gleevec adopt a highly spread D-shape and migrate more rapidly with greater persistence. Accompanying this more spread state is an increase in integrin-mediated adhesion coupled with increases in the size and number of discrete adhesions. In addition, both total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM) and interference reflection microscopy (IRM) revealed a band of small punctate adhesions with rapid turnover near the cell leading margin. These changes led to an increase in global cell-substrate adhesion strength, as assessed by laminar flow experiments. Gleevec-treated cells have greater RhoA activity which, via myosin activation, led to an increase in the magnitude of total traction force applied to the substrate. These chemical and physical alterations upon Gleevec treatment produce the dramatic change in morphology and migration that is observed.


Tambe, D. T., Croutelle, U., Trepat, X., Park, C. Y., Kim, J. H., Millet, E., Butler, J. P., Fredberg, J. J., (2013). Monolayer stress microscopy: Limitations, artifacts, and accuracy of recovered intercellular stresses PLoS ONE 8, (2), e55172

In wound healing, tissue growth, and certain cancers, the epithelial or the endothelial monolayer sheet expands. Within the expanding monolayer sheet, migration of the individual cell is strongly guided by physical forces imposed by adjacent cells. This process is called plithotaxis and was discovered using Monolayer Stress Microscopy (MSM). MSM rests upon certain simplifying assumptions, however, concerning boundary conditions, cell material properties and system dimensionality. To assess the validity of these assumptions and to quantify associated errors, here we report new analytical, numerical, and experimental investigations. For several commonly used experimental monolayer systems, the simplifying assumptions used previously lead to errors that are shown to be quite small. Out-of-plane components of displacement and traction fields can be safely neglected, and characteristic features of intercellular stresses that underlie plithotaxis remain largely unaffected. Taken together, these findings validate Monolayer Stress Microscopy within broad but well-defined limits of applicability.


Vilches, S., Vergara, C., Nicolás, O., Sanclimens, G., Merino, S., Varón, S., Acosta, G. A., Albericio, F., Royo, M., Del Río, J. A., Gavín, R., (2013). Neurotoxicity of prion peptides mimicking the central domain of the cellular prion protein PLoS ONE 8, (8), e70881

The physiological functions of PrPC remain enigmatic, but the central domain, comprising highly conserved regions of the protein may play an important role. Indeed, a large number of studies indicate that synthetic peptides containing residues 106-126 (CR) located in the central domain (CD, 95-133) of PrPC are neurotoxic. The central domain comprises two chemically distinct subdomains, the charge cluster (CC, 95-110) and a hydrophobic region (HR, 112-133). The aim of the present study was to establish the individual cytotoxicity of CC, HR and CD. Our results show that only the CD peptide is neurotoxic. Biochemical, Transmission Electron Microscopy and Atomic Force Microscopy experiments demonstrated that the CD peptide is able to activate caspase-3 and disrupt the cell membrane, leading to cell death.


Hoyo, J., Guaus, E., Oncins, G., Torrent-Burgués, J., Sanz, F., (2013). Incorporation of Ubiquinone in supported lipid bilayers on ITO Journal of Physical Chemistry B 117, (25), 7498-7506

Ubiquinone (UQ) is one of the main electron and proton shuttle molecules in biological systems, and dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) is one of the most used model lipids. Supported planar bilayers (SPBs) are extensively accepted as biological model membranes. In this study, SPBs have been deposited on ITO, which is a semiconductor with good electrical and optical features. Specifically, topographic atomic force microscopy (AFM) images and force curves have been performed on SPBs with several DPPC:UQ ratios to study the location and the interaction of UQ in the SPB. Additionally, cyclic voltammetry has been used to understand the electrochemical behavior of DPPC:UQ SPBs. Obtained results show that, in our case, UQ is placed in two main different positions in SPBs. First, between the DPPC hydrophobic chains, fact that originates a decrease in the breakthrough force of the bilayer, and the second between the two leaflets that form the SPBs. This second position occurs when increasing the UQ content, fact that eventually forms UQ aggregates at high concentrations. The formation of aggregates produces an expansion of the SPB average height and a bimodal distribution of the breakthrough force. The voltammetric response of UQ depends on its position on the bilayer.

Keywords: Bimodal distribution, Biological models, Dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine, Electrochemical behaviors, Hydrophobic chains, Supported lipid bilayers, Supported planar bilayers, Voltammetric response


Prats-Alfonso, E., Oberhansl, S., Lagunas, A., Martínez, E., Samitier, J., Albericio, F., (2013). Effective and versatile strategy for the total solid-phase synthesis of alkanethiols for biological applications European Journal of Organic Chemistry 2013, (7), 1233-1239

Biological applications increasingly demand tailored surfaces with a range of functional groups. Herein we describe a straightforward and inexpensive method based exclusively on solid-phase synthesis for the preparation of a variety of customized alkanethiols (ATs). The technique overcomes all the difficulties encountered during the preparation of these molecules in solution. The procedure allows the use of ATs without further purification for the preparation of self-assembled monolayers on gold, typically used to achieve functional group diversity on this surface. This paper describes a straightforward and inexpensive method based exclusively on solid-phase synthesis for the preparation of a variety of customized alkanethiols (ATs). The technique allows a variety of ATs to be obtained in only three steps, overcoming the difficulties encountered during their preparation in solution.


Ruiz, C., Noailly, J., Lacroix, D., (2013). Material property discontinuities in intervertebral disc porohyperelastic finite element models generate numerical instabilities due to volumetric strain variations Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials 26, 1-10

Numerical studies of the intervertebral disc (IVD) are important to better understand the load transfer and the mechanobiological processes within the disc. Among the relevant calculations, fluid-related outputs are critical to describe and explore accurately the tissue properties. Porohyperelastic finite element models of IVD can describe accurately the disc behaviour at the organ level and allow the inclusion of fluid effects. However, results may be affected by numerical instabilities when fast load rates are applied. We hypothesized that such instabilities would appear preferentially at material discontinuities such as the annulus-nucleus boundary and should be considered when testing mesh convergence. A L4-L5 IVD model including the nucleus, annulus and cartilage endplates were tested under pure rotational loads, with different levels of mesh refinement. The effect of load relaxation and swelling were also studied. Simulations indicated that fluid velocity oscillations appeared due to numerical instability of the pore pressure spatial derivative at material discontinuities. Applying local refinement only was not enough to eliminate these oscillations. In fact, mesh refinements had to be local, material-dependent, and supplemented by the creation of a material transition zone, including interpolated material properties. Results also indicated that oscillations vanished along load relaxation, and faster attenuation occurred with the incorporation of the osmotic pressure. We concluded that material discontinuities are a major cause of instability for poromechanical calculations in multi-tissue models when load velocities are simulated. A strategy was presented to address these instabilities and recommendations on the use of IVD porohyperelastic models were given.

Keywords: Fast loads, Intervertebral disc, Numerical instabilities, Poroelastic model


Bueno, M., Paganetti, H., Duch, M. A., Schuemann, J., (2013). An algorithm to assess the need for clinical Monte Carlo dose calculation for small proton therapy fields based on quantification of tissue heterogeneity Medical Physics 40, (8), 081704

Purpose: In proton therapy, complex density heterogeneities within the beam path constitute a challenge to dose calculation algorithms. This might question the reliability of dose distributions predicted by treatment planning systems based on analytical dose calculation. For cases in which substantial dose errors are expected, resorting to Monte Carlo dose calculations might be essential to ensure a successful treatment outcome and therefore the benefit is worth a presumably long computation time. The aim of this study was to define an indicator for the accuracy of dose delivery based on analytical dose calculations in treatment planning systems for small proton therapy fields to identify those patients for which Monte Carlo dose calculation is warranted. Methods: Fourteen patients treated at our facility with small passively scattered proton beams (apertures diameters below 7 cm) were selected. Plans were generated in the XiO treatment planning system in combination with a pencil beam algorithm developed at the Massachusetts General Hospital and compared to Monte Carlo dose calculations. Differences in the dose to the 50% of the gross tumor volume (D50, GTV) were assessed in a field-by-field basis. A simple and fast methodology was developed to quantify the inhomogeneity of the tissue traversed by a single small proton beam using a heterogeneity index (HI) - a concept presented by Plugfelder [Med. Phys. 34, 1506-1513 (2007)10.1118/1. 2710329] for scanned proton beams. Finally, the potential correlation between the error made by the pencil beam based treatment planning algorithm for each field and the level of tissue heterogeneity traversed by the proton beam given by the HI was evaluated. Results: Discrepancies up to 5.4% were found in D50 for single fields, although dose differences were within clinical tolerance levels (<3%) when combining all of the fields involved in the treatment. The discrepancies found for each field exhibited a strong correlation to their associated HI-values (Spearman's ρ = 0.8, p < 0.0001); the higher the level of tissue inhomogeneities for a particular field, the larger the error by the analytical algorithm. With the established correlation a threshold for HI can be set by choosing a tolerance level of 2-3% - commonly accepted in radiotherapy. Conclusions: The HI is a good indicator for the accuracy of proton field delivery in terms of GTV prescription dose coverage when small fields are delivered. Each HI-value was obtained from the CT image in less than 3 min on a computer with 2 GHz CPU allowing implementation of this methodology in clinical routine. For HI-values exceeding the threshold, either a change in beam direction (if feasible) or a recalculation of the dose with Monte Carlo would be highly recommended.

Keywords: Heterogeneities, Heterogeneity index, Monte Carlo, Proton therapy, Small fields


Morgenstern, C., Randerath, W. J., Schwaibold, M., Bolz, A., Jané, R., (2013). Feasibility of noninvasive single-channel automated differentiation of obstructive and central hypopneas with nasal airflow Respiration 85, (4), 312-318

Background: The identification of obstructive and central hypopneas is considered challenging in clinical practice. Presently, obstructive and central hypopneas are usually not differentiated or scores lack reliability due to the technical limitations of standard polysomnography. Esophageal pressure measurement is the gold-standard for identifying these events but its invasiveness deters its usage in daily practice. Objectives: To determine the feasibility and efficacy of an automatic noninvasive analysis method for the differentiation of obstructive and central hypopneas based solely on a single-channel nasal airflow signal. The obtained results are compared with gold-standard esophageal pressure scores. Methods: A total of 41 patients underwent full night polysomnography with systematic esophageal pressure recording. Two experts in sleep medicine independently differentiated hypopneas with the gold-standard esophageal pressure signal. Features were automatically extracted from the nasal airflow signal of each annotated hypopnea to train and test the automatic analysis method. Interscorer agreement between automatic and visual scorers was measured with Cohen's kappa statistic (κ). Results: A total of 1,237 hypopneas were visually differentiated. The automatic analysis achieved an interscorer agreement of κ = 0.37 and an accuracy of 69% for scorer A, κ = 0.40 and 70% for scorer B and κ = 0.41 and 71% for the agreed scores of scorers A and B. Conclusions: The promising results obtained in this pilot study demonstrate the feasibility of noninvasive single-channel hypopnea differentiation. Further development of this method may help improving initial diagnosis with home screening devices and offering a means of therapy selection and/or control.

Keywords: Central sleep hypopnea, Esophageal pressure, Home monitoring, Obstructive sleep hypopnea, Sleep disordered breathing


Vila, Olaia F., Bagó, Juli R., Navarro, Melba, Alieva, Maria, Aguilar, Elisabeth, Engel, Elisabeth, Planell, Josep, Rubio, Nuria, Blanco, Jerónimo, (2013). Calcium phosphate glass improves angiogenesis capacity of poly(lactic acid) scaffolds and stimulates differentiation of adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stromal cells to the endothelial lineage Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A 101A, (4), 932-941

The angiogenic capacity of a new biomaterial composite of poly(lactic acid) and calcium phosphate glass (PLA/CaP) was analyzed by noninvasive bioluminescence imaging (BLI) and histological procedures. Human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stromal cells expressing cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter regulated Photinus pyralis luciferase (hAMSC-PLuc) grew up to 30 times the initial cell load, in vitro, when seeded in PLA/CaP scaffolds, but suffered an initial growth crisis followed by recovery when the scaffolds were subcutaneously implanted in SCID mice. To analyze changes in gene expression, hAMSC-PLuc cells were double labeled with a CMV promoter regulated Renilla reniformis luciferase and a Photinus pyralis luciferase reporter regulated by either the PECAM promoter or a hypoxia response element (HRE) artificial promoter and seeded in PLA/CaP and PLA scaffolds implanted in SCID mice. Analysis by BLI showed that hAMSCs in scaffolds were induced to differentiate to the endothelial lineage and did this faster in PLA/CaP than in PLA scaffolds. Endothelial differentiation correlated with a decrease in the activity of HRE regulated luciferase expression, indicative of a reduction of hypoxia. Histological analysis showed that PLA/CaP scaffolds were colonized by a functional host vascular system. Moreover, colonization by isolectin B4 positive host cells was more effective in PLA/CaP than in PLA scaffolds, corroborating BLI results.

Keywords: Scaffold, Bioluminescence imaging, Cell differentiation, Angiogenesis, Mesenchymal stromal cells


Salerno, A., Levato, R., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Engel, E., Netti, P. A., Planell, J. A., (2013). Modular polylactic acid microparticle-based scaffolds prepared via microfluidic emulsion/solvent displacement process: Fabrication, characterization, and in vitro mesenchymal stem cells interaction study Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A 101A, (3), 720-732

The present study reports a novel approach for the design and fabrication of polylactic acid (PLA) microparticle-based scaffolds with microstructural properties suitable for bone and cartilage regeneration. Macroporous PLA scaffolds with controlled shape were fabricated by means of a semicontinuous process involving (1) microfluidic emulsification of a PLA/ethyl lactate solution (5% w/v) in a span 80/paraffin oil solution (3% v/v) followed by (2) particles coagulation/assembly in an acetone/water solution for the development of a continuous matrix. Porous scaffolds prepared from particles with monomodal or bimodal size distribution, overall porosity ranges from 93 to 96%, interparticles porosity from 41 to 54%, and static compression moduli from 0.3 to 1.4 MPa were manufactured by means of flow rate modulation of of the continuous phase during emulsion. The biological response of the scaffolds was assessed in vitro by using bone marrow-derived rat mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The results demonstrated the ability of the scaffolds to support the extensive and uniform three-dimensional adhesion, colonization, and proliferation of MSCs within the entire construct.

Keywords: Green solvent, Microfluidic, Microstructure, Stem cells, Scaffold


Aznar, Sonia, Paytubi, Sonia, Juárez, Antonio, (2013). The Hha protein facilitates incorporation of horizontally acquired DNA in enteric bacteria Microbiology 159, (3), 545-554

Hha-like proteins are an evolutive trait of members of the family Enterobacteriaceae. These proteins mimic the oligomerization domain of the nucleoid-associated protein H-NS and interact with this latter protein to modulate gene expression. In this report, we provide evidence that, as has been shown for H-NS, Hha-like proteins play an essential role facilitating acquisition of horizontally transferred DNA in both Escherichia coli and Salmonella. Incorporation of conjugative plasmids such as pHly152 or R27 results in a fitness cost in E. coli or Salmonella strains that lack Hha-like proteins. E. coli spontaneous derivatives from double hha ydgT mutants that showed an increased growth rate and a restored fitness overexpressed the H-NS protein. In addition to reinforcing the role of H-NS/Hha-modulating xenogeneic DNA, the results obtained demonstrate that the Enterobacteriaceae display regulatory features not found in other bacteria that facilitate incorporation of horizontally transferred DNA.


Raster, P., Späth, A., Bultakova, S., Gorostiza, P., König, B., Bregestovski, P., (2013). New GABA amides activating GABAA-receptors Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry 9, 406-410

We have prepared a series of new and some literature-reported GABA-amides and determined their effect on the activation of GABA A-receptors expressed in CHO cells. Special attention was paid to the purification of the target compounds to remove even traces of GABA contaminations, which may arise from deprotection steps in the synthesis. GABA-amides were previously reported to be partial, full or superagonists. In our hands these compounds were not able to activate GABAA-receptor channels in whole-cell patch-clamp recordings. New GABA-amides, however, gave moderate activation responses with a clear structure-activity relationship suggesting some of these compounds as promising molecular tools for the functional analysis of GABAA-receptors.


Rodríguez-Hernández, Ana G., Muñoz-Tabares, José, Godoy-Gallardo, Maria, Juárez, Antonio, Gil, Francisco-Javier, (2013). S. sanguinis adhesion on rough titanium surfaces: Effect of culture media Materials Science and Engineering: C 33, (2), 714-720

Bacterial colonization plays a key role in dental implant failure, because they attach directly on implant surface upon implantation. Between different types of bacteria associated with the oral environment, Streptococcus sanguinis is essential in this process since it is an early colonizer. In this work the relationship between titanium surfaces modified by shot blasting treatment and S. sanguinis adhesion; have been studied in approached human mouth environment. Bacteria pre-inoculated with routinary solution were put in contact with titanium samples, shot-blasted with alumina and silicon carbide, and adhesion results were compared with those obtained when bacteria were pre-inoculated with modified artificial saliva medium and on saliva pre-coated titanium samples. Our results showed that bacterial adhesion on titanium samples was influenced by culture conditions. When S. sanguinis was inoculated in routinary culture media, colonies forming unities per square millimeter presented an increment correlated with roughness and surface energy, but separated by the type of particle used during shot-blasting treatment; whereas in modified artificial saliva only a relationship between bacteria adhered and the increment in both roughness and surface energy were observed, regardless of the particle type. Finally, on human saliva pre-coated samples no significant differences were observed among roughness, surface energy or particle.

Keywords: S. sanguinis, Bacterial adhesion, Titanium, Artificial saliva, Surface energy, Roughness


Sánchez-Danes, A., Benzoni, P., Memo, M., Dell'Era, P., Raya, A., Consiglio, A., (2013). Induced pluripotent stem cell-based studies of Parkinson's disease: Challenges and promises CNS and Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets 12, (8), 1114-1127

A critical step in the development of effective therapeutics to treat Parkinson's disease (PD) is the identification of molecular pathogenic mechanisms underlying this chronically progressive neurodegenerative disease. However, while animal models have provided valuable information about the molecular basis of PD, the lack of faithful cellular and animal models that recapitulate human pathophysiology is delaying the development of new therapeutics. The reprogramming of somatic cells to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) using delivery of defined combinations of transcription factors is a groundbreaking discovery that opens great opportunities for modeling human diseases, including PD, since iPSC can be generated from patients and differentiated into disease-relevant cell types, which would capture the patients' genetic complexity. Furthermore, human iPSC-derived neuronal models offer unprecedented access to early stages of the disease, allowing the investigation of the events that initiate the pathologic process in PD. Recently, human iPSC-derived neurons from patients with familial and sporadic PD have been generated and importantly they recapitulate some PD-related cell phenotypes, including abnormal α-synuclein accumulation in vitro, and alterations in the autophagy machinery. This review highlights the current PD iPSC-based models and discusses the potential future research directions of this field.

Keywords: Human cellular model, Induced pluripotent stem cells, Neurodegenerative disease, Parkinson's disease


Cendra, M. M., Juárez, A., Madrid, C., Torrents, E., (2013). H-NS is a novel transcriptional modulator of the ribonucleotide reductase genes in escherichia coli Journal of Bacteriology 195, (18), 4255-4263

Ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs) are essential enzymes for DNA synthesis because they are responsible for the production of the four deoxyribonucleotides (dNTPs) from their corresponding ribonucleotides. Escherichia coli contains two classes of aerobic RNRs, encoded by the nrdAB (class Ia) and nrdHIEF (class Ib) operons, and a third RNR class, which is functional under anaerobic conditions and is encoded by the nrdDG (class III) operon. Because cellular imbalances in the amounts of the four dNTPs cause an increase in the rate of mutagenesis, the activity and the expression of RNRs must be tightly regulated during bacterial chromosome replication. The transcriptional regulation of these genes requires several transcription factors (including DnaA, IciA, FIS [factor for inversion stimulation], Fnr, Fur, and NrdR), depending on the RNR class; however, the factors that dictate the expression of some RNR genes in response to different environmental conditions are not known. We show that H-NS modulates the expression of the nrdAB and nrdDG operons. H-NS represses expression both in aerobically and in anaerobically growing cells. Under aerobic conditions, repression occurs at the exponential phase of growth as well as at the transition from the exponential to the stationary phase, a period when no dNTPs are needed. Under anoxic conditions, repression occurs mainly in exponentially growing cells. Electrophoretic mobility assays performed with two DNA fragments from the regulatory region of the nrdAB operon demonstrated the direct interaction of H-NS with these sequences.


Serra, T., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Planell, J., Navarro, M., (2013). 3D printed PLA-based scaffolds: A versatile tool in regenerative medicine Organogenesis 9, (4), 239-244

Rapid prototyping (RP), also known as additive manufacturing (AM), has been well received and adopted in the biomedical field. The capacity of this family of techniques to fabricate customized 3D structures with complex geometries and excellent reproducibility has revolutionized implantology and regenerative medicine. In particular, nozzle-based systems allow the fabrication of high-resolution polylactic acid (PLA) structures that are of interest in regenerative medicine. These 3D structures find interesting applications in the regenerative medicine field where promising applications including biodegradable templates for tissue regeneration purposes, 3D in vitro platforms for studying cell response to different scaffolds conditions and for drug screening are considered among others. Scaffolds functionality depends not only on the fabrication technique, but also on the material used to build the 3D structure, the geometry and inner architecture of the structure, and the final surface properties. All being crucial parameters affecting scaffolds success. This Commentary emphasizes the importance of these parameters in scaffolds’ fabrication and also draws the attention toward the versatility of these PLA scaffolds as a potential tool in regenerative medicine and other medical fields.


Dols-Perez, A., Sisquella, X., Fumagalli, L., Gomila, G., (2013). Optical visualization of ultrathin mica flakes on semitransparent gold substrates Nanoscale Research Letters 8, (1), 1-5

We show that optical visualization of ultrathin mica flakes on metallic substrates is viable using semitransparent gold as substrates. This enables to easily localize mica flakes and rapidly estimate their thickness directly on gold substrates by conventional optical reflection microscopy. We experimentally demonstrate it by comparing optical images with atomic force microscopy images of mica flakes on semitransparent gold. Present results open the possibility for simple and rapid characterization of thin mica flakes as well as other thin sheets directly on metallic substrates.

Keywords: Atomic force, Conductive AFM, Gold substrates, Metallic substrate, Optical image, Optical reflection, Optical visualization, Ultrathin layers, Atomic force microscopy, Geometrical optics, Gold, Mica, Optical microscopy, Substrates


Best, S., Planell, J. A., Santin, M., Voskerician, G., Amédée, J., (2013). Editorial Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine 24, (6), 1333-1334

Moving forward in the short term, we hope to see the Impact Factor of the Journal continue its upward trajectory as a measure of service to our readers. Toward that end we will continue our efforts to increase the visibility of the journal, which will be achieved through a number of approaches. Further details will be announced at the ESB meeting this summer. We plan to encourage a series of high profile reviews, and will continue to strive to reduce the processing time for papers. We have upgraded our reviewer database and are grateful to those people who have already updated their profiles in the new electronic system. This facilitates our search for suitable reviewers, by expertise, and helps to speed up the whole process in a number of ways which benefit both reviewers and authors Longer term, our goal is to be the journal of choice for leading biomaterials scientists in Europe, the USA and across the world for both speed and quality of publication. We would especially like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support of the journal.


Rodriguez-Segui, Santiago A., Ortuno, Maria Jose, Ventura, Francesc, Martinez, Elena, Samitier, Josep, (2013). Simplified microenvironments and reduced cell culture size influence the cell differentiation outcome in cellular microarrays Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine 24, (1), 189-198

Cellular microarrays present a promising tool for multiplex evaluation of the signalling effect of substrate-immobilized factors on cellular differentiation. In this paper, we compare the early myoblast-to-osteoblast cell commitment steps in response to a growth factor stimulus using standard well plate differentiation assays or cellular microarrays. Our results show that restraints on the cell culture size, inherent to cellular microarrays, impair the differentiation outcome. Also, while cells growing on spots with immobilised BMP-2 are early biased towards the osteoblast fate, longer periods of cell culturing in the microarrays result in cell proliferation and blockage of osteoblast differentiation. The results presented here raise concerns about the efficiency of cell differentiation when the cell culture dimensions are reduced to a simplified microspot environment. Also, these results suggest that further efforts should be devoted to increasing the complexity of the microspots composition, aiming to replace signalling cues missing in this system.


Riggio, C., Nocentini, S., Catalayud, M. P., Goya, G. F., Cuschieri, A., Raffa, V., del Río, J. A., (2013). Generation of magnetized olfactory ensheathing cells for regenerative studies in the central and peripheral nervous tissue International Journal of Molecular Sciences 14, (6), 10852-10868

As olfactory receptor axons grow from the peripheral to the central nervous system (CNS) aided by olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), the transplantation of OECs has been suggested as a plausible therapy for spinal cord lesions. The problem with this hypothesis is that OECs do not represent a single homogeneous entity, but, instead, a functionally heterogeneous population that exhibits a variety of responses, including adhesion and repulsion during cell-matrix interactions. Some studies report that the migratory properties of OECs are compromised by inhibitory molecules and potentiated by chemical gradients. In this paper, we report a system based on modified OECs carrying magnetic nanoparticles as a proof of concept experiment enabling specific studies aimed at exploring the potential of OECs in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Our studies have confirmed that magnetized OECs (i) survive well without exhibiting stress-associated cellular responses; (ii) in vitro, their migration can be modulated by magnetic fields; and (iii) their transplantation in organotypic slices of spinal cord and peripheral nerve showed positive integration in the model. Altogether, these findings indicate the therapeutic potential of magnetized OECs for CNS injuries.

Keywords: Magnetic nanoparticle, Nerve regeneration, Olfactory ensheathing cell, Organotypic culture


Peñuelas, O., Melo, E., Sánchez, C., Sánchez, I., Quinn, K., Ferruelo, A., Pérez-Vizcaíno, F., Esteban, A., Navajas, D., Nin, N., Lorente, J. A., Farré, R., (2013). Antioxidant effect of human adult adipose-derived stromal stem cells in alveolar epithelial cells undergoing stretch Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology 188, (1), 1-8

Introduction: Alveolar epithelial cells undergo stretching during mechanical ventilation. Stretch can modify the oxidative balance in the alveolar epithelium. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the antioxidant role of human adult adipose tissue-derived stromal cells (hADSCs) when human alveolar epithelial cells were subjected to injurious cyclic overstretching. Methods: A549 cells were subjected to biaxial stretch (0-15% change in surface area for 24. h, 0.2. Hz) with and without hADSCs. At the end of the experiments, oxidative stress was measured as superoxide generation using positive nuclear dihydroethidium (DHE) staining, superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in cell lysates, 8-isoprostane concentrations in supernatant, and 3-nitrotyrosine by indirect immunofluorescence in fixed cells. Results: Cyclically stretching of AECs induced a significant decrease in SOD activity, and an increase in 8-isoprostane concentrations, DHE staining and 3-nitrotyrosine staining compared with non-stretched cells. Treatment with hADSCs significantly attenuated stretch-induced changes in SOD activity, 8-isoprostane concentrations, DHE and 3-nitrotyrosine staining. Conclusion: These data suggest that hADSCs have an anti-oxidative effect in human alveolar epithelial cells undergoing cyclic stretch.

Keywords: Acute lung injury, Cyclic stretch, Human adipose-derived stromal stem cells, Oxidative stress


Torres, M., Montserrat, J. M., Pavía, J., Dalmases, M., Ros, D., Fernandez, Y., Barbé, F., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2013). Chronic intermittent hypoxia preserves bone density in a mouse model of sleep apnea Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology 189, (3), 646-648

Very recent clinical research has investigated whether obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may modulate bone homeostasis but the few data available are conflicting. Here we report novel data obtained in a mouse study specifically designed to determine whether chronic intermittent hypoxia realistically mimicking OSA modifies bone mineral density (BMD). Normal male and female mice and orchidectomized mice (N= 10 each group) were subjected to a pattern of high-frequency intermittent hypoxia (20. s at 5% and 40. s at 21%, 60 cycles/h) for 6. h/day. Identical groups breathing room air (normoxia) were the controls. After 32 days of intermittent hypoxia/normoxia the trabecular bone mineral density (BMD) in the peripheral femora were measured by micro-CT scanning. When compared with normoxia (two-way ANOVA), intermittent hypoxia did not significantly modify BMD in the three animal groups tested. Data in this study suggest that the type of intermittent hypoxia characterizing OSA, applied as a single challenge, preserves bone homeostasis.


Almendros, I., Montserrat, J. M., Torres, M., Dalmases, M., Cabañas, M. L., Campos-Rodríguez, F., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2013). Intermittent hypoxia increases melanoma metastasis to the lung in a mouse model of sleep apnea Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology 186, (3), 303-307

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has recently been associated with an increased risk of cancer incidence and mortality in humans. Experimental data in mice have also shown that intermittent hypoxia similar to that observed in OSA patients enhances tumor growth. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that intermittent hypoxia mimicking OSA enhances lung metastasis. A total of 75 C57BL/6J male mice (10-week-old) were subjected to either spontaneous or induced melanoma lung metastasis. Normoxic animals breathed room air and intermittent hypoxic animals were subjected to cycles of 20s of 5% O2 followed by 40s of room air for 6h/day. Spontaneous and induced lung metastases were studied after subcutaneous and intravenous injection of B16F10 melanoma cells, respectively. Compared with normoxia, intermittent hypoxia induced a significant increase in melanoma lung metastasis. These animal model results suggest that intermittent hypoxia could contribute to cancer metastasis in patients with OSA.

Keywords: Intermittent hypoxia, Melanoma, Metastasis, OSA


Llorens, F., Ansoleaga, B., Garcia-Esparcia, P., Zafar, S., Grau-Rivera, O., López-González, I., Blanco, R., Carmona, M., Yagüe, J., Nos, C., Del Río, J. A., Gelpí, E., Zerr, I., Ferrer, I., (2013). PrP mRNa and protein expression in brain and PrPc in CSF in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease MM1 and VV2 Prion 7, (5), 383-393

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (cJD) is a heterogenic neurodegenerative disorder associated with abnormal posttranslational processing of cellular prion protein (PrPc). cJD displays distinctive clinical and pathological features which correlate with the genotype at the codon 129 (methionine or valine: M or V respectively) in the prion protein gene and with size of the protease-resistant core of the abnormal prion protein PrPsc (type 1:20/21 kDa and type 2:19 kDa). MM1 and VV2 are the most common sporadic cJD (scJD) subtypes. PrP mRNa expression levels in the frontal cortex and cerebellum are reduced in scJD in a form subtype-dependent. Total PrP protein levels and PrPsc levels in the frontal cortex and cerebellum accumulate differentially in scJD MM1 and scJD VV2 with no relation between PrPsc deposition and spongiform degeneration and neuron loss, but with microgliosis, and IL6 and TNF-α response. In the cSF, reduced PrPc, the only form present in this compartment, occurs in scJD MM1 and VV2. PrP mRNa expression is also reduced in the frontal cortex in advanced stages of alzheimer disease, Lewy body disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, and frontotemporal lobe degeneration, but PrPc levels in brain varies from one disease to another. Reduced PrPc levels in cSF correlate with PrP mRNa expression in brain, which in turn reflects severity of degeneration in scJD.


Malandrino, Andrea, Noailly, J., Lacroix, Damien, (2013). Regional annulus fibre orientations used as a tool for the calibration of lumbar intervertebral disc finite element models Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering 16, (9), 923-928

The collagen network of the annulus fibrosus largely controls the functional biomechanics of the lumbar intervertebral discs (IVDs). Quantitative anatomical examinations have shown bundle orientation patterns, possibly coming from regional adaptations of the annulus mechanics. This study aimed to show that the regional differences in annulus mechanical behaviour could be reproduced by considering only fibre orientation changes. Using the finite element method, a lumbar annulus was modelled as a poro-hyperelastic material in which fibres were represented by a direction-dependent strain energy density term. Fibre orientations were calibrated to reproduce the annulus tensile behaviours measured for four different regions: posterior outer, anterior outer, posterior inner and anterior inner. The back-calculated fibre angles and regional patterns as well as the global disc behaviour were comparable with anatomical descriptions reported in the literature. It was concluded that annulus fibre variations might be an effective tool to calibrate lumbar spine IVD and segment models.

Keywords: Intervertebral disc, Annulus fibrosus, Model calibration, Fibre orientation


Sarlabous, L., Torres, A., Fiz, J. A., Morera, J., Jané, R., (2013). Index for estimation of muscle force from mechanomyography based on the Lempel-Ziv algorithm Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 23, (3), 548-557

The study of the amplitude of respiratory muscle mechanomyographic (MMG) signals could be useful in clinical practice as an alternative non-invasive technique to assess respiratory muscle strength. The MMG signal is stochastic in nature, and its amplitude is usually estimated by means of the average rectified value (ARV) or the root mean square (RMS) of the signal. Both parameters can be used to estimate MMG activity, as they correlate well with muscle force. These estimations are, however, greatly affected by the presence of structured impulsive noise that overlaps in frequency with the MMG signal. In this paper, we present a method for assessing muscle activity based on the Lempel-Ziv algorithm: the Multistate Lempel-Ziv (MLZ) index. The behaviour of the MLZ index was tested with synthesised signals, with various amplitude distributions and degrees of complexity, and with recorded diaphragm MMG signals. We found that this index, like the ARV and RMS parameters, is positively correlated with changes in amplitude of the diaphragm MMG components, but is less affected by components that have non-random behaviour (like structured impulsive noise). Therefore, the MLZ index could provide more information to assess the MMG-force relationship.

Keywords: Diaphragm, Electromyography, Lempel-Ziv, Mechanomyography, Muscle force, Respiratory muscles


Muñoz, J. J., Conte, V., Asadipour, N., Miodownik, M., (2013). A truss element for modelling reversible softening in living tissues Mechanics Research Communications 49, 44-49

We resort to non-linear viscoelasticity to develop a truss element able to model reversible softening in lung epithelial tissues undergoing transient stretch. Such a Maxwell truss element is built by resorting to a three-noded element whose mid-node is kinematically constrained to remain on the line connecting the end-nodes. The whole mechanical system undergoes an additive decomposition of the strains along the truss direction where the total contribution of the mid-node is accounted for by using a null-space projection and static condensation techniques. Assembling of such line-elements in 3D networks allows us to model extended regions of living tissues as well as their anisotropies.

Keywords: Maxwell, Null-space, Reversible softening, Truss, Viscoelasticity


Garde, Ainara, Voss, Andreas, Caminal, Pere, Benito, Salvador, Giraldo, Beatriz F., (2013). SVM-based feature selection to optimize sensitivity-specificity balance applied to weaning Computers in Biology and Medicine 43, (5), 533-540

Classification algorithms with unbalanced datasets tend to produce high predictive accuracy over the majority class, but poor predictive accuracy over the minority class. This problem is very common in biomedical data mining. This paper introduces a Support Vector Machine (SVM)-based optimized feature selection method, to select the most relevant features and maintain an accurate and well-balanced sensitivity–specificity result between unbalanced groups. A new metric called the balance index (B) is defined to implement this optimization. The balance index measures the difference between the misclassified data within each class. The proposed optimized feature selection is applied to the classification of patients' weaning trials from mechanical ventilation: patients with successful trials who were able to maintain spontaneous breathing after 48 h and patients who failed to maintain spontaneous breathing and were reconnected to mechanical ventilation after 30 min. Patients are characterized through cardiac and respiratory signals, applying joint symbolic dynamic (JSD) analysis to cardiac interbeat and breath durations. First, the most suitable parameters (C+,C−,

Keywords: Support vector machines, Balance index, Sensitivity-specificity balance, Cardiorespiratory interaction, Joint symbolic dynamics, Feature selection, Weaning procedure


Bianconi, E., Piovesan, A., Facchin, F., Beraudi, A., Casadei, R., Frabetti, F., Vitale, L., Pelleri, M. C., Tassani, S., Piva, F., Perez-Amodio, S., Strippoli, P., Canaider, S., (2013). An estimation of the number of cells in the human body Annals of Human Biology 40, (6), 463-471

Background: All living organisms are made of individual and identifiable cells, whose number, together with their size and type, ultimately defines the structure and functions of an organism. While the total cell number of lower organisms is often known, it has not yet been defined in higher organisms. In particular, the reported total cell number of a human being ranges between 1012 and 1016 and it is widely mentioned without a proper reference. Aim: To study and discuss the theoretical issue of the total number of cells that compose the standard human adult organism. Subjects and methods: A systematic calculation of the total cell number of the whole human body and of the single organs was carried out using bibliographical and/or mathematical approaches. Results: A current estimation of human total cell number calculated for a variety of organs and cell types is presented. These partial data correspond to a total number of 3.72×1013. Conclusions: Knowing the total cell number of the human body as well as of individual organs is important from a cultural, biological, medical and comparative modelling point of view. The presented cell count could be a starting point for a common effort to complete the total calculation.

Keywords: Cell size, Human cell number, Organ, Theoretical issue, Total cell count


Stocchi, A., Lauke, B., Giannotti, M. I., Vázquez, A., Bernal, C., (2013). Tensile response and fracture and failure behavior of jute fabrics-flyash-vinylester hybrid composites Fibers and Polymers 14, (2), 285-291

In this work, hybrid materials consisting on a vinylester matrix simultaneaously reinforced with jute woven fabrics and flyash particles were prepared. The tensile response and the fracture and failure behavior of these hybrid composites were investigated. Thermal stability of these materials was also studied. The aim was to obtain an environmentally friendly hybrid material with a good balance of tensile and fracture properties at relatively low cost. The effect of a novel treatment for the jute fabrics on the hybrids mechanical and fracture properties was investigated. The best balance of tensile and fracture properties was obtained for the hybrid consisting of fabrics treated with alkali under stress and fly ashes which also exhibited relatively high thermal stability.

Keywords: Natural fibers, Fly ash, Hybrid composite, Mechanical properties, Fracture


Giraldo, B. F., Tellez, J. P., Herrera, S., Benito, S., (2013). Analysis of heart rate variability in elderly patients with chronic heart failure during periodic breathing CinC 2013 Computing in Cardiology Conference (CinC) , IEEE (Zaragoza, Spain) , 991-994

Assessment of the dynamic interactions between cardiovascular signals can provide valuable information that improves the understanding of cardiovascular control. Heart rate variability (HRV) analysis is known to provide information about the autonomic heart rate modulation mechanism. Using the HRV signal, we aimed to obtain parameters for classifying patients with and without chronic heart failure (CHF), and with periodic breathing (PB), non-periodic breathing (nPB), and Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSR) patterns. An electrocardiogram (ECG) and a respiratory flow signal were recorded in 36 elderly patients: 18 patients with CHF and 18 patients without CHF. According to the clinical criteria, the patients were classified into the follow groups: 19 patients with nPB pattern, 7 with PB pattern, 4 with Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSR), and 6 non-classified patients (problems with respiratory signal). From the HRV signal, parameters in the time and frequency domain were calculated. Frequency domain parameters were the most discriminant in comparisons of patients with and without CHF: PTot (p = 0.02), PLF (p = 0.022) and fpHF (p = 0.021). For the comparison of the nPB vs. CSR patients groups, the best parameters were RMSSD (p = 0.028) and SDSD (p = 0.028). Therefore, the parameters appear to be suitable for enhanced diagnosis of decompensated CHF patients and the possibility of developed periodic breathing and a CSR pattern.

Keywords: cardiovascular system, diseases, electrocardiography, frequency-domain analysis, geriatrics, medical signal processing, patient diagnosis, pneumodynamics, signal classification, Cheyne-Stokes respiration patterns, ECG, autonomic heart rate modulation mechanism, cardiovascular control, cardiovascular signals, chronic heart failure, decompensated CHF patients, dynamic interaction assessment, elderly patients, electrocardiogram, enhanced diagnosis, frequency domain parameters, heart rate variability analysis, patient classification, periodic breathing, respiratory flow signal recording, Electrocardiography, Frequency modulation, Frequency-domain analysis, Heart rate variability, Senior citizens, Standards


Marco, S., Gutiérrez-Gálvez, A., Lansner, A., Martinez, D., Rospars, J. P., Beccherelli, R., Perera, A., Pearce, T., Vershure, P., Persaud, K., (2013). Biologically inspired large scale chemical sensor arrays and embedded data processing Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering Smart Sensors, Actuators, and MEMS VI , SPIE Digital Library (Grenoble, France) 8763, 1-15

Biological olfaction outperforms chemical instrumentation in specificity, response time, detection limit, coding capacity, time stability, robustness, size, power consumption, and portability. This biological function provides outstanding performance due, to a large extent, to the unique architecture of the olfactory pathway, which combines a high degree of redundancy, an efficient combinatorial coding along with unmatched chemical information processing mechanisms. The last decade has witnessed important advances in the understanding of the computational primitives underlying the functioning of the olfactory system. EU Funded Project NEUROCHEM (Bio-ICT-FET- 216916) has developed novel computing paradigms and biologically motivated artefacts for chemical sensing taking inspiration from the biological olfactory pathway. To demonstrate this approach, a biomimetic demonstrator has been built featuring a large scale sensor array (65K elements) in conducting polymer technology mimicking the olfactory receptor neuron layer, and abstracted biomimetic algorithms have been implemented in an embedded system that interfaces the chemical sensors. The embedded system integrates computational models of the main anatomic building blocks in the olfactory pathway: The olfactory bulb, and olfactory cortex in vertebrates (alternatively, antennal lobe and mushroom bodies in the insect). For implementation in the embedded processor an abstraction phase has been carried out in which their processing capabilities are captured by algorithmic solutions. Finally, the algorithmic models are tested with an odour robot with navigation capabilities in mixed chemical plumes.

Keywords: Antennal lobes, Artificial olfaction, Computational neuroscience, Olfactory bulbs, Plume tracking, Abstracting, Actuators, Algorithms, Biomimetic processes, Chemical sensors, Conducting polymers, Data processing, Flavors, Odors, Robots, Smart sensors, Embedded systems


Sarlabous, L., Torres, A., Fiz, J. A., Jané, R., (2013). Cardiac interference reduction in diaphragmatic MMG signals during a Maintained Inspiratory Pressure Test Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 35th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Osaka, Japan) , 3845-3848

A recursive least square (RLS) adaptive filtering algorithm for reduction of cardiac interference in diaphragmatic mecanomyographic (MMGdi) signals is addressed in this paper. MMGdi signals were acquired with a capacitive accelerometer placed between 7th and 8th intercostal spaces, on the right anterior axillary line, during a maintained inspiratory pressure test. Subjects were asked to maintain a constant inspiratory pressure with a mouthpiece connected to a closed tube (without breathing). This maneuver was repeated at five different contraction efforts: apnea (no effort), 20 cmH2O, 40 cmH2O, 60 cmH2O and maximum voluntary contraction. An adaptive noise canceller (ANC) using the RLS algorithm was applied on the MMGdi signals. To evaluate the behavior of the ANC, the MMGdi signals were analyzed in two segments: with and without cardiac interference (WCI and NCI, respectively). In both segments it was analyzed the power spectral density (PSD), and the ARV and RMS amplitude parameters for each contraction effort. With the proposed ANC algorithm the amplitude parameters of the WCI segments were reduced to a level similar to the one of the NCI segments. The obtained results showed that ANC using the RLS algorithm allows to significantly reduce the cardiac interference in MMGdi signals.


Estrada, L., Torres, A., Garcia-Casado, J., Prats-Boluda, G., Jané, R., (2013). Characterization of laplacian surface electromyographic signals during isometric contraction in biceps brachii Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 35th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Osaka, Japan) , 535-538

Surface electromyography (sEMG) is a noninvasive technique for monitoring the electrical activity produced by the muscles. Usually, sEMG is performed by carrying out monopolar or bipolar recordings by means of conventional Ag/AgCl electrodes. In contrast, Laplacian recordings of sEMG could also be obtained by using coaxial ring electrodes. Laplacian recordings increase spatial resolution and attenuate other distant bioelectric interferences. Nevertheless, the spectral characteristics of this kind of recordings have been scarcely studied. The objective of this paper is to characterize the sEMG signals recorded with a Laplacian ring electrode and to compare them with traditional bipolar recordings with disc electrodes. Both kinds of signals were collected simultaneously in two healthy subjects during resting and sustained isometric voluntary contraction activities in biceps brachii. The conducted study computed the cumulative percentage of the power spectrum of sEMG so as to determine the energy bandwidth of the two kinds of recordings and the signal to noise ratio in different bands of the sEMG spectrum. Also, muscle fatigue, a condition when muscle force is reduced, was assessed using indexes from amplitude and frequency domain. The results of this study suggest that Laplacian sEMG has higher spectral bandwidth but a lower signal to noise ratio in comparison to bipolar sEMG. In addition, frequency fatigue indexes showed that Laplacian recording had better response than bipolar recording, which suggests that Laplacian electrode can be useful to study muscular fatigue due to better spatial resolution.


Arcentales, A., Voss, A., Caminal, P., Bayes-Genis, A., Domingo, M. T., Giraldo, B. F., (2013). Characterization of patients with different ventricular ejection fractions using blood pressure signal analysis CinC 2013 Computing in Cardiology Conference (CinC) , IEEE (Zaragoza, Spain) , 795-798

Ischemic and dilated cardiomyopathy are associated with disorders of myocardium. Using the blood pressure (BP) signal and the values of the ventricular ejection fraction, we obtained parameters for stratifying cardiomyopathy patients as low- and high-risk. We studied 48 cardiomyopathy patients characterized by NYHA ≥2: 19 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and 29 patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy (ICM). The left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) percentage was used to classify patients in low risk (LR: LVEF > 35%, 17 patients) and high risk (HR: LVEF ≤ 35%, 31 patients) groups. From the BP signal, we extracted the upward systolic slope (BPsl), the difference between systolic and diastolic BP (BPA), and systolic time intervals (STI). When we compared the LR and HR groups in the time domain analysis, the best parameters were standard deviation (SD) of 1=STI, kurtosis (K) of BPsl, and K of BPA. In the frequency domain analysis, very low frequency (VLF) and high frequency (HF) bands showed statistically significant differences in comaprisons of LR and HR groups. The area under the curve of power spectral density was the best parameter in all classifications, and particularly in the very-low-and high- frequency bands (p <; 0.001). These parameters could help to improve the risk stratification of cardiomyopathy patients.

Keywords: blood pressure measurement, cardiovascular system, diseases, medical disorders, medical signal processing, statistical analysis, time-domain analysis, BP signal, HR groups, LR groups, blood pressure signal analysis, cardiomyopathy patients, diastolic BP, dilated cardiomyopathy, frequency domain analysis, high-frequency bands, ischemic cardiomyopathy, left ventricular ejection fraction, low-frequency bands, myocardium disorders, patient characterization, power spectral density curve, standard deviation, statistical significant differences, systolic BP, systolic slope, systolic time intervals, time domain analysis, ventricular ejection fraction, Abstracts, Databases, Parameter extraction, Telecommunication standards, Time-frequency analysis


Giraldo, B. F., Chaparro, J. A., Caminal, P., Benito, S., (2013). Characterization of the respiratory pattern variability of patients with different pressure support levels Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 35th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Osaka, Japan) , 3849-3852

One of the most challenging problems in intensive care is still the process of discontinuing mechanical ventilation, called weaning process. Both an unnecessary delay in the discontinuation process and a weaning trial that is undertaken too early are undesirable. In this study, we analyzed respiratory pattern variability using the respiratory volume signal of patients submitted to two different levels of pressure support ventilation (PSV), prior to withdrawal of the mechanical ventilation. In order to characterize the respiratory pattern, we analyzed the following time series: inspiratory time, expiratory time, breath duration, tidal volume, fractional inspiratory time, mean inspiratory flow and rapid shallow breathing. Several autoregressive modeling techniques were considered: autoregressive models (AR), autoregressive moving average models (ARMA), and autoregressive models with exogenous input (ARX). The following classification methods were used: logistic regression (LR), linear discriminant analysis (LDA) and support vector machines (SVM). 20 patients on weaning trials from mechanical ventilation were analyzed. The patients, submitted to two different levels of PSV, were classified as low PSV and high PSV. The variability of the respiratory patterns of these patients were analyzed. The most relevant parameters were extracted using the classifiers methods. The best results were obtained with the interquartile range and the final prediction errors of AR, ARMA and ARX models. An accuracy of 95% (93% sensitivity and 90% specificity) was obtained when the interquartile range of the expiratory time and the breath duration time series were used a LDA model. All classifiers showed a good compromise between sensitivity and specificity.

Keywords: autoregressive moving average processes, feature extraction, medical signal processing, patient care, pneumodynamics, signal classification, support vector machines, time series, ARX, autoregressive modeling techniques, autoregressive models with exogenous input, autoregressive moving average model, breath duration time series, classification method, classifier method, discontinuing mechanical ventilation, expiratory time, feature extraction, final prediction errors, fractional inspiratory time, intensive care, interquartile range, linear discriminant analysis, logistic regression analysis, mean inspiratory flow, patient respiratory volume signal, pressure support level, pressure support ventilation, rapid shallow breathing, respiratory pattern variability characterization, support vector machines, tidal volume, weaning trial, Analytical models, Autoregressive processes, Biological system modeling, Estimation, Support vector machines, Time series analysis, Ventilation


Lozano, M., Fiz, J. A., Jané, R., (2013). Estimation of instantaneous frequency from empirical mode decomposition on respiratory sounds analysis Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 35th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Osaka, Japan) , 981-984

Instantaneous frequency (IF) calculated by empirical mode decomposition (EMD) provides a novel approach to analyze respiratory sounds (RS). Traditionally, RS have been analyzed using classical time-frequency distributions, such as short-time Fourier transform (STFT) or wavelet transform (WT). However, EMD has become a powerful tool for nonlinear and non-stationary data analysis. IF estimated by EMD has two major advantages: its high temporal resolution and the fact that a priori knowledge of the signal characteristics is not required. In this study, we have estimated IF by EMD on real RS signals in order to identify continuous adventitious sounds (CAS), such as wheezes, within inspiratory sounds cycles. We show that there are differences in IF distribution among frequency scales of RS signal when CAS are within RS. Therefore, a new method for RS analysis and classification may be developed by combining both EMD and IF.


Casals, A., Amat, J., (2013). Exploring improvements on the complexity-performance ratio and usability of surgical robots Evaluating effectiveness and acceptance of robots in surgery: user centered design and economic factors IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2013) , Robotic SurgePedia BETA! (Karlsruhe, Germany) , 1-6

Surgical robots are endowed with valuable features that allow surgeons improving their work in terms of accuracy, quality, efficiency and liability. Tremor reduction, scaled movements, virtual fixtures, pre and intraoperative imaging are some examples of enhancing aids for the surgeon. Moreover, being robotics surgery still at an early phase of development, current research efforts are focused to develop robotic systems able to solve more complex tasks, though the associated costs of robotics makes the convenience of its use in some kind of interventions questionable. After analyzing the main performances and limitations of current surgical robots, this paper foresees advances towards ideal robotic systems that satisfy the requirements of future robots.

Keywords: -----


Vinagre, M., Aranda, J., Casals, A., (2013). Human motion recognition from 3D pose information: Trisarea: A New Pose-based Feature Proceedings of ICINCO 2013 10th International Conference on Informatics in Control, Automation and Robotics (ICINCO 2013) , SCITEPRESS Digital Library (Reykjavík, Iceland) 2, 74-82

The use of pose-based features has demonstrated to be a promising approach for human motion recognition. Encouraged by the results achieved, a new relational pose-based feature, Trisarea, based on geometric relationship between human joints, is proposed and analysed. This feature is defined as the area of the triangle formed by connecting three joints. The paper shows how the variation of a selected set of Trisarea features over time constitutes a descriptor of human motion. It also demonstrates how this motion descriptor based on Trisarea features can provide useful information in terms of human motion for its application to action recognition tasks.


Santano-Martínez, R., Leiva-González, R., Avazbeigi, M., Gutiérrez-Gálvez, A., Marco, S., (2013). Identification of molecular properties coding areas in rat's olfactory bulb by rank products Proceedings of the International Conference on Bio-Inspired Systems and Signal Processing BIOSIGNALS 2013 , SciTePress (Barcelona, Spain) , 383-387

Neural coding of chemical information is still under strong debate. It is clear that, in vertebrates, neural representation in the olfactory bulb is a key for understanding a putative odour code. To explore this code, in this work we have studied a public dataset of radio images of 2-Deoxyglucose uptake (2-DG) in the olfactory bulb of rats in response to diverse odorants using univariate pixel selection algorithms: rank-products and Mann-Whitney U (MWU) test. Initial results indicate that some chemical properties of odorants preferentially activate certain areas of the rat olfactory bulb. While non-parametric test (MWU) has difficulties to detect these regions, rank-product provides a higher power of detection.

Keywords: 2-Deoxyglucose uptake, Chemotopy, Feature selection, Odour coding, Olfaction, Olfactory bulb


Hernando, D., Alcaine, A., Pueyo, E., Laguna, P., Orini, M., Arcentales, A., Giraldo, B., Voss, A., Bayes-Genis, A., Bailon, R., (2013). Influence of respiration in the very low frequency modulation of QRS slopes and heart rate variability in cardiomyopathy patients CinC 2013 Computing in Cardiology Conference (CinC) , IEEE (Zaragoza, Spain) , 117-120

This work investigates the very low frequency (VLF) modulation of QRS slopes and heart rate variability (HRV). Electrocardiogram (ECG) and respiratory flow signal were acquired from patients with dilated cardiomyopathy and ischemic cardiomyopathy. HRV as well as the upward QRS slope (IUS) and downward QRS slope (IDS) were extracted from the ECG. The relation between HRV and QRS slopes in the VLF band was measured using ordinary coherence in 5-minute segments. Partial coherence was then used to remove the influence that respiration simultaneously exerts on HRV and QRS slopes. A statistical threshold was determined, below which coherence values were considered not to represent a linear relation. 7 out of 276 segments belonging to 5 out of 29 patients for IUS and 10 segments belonging to 5 patients for IDS presented a VLF modulation in QRS slopes, HRV and respiration. In these segments spectral coherence was statistically significant, while partial coherence decreased, indicating that the coupling HRV and QRS slopes was related to respiration. 4 segments had a partial coherence value below the threshold for IUS, 3 segments for IDS. The rest of the segments also presented a notable decrease in partial coherence, but still above the threshold, which means that other non-linearly effects may also affect this modulation.

Keywords: diseases, electrocardiography, feature extraction, medical signal processing, pneumodynamics, statistical analysis, ECG, QRS slopes, cardiomyopathy patients, dilated cardiomyopathy, electrocardiogram, feature extraction, heart rate variability, ischemic cardiomyopathy, ordinary coherence, partial coherence value, respiration, respiratory flow signal acquisition, spectral coherence, statistical threshold, time 5 min, very low frequency modulation, Coherence, Educational institutions, Electrocardiography, Frequency modulation, Heart rate variability


Malandrino, A., Lacroix, D., Noailly, J., (2013). Intervertebral disc cell death explained by metabolism-deformation couplings in a porohyperelastic finite element model Poromechanics V 5th Biot Conference on Poromechanics , American Society of Civil Engineers (Vienna, Austria) , 2193-2201

Comprehensive understanding of disc degeneration and low back pain requires knowledge about both the mechanical and the biological factors that may affect tissue maintenance. In the present study, a coupled intervertebral disc model with a porohyperelastic formulation (mechanics) and a glycolitic metabolic transport and cell viability (biology) were used. Mechanotransduction phenomena were investigated. Boundary conditions and disc model characteristics, both inspired from an organ culture experiment, were introduced. The model predicted cell death in the most compressed region of the intervertebral disc, in agreement with the simulated experiment. Such result was attributed to a local effect of reduced metabolites diffusion when coupled to local mechanics in the porohyperelastic disc. Direct force sensing by the cells was explored and was shown to potentially extend the risk area in terms of cell death. The study contributes to the elucidation of mechanotransduction phenomena in the spine, and paves the way to biophysical developments, highly relevant to mechanobiology-inspired treatments of low-back pain.


Gonzalez, H., Acevedo, H., Arizmendi, C., Giraldo, B. F., (2013). Methodology for determine the moment of disconnection of patients of the mechanical ventilation using discrete wavelet transform Complex Medical Engineering (CME) 2013 ICME International Conference , IEEE (Beijing, China) , 483-486

The process of weaning from mechanical ventilation is one of the challenges in intensive care units. 66 patients under extubation process (T-tube test) were studied: 33 patients with successful trials and 33 patients who failed to maintain spontaneous breathing and were reconnected. Each patient was characterized using 7 time series from respiratory signals, and for each serie was evaluated the discrete wavelet transform. It trains a neural network for discriminating between patients from the two groups.

Keywords: discrete wavelet transforms, neural nets, patient treatment, pneumodynamics, time series, ventilation, T-tube test, discrete wavelet transform, extubation process, intensive care units, mechanical ventilation, moment of disconnection, neural network, patients, respiratory signals, spontaneous breathing, time series, weaning, Mechanical Ventilation, Neural Networks, Time series from respiratory signals, Wavelet Transform


Fernandez, L., Gutierrez-Galvez, A., Marco, S., (2013). Multi-way analysis of diversity and redundancy factors in large MOX gas sensor data Metal Oxide-based Sensors 14th International Meeting on Chemical Sensors - IMCS 2012 , AMA Science Portal (Nuremberg, Germany) P2.07, 1279-1280

We propose the use of multi-way methods to analyze the contribution of diversity and redundancy to odor identification and concentration estimation in a large chemical sensor array. We use a chemical sensing system based on a large array of metal oxide sensors (MOX) and inspired on the diversity and redundancy of the olfactory epithelium. In order to analyze the role of diversity (different sensor type and temperature modulation) and redundancy (replicates of sensors and different load resistors) in odor quantification and discrimination tasks, we have acquired two datasets and modeled the data using multi-way techniques.

Keywords: Artificial Olfaction, Large array, MOX gas sensor, Multi-way methods


Pujol, A., Riera, C., Fisa, R., Molina, I., Salvador, F., Estelrich, J., Urbán, P., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2013). Nanomedicine for infectious diseases: Application of quantum dots encapsulated in immunoliposomes to the study of targeted drug delivery against leishmaniasis and malaria Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Nanotechnology: Fundamentals and Applications. 4th International Conference on Nanotechnology: Fundamentals and Applications , International ASET Inc. (Ontario, Canada) , 1-8

Nanotechnological devices for therapeutic applications are massively addressed to diseases prevalent in the developed world, particularly cancer, because of the wrong assumption (for both ethical and technical reasons) that nanomedicines are too expensive and thus they can not be applied to diseases of poverty. Here we have applied quantum dots to study at the cellular level the delivery of the contents of immunoliposomes to erythrocytes infected by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, and to macrophages infected by the leishmaniasis causative agent Leishmania infantum. A number of works have reported on the encapsulation in liposomes of drugs against both diseases as a strategy to increase therapeutic efficacy and decrease unspecific toxicity. Liposome-carried drugs end up inside Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (pRBCs) and in the phagolysosome system of Leishmania-infected macrophages but some knowledge gaps still obscure subcellular events related to these processes. As a proof of concept, we have used confocal fluorescence microscopy to follow the fate in pRBCs and L. infantum-infected macrophages of quantum dots encapsulated in liposomes, and of lysosomes, Leishmania and Plasmodium parasites, nuclei, and phagosomes. Our data indicate that liposomes merge their lipid bilayers with pRBC plasma membranes but are engulfed by macrophages, where they fuse with lysosomes. Lysosomes have not been observed to join with phagosomes harboring single L. infantum parasites, whereas in phagosomes where the parasite has divided there is lysosome-specific fluorescence with a concomitant disappearance of lysosomes from the cytosol. In later stages, all the lysosome-specific label is found inside phagosomes whereas the phagosomal marker cadaverine strongly stains the macrophage nucleus, suggesting that L. infantum infection induces in its later stages nuclear degeneration and possibly, apoptosis of the host cell. These results indicate that induction of macrophage apoptosis should be explored as a possible strategy used by L. infantum to prepare its egress.

Keywords: Leishmania infantum, Leishmaniasis, Liposomes, Malaria, Nanomedicine, Nanotechnology, Plasmodium falciparum, Quantum dots


Jané, R., Lazaro, J., Ruiz, P., Gil, E., Navajas, D., Farre, R., Laguna, P., (2013). Obstructive Sleep Apnea in a rat model: Effects of anesthesia on autonomic evaluation from heart rate variability measures CinC 2013 Computing in Cardiology Conference (CinC) , IEEE (Zaragoza, Spain) , 1011-1014

Rat model of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a realistic approach for studying physiological mechanisms involved in sleep. Rats are usually anesthetized and autonomic nervous system (ANS) could be blocked. This study aimed to assess the effect of anesthesia on ANS activity during OSA episodes. Seven male Sprague-Dawley rats were anesthetized intraperitoneally with urethane (1g/kg). The experiments were conducted applying airway obstructions, simulating 15s-apnea episodes for 15 minutes. Five signals were acquired: respiratory pressure and flow, SaO2, ECG and photoplethysmography (PPG). In total, 210 apnea episodes were studied. Normalized power spectrum of Pulse Rate Variability (PRV) was analyzed in the Low Frequency (LF) and High Frequency (HF) bands, for each episode in consecutive 15s intervals (before, during and after the apnea). All episodes showed changes in respiratory flow and SaO2 signal. Conversely, decreases in the amplitude fluctuations of PPG (DAP) were not observed. Normalized LF presented extremely low values during breathing (median=7,67%), suggesting inhibition of sympathetic system due to anesthetic effect. Subtle increases of LF were observed during apnea. HRV and PPG analysis during apnea could be an indirect tool to assess the effect and deep of anesthesia.

Keywords: electrocardiography, fluctuations, medical disorders, medical signal detection, medical signal processing, neurophysiology, photoplethysmography, pneumodynamics, sleep, ECG, SaO2 flow, SaO2 signal, airway obstructions, amplitude fluctuations, anesthesia effects, anesthetized nervous system, autonomic evaluation, autonomic nervous system, breathing, heart rate variability, high-frequency bands, low-frequency bands, male Sprague-Dawley rats, normalized power spectrum, obstructive sleep apnea, photoplethysmography, physiological mechanisms, pulse rate variability, rat model, respiratory flow, respiratory pressure, signal acquisition, sympathetic system inhibition, time 15 min, time 15 s, Abstracts, Atmospheric modeling, Computational modeling, Electrocardiography, Rats, Resonant frequency


Giraldo, B. F., Tellez, J. P., Herrera, S., Benito, S., (2013). Study of the oscillatory breathing pattern in elderly patients Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 35th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Osaka, Japan) , 5228-5231

Some of the most common clinical problems in elderly patients are related to diseases of the cardiac and respiratory systems. Elderly patients often have altered breathing patterns, such as periodic breathing (PB) and Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSR), which may coincide with chronic heart failure. In this study, we used the envelope of the respiratory flow signal to characterize respiratory patterns in elderly patients. To study different breathing patterns in the same patient, the signals were segmented into windows of 5 min. In oscillatory breathing patterns, frequency and time-frequency parameters that characterize the discriminant band were evaluated to identify periodic and non-periodic breathing (PB and nPB). In order to evaluate the accuracy of this characterization, we used a feature selection process, followed by linear discriminant analysis. 22 elderly patients (7 patients with PB and 15 with nPB pattern) were studied. The following classification problems were analyzed: patients with either PB (with and without apnea) or nPB patterns, and patients with CSR versus PB, CSR versus nPB and PB versus nPB patterns. The results showed 81.8% accuracy in the comparisons of nPB and PB patients, using the power of the modulation peak. For the segmented signal, the power of the modulation peak, the frequency variability and the interquartile ranges provided the best results with 84.8% accuracy, for classifying nPB and PB patients.

Keywords: cardiovascular system, diseases, feature extraction, geriatrics, medical signal processing, oscillations, pneumodynamics, signal classification, time-frequency analysis, Cheyne-Stokes respiration, apnea, cardiac systems, chronic heart failure, classification problems, discriminant band, diseases, elderly patients, feature selection process, frequency variability, interquartile ranges, linear discriminant analysis, nonperiodic breathing, oscillatory breathing pattern, periodic breathing, respiratory How signal, respiratory systems, signal segmentation, time 5 min, time-frequency parameters, Accuracy, Aging, Frequency modulation, Heart, Senior citizens, Time-frequency analysis


Hernandez Bennetts, V. M., Lilienthal, A. J., Khaliq, A. A., Pomareda Sese, V., Trincavelli, M., (2013). Towards real-world gas distribution mapping and leak localization using a mobile robot with 3d and remote gas sensing capabilities 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) (ed. Parker, Lynne E.), IEEE (Karlsruhe, Germany) , 2335-2340

Due to its environmental, economical and safety implications, methane leak detection is a crucial task to address in the biogas production industry. In this paper, we introduce Gasbot, a robotic platform that aims to automatize methane emission monitoring in landfills and biogas production sites. The distinctive characteristic of the Gasbot platform is the use of a Tunable Laser Absorption Spectroscopy (TDLAS) sensor. This sensor provides integral concentration measurements over the path of the laser beam. Existing gas distribution mapping algorithms can only handle local measurements obtained from traditional in-situ chemical sensors. In this paper we also describe an algorithm to generate 3D methane concentration maps from integral concentration and depth measurements. The Gasbot platform has been tested in two different scenarios: an underground corridor, where a pipeline leak was simulated and in a decommissioned landfill site, where an artificial methane emission source was introduced.

Keywords: Laser beams, Measurement by laser beam, Mobile robots, Robot kinematics, Robot sensing systems


Guo, S., Artés, J. M., Díez-Pérez, I., (2013). Electrochemically-gated single-molecule electrical devices Electrochimica Acta 63rd Annual Meeting of the International Society of Electrochemistry , Elsevier (Prague, Czech Republic) 110, 741-753

In the last decade, single-molecule electrical contacts have emerged as a new experimental platform that allows exploring charge transport phenomena in individual molecular blocks. This novel tool has evolved into an essential element within the Molecular Electronics field to understand charge transport processes in hybrid (bio)molecule/electrode interfaces at the nanoscale, and prospect the implementation of active molecular components into functional nanoscale optoelectronic devices. Within this area, three-terminal single-molecule devices have been sought, provided that they are highly desired to achieve full functionality in logic electronic circuits. Despite the latest experimental developments offer consistent methods to bridge a molecule between two electrodes (source and drain in a transistor notation), placing a third electrode (gate) close to the single-molecule electrical contact is still technically challenging. In this vein, electrochemically-gated single-molecule devices have emerged as an experimentally affordable alternative to overcome these technical limitations. In this review, the operating principle of an electrochemically-gated single-molecule device is presented together with the latest experimental methodologies to built them and characterize their charge transport characteristics. Then, an up-to-date comprehensive overview of the most prominent examples will be given, emphasizing on the relationship between the molecular structure and the final device electrical behaviour.

Keywords: Electrochemical gate, Electrochemical switches, NDR, Single-molecule junctions, Unipolar/ambipolar FETs


Gilbert, M., Juárez, A., Madrid, C., Balsalobre, C., (2013). New insights in the role of HtdA in the regulation of R27 conjugation Plasmid International Society for Plasmid Biology Meeting , Elsevier (Santander, Spain) 70 (1), 61-68

R27 is the prototype of the IncHI group of conjugative plasmids, which are associated with multidrug resistance in several relevant pathogens. The transfer of this plasmid is thermodependent and all transfer-related genes are encoded in six operons (tra operons). Very little is known about the factors involved in the regulation of the R27 conjugation. This report describes transcriptional studies of the six tra operons. Our results indicate that HtdA, encoded in the R27 plasmid, is involved in the transcriptional repression of four tra operons (F, H, AC and Z). Although HtdA plays a pivotal role in the transcriptional regulation of those operons, it does not exert its effect as a classical repressor. The data indicate the existence of a crosstalk between HtdA and other unknown regulatory factors. The HtdA-mediated regulation of conjugation is independent of the R27 H-NS protein.

Keywords: Plasmid conjugation, IncHI, R27, tra Operons regulation, HtdA


Paytubia, S., Dietrich, M., Queiroz, M.H., Juárez, A., (2013). Role of plasmid- and chromosomally encoded Hha proteins in modulation of gene expression in E. coli O157:H7 Plasmid International Society for Plasmid Biology Meeting , Elsevier (Santander, Spain) 70 (1), 52-60

H-NS and Hha belong to the nucleoid-associated family of proteins and modulate gene expression in response to environmental stimuli. Genes coding for these proteins can be either chromosomally or plasmid-encoded. In this work, we analyse the regulatory role of the Hha protein encoded in the virulence plasmid of the enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 (HhapO157). This plasmid is present in all clinical isolates of E. coli O157:H7 and contributes to virulence. Both, HhapO157 and E. coli O157:H7-chromosomal Hha (Hhachr) exhibit a significant degree of similarity. The hha gene from plasmid pO157 is transcribed from its own putative promoter and is overexpressed in a chromosomal hha mutant. As its chromosomal counterpart, HhapO157 is able to interact with H-NS. Remarkably, HhapO157 targets only a subset of the genes modulated by Hhachr. This has been evidenced by both assaying the ability of HhapO157 to complement expression of a specific operon (i.e., the haemolysin operon) and by comparing the global transcriptome of the wt strain and its hhap, hhac and hhapc mutant derivatives. HhapO157 and Hhachr share some common regulatory features, however they also display specific targeting of some genes and even a different modulatory role in some others.

Keywords: E. coli O157:H7, Hha, H-NS, Plasmid, pO157, Nucleoid-associated proteins


Casals, A., (2013). Adaptive control in neurorehabilitation Converging Clinical and Engineering Research on Neurorehabilitation (ed. Pons, José L., Torricelli, Diego, Pajaro, Marta), Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Berlin, Germany) 1, 123-127

Control theory, focusing on controlling physical systems, has been studied for long. In order to face diverse situations different control strategies have been defined that rely in aspects like predictability, knowledge of system behavior, parameters estimation and so. The field of rehabilitation, and specially neuroreabilitation, poses new questions and challenges as the system to be controlled is a robot that cooperates with a human, which may act in an unpredictable and random way. The human-robot physical contact and the need to assure human integrity constitute additional conditioning factors. This paper describes a control strategy that is an extension of the classical adaptive control approach, oriented to include a human in the loop, which interacts with the robot through neurological signals. An additional fact is the still very poor interpretation of neurological input commands which results in uncertain and ambiguous inputs to the rehabilitation robot controller.


Olivares, A. L., Lacroix, D., (2013). Computational methods in the modeling of scaffolds for tissue engineering Studies in Mechanobiology, Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials (ed. Gefen, A.), Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Heidelberg, Germany) 10, 107-126

Tissue engineering uses porous biomaterial scaffolds to support the complex tissue healing process to fulfill two main functions: (1) to support mechanical loading and (2) to allow mass transport. Computational methods have been extensively applied to characterize scaffold morphology and to simulate different biological processes of tissue engineering. In addition, phenomena such a cell seeding, cell migration, cell proliferation, cell differentiation, vascularisation, oxygen consumption, mass transport or scaffold degradation can be simulated using computational methods. A review of the different methods used to model scaffolds in tissue engineering is described in this chapter.


Mora, S., Raya, A., (2013). Dedifferentiation, transdifferentiation, and reprogramming Stem Cells in Reproductive Medicine (ed. Simón, C., Pellicer, A., Pera, R.R.), Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, UK) Basic Science and Therapeutic Potential, 152-163

Stem cell science has the potential to impact human reproductive medicine significantly – cutting edge technologies allow the production and regeneration of viable gametes from human stem cells offering potential to preciously infertile patients. Written by leading experts in the field Stem Cells in Reproductive Medicine brings together chapters on the genetics and epigenetics of both the male and female gametes as well as advice on the production and regeneration of gene cells in men and women, trophoblasts and endometrium from human embryonic and adult stem cells. Although focussing mainly on the practical elements of the use of stem cells in reproductive medicine, the book also contains a section on new developments in stem cell research. The book is essential reading for reproductive medicine clinicians, gynecologists and embryologists who want to keep abreast of practical developments in this rapidly developing field.


Oncins, G., Roa, J. J., Rayón, E., Díaz, J., Morales, M., Segarra, M., Sanz, F., (2013). Friction, hardness and elastic modulus determined by AFM-FS and nanoindentation techniques for advanced ceramics materials Recent Advances in Ceramic Materials Research (ed. Roa, J. J., Semino, C. E.), Nova Science Publishers Materials Science and Technologies, 215-249

In the last years, nanoindentation by means of Atomic Force Microscopy-Force Spectroscopy (AFM-FS) or Nanoindenters has become a powerful tool to study the nanomechanics of all type of materials at micro-, nano- and also picometric scale, from soft metals, like copper, to brittle materials, as ceramics. The experimental basis of these techniques is the evaluation of the response of a material to an applied vertical load (in order to obtain the hardness, H, and the elastic modulus, E) or to a shear force (Lateral Force Microscopy, LFM) so as to obtain the friction coefficient, μ. In this work, the different methods to analyze friction, hardness and elastic modulus by means of AFM are explained for several examples as diamond single crystals, SiC single crystals, titanium dioxide coatings, mica and silicon oxide. Besides, examples of elastic deformation using nanoindentation are included. Moreover, several examples of results obtained by means of a Nanoindenter are also described in detail. A particular emphasis on ceramic coatings and advanced ceramic materials, such as YBaCuO superconductors, Yttria-stabilized zirconia, doped ceria electrolytes for fuel cells and yttria stabilized polycrystalline tetragonal zirconia, are reported and commented. The interest of these techniques is evidenced by the increasing quantity of nanomechanics-related papers published in the last decades, near a thousand of which appeared during the last five years. Unfortunately, a lot of practical information about nanomechanics of hard materials is still scarce in the literature (only one percent of the above mentioned publications are related to ceramic materials). This chapter aims to present the basic principles and methods applied to extract the different mechanical properties and also to review and comment real examples related to the cited techniques.


Esteban, O., Christ, D., Stock, D., (2013). Purification of molecular machines and nanomotors using phage-derived monoclonal antibody fragments Protein Nanotechnology - Methods in Molecular Biology (ed. Gerrard, J. A.), Humana Press (New York, USA) 996, 203-217

Molecular machines and nanomotors are sophisticated biological assemblies that convert potential energy stored either in transmembrane ion gradients or in ATP into kinetic energy. Studying these highly dynamic biological devices by X-ray crystallography is challenging, as they are difficult to produce, purify, and crystallize. Phage display technology allows us to put a handle on these molecules in the form of highly specific antibody fragments that can also stabilize conformations and allow versatile labelling for electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and biophysics experiments. Here, we describe a widely applicable protocol for selecting high-affinity monoclonal antibody fragments against a complex molecular machine, the A-type ATPase from T. thermophilus that allows fast and simple purification of this transmembrane rotary motor from its wild-type source. The approach can be readily extended to other integral membrane proteins and protein complexes as well as to soluble molecular machines and nanomotors.

Keywords: ATP synthase, Crystallization, Domain antibodies, Electron microscopy, Labelling, Membrane proteins, Monoclonal antibody fragments, Phage display, Protein purification, X-ray crystallography


Giralt, Xavier, Amigo, Luis, Casals, Alicia, Amat, Josep, (2013). Robotic platform to evaluate the assistance and assessment on the rehabilitation loop Converging Clinical and Engineering Research on Neurorehabilitation (ed. Pons, José L., Torricelli, Diego, Pajaro, Marta), Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Berlin, Germany) 1, 1031-1035

This paper presents a Robotic Platform that allows the evaluation of novel rehabilitation therapies by combining assistance and assessment. The robotic platform control loop consists of three nested elements. First, the patient wrist is firmly attached to a redundant robot running an impedance based low-level control loop. Secondly, an Assistance Loop, involving a GUI for the therapist to set the parameters, and an Assist-as-Needed exercise execution thread. Finally, the Assessment Loop continuously computes and displays the evolution of the performance and suggests new parameters for the given therapy. The suggested architecture has proved to be able to successfully evaluate two therapy aspects: the effect of the assistance levels (fully assisted, non-assisted and resistive mode) and the effect of a misalignment between the robot and the patient’s elbow rotation axis. From the first experimental tests of the assessment loop, it is expected that the nature of this implementation allows the systematic evaluation and comparison of a much broader range of robotic techniques for upper limb rehabilitation and clinical assessment.


Gutiérrez-Gálvez, A., Marco, S., (2013). Study of the coding efficiency of populations of olfactory receptor neurons and olfactory glomeruli Frontiers in Neuroengineering Series Neuromorphic Olfaction (ed. Persaud, K. , Marco, S., Gutiérrez-Gálvez, A.), CRC Press (London, UK) , 59-82

Pandit, A., Planell, J.A., Navarro, M., (2013). Titanium and Nitinol (NiTi) Biomaterials Science. An Introduction to Materials in Medicine (ed. Ratner, B., Hoffman, A., Schoen, F., Lemons, J.), Academic Press (Oxford, UK) Classes of Materials Used in Medicine, 120-124

Persaud, K. , Marco, S., Gutiérrez-Gálvez, A., (2013). Neuromorphic Olfaction Frontiers in Neuroengineering Series Neuromorphic Olfaction , CRC Press (London, UK)

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