Publications

Year 2015


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Casals, A., Hernansanz, A., Rovira, A., Basombra, J., Comas, R., (2015). Dispositivo para simular una operación endoscópica vía orificio natural Fundació Institut de Recerca de l'Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau; Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya; Fundació Institut de Bioenginyeria de Catalunya , (EP14382032.2)

Dispositivo para simular una operación endoscópica vía orificio natural que comprende un modelo físico de un órgano biológico que comprende un módulo principal y un módulo de entrada desmontables entre sí. El módulo principal define un cuerpo principal del órgano con una cavidad y el módulo de entrada define una abertura de entrada a la cavidad del módulo principal que corresponde a la entrada del órgano biológico. La cavidad del módulo principal es accesible a través del módulo de entrada por una herramienta endoscópica para actuar en la cavidad del módulo principal. El módulo principal está configurado de manera que, en uso, uno o más módulos de simulación son acoplables con el módulo principal para simular uno o más eventos representativos de la actuación de la herramienta endoscópica en la cavidad del módulo principal.


Ziyatdinov, Andrey, Fonollosa, Jordi, Fernández, Luis, Gutiérrez-Gálvez, Agustín, Marco, Santiago, Perera, Alexandre, (2015). Data set from gas sensor array under flow modulation Data in Brief 3, 131-136

Abstract Recent studies in neuroscience suggest that sniffing, namely sampling odors actively, plays an important role in olfactory system, especially in certain scenarios such as novel odorant detection. While the computational advantages of high frequency sampling have not been yet elucidated, here, in order to motivate further investigation in active sampling strategies, we share the data from an artificial olfactory system made of 16 MOX gas sensors under gas flow modulation. The data were acquired on a custom set up featured by an external mechanical ventilator that emulates the biological respiration cycle. 58 samples were recorded in response to a relatively broad set of 12 gas classes, defined from different binary mixtures of acetone and ethanol in air. The acquired time series show two dominant frequency bands: the low-frequency signal corresponds to a conventional response curve of a sensor in response to a gas pulse, and the high-frequency signal has a clear principal harmonic at the respiration frequency. The data are related to the study in [1], and the data analysis results reported there should be considered as a reference point.

Keywords: Gas sensor array, MOX sensor, Flow modulation, Early detection, Biomimetics, Respiration, Sniffing


Toromanov, Georgi, Gugutkov, Dencho, Gustavsson, Johan, Planell, Josep, Salmerón-Sánchez, Manuel, Altankov, George, (2015). Dynamic behavior of vitronectin at the cell-material interface ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering 1, (10), 927-934

Considering that vitronectin (VN) can promote both cell adhesion and matrix degradation, it is likely to play a dual role at the cell-biomaterial interface. In this paper we therefore describe details of the dynamic interplay between matrix adhesion and pericellular proteolysis in endothelial cells adhered to glass model substratum. Initially we show that coating concentration determines protein organization at the surface. When the protein coating density approached saturation (63 ng cm?2), VN spontaneously organized itself in multimeric aggregates at the surface (30?50 nm in diameter). At subsaturation protein density (17 ng cm?2) VN molecules were present predominantly as single entities, indicating that a minimum coating density was required for VN multimerization. By fluorescent visualization of surface-associated VN in different ways, we provide the first evidence of significant proteolytic remodelling of VN by endothelial cells (HUVECs) at the sites of αv integrin clusters. The degree of proteolysis was estimated using a novel approach relying on dequenching of FITC-labeled VN upon proteolytic activity, showing that about one-third of the surface-associated VN was proteolytically altered by adhering HUVECs. In addition, we demonstrate that HUVECs can internalize surface-associated VN and deposit it in a linear pattern along longitudinal actin filaments. Deposited VN was partly colocalized with urokinase receptors. Taken altogether, we elucidate the complex and dynamic behavior of VN during initial cell?biomaterials interactions, the equilibrium if which could have a significant impact on the biocompatibility of any blood contacting implants. Considering that vitronectin (VN) can promote both cell adhesion and matrix degradation, it is likely to play a dual role at the cell-biomaterial interface. In this paper we therefore describe details of the dynamic interplay between matrix adhesion and pericellular proteolysis in endothelial cells adhered to glass model substratum. Initially we show that coating concentration determines protein organization at the surface. When the protein coating density approached saturation (63 ng cm?2), VN spontaneously organized itself in multimeric aggregates at the surface (30?50 nm in diameter). At subsaturation protein density (17 ng cm?2) VN molecules were present predominantly as single entities, indicating that a minimum coating density was required for VN multimerization. By fluorescent visualization of surface-associated VN in different ways, we provide the first evidence of significant proteolytic remodelling of VN by endothelial cells (HUVECs) at the sites of αv integrin clusters. The degree of proteolysis was estimated using a novel approach relying on dequenching of FITC-labeled VN upon proteolytic activity, showing that about one-third of the surface-associated VN was proteolytically altered by adhering HUVECs. In addition, we demonstrate that HUVECs can internalize surface-associated VN and deposit it in a linear pattern along longitudinal actin filaments. Deposited VN was partly colocalized with urokinase receptors. Taken altogether, we elucidate the complex and dynamic behavior of VN during initial cell?biomaterials interactions, the equilibrium if which could have a significant impact on the biocompatibility of any blood contacting implants.


Paéz Aviles, C. , Juanola-Feliu, E., Tahirbegi, I.B. , Mir, M., Gonzalez-Piñero, M., Samitier, J., (2015). Innovation and technology transfer of medical devices fosterd by cross disciplinary communities of practitioners International Journal of Innovation Management 19, (6), 1540012

Commercialisation of emerging technological innovations such as medical devices can be a time-consuming and lengthy process resulting in a market entrance failure. To tackle this general problem, major challenges are being analysed, principally focusing on the role of Communities of Practitioners (CoPs) in the process of effective transfer of high-value emerging technologies from academia to market. Taking a case study approach, this document describes the role of a cross-disciplinary CoP in the technology transfer process within a convergence scenario. The case presented is a sensor array for ischemia detection developed by different practitioners from diverse organisations: university, research institution, hospital, and a scientific park. The analysis also involves the innovation ecosystem where all stakeholders are taken into account. This study contributes to a better understanding of the managerial implications of CoP fostering technology transfer and innovation, principally focused on the current need for new biomedical technologies and tools.

Keywords: CoP, Medical devices, Innovation, Technology transfer, Ischemia


Toumanidou, Themis, Noailly, J., (2015). Musculoskeletal modeling of the lumbar spine to explore functional interactions between back muscle loads and intervertebral disk multiphysics Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 3, 111

During daily activities, complex biomechanical interactions influence the biophysical regulation of intervertebral disks (IVDs), and transfers of mechanical loads are largely controlled by the stabilizing action of spine muscles. Muscle and other internal forces cannot be easily measured directly in the lumbar spine. Hence, biomechanical models are important tools for the evaluation of the loads in those tissues involved in low-back disorders. Muscle force estimations in most musculoskeletal models mainly rely, however, on inverse calculations and static optimizations that limit the predictive power of the numerical calculations. In order to contribute to the development of predictive systems, we coupled a predictive muscle model with the passive resistance of the spine tissues, in a L3–S1 musculoskeletal finite element model with osmo-poromechanical IVD descriptions. The model included 46 fascicles of the major back muscles that act on the lower spine. The muscle model interacted with activity-related loads imposed to the osteoligamentous structure, as standing position and night rest were simulated through distributed upper body mass and free IVD swelling, respectively. Calculations led to intradiscal pressure values within ranges of values measured in vivo. Disk swelling led to muscle activation and muscle force distributions that seemed particularly appropriate to counterbalance the anterior body mass effect in standing. Our simulations pointed out a likely existence of a functional balance between stretch-induced muscle activation and IVD multiphysics toward improved mechanical stability of the lumbar spine understanding. This balance suggests that proper night rest contributes to mechanically strengthen the spine during day activity.


Malandrino, Andrea, Pozo, Jose Maria, Castro-Mateos, Isaac, Frangi, Alejandro F., van Rijsbergen, Marc M., Ito, Keita, Wilke, Hans-Joachim, Dao, Tien Tuan, Ho Ba Tho, Marie-Christine, Noailly, Jerome, (2015). On the relative relevance of subject-specific geometries and degeneration-specific mechanical properties for the study of cell death in human intervertebral disc models Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 3, (Article 5), 1-15

Capturing patient- or condition-specific intervertebral disk (IVD) properties in finite element models is outmost important in order to explore how biomechanical and biophysical processes may interact in spine diseases. However, disk degenerative changes are often modeled through equations similar to those employed for healthy organs, which might not be valid. As for the simulated effects of degenerative changes, they likely depend on specific disk geometries. Accordingly, we explored the ability of continuum tissue models to simulate disk degenerative changes. We further used the results in order to assess the interplay between these simulated changes and particular IVD morphologies, in relation to disk cell nutrition, a potentially important factor in disk tissue regulation. A protocol to derive patient-specific computational models from clinical images was applied to different spine specimens. In vitro, IVD creep tests were used to optimize poro-hyperelastic input material parameters in these models, in function of the IVD degeneration grade. The use of condition-specific tissue model parameters in the specimen-specific geometrical models was validated against independent kinematic measurements in vitro. Then, models were coupled to a transport-cell viability model in order to assess the respective effects of tissue degeneration and disk geometry on cell viability. While classic disk poro-mechanical models failed in representing known degenerative changes, additional simulation of tissue damage allowed model validation and gave degeneration-dependent material properties related to osmotic pressure and water loss, and to increased fibrosis. Surprisingly, nutrition-induced cell death was independent of the grade-dependent material properties, but was favored by increased diffusion distances in large IVDs. Our results suggest that in situ geometrical screening of IVD morphology might help to anticipate particular mechanisms of disk degeneration.

Keywords: Intervertebral Disc Degeneration, Finite element modelling, Lumbar spine, Poroelasticity, Damage model, Subject-specific modelling, Disc cell nutrition


Moles, Ernest, Valle-Delgado, Juan José, Urbán, Patricia, Azcárate, Isabel G., Bautista, José M., Selva, Javier, Egea, Gustavo, Ventura, Salvador, Fernàndez-Busquets, Xavier, (2015). Possible roles of amyloids in malaria pathophysiology Future Science OA 1, (2), FSO43

The main therapeutic and prophylactic tools against malaria have been locked for more than a century in the classical approaches of using drugs targeting metabolic processes of the causing agent, the protist Plasmodium spp., and of designing vaccines against chosen antigens found on the parasite’s surface. Given the extraordinary resources exhibited by Plasmodium to escape these traditional strategies, which have not been able to free humankind from the scourge of malaria despite much effort invested in them, new concepts have to be explored in order to advance toward eradication of the disease. In this context, amyloid-forming proteins and peptides found in the proteome of the pathogen should perhaps cease being regarded as mere anomalous molecules. Their likely functionality in the pathophysiology of Plasmodium calls for attention being paid to them as a possible Achilles’ heel of malaria. Here we will give an overview of Plasmodium-encoded amyloid-forming polypeptides as potential therapeutic targets and toxic elements, particularly in relation to cerebral malaria and the blood–brain barrier function. We will also discuss the recent finding that the genome of the parasite contains an astonishingly high proportion of prionogenic domains.

Keywords: Amyloids, Intrinsically unstructured proteins, Malaria, Prions


Lagunas, Anna, Martinez, Elena, Samitier, Josep, (2015). Surface-bound molecular gradients for the high throughput screening of cell responses Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 3, Article 132

Chemical gradient surfaces are described as surfaces with a gradually varying composition along their length. Continuous chemical gradients have recently been proposed as alternative to discrete microarrays for the high throughput screening of the effects of ligand concentration in cells. Here we review some of the most recent examples in which gradients have been used to evaluate the effect of a varying ligand concentration in cell adhesion, morphology, growth and differentiation of cells, including some of our recent findings. They show the importance of the organization of ligands at the nanoscale, which is highlighted by abrupt changes in cell behavior at critical concentration thresholds.

Keywords: Cell Adhesion, Cell Differentiation, Cell growth, Cell morphology, Molecular gradient


Casares, L., Vincent, R., Zalvidea, D., Campillo, N., Navajas, D., Arroyo, M., Trepat, X., (2015). Hydraulic fracture during epithelial stretching Nature Materials 14, (3), 343-351

The origin of fracture in epithelial cell sheets subject to stretch is commonly attributed to excess tension in the cells’ cytoskeleton, in the plasma membrane, or in cell–cell contacts. Here, we demonstrate that for a variety of synthetic and physiological hydrogel substrates the formation of epithelial cracks is caused by tissue stretching independently of epithelial tension. We show that the origin of the cracks is hydraulic; they result from a transient pressure build-up in the substrate during stretch and compression manoeuvres. After pressure equilibration, cracks heal readily through actomyosin-dependent mechanisms. The observed phenomenology is captured by the theory of poroelasticity, which predicts the size and healing dynamics of epithelial cracks as a function of the stiffness, geometry and composition of the hydrogel substrate. Our findings demonstrate that epithelial integrity is determined in a tension-independent manner by the coupling between tissue stretching and matrix hydraulics.


Reddy, Pradeep, Ocampo, Alejandro, Suzuki, Keiichiro, Luo, Jinping, Bacman, Sandra , Williams, Sion, Sugawara, Atsushi, Okamura, Daiji, Tsunekawa, Yuji, Wu, Jun, Lam, David, Xiong, Xiong, Montserrat, Nuria, Esteban, Concepcion, Liu, Guang-Hui, Sancho-Martinez, Ignacio, Manau, Dolors, Civico, Salva, Cardellach, Francesc, del Mar O'Callaghan, Maria, Campistol, Jaime, Zhao, Huimin, Campistol, Josep, Moraes, Carlos, Izpisua Belmonte, Juan Carlos, (2015). Selective elimination of mitochondrial mutations in the germline by genome editing Cell 161, (3), 459-469

Mitochondrial diseases include a group of maternally inherited genetic disorders caused by mutations in mtDNA. In most of these patients, mutated mtDNA coexists with wild-type mtDNA, a situation known as mtDNA heteroplasmy. Here, we report on a strategy toward preventing germline transmission of mitochondrial diseases by inducing mtDNA heteroplasmy shift through the selective elimination of mutated mtDNA. As a proof of concept, we took advantage of NZB/BALB heteroplasmic mice, which contain two mtDNA haplotypes, BALB and NZB, and selectively prevented their germline transmission using either mitochondria-targeted restriction endonucleases or TALENs. In addition, we successfully reduced human mutated mtDNA levels responsible for Leber?s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHOND), and neurogenic muscle weakness, ataxia, and retinitis pigmentosa (NARP), in mammalian oocytes using mitochondria-targeted TALEN (mito-TALENs). Our approaches represent a potential therapeutic avenue for preventing the transgenerational transmission of human mitochondrial diseases caused by mutations in mtDNA. Mitochondrial diseases include a group of maternally inherited genetic disorders caused by mutations in mtDNA. In most of these patients, mutated mtDNA coexists with wild-type mtDNA, a situation known as mtDNA heteroplasmy. Here, we report on a strategy toward preventing germline transmission of mitochondrial diseases by inducing mtDNA heteroplasmy shift through the selective elimination of mutated mtDNA. As a proof of concept, we took advantage of NZB/BALB heteroplasmic mice, which contain two mtDNA haplotypes, BALB and NZB, and selectively prevented their germline transmission using either mitochondria-targeted restriction endonucleases or TALENs. In addition, we successfully reduced human mutated mtDNA levels responsible for Leber?s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHOND), and neurogenic muscle weakness, ataxia, and retinitis pigmentosa (NARP), in mammalian oocytes using mitochondria-targeted TALEN (mito-TALENs). Our approaches represent a potential therapeutic avenue for preventing the transgenerational transmission of human mitochondrial diseases caused by mutations in mtDNA.


Bazellières, Elsa, Conte, Vito, Elosegui, Alberto, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Bintanel-Morcillo, María, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Muñoz, José J., Sales-Pardo, Marta, Guimerà, Roger, Trepat, Xavier, (2015). Control of cell-cell forces and collective cell dynamics by the intercellular adhesome Nature Cell Biology 17, (4), 409-420

Dynamics of epithelial tissues determine key processes in development, tissue healing and cancer invasion. These processes are critically influenced by cell–cell adhesion forces. However, the identity of the proteins that resist and transmit forces at cell–cell junctions remains unclear, and how these proteins control tissue dynamics is largely unknown. Here we provide a systematic study of the interplay between cell–cell adhesion proteins, intercellular forces and epithelial tissue dynamics. We show that collective cellular responses to selective perturbations of the intercellular adhesome conform to three mechanical phenotypes. These phenotypes are controlled by different molecular modules and characterized by distinct relationships between cellular kinematics and intercellular forces. We show that these forces and their rates can be predicted by the concentrations of cadherins and catenins. Unexpectedly, we identified different mechanical roles for P-cadherin and E-cadherin; whereas P-cadherin predicts levels of intercellular force, E-cadherin predicts the rate at which intercellular force builds up.


Ma, X., Jannasch, A., Albrecht, U. R., Hahn, K., Miguel-López, A., Schäffer, E., Sánchez, S., (2015). Enzyme-powered hollow mesoporous Janus nanomotors Nano Letters 15, (10), 7043-7050

The development of synthetic nanomotors for technological applications in particular for life science and nanomedicine is a key focus of current basic research. However, it has been challenging to make active nanosystems based on biocompatible materials consuming nontoxic fuels for providing self-propulsion. Here, we fabricate self-propelled Janus nanomotors based on hollow mesoporous silica nanoparticles (HMSNPs), which are powered by biocatalytic reactions of three different enzymes: catalase, urease, and glucose oxidase (GOx). The active motion is characterized by a mean-square displacement (MSD) analysis of optical video recordings and confirmed by dynamic light scattering (DLS) measurements. We found that the apparent diffusion coefficient was enhanced by up to 83%. In addition, using optical tweezers, we directly measured a holding force of 64 ± 16 fN, which was necessary to counteract the effective self-propulsion force generated by a single nanomotor. The successful demonstration of biocompatible enzyme-powered active nanomotors using biologically benign fuels has a great potential for future biomedical applications.

Keywords: Enzyme, Hollow mesoporous silica nanoparticles, Hybrid motors, Janus particles, Nanomotors, Optical tweezers


Ma, X., Hahn, K., Sánchez, S., (2015). Catalytic mesoporous janus nanomotors for active cargo delivery Journal of the American Chemical Society 137, (15), 4976-4979

We report on the synergy between catalytic propulsion and mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNPs) for the design of Janus nanomotors as active cargo delivery systems with sizes <100 nm (40, 65, and 90 nm). The Janus asymmetry of the nanomotors is given by electron beam (e-beam) deposition of a very thin platinum (2 nm) layer on MSNPs. The chemically powered Janus nanomotors present active diffusion at low H2O2 fuel concentration (i.e., <3 wt %). Their apparent diffusion coefficient is enhanced up to 100% compared to their Brownian motion. Due to their mesoporous architecture and small dimensions, they can load cargo molecules in large quantity and serve as active nanocarriers for directed cargo delivery on a chip.


Sánchez, S., Soler, L., Katuri, J., (2015). Chemically powered micro- and nanomotors Angewandte Chemie - International Edition 54, (4), 1414-1444

Chemically powered micro- and nanomotors are small devices that are self-propelled by catalytic reactions in fluids. Taking inspiration from biomotors, scientists are aiming to find the best architecture for self-propulsion, understand the mechanisms of motion, and develop accurate control over the motion. Remotely guided nanomotors can transport cargo to desired targets, drill into biomaterials, sense their environment, mix or pump fluids, and clean polluted water. This Review summarizes the major advances in the growing field of catalytic nanomotors, which started ten years ago.

Keywords: Catalysis, Micromotors, Nanomotors, Robots, Self-propulsion


Ravasio, Andrea, Cheddadi, Ibrahim, Chen, Tianchi, Pereira, Telmo, Ong, Hui Ting, Bertocchi, Cristina, Brugues, Agusti, Jacinto, Antonio, Kabla, Alexandre J., Toyama, Yusuke, Trepat, Xavier, Gov, Nir, Neves de Almeida, Luis, Ladoux, Benoit, (2015). Gap geometry dictates epithelial closure efficiency Nature Communications 6, 7683

Closure of wounds and gaps in tissues is fundamental for the correct development and physiology of multicellular organisms and, when misregulated, may lead to inflammation and tumorigenesis. To re-establish tissue integrity, epithelial cells exhibit coordinated motion into the void by active crawling on the substrate and by constricting a supracellular actomyosin cable. Coexistence of these two mechanisms strongly depends on the environment. However, the nature of their coupling remains elusive because of the complexity of the overall process. Here we demonstrate that epithelial gap geometry in both in vitro and in vivo regulates these collective mechanisms. In addition, the mechanical coupling between actomyosin cable contraction and cell crawling acts as a large-scale regulator to control the dynamics of gap closure. Finally, our computational modelling clarifies the respective roles of the two mechanisms during this process, providing a robust and universal mechanism to explain how epithelial tissues restore their integrity.


Vedula, Sri Ram Krishna, Peyret, Grégoire, Cheddadi, Ibrahim, Chen, Tianchi, Brugués, Agustí, Hirata, Hiroaki, Lopez-Menendez, Horacio, Toyama, Yusuke, Neves de Almeida, Luis, Trepat, Xavier, Lim, Chwee Teck, Ladoux, Benoit, (2015). Mechanics of epithelial closure over non-adherent environments Nature Communications 6, 6111

The closure of gaps within epithelia is crucial to maintain its integrity during biological processes such as wound healing and gastrulation. Depending on the distribution of extracellular matrix, gap closure occurs through assembly of multicellular actin-based contractile cables or protrusive activity of border cells into the gap. Here we show that the supracellular actomyosin contractility of cells near the gap edge exerts sufficient tension on the surrounding tissue to promote closure of non-adherent gaps. Using traction force microscopy, we observe that cell-generated forces on the substrate at the gap edge first point away from the centre of the gap and then increase in the radial direction pointing into the gap as closure proceeds. Combining with numerical simulations, we show that the increase in force relies less on localized purse-string contractility and more on large-scale remodelling of the suspended tissue around the gap. Our results provide a framework for understanding the assembly and the mechanics of cellular contractility at the tissue level.


Kosmalska, A. J., Casares, L., Elosegui, A., Thottacherry, J. J., Moreno-Vicente, R., González-Tarragó, V., Del Pozo, M. Á, Mayor, S., Arroyo, M., Navajas, D., Trepat, X., Gauthier, N. C., Roca-Cusachs, P., (2015). Physical principles of membrane remodelling during cell mechanoadaptation Nature Communications 6, 7292

Biological processes in any physiological environment involve changes in cell shape, which must be accommodated by their physical envelope - the bilayer membrane. However, the fundamental biophysical principles by which the cell membrane allows for and responds to shape changes remain unclear. Here we show that the 3D remodelling of the membrane in response to a broad diversity of physiological perturbations can be explained by a purely mechanical process. This process is passive, local, almost instantaneous, before any active remodelling and generates different types of membrane invaginations that can repeatedly store and release large fractions of the cell membrane. We further demonstrate that the shape of those invaginations is determined by the minimum elastic and adhesive energy required to store both membrane area and liquid volume at the cell-substrate interface. Once formed, cells reabsorb the invaginations through an active process with duration of the order of minutes.


Hüttener, Mario, Paytubi, Sonia, Juárez, Antonio, (2015). Success in incorporating horizontally transferred genes: the H-NS protein Trends in Microbiology 23, (2), 67-69

The nucleoid-associated protein H-NS silences unwanted expression of acquired foreign DNA. Ali and colleagues recently identified which horizontally-acquired genes are targeted by H-NS in Salmonella to avoid fitness loss. The reported data strengthen our view about the role of H-NS in bacterial evolution driven by horizontal gene transfer. The nucleoid-associated protein H-NS silences unwanted expression of acquired foreign DNA. Ali and colleagues recently identified which horizontally-acquired genes are targeted by H-NS in Salmonella to avoid fitness loss. The reported data strengthen our view about the role of H-NS in bacterial evolution driven by horizontal gene transfer.

Keywords: HGT, H-NS, StpA, Salmonella, SPI1


Stanisavljevic, J., Loubat-Casanovas, J., Herrera, M., Luque, T., Peña, R., Lluch, A., Albanell, J., Bonilla, F., Rovira, A., Peña, C., Navajas, D., Rojo, F., García De Herreros, A., Baulida, J., (2015). Snail1-expressing fibroblasts in the tumor microenvironment display mechanical properties that support metastasis Cancer Research 75, (2), 284-295

Crosstalk between tumor and stromal cells in the tumor microenvironment alter its properties in ways that facilitate the invasive behavior of tumor cells. Here, we demonstrate that cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) increase the stiffness of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and promote anisotropic fiber orientation, two mechanical signals generated through a Snail1/RhoA/αSMA-dependent mechanism that sustains oriented tumor cell migration and invasiveness. Snail1-depleted CAF failed to acquire myofibroblastic traits in response to TGFβ, including RhoA activation, αSMA-positive stress fibers, increased fibronectin fibrillogenesis, and production of a stiff ECM with oriented fibers. Snail1 expression in human tumor-derived CAF was associated with an ability to organize the ECM. In coculture, a relatively smaller number of Snail1-expressing CAF were capable of imposing an anisotropic ECM architecture, compared with nonactivated fibroblasts. Pathologically, human breast cancers with Snail1+ CAF tended to exhibit desmoplastic areas with anisotropic fibers, lymph node involvement, and poorer outcomes. Snail1 involvement in driving an ordered ECM was further confirmed in wound-healing experiments in mice, with Snail1 depletion preventing the anisotropic organization of granulation tissue and delaying wound healing. Overall, our results showed that inhibiting Snail1 function in CAF could prevent tumor-driven ECM reorganization and cancer invasion.


Manca, M. L., Castangia, I., Zaru, M., Nácher, A., Valenti, D., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Fadda, A. M., Manconi, M., (2015). Development of curcumin loaded sodium hyaluronate immobilized vesicles (hyalurosomes) and their potential on skin inflammation and wound restoring Biomaterials 71, 100-109

In the present work new highly biocompatible nanovesicles were developed using polyanion sodium hyaluronate to form polymer immobilized vesicles, so called hyalurosomes. Curcumin, at high concentration was loaded into hyalurosomes and physico-chemical properties and in vitro/in vivo performances of the formulations were compared to those of liposomes having the same lipid and drug content. Vesicles were prepared by direct addition of dispersion containing the polysaccharide sodium hyaluronate and the polyphenol curcumin to a commercial mixture of soy phospholipids, thus avoiding the use of organic solvents. An extensive study was carried out on the physico-chemical features and properties of curcumin-loaded hyalurosomes and liposomes. Cryogenic transmission electron microscopy and small-angle X-ray scattering showed that vesicles were spherical, uni- or oligolamellar and small in size (112-220 nm). The in vitro percutaneous curcumin delivery studies on intact skin showed an improved ability of hyalurosomes to favour a fast drug deposition in the whole skin. Hyalurosomes as well as liposomes were biocompatible, protected in vitro human keratinocytes from oxidative stress damages and promoted tissue remodelling through cellular proliferation and migration. Moreover, in vivo tests underlined a good effectiveness of curcumin-loaded hyalurosomes to counteract 12-O-tetradecanoilphorbol (TPA)-produced inflammation and injuries, diminishing oedema formation, myeloperoxydase activity and providing an extensive skin reepithelization. Thanks to the one-step and environmentally-friendly preparation method, component biocompatibility and safety, good in vitro and in vivo performances, the hyalurosomes appear as promising nanocarriers for cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications.

Keywords: Cell oxidative stress, Hyaluronic acid/Hyaluronan, Phospholipid vesicles, Polyphenols, Skin inflammation, Wound healing


Sánchez-Ferrero, Aitor, Mata, Álvaro, Mateos-Timoneda, Miguel A., Rodríguez-Cabello, José C., Alonso, Matilde, Planell, Josep, Engel, Elisabeth, (2015). Development of tailored and self-mineralizing citric acid-crosslinked hydrogels for in situ bone regeneration Biomaterials 68, 42-53

Bone tissue engineering demands alternatives overcoming the limitations of traditional approaches in the context of a constantly aging global population. In the present study, elastin-like recombinamers hydrogels were produced by means of carbodiimide-catalyzed crosslinking with citric acid, a molecule suggested to be essential for bone nanostructure. By systematically studying the effect of the relative abundance of reactive species on gelation and hydrogel properties such as functional groups content, degradation and structure, we were able to understand and to control the crosslinking reaction to achieve hydrogels mimicking the fibrillary nature of the extracellular matrix. By studying the effect of polymer concentration on scaffold mechanical properties, we were able to produce hydrogels with a stiffness value of 36.13 ± 10.72 kPa, previously suggested to be osteoinductive. Microstructured and mechanically-tailored hydrogels supported the growth of human mesenchymal stem cells and led to higher osteopontin expression in comparison to their non-tailored counterparts. Additionally, tailored hydrogels were able to rapidly self-mineralize in biomimetic conditions, evidencing that citric acid was successfully used both as a crosslinker and a bioactive molecule providing polymers with calcium phosphate nucleation capacity.

Keywords: Biomimetic material, Biomineralisation, Bone tissue engineering, Cross-linking, Hydrogel, Mesenchymal stem cell


Sarlabous, Leonardo, Torres, Abel, Fiz, José A., Gea, Joaquim, Martínez-Llorens, Juana M., Jané, Raimon, (2015). Efficiency of mechanical activation of inspiratory muscles in COPD using sample entropy European Respiratory Journal 46, (6), 1808-1811

Respiratory muscle dysfunction is a common problem in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and has mostly been related to pulmonary hyperinflation [1, 2]. Associated diaphragm shortening and deleterious changes in the muscle force-length relationship cause a reduction in the muscles' capacity to generate pressure, placing them at a mechanical disadvantage [1, 3]. Specifically, both inspiratory muscle strength and mechanical efficiency may be reduced in COPD patients [1, 4–6], although, at isovolume, the contractile strength of the diaphragm in COPD is preserved or may even be improved in some cases [7]. The ratio between transdiaphragmatic pressure and electrical diaphragm activity has been used as a measure of respiratory muscle efficiency [8, 9]. However, in clinical practice, it is complex to measure this parameter directly, as invasive measures are required and these are uncomfortable for patients [4].


Ma, X., Katuri, J., Zeng, Y., Zhao, Y., Sánchez, S., (2015). Surface conductive graphene-wrapped micromotors exhibiting enhanced motion Small 11, (38), 5023–5027

Surface-conductive Janus spherical motors are fabricated by wrapping silica particles with reduced graphene oxide capped with a thin Pt layer. These motors exhibit a 100% enhanced velocity as compared to standard SiO2–Pt motors. Furthermore, the versatility of graphene may open up possibilities for a diverse range of applications from active drug delivery systems to water remediation.

Keywords: Enhanced speed, Graphene wrapping, Janus micromotors, Janus particles, Micromotors, Surface conduction


Dols-Perez, Aurora, Gramse, Georg, Calo, Annalisa, Gomila, Gabriel, Fumagalli, Laura, (2015). Nanoscale electric polarizability of ultrathin biolayers on insulator substrates by electrostatic force microscopy Nanoscale 7, 18327-18336

We measured and quantified the local electric polarization properties of ultrathin (~ 5 nm) biolayers on mm-thick mica substrates. We achieved it by scanning a sharp conductive tip (< 10 nm radius) of an electrostatic force microscope over the biolayers and quantifying sub-picoNewton electric polarization forces with a sharp-tip model implemented using finite-element numerical calculations. We obtained relative dielectric constants ?r = 3.3, 2.4 and 1.9 for bacteriorhodopsin, dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) and cholesterol layers, chosen as representative of the main cell membrane components, with an error below 10% and a spatial resolution down to ~ 50 nm. The ability of using insulating substrates common in biophysics research, such as mica or glass, instead of metallic substrates, offers both a general platform to determine the dielectric properties of biolayers and a wider compatibility with other characterization techniques, such as optical microscopy. This opens up new possibilities for biolayer research at the nanoscale, including nanoscale label-free composition mapping.


Sachot, N., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Planell, J. A., Velders, A. H., Lewandowska, M., Engel, E., Castaño, O., (2015). Towards 4th generation biomaterials: A covalent hybrid polymer-ormoglass architecture Nanoscale 7, (37), 15349-15361

Hybrid materials are being extensively investigated with the aim of mimicking the ECM microenvironment to develop effective solutions for bone tissue engineering. However, the common drawbacks of a hybrid material are the lack of interactions between the scaffold's constituents and the masking of its bioactive phase. Conventional hybrids often degrade in a non-homogeneous manner and the biological response is far from optimal. We have developed a novel material with strong interactions between constituents. The bioactive phase is directly exposed on its surface mimicking the structure of the ECM of bone. Here, polylactic acid electrospun fibers have been successfully and reproducibly coated with a bioactive organically modified glass (ormoglass, Si-Ca-P2 system) covalently. In comparison with the pure polymeric mats, the fibers obtained showed improved hydrophilicity and mechanical properties, bioactive ion release, exhibited a nanoroughness and enabled good cell adhesion and spreading after just one day of culture (rMSCs and rEPCs). The fibers were coated with different ormoglass compositions to tailor their surface properties (roughness, stiffness, and morphology) by modifying the experimental parameters. Knowing that cells modulate their behavior according to the exposed physical and chemical signals, the development of this instructive material is a valuable advance in the design of functional regenerative biomaterials.


Vincent, Romaric, Bazellières, Elsa, Pérez-González, Carlos, Uroz, Marina, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Trepat, Xavier, (2015). Active tensile modulus of an epithelial monolayer Physical Review Letters 115, (24), 248103

A general trait of cell monolayers is their ability to exert contractile stresses on their surroundings. The scaling laws that link such contractile stresses with the size and geometry of constituent cells remain largely unknown. In this Letter, we show that the active tension of an epithelial monolayer scales linearly with the size of the constituent cells, a surprisingly simple relationship. The slope of this relationship defines an active tensile modulus, which depends on the concentration of myosin and spans more than 2 orders of magnitude across cell types and molecular perturbations.


Lucantonio, Alessandro, Noselli, Giovanni, Trepat, Xavier, DeSimone, Antonio, Arroyo, Marino, (2015). Hydraulic fracture and toughening of a brittle layer bonded to a hydrogel Physical Review Letters 115, (18), 188105

Brittle materials propagate opening cracks under tension. When stress increases beyond a critical magnitude, then quasistatic crack propagation becomes unstable. In the presence of several precracks, a brittle material always propagates only the weakest crack, leading to catastrophic failure. Here, we show that all these features of brittle fracture are fundamentally modified when the material susceptible to cracking is bonded to a hydrogel, a common situation in biological tissues. In the presence of the hydrogel, the brittle material can fracture in compression and can hydraulically resist cracking in tension. Furthermore, the poroelastic coupling regularizes the crack dynamics and enhances material toughness by promoting multiple cracking.


Galán, T., Prieto-Simón, B., Alvira, M., Eritja, R., Götz, G., Bäuerle, P., Samitier, J., (2015). Label-free electrochemical DNA sensor using "click"-functionalized PEDOT electrodes Biosensors and Bioelectronics 74, 751-756

Here we describe a label-free electrochemical DNA sensor based on poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)-modified (PEDOT-modified) electrodes. An acetylene-terminated DNA probe, complementary to a specific "Hepatitis C" virus sequence, was immobilized onto azido-derivatized conducting PEDOT electrodes using "click" chemistry. DNA hybridization was then detected by differential pulse voltammetry, evaluating the changes in the electrochemical properties of the polymer produced by the recognition event. A limit of detection of 0.13. nM was achieved using this highly selective PEDOT-based genosensor, without the need for labeling techniques or microelectrode fabrication processes. These results are promising for the development of label-free and reagentless DNA hybridization sensors based on conducting polymeric substrates. Biosensors can be easily prepared using any DNA sequence containing an alkyne moiety. The data presented here reveal the potential of this DNA sensor for diagnostic applications in the screening of diseases, such as "Hepatitis C", and genetic mutations.

Keywords: Azido-EDOT, Click chemistry, Differential pulse voltammetry, DNA biosensor, Electrochemistry, Hepatitis C virus


Baelo, Aida, Levato, Riccardo, Julián, Esther, Crespo, Anna, Astola, José, Gavaldà, Joan, Engel, Elisabeth, Mateos-Timoneda, Miguel Angel, Torrents, Eduard, (2015). Disassembling bacterial extracellular matrix with DNase-coated nanoparticles to enhance antibiotic delivery in biofilm infections Journal of Controlled Release 209, 150-158

Abstract Infections caused by biofilm-forming bacteria are a major threat to hospitalized patients and the main cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis. There is an urgent necessity for novel therapeutic approaches, since current antibiotic delivery fails to eliminate biofilm-protected bacteria. In this study, ciprofloxacin-loaded poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) nanoparticles, which were functionalized with DNase I, were fabricated using a green-solvent based method and their antibiofilm activity was assessed against Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms. Such nanoparticles constitute a paradigm shift in biofilm treatment, since, besides releasing ciprofloxacin in a controlled fashion, they are able to target and disassemble the biofilm by degrading the extracellular DNA that stabilize the biofilm matrix. These carriers were compared with free-soluble ciprofloxacin, and ciprofloxacin encapsulated in untreated and poly(lysine)-coated nanoparticles. DNase I-activated nanoparticles were not only able to prevent biofilm formation from planktonic bacteria, but they also successfully reduced established biofilm mass, size and living cell density, as observed in a dynamic environment in a flow cell biofilm assay. Moreover, repeated administration over three days of DNase I-coated nanoparticles encapsulating ciprofloxacin was able to reduce by 95% and then eradicate more than 99.8% of established biofilm, outperforming all the other nanoparticle formulations and the free-drug tested in this study. These promising results, together with minimal cytotoxicity as tested on J774 macrophages, allow obtaining novel antimicrobial nanoparticles, as well as provide clues to design the next generation of drug delivery devices to treat persistent bacterial infections.

Keywords: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Biofilm, Ciprofloxacin, DNase I, Nanoparticles


Moles, E., Urbán, P., Jiménez-Díaz, M. B., Viera-Morilla, S., Angulo-Barturen, I., Busquets, M. A., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2015). Immunoliposome-mediated drug delivery to Plasmodium-infected and non-infected red blood cells as a dual therapeutic/prophylactic antimalarial strategy Journal of Controlled Release 210, 217-229

One of the most important factors behind resistance evolution in malaria is the failure to deliver sufficiently high amounts of drugs to early stages of Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (pRBCs). Despite having been considered for decades as a promising approach, the delivery of antimalarials encapsulated in immunoliposomes targeted to pRBCs has not progressed towards clinical applications, whereas in vitro assays rarely reach drug efficacy improvements above 10-fold. Here we show that encapsulation efficiencies reaching >96% are achieved for the weak basic drugs chloroquine (CQ) and primaquine using the pH gradient loading method in liposomes containing neutral saturated phospholipids. Targeting antibodies are best conjugated through their primary amino groups, adjusting chemical crosslinker concentration to retain significant antigen recognition. Antigens from non-parasitized RBCs have also been considered as targets for the delivery to the cell of drugs not affecting the erythrocytic metabolism. Using this strategy, we have achieved unprecedented complete nanocarrier targeting to early intraerythrocytic stages of the malaria parasite for which there is a lack of specific extracellular molecular tags. Immunoliposomes studded with monoclonal antibodies raised against the erythrocyte surface protein glycophorin A were capable of targeting 100% RBCs and pRBCs at the low concentration of 0.5 μM total lipid in the culture, with >95% of added liposomes retained on cell surfaces. When exposed for only 15 min to Plasmodium falciparum in vitro cultures of early stages, free CQ had no significant effect on the viability of the parasite up to 200 nM, whereas immunoliposomal 50 nM CQ completely arrested its growth. In vivo assays in mice showed that immunoliposomes cleared the pathogen below detectable levels at a CQ dose of 0.5 mg/kg, whereas free CQ administered at 1.75 mg/kg was, at most, 40-fold less efficient. Our data suggest that this significant improvement is in part due to a prophylactic effect of CQ found by the pathogen in its host cell right at the very moment of invasion.

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


Choudhury, Udit, Soler, Lluis, Gibbs, John, Sánchez, Samuel, Fischer, Peer, (2015). Surface roughness-induced speed increase for active Janus micromotors Chemical Communications 51, 8660-8663

We demonstrate a simple physical fabrication method to obtain self-propelled active Janus microparticles with rough catalytic platinum surfaces that show a four-fold increase in their propulsion speed compared to conventional Janus particles coated with a smooth Pt layer.


Brask, J. B., Singla-Buxarrais, G., Uroz, M., Vincent, R., Trepat, X., (2015). Compressed sensing traction force microscopy Acta Biomaterialia 26, 286-294

Adherent cells exert traction forces on their substrate, and these forces play important roles in biological functions such as mechanosensing, cell differentiation and cancer invasion. The method of choice to assess these active forces is traction force microscopy (TFM). Despite recent advances, TFM remains highly sensitive to measurement noise and exhibits limited spatial resolution. To improve the resolution and noise robustness of TFM, here we adapt techniques from compressed sensing (CS) to the reconstruction of the traction field from the substrate displacement field. CS enables the recovery of sparse signals at higher resolution from lower resolution data. Focal adhesions (FAs) of adherent cells are spatially sparse implying that traction fields are also sparse. Here we show, by simulation and by experiment, that the CS approach enables circumventing the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem to faithfully reconstruct the traction field at a higher resolution than that of the displacement field. This allows reaching state-of-the-art resolution using only a medium magnification objective. We also find that CS improves reconstruction quality in the presence of noise. Statement of Significance A great scientific advance of the past decade is the recognition that physical forces determine an increasing list of biological processes. Traction force microscopy which measures the forces that cells exert on their surroundings has seen significant recent improvements, however the technique remains sensitive to measurement noise and severely limited in spatial resolution. We exploit the fact that the force fields are sparse to boost the spatial resolution and noise robustness by applying ideas from compressed sensing. The novel method allows high resolution on a larger field of view. This may in turn allow better understanding of the cell forces at the multicellular level, which are known to be important in wound healing and cancer invasion.

Keywords: Compressed sensing, High resolution, Traction force microscopy


Kovtun, A., Goeckelmann, M. J., Niclas, A. A., Montufar, E. B., Ginebra, M. P., Planell, J. A., Santin, M., Ignatius, A., (2015). In vivo performance of novel soybean/gelatin-based bioactive and injectable hydroxyapatite foams Acta Biomaterialia Elsevier Ltd 12, (1), 242-249

Major limitations of calcium phosphate cements (CPCs) are their relatively slow degradation rate and the lack of macropores allowing the ingrowth of bone tissue. The development of self-setting cement foams has been proposed as a suitable strategy to overcome these limitations. In previous work we developed a gelatine-based hydroxyapatite foam (G-foam), which exhibited good injectability and cohesion, interconnected porosity and good biocompatibility in vitro. In the present study we evaluated the in vivo performance of the G-foam. Furthermore, we investigated whether enrichment of the foam with soybean extract (SG-foam) increased its bioactivity. G-foam, SG-foam and non-foamed CPC were implanted in a critical-size bone defect in the distal femoral condyle of New Zealand white rabbits. Bone formation and degradation of the materials were investigated after 4, 12 and 20 weeks using histological and biomechanical methods. The foams maintained their macroporosity after injection and setting in vivo. Compared to non-foamed CPC, cellular degradation of the foams was considerably increased and accompanied by new bone formation. The additional functionalization with soybean extract in the SG-foam slightly reduced the degradation rate and positively influenced bone formation in the defect. Furthermore, both foams exhibited excellent biocompatibility, implying that these novel materials may be promising for clinical application in non-loaded bone defects.

Keywords: Bone regeneration, Calcium phosphate cement, Gelatine, Rabbit model, Soybean


Levato, R., Planell, J. A., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Engel, E., (2015). Role of ECM/peptide coatings on SDF-1 Acta Biomaterialia 18, 59-67

Many cell therapies rely on the ability of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) to diffuse and localize throughout the target tissue-such as tumoral and ischemic tissues-, in response to specific cytokine signals, rather than being concentrated at the site of implantation. Therefore, it is fundamental to engineer biomaterial carriers as reservoirs, from which cells can migrate, possibly in a controlled manner. In this work, microcarriers (μCs) made of polylactic acid are characterized as MSC delivery vehicles capable of modulating key chemotactic pathways. The effect of different functionalization strategies on MSC migratory behavior from the μCs is studied in vitro in relation to SDF-1α/CXCR4 axis,-a major actor in MSC recruitment, chemotaxis and homing. Collagen and arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD) peptides were either covalently grafted or physisorbed on μC surface. While stable covalent modifications promoted better cell adhesion and higher proliferation compared to physisorption, the functionalization method of the μCs also affected the cells migratory behavior in response to SDF-1α (CXCL12) stimulation. Less stable coatings (physisorbed) showed sensibly higher number of migrating cells than covalent collagen/RGD coatings. The combination of physic-chemical cues provided by protein/peptide functionalization and stimuli induced by 3D culture on μCs improved MSC expression of CXCR4, and exerted a control over cell migration, a condition suitable to promote cell homing after transplantation in vivo. These are key findings to highlight the impact of surface modification approaches on chemokine-triggered cell release, and allow designing biomaterials for efficient and controlled cell delivery to damaged tissues.

Keywords: Cell therapy, Chemotaxis, ECM (extracellular matrix), Mesenchymal stromal cells, Surface modification


Castangia, I., Nácher, A., Caddeo, C., Merino, V., Díez-Sales, O., Catalán-Latorre, A., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Fadda, A. M., Manconi, M., (2015). Therapeutic efficacy of quercetin enzyme-responsive nanovesicles for the treatment of experimental colitis in rats Acta Biomaterialia 13, 216-227

Biocompatible quercetin nanovesicles were developed by coating polyethylene glycol-containing vesicles with chitosan and nutriose, aimed at targeting the colon. Uncoated and coated vesicles were prepared using hydrogenated soy phosphatidylcholine and quercetin, a potent natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant drug. Physicochemical characterization was carried out by light scattering, cryogenic microscopy and X-ray scattering, the results showing that vesicles were predominantly multilamellar and around 130 nm in size. The in vitro release of quercetin was investigated under different pH conditions simulating the environment of the gastrointestinal tract, and confirmed that the chitosan/nutriose coating improved the gastric resistance of vesicles, making them a potential carrier system for colon delivery. The preferential localization of fluorescent vesicles in the intestine was demonstrated using the In Vivo FX PRO Imaging System. Above all, a marked amelioration of symptoms of 2,4,6-trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid-induced colitis was observed in animals treated with quercetin-loaded coated vesicles, favoring the restoration of physiological conditions. Therefore, quercetin-loaded chitosan/nutriose-coated vesicles can represent a valuable therapeutic tool for the treatment of chronic intestinal inflammatory diseases, and presumably a preventive system, due to the synergic action of antioxidant quercetin and beneficial prebiotic effects of the chitosan/nutriose complex.

Keywords: Chitosan/nutriose complex, Colon targeting, Phospholipid vesicles, Quercetin, Rat colitis


Crosas-Molist, E., Meirelles, T., López-Luque, J., Serra-Peinado, C., Selva, J., Caja, L., Gorbenko Del Blanco, D., Uriarte, J. J., Bertran, E., Mendizábal, Y., Hernández, V., García-Calero, C., Busnadiego, O., Condom, E., Toral, D., Castellà, M., Forteza, A., Navajas, D., Sarri, E., Rodríguez-Pascual, F., Dietz, H. C., Fabregat, I., Egea, G., (2015). Vascular smooth muscle cell phenotypic changes in patients with marfan syndrome Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 35, (4), 960-972

Objective - Marfan's syndrome is characterized by the formation of ascending aortic aneurysms resulting from altered assembly of extracellular matrix microfibrils and chronic tissue growth factor (TGF)-β signaling. TGF-β is a potent regulator of the vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) phenotype. We hypothesized that as a result of the chronic TGF-β signaling, VSMC would alter their basal differentiation phenotype, which could facilitate the formation of aneurysms. This study explores whether Marfan's syndrome entails phenotypic alterations of VSMC and possible mechanisms at the subcellular level. Approach and Results - Immunohistochemical and Western blotting analyses of dilated aortas from Marfan patients showed overexpression of contractile protein markers (α-smooth muscle actin, smoothelin, smooth muscle protein 22 alpha, and calponin-1) and collagen I in comparison with healthy aortas. VSMC explanted from Marfan aortic aneurysms showed increased in vitro expression of these phenotypic markers and also of myocardin, a transcription factor essential for VSMC-specific differentiation. These alterations were generally reduced after pharmacological inhibition of the TGF-β pathway. Marfan VSMC in culture showed more robust actin stress fibers and enhanced RhoA-GTP levels, which was accompanied by increased focal adhesion components and higher nuclear localization of myosin-related transcription factor A. Marfan VSMC and extracellular matrix measured by atomic force microscopy were both stiffer than their respective controls. Conclusions - In Marfan VSMC, both in tissue and in culture, there are variable TGF-β-dependent phenotypic changes affecting contractile proteins and collagen I, leading to greater cellular and extracellular matrix stiffness. Altogether, these alterations may contribute to the known aortic rigidity that precedes or accompanies Marfan's syndrome aneurysm formation.

Keywords: Actin, Aortic aneurysms, Aortic stiffness, Extracellular matrix, Focal adhesion, Myocardin, RhoA, TGF-β


Martín-Quirós, Andrés, Nevola, Laura, Eckelt, Kay, Madurga, Sergio, Gorostiza, Pau, Giralt, Ernest, (2015). Absence of a stable secondary structure is not a limitation for photoswitchable inhibitors of Chemistry & Biology 22, (1), 31-37

Many protein-protein interactions (PPIs) are mediated by short, often helical, linear peptides. Molecules mimicking these peptides have been used to inhibit their PPIs. Recently, photoswitchable peptides with little secondary structure have been developed as modulators of clathrin-mediated endocytosis. Here we perform a systematic analysis of a series of azobenzene-crosslinked peptides based on a


Aragonès, Albert C., Darwish, Nadim, Im, JongOne, Lim, Boram, Choi, Jeongae, Koo, Sangho, Díez-Pérez, Ismael, (2015). Fine-tuning of single-molecule conductance by tweaking both electronic structure and conformation of side substituents Chemistry – A European Journal 21, (21), 7716-7720

Herein, we describe a method to fine-tune the conductivity of single-molecule wires by employing a combination of chemical composition and geometrical modifications of multiple phenyl side groups as conductance modulators embedded along the main axis of the electronic pathway. We have measured the single-molecule conductivity of a novel series of phenyl-substituted carotenoid wires whose conductivity can be tuned with high precision over an order of magnitude range by modulating both the electron-donating character of the phenyl substituent and its dihedral angle. It is demonstrated that the electronic communication between the phenyl side groups and the molecular wire is maximized when the phenyl groups are twisted closer to the plane of the conjugated molecular wire. These findings can be refined to a general technique for precisely tuning the conductivity of molecular wires.

Keywords: Carotenoids, Conductance, Self-assembly, Single-molecule studies, STM break junction


Reginensi, Diego, Carulla, Patricia, Nocentini, Sara, Seira, Oscar, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Torres-Espín, Abel, Matamoros-Angles, Andreu, Gavín, Rosalina, Moreno-Flores, María Teresa, Wandosell, Francisco, Samitier, Josep, Trepat, Xavier, Navarro, Xavier, del Río, José Antonio, (2015). Increased migration of olfactory ensheathing cells secreting the Nogo receptor ectodomain over inhibitory substrates and lesioned spinal cord Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 72, (14), 2719-2737

Olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC) transplantation emerged some years ago as a promising therapeutic strategy to repair injured spinal cord. However, inhibitory molecules are present for long periods of time in lesioned spinal cord, inhibiting both OEC migration and axonal regrowth. Two families of these molecules, chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CSPG) and myelin-derived inhibitors (MAIs), are able to trigger inhibitory responses in lesioned axons. Mounting evidence suggests that OEC migration is inhibited by myelin. Here we demonstrate that OEC migration is largely inhibited by CSPGs and that inhibition can be overcome by the bacterial enzyme Chondroitinase ABC. In parallel, we have generated a stable OEC cell line overexpressing the Nogo receptor (NgR) ectodomain to reduce MAI-associated inhibition in vitro and in vivo. Results indicate that engineered cells migrate longer distances than unmodified OECs over myelin or oligodendrocyte-myelin glycoprotein (OMgp)-coated substrates. In addition, they also show improved migration in lesioned spinal cord. Our results provide new insights toward the improvement of the mechanisms of action and optimization of OEC-based cell therapy for spinal cord lesion.

Keywords: Olfactory ensheathing cells, Traction force microscopy, Chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans, Cell migration, Nogo receptor ectodomain


Andrade, F., Neves, J. D., Gener, P., Schwartz, S., Ferreira, D., Oliva, M., Sarmento, B., (2015). Biological assessment of self-assembled polymeric micelles for pulmonary administration of insulin Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine 11, (7), 1621-1631

Pulmonary delivery of drugs for both local and systemic action has gained new attention over the last decades. In this work, different amphiphilic polymers (Soluplus®, Pluronic® F68, Pluronic® F108 and Pluronic® F127) were used to produce lyophilized formulations for inhalation of insulin. Development of stimuli-responsive, namely glucose-sensitive, formulations was also attempted with the addition of phenylboronic acid (PBA). Despite influencing the in vitro release of insulin from micelles, PBA did not confer glucose-sensitive properties to formulations. Lyophilized powders with aerodynamic diameter (<. 6. μm) compatible with good deposition in the lungs did not present significant in vitro toxicity for respiratory cell lines. Additionally, some formulations, in particular Pluronic® F127-based formulations, enhanced the permeation of insulin through pulmonary epithelial models and underwent minimal internalization by macrophages in vitro. Overall, formulations based on polymeric micelles presenting promising characteristics were developed for the delivery of insulin by inhalation. From the Clinical Editor: The ability to deliver other systemic drugs via inhalation has received renewed interests in the clinical setting. This is especially true for drugs which usually require injections for delivery, like insulin. In this article, the authors investigated their previously developed amphiphilic polymers for inhalation of insulin in an in vitro model. The results should provide basis for future in vivo studies.

Keywords: Cytotoxicity, Inhalation, Permeability, Phagocytosis, Polymeric micelles, Protein delivery


Stanton, M. M., Trichet-Paredes, C., Sánchez, S., (2015). Applications of three-dimensional (3D) printing for microswimmers and bio-hybrid robotics Lab on a Chip 15, (7), 1634-1637

This article will focus on recent reports that have applied three-dimensional (3D) printing for designing millimeter to micrometer architecture for robotic motility. The utilization of 3D printing has rapidly grown in applications for medical prosthetics and scaffolds for organs and tissue, but more recently has been implemented for designing mobile robotics. With an increase in the demand for devices to perform in fragile and confined biological environments, it is crucial to develop new miniaturized, biocompatible 3D systems. Fabrication of materials at different scales with different properties makes 3D printing an ideal system for creating frameworks for small-scale robotics. 3D printing has been applied for the design of externally powered, artificial microswimmers and studying their locomotive capabilities in different fluids. Printed materials have also been incorporated with motile cells for bio-hybrid robots capable of functioning by cell contraction and swimming. These 3D devices offer new methods of robotic motility for biomedical applications requiring miniature structures. Traditional 3D printing methods, where a structure is fabricated in an additive process from a digital design, and non-traditional 3D printing methods, such as lithography and molding, will be discussed.


Stanton, M. M., Samitier, J., Sánchez, S., (2015). Bioprinting of 3D hydrogels Lab on a Chip 15, (15), 3111-3115

Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting has recently emerged as an extension of 3D material printing, by using biocompatible or cellular components to build structures in an additive, layer-by-layer methodology for encapsulation and culture of cells. These 3D systems allow for cell culture in a suspension for formation of highly organized tissue or controlled spatial orientation of cell environments. The in vitro 3D cellular environments simulate the complexity of an in vivo environment and natural extracellular matrices (ECM). This paper will focus on bioprinting utilizing hydrogels as 3D scaffolds. Hydrogels are advantageous for cell culture as they are highly permeable to cell culture media, nutrients, and waste products generated during metabolic cell processes. They have the ability to be fabricated in customized shapes with various material properties with dimensions at the micron scale. 3D hydrogels are a reliable method for biocompatible 3D printing and have applications in tissue engineering, drug screening, and organ on a chip models.


Seo, K. D., Kim, D. S., Sánchez, S., (2015). Fabrication and applications of complex-shaped microparticles via microfluidics Lab on a Chip 15, (18), 3622-3626

Complex-shaped microparticles (MPs) have attracted extensive interest in a myriad of scientific and engineering fields in recent years for their distinct morphology and capability in combining different functions within a single particle. Microfluidic techniques offer an intriguing method for fabricating MPs with excellent monodispersity and complex morphology in parallel while controlling their number and size precisely and independently. To date, there are two notable microfluidics approaches for the synthesis of complex-shaped MPs, namely droplet based, and flow-lithography based microfluidics approaches. It is undoubted that the application of complex-shaped MPs via microfluidic fabrication will hold great promise in a variety of fields including microfabrication, analytical chemistry and biomedicine.


García, S., Sunyer, R., Olivares, A., Noailly, J., Atencia, J., Trepat, X., (2015). Generation of stable orthogonal gradients of chemical concentration and substrate stiffness in a microfluidic device Lab on a Chip 15, (12), 2606-2614

Cellular responses to chemical cues are at the core of a myriad of fundamental biological processes ranging from embryonic development to cancer metastasis. Most of these biological processes are also influenced by mechanical cues such as the stiffness of the extracellular matrix. How a biological function is influenced by a synergy between chemical concentration and extracellular matrix stiffness is largely unknown, however, because no current strategy enables the integration of both types of cues in a single experiment. Here we present a robust microfluidic device that generates a stable, linear and diffusive chemical gradient over a biocompatible hydrogel with a well-defined stiffness gradient. Device fabrication relies on patterned PSA (Pressure Sensitive Adhesive) stacks that can be implemented with minimal cost and lab equipment. This technique is suitable for long-term observation of cell migration and application of traction force microscopy. We validate our device by testing MDCK cell scattering in response to perpendicular gradients of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and substrate stiffness.


Parmar, Jemish, Jang, Seungwook, Soler, Lluis, Kim, Dong-Pyo, Sánchez, Samuel, (2015). Nano-photocatalysts in microfluidics, energy conversion and environmental applications Lab on a Chip 15, 2352-2356

Extensive studies have been carried out on photocatalytic materials in recent years as photocatalytic reactions offer a promising solution for solar energy conversion and environmental remediation. Currently available commercial photocatalysts still lack efficiency and thus are economically not viable for replacing traditional sources of energy. This article focuses on recent developments in novel nano-photocatalyst materials to enhance photocatalytic activity. Recent reports on optofluidic systems, new synthesis of photocatalytic composite materials and motile photocatalysts are discussed in this article.


Wang, Lei, Sánchez, Samuel, (2015). Self-assembly via microfluidics Lab on a Chip 15, (23), 4383-4386

The self-assembly of amphiphilic building blocks has attracted extensive interest in myriad fields in recent years, due to their great potential in the nanoscale design of functional hybrid materials. Microfluidic techniques provide an intriguing method to control kinetic aspects of the self-assembly of molecular amphiphiles by the facile adjustment of the hydrodynamics of the fluids. Up to now, there have been several reports about one-step direct self-assembly of different building blocks with versatile and multi-shape products without templates, which demonstrated the advantages of microfluidics. These assemblies with different morphologies have great applications in various areas such as cancer therapy, micromotor fabrication, and controlled drug delivery.


Arayanarakool, Rerngchai, Meyer, Anne K., Helbig, Linda, Sánchez, Samuel, Schmidt, Oliver G., (2015). Tailoring three-dimensional architectures by rolled-up nanotechnology for mimicking microvasculatures Lab on a Chip 15, 2981-2989

Artificial microvasculature, particularly as part of the blood-brain barrier, has a high benefit for pharmacological drug discovery and uptake regulation. We demonstrate the fabrication of tubular structures with patterns of holes, which are capable of mimicking microvasculatures. By using photolithography, the dimensions of the cylindrical scaffolds can be precisely tuned as well as the alignment and size of holes. Overlapping holes can be tailored to create diverse three-dimensional configurations, for example, periodic nanoscaled apertures. The porous tubes, which can be made from diverse materials for differential functionalization, are biocompatible and can be modified to be biodegradable in the culture medium. As a proof of concept, endothelial cells (ECs) as well as astrocytes were cultured on these scaffolds. They form monolayers along the scaffolds, are guided by the array of holes and express tight junctions. Nanoscaled filaments of cells on these scaffolds were visualized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). This work provides the basic concept mainly for an in vitro model of microvasculature which could also be possibly implanted in vivo due to its biodegradability.


Vergara, C., Ordóñez-Gutiérrez, L., Wandosell, F., Ferrer, I., del Río, J. A., Gavín, R., (2015). Role of PrPC expression in tau protein levels and phosphorylation in alzheimer's disease evolution Molecular Neurobiology 51, (3), 1206-1220

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by the presence of amyloid plaques mainly consisting of hydrophobic β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) aggregates and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) composed principally of hyperphosphorylated tau. Aβ oligomers have been described as the earliest effectors to negatively affect synaptic structure and plasticity in the affected brains, and cellular prion protein (PrPC) has been proposed as receptor for these oligomers. The most widely accepted theory holds that the toxic effects of Aβ are upstream of change in tau, a neuronal microtubule-associated protein that promotes the polymerization and stabilization of microtubules. However, tau is considered decisive for the progression of neurodegeneration, and, indeed, tau pathology correlates well with clinical symptoms such as dementia. Different pathways can lead to abnormal phosphorylation, and, as a consequence, tau aggregates into paired helical filaments (PHF) and later on into NFTs. Reported data suggest a regulatory tendency of PrPC expression in the development of AD, and a putative relationship between PrPC and tau processing is emerging. However, the role of tau/PrPC interaction in AD is poorly understood. In this study, we show increased susceptibility to Aβ-derived diffusible ligands (ADDLs) in neuronal primary cultures from PrPC knockout mice, compared to wild-type, which correlates with increased tau expression. Moreover, we found increased PrPC expression that paralleled with tau at early ages in an AD murine model and in early Braak stages of AD in affected individuals. Taken together, these results suggest a protective role for PrPC in AD by downregulating tau expression, and they point to this protein as being crucial in the molecular events that lead to neurodegeneration in AD.

Keywords: Aβ oligomers, Alzheimer's disease, Cellular prion protein, Microtubule-associated protein tau


Carulla, Patricia, Llorens, Franc, Matamoros-Angles, Andreu, Aguilar-Calvo, Patricia, Espinosa, Juan Carlos, Gavín, Rosalina, Ferrer, Isidre, Legname, Giuseppe, Torres, Juan Maria, del Río, José A., (2015). Involvement of PrPC in kainate-induced excitotoxicity in several mouse strains Scientific Reports 5, 11971

The cellular prion protein (PrPC) has been associated with a plethora of cellular functions ranging from cell cycle to neuroprotection. Mice lacking PrPC show an increased susceptibility to epileptic seizures; the protein, then, is neuroprotective. However, lack of experimental reproducibility has led to considering the possibility that other factors besides PrPC deletion, such as the genetic background of mice or the presence of so-called “Prnp flanking genes”, might contribute to the reported susceptibility. Here, we performed a comparative analysis of seizure-susceptibility using characterized Prnp+/+ and Prnp0/0 mice of B6129, B6.129, 129/Ola or FVB/N genetic backgrounds. Our study indicates that PrPC plays a role in neuroprotection in KA-treated cells and mice. For this function, PrPC should contain the aa32–93 region and needs to be linked to the membrane. In addition, some unidentified “Prnp-flanking genes” play a role parallel to PrPC in the KA-mediated responses in B6129 and B6.129 Prnp0/0 mice.


Teller, Sara, Tahirbegi, Islam Bogachan, Mir, M., Samitier, Josep, Soriano, Jordi, (2015). Magnetite-Amyloid- Scientific Reports 5, 17261

The understanding of the key mechanisms behind human brain deterioration in Alzheimer’ disease (AD) is a highly active field of research. The most widespread hypothesis considers a cascade of events initiated by amyloid-


Urbán, Patricia, Ranucci, Elisabetta, Fernàndez-Busquets, Xavier, (2015). Polyamidoamine nanoparticles as nanocarriers for the drug delivery to malaria parasite stages in the mosquito vector Nanomedicine 10, (22), 3401-3414

Malaria is arguably one of the main medical concerns worldwide because of the numbers of people affected, the severity of the disease and the complexity of the life cycle of its causative agent, the protist Plasmodium spp. With the advent of nanoscience, renewed hopes have appeared of finally obtaining the long sought-after magic bullet against malaria in the form of a nanovector for the targeted delivery of antimalarial compounds exclusively to Plasmodium-infected cells, thus increasing drug efficacy and minimizing the induction of resistance to newly developed therapeutic agents. Polyamidoamine-derived nanovectors combine into a single chemical structure drug encapsulating capacity, antimalarial activity, low unspecific toxicity, specific targeting to Plasmodium, optimal in vivo activity and affordable synthesis cost. After having shown their efficacy in targeting drugs to intraerythrocytic parasites, now polyamidoamines face the challenge of spearheading a new generation of nanocarriers aiming at the malaria parasite stages in the mosquito vector.


Vizoso, Miguel, Puig, Marta, Carmona, F. Javier, Maqueda, Maria, Velásquez, Adriana, Gomez, Antonio, Labernadie, Anna, Lugo, Roberto, Gabasa, Marta, Rigat-Brugarolas, Luis G., Trepat, Xavier, Ramírez, Jose, Reguart, Noemí, Moran, Sebastian, Vidal, Enrique, Perera, Alexandre, Esteller, Manel, Alcaraz, Jordi, (2015). Aberrant DNA methylation in Non Small Cell Lung Cancer associated fibroblasts Carcinogenesis 32, (12), 1453-1463

Epigenetic changes through altered DNA methylation have been implicated in critical aspects of tumor progression, and have been extensively studied in a variety of cancer types. In contrast, our current knowledge of the aberrant genomic DNA methylation in tumor-associated fibroblasts (TAFs) or other stromal cells that act as critical co-conspirators of tumor progression is very scarce. To address this gap of knowledge, we conducted genome-wide DNA methylation profiling on lung TAFs and paired control fibroblasts (CFs) from non-small cell lung cancer patients using the HumanMethylation450 microarray. We found widespread DNA hypomethylation concomitant with focal gain of DNA methylation in TAFs compared to CFs. The aberrant DNA methylation landscape of TAFs had a global impact on gene expression and a selective impact on the TGF-β pathway. The latter included promoter hypermethylation-associated SMAD3 silencing, which was associated with hyperresponsiveness to exogenous TGF-β1 in terms of contractility and extracellular matrix deposition. In turn, activation of CFs with exogenous TGF-β1 partially mimicked the epigenetic alterations observed in TAFs, suggesting that TGF-β1 may be necessary but not sufficient to elicit such alterations. Moreover, integrated pathway-enrichment analyses of the DNA methylation alterations revealed that a fraction of TAFs may be bone marrow-derived fibrocytes. Finally, survival analyses using DNA methylation and gene expression datasets identified aberrant DNA methylation on the EDARADD promoter sequence as a prognostic factor in NSCLC patients. Our findings shed light on the unique origin and molecular alterations underlying the aberrant phenotype of lung TAFs, and identify a stromal biomarker with potential clinical relevance.


Mendes, Rafael Gregorio, Koch, Britta, Bachmatiuk, Alicja, Ma, Xing, Sánchez, Samuel, Damm, Christine, Schmidt, Oliver G., Gemming, Thomas, Eckert, Jurgen, Rummeli, Mark H., (2015). A size dependent evaluation of the cytotoxicity and uptake of nanographene oxide Journal of Materials Chemistry B 3, (12), 2522-2529

Graphene oxide (GO) has attracted great interest due to its extraordinary potential for biomedical application. Although it is clear that the naturally occurring morphology of biological structures is crucial to their precise interactions and correct functioning, the geometrical aspects of nanoparticles are often ignored in the design of nanoparticles for biological applications. A few in vitro and in vivo studies have evaluated the cytotoxicity and biodistribution of GO, however very little is known about the influence of flake size and cytotoxicity. Herein, we aim at presenting an initial cytotoxicity evaluation of different nano-sized GO flakes for two different cell lines (HeLa (Kyoto) and macrophage (J7742)) when they are exposed to samples containing different sized nanographene oxide (NGO) flakes (mean diameter of 89 and 277 nm). The obtained data suggests that the larger NGO flakes reduce cell viability as compared to smaller flakes. In addition, the viability reduction correlates with the time and the concentration of the NGO nanoparticles to which the cells are exposed. Uptake studies were also conducted and the data suggests that both cell lines internalize the GO nanoparticles during the incubation periods studied.


Ponce, I., Aragonès, A. C., Darwish, Nadrim, Pla-Vilanova, P., Oñate, R., Rezende, M. C., Zagal, J. H., Sanz, F., Pavez, J., Díez-Pérez, I., (2015). Building nanoscale molecular wires exploiting electrocatalytic interactions Electrochimica Acta 179, 611-167

Herein, we present a novel method to design nanoscale molecular wires by exploiting well-established electrocatalytic molecular platforms based on metallophthalocyanine blocks. Metallophthalocyanines exhibit high catalytic activity for a wide variety of electrochemical reactions of practical interests. To this aim, metallophthalocyanine molecules can be attached to an electrode surface via a conjugated mercaptopyridine axial ligand that provides (i) stable chemical binding to the metal surface through the thiol-anchoring group, and (ii) a good electrical communication between the metallophthalocyanine ring and the electrode surface. Our previous work demonstrates that long mercaptopyridinium blocks act as excellent linkers in such electrocatalytic platform, resulting in an optimal electrocatalytic activity of the metallophthalocyanine unit. Here we profit from this optimized electrocatalytic molecular platform to design new molecular wires that connect a metal nanoscale junction in a highly efficient and tunable way. To this aim, we use an STM break-junction approach to control the formation of a nanometric gap between two Au electrodes, both functionalized with mercaptopyridinium (bottom) and mercaptopyridine (top). When metallophthalocyanine is introduced into the functionalized metal nanojunction, stable molecular connections between the two electrodes are formed through axial coordination to the top and bottom pyridine moieties. We show that the highest conductance of the resulting nanoscale molecular wire corresponds to an Fe-phthalocyanine as compare to a Cu-phthalocyanine, which follows the electrocatalytic trend for such molecular systems. These results not only demonstrate a new strategy to design new families of highly conductive and tunable nanoscale molecular wires, but it also brings a new nanoscale electrical platform to help understanding some fundamental mechanistic aspects of molecular electrocatalysis.

Keywords: Single-molecule wires, Metallophthalocyanine, Electrocatalytic molecular platform, Molecular Electronics, STM break-junction


Gascón-Moya, Marta, Pejoan, Arnau, Izquierdo-Serra, M., Pittolo, Silvia, Cabrè, Gisela, Hernando, Jordi, Alibés, Ramon, Gorostiza, Pau, Busque, Felix, (2015). An optimized glutamate receptor photoswitch with sensitized azobenzene isomerization Journal of Organic Chemistry 80, (20), 9915-9925

A new azobenzene-based photoswitch, 2, has been designed to enable optical control of ionotropic glutamate receptors in neurons via sensitized two-photon excitation with NIR light. In order to develop an efficient and versatile synthetic route for this molecule, a modular strategy is described which relies on the use of a new linear fully protected glutamate derivative stable in basic media. The resulting compound undergoes one-photon trans-cis photoisomerization via two different mechanisms: direct excitation of its azoaromatic unit, and irradiation of the pyrene sensitizer, a well known two-photon sensitive chromophore. Moreover, 2 presents large thermal stability of its cis isomer, in contrast to other two-photon responsive switches relying on the intrinsic non-linear optical properties of push-pull substituted azobenzenes. As a result, the molecular system developed herein is a very promising candidate for evoking large photoinduced biological responses during the multiphoton operation of neuronal glutamate receptors with NIR light, which require accumulation of the protein-bound cis state of the switch upon repeated illumination. A new azobenzene-based photoswitch, 2, has been designed to enable optical control of ionotropic glutamate receptors in neurons via sensitized two-photon excitation with NIR light. In order to develop an efficient and versatile synthetic route for this molecule, a modular strategy is described which relies on the use of a new linear fully protected glutamate derivative stable in basic media. The resulting compound undergoes one-photon trans-cis photoisomerization via two different mechanisms: direct excitation of its azoaromatic unit, and irradiation of the pyrene sensitizer, a well known two-photon sensitive chromophore. Moreover, 2 presents large thermal stability of its cis isomer, in contrast to other two-photon responsive switches relying on the intrinsic non-linear optical properties of push-pull substituted azobenzenes. As a result, the molecular system developed herein is a very promising candidate for evoking large photoinduced biological responses during the multiphoton operation of neuronal glutamate receptors with NIR light, which require accumulation of the protein-bound cis state of the switch upon repeated illumination.


Ziyatdinov, Andrey, Fonollosa, Jordi, Fernánndez, Luis, Gutierrez-Gálvez, Agustín, Marco, Santiago, Perera, Alexandre, (2015). Bioinspired early detection through gas flow modulation in chemo-sensory systems Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 206, 538-547

Abstract The design of bioinspired systems for chemical sensing is an engaging line of research in machine olfaction. Developments in this line could increase the lifetime and sensitivity of artificial chemo-sensory systems. Such approach is based on the sensory systems known in live organisms, and the resulting developed artificial systems are targeted to reproduce the biological mechanisms to some extent. Sniffing behaviour, sampling odours actively, has been studied recently in neuroscience, and it has been suggested that the respiration frequency is an important parameter of the olfactory system, since the odour perception, especially in complex scenarios such as novel odourants exploration, depends on both the stimulus identity and the sampling method. In this work we propose a chemical sensing system based on an array of 16 metal-oxide gas sensors that we combined with an external mechanical ventilator to simulate the biological respiration cycle. The tested gas classes formed a relatively broad combination of two analytes, acetone and ethanol, in binary mixtures. Two sets of low-frequency and high-frequency features were extracted from the acquired signals to show that the high-frequency features contain information related to the gas class. In addition, such information is available at early stages of the measurement, which could make the technique suitable in early detection scenarios. The full data set is made publicly available to the community.11 http://archive.ics.uci.edu/ml/datasets/Gas+sensor+array+under+flow+modulation.

Keywords: Gas sensor array, MOX sensor, Flow modulation, Early detection, Biomimetics, Sniffing


Fonollosa, J., Sheik, S., Huerta, R., Marco, S., (2015). Reservoir computing compensates slow response of chemosensor arrays exposed to fast varying gas concentrations in continuous monitoring Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 215, 618-629

Metal oxide (MOX) gas sensors arrays are a predominant technological choice to perform fundamental tasks of chemical detection. Yet, their use has been mainly limited to relatively controlled instrument configurations where the sensor array is placed within a closed measurement chamber. Usually, the experimental protocol is defined beforehand and it includes three stages: the array is first exposed to a gas reference, then to the gas sample, and finally to the reference again to recover the initial state. Such sampling procedure requires signal acquisition during the complete experimental protocol and usually delays the output prediction until the predefined measurement duration is complete. Due to the slow time response of chemical sensors, the completion of the measurement typically requires minutes. In this paper we propose the use of reservoir computing (RC) algorithms to overcome the slow temporal dynamics of chemical sensor arrays, allowing identification and quantification of chemicals of interest continuously and reducing measurement delays. We generated two datasets to test the ability of RC algorithms to provide accurate and continuous prediction to fast varying gas concentrations in real time. Both datasets - one generated with synthetic data and the other acquired from actual gas sensors - provide time series of MOX sensors exposed to binary gas mixtures where concentration levels change randomly over time. Our results show that our approach improves the time response of the sensory system and provides accurate predictions in real time, making the system specifically suitable for online monitoring applications. Finally, the collected dataset and developed code are made publicly available to the research community for further studies.

Keywords: Chemical sensors, Continuous gas prediction, Electronic nose, Real-time detection, Reservoir computing


Fernandez, L., Marco, S., Gutierrez-Galvez, A., (2015). Robustness to sensor damage of a highly redundant gas sensor array Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 218, 296-302

Abstract In this paper we study the role of redundant sensory information to prevent the performance degradation of a chemical sensor array for different distributions of sensor failures across sensor types. The large amount of sensing conditions with two different types of redundancy provided by our sensor array makes possible a comprehensive experimental study. Particularly, our sensor array is composed of 8 different types of commercial MOX sensors modulated in temperature with two redundancy levels: (1) 12 replicates of each sensor type for a total of 96 sensors and (2) measurements using 16 load resistors per sensors for a total of 1536 redundant measures per second. We perform two experiments to determine the performance degradation of the array with increasing number of damaged sensors in two different scenarios of sensor faults distributions across sensor types. In the first experiment, we characterize the diversity and redundancy of the array for increasing number of damaged sensors. To measure diversity and redundancy, we proposed a functional definition based on clustering of sensor features. The second experiment is devoted to determine the performance degradation of the array for the effect of faulty sensors. To this end, the system is trained to separate ethanol, acetone and butanone at different concentrations using a PCA–LDA model. Test set samples are corrupted by means of three different simulated types of faults. To evaluate the performance of the array we used the Fisher score as a measure of odour separability. Our results show that to exploit to the utmost the redundancy of the sensor array faulty sensory units have to be distributed uniformly across the different sensor types.

Keywords: Gas sensor arrays, Sensor redundancy, Sensor diversity, Sensor faults aging, Sensor damage, MOX sensors, Large sensor arrays


Fonollosa, Jordi, Neftci, Emre, Rabinovich, Mikhail, (2015). Learning of chunking sequences in cognition and behavior Plos Computational Biology PLoS Computational Biology , 11, (11), e1004592

We often learn and recall long sequences in smaller segments, such as a phone number 858 534 22 30 memorized as four segments. Behavioral experiments suggest that humans and some animals employ this strategy of breaking down cognitive or behavioral sequences into chunks in a wide variety of tasks, but the dynamical principles of how this is achieved remains unknown. Here, we study the temporal dynamics of chunking for learning cognitive sequences in a chunking representation using a dynamical model of competing modes arranged to evoke hierarchical Winnerless Competition (WLC) dynamics. Sequential memory is represented as trajectories along a chain of metastable fixed points at each level of the hierarchy, and bistable Hebbian dynamics enables the learning of such trajectories in an unsupervised fashion. Using computer simulations, we demonstrate the learning of a chunking representation of sequences and their robust recall. During learning, the dynamics associates a set of modes to each information-carrying item in the sequence and encodes their relative order. During recall, hierarchical WLC guarantees the robustness of the sequence order when the sequence is not too long. The resulting patterns of activities share several features observed in behavioral experiments, such as the pauses between boundaries of chunks, their size and their duration. Failures in learning chunking sequences provide new insights into the dynamical causes of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Schizophrenia.


Gálvez-Montón, C., Fernandez-Figueras, M. T., Martí, M., Soler-Botija, C., Roura, S., Perea-Gil, I., Prat-Vidal, C., Llucià-Valldeperas, A., Raya, A., Bayes-Genis, A., (2015). Neoinnervation and neovascularization of acellular pericardial-derived scaffolds in myocardial infarcts Stem Cell Research and Therapy 6, (1), 108

Engineered bioimplants for cardiac repair require functional vascularization and innervation for proper integration with the surrounding myocardium. The aim of this work was to study nerve sprouting and neovascularization in an acellular pericardial-derived scaffold used as a myocardial bioimplant. To this end, 17 swine were submitted to a myocardial infarction followed by implantation of a decellularized human pericardial-derived scaffold. After 30 days, animals were sacrificed and hearts were analyzed with hematoxylin/eosin and Masson's and Gallego's modified trichrome staining. Immunohistochemistry was carried out to detect nerve fibers within the cardiac bioimplant by using βIII tubulin and S100 labeling. Isolectin B4, smooth muscle actin, CD31, von Willebrand factor, cardiac troponin I, and elastin antibodies were used to study scaffold vascularization. Transmission electron microscopy was performed to confirm the presence of vascular and nervous ultrastructures. Left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), cardiac output (CO), stroke volume, end-diastolic volume, end-systolic volume, end-diastolic wall mass, and infarct size were assessed by using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Newly formed nerve fibers composed of several amyelinated axons as the afferent nerve endings of the heart were identified by immunohistochemistry. Additionally, neovessel formation occurred spontaneously as small and large isolectin B4-positive blood vessels within the scaffold. In summary, this study demonstrates for the first time the neoformation of vessels and nerves in cell-free cardiac scaffolds applied over infarcted tissue. Moreover, MRI analysis showed a significant improvement in LVEF (P = 0.03) and CO (P = 0.01) and a 43 % decrease in infarct size (P = 0.007).


Llorens, Franc, Zafar, Saima, Ansoleaga, Belén, Shafiq, Mohsin, Blanco, Rosi, Carmona, Marga, Grau-Rivera, Oriol, Nos, Carlos, Gelpí, Ellen, del Río, José Antonio, Zerr, Inga, Ferrer, Isidre, (2015). Subtype and regional regulation of prion biomarkers in sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology 41, (5), 631-645

Aims Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rapid progressive neurological disease leading to dementia and death. Prion biomarkers are altered in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of CJD patients, but the pathogenic mechanisms underlying these alterations are still unknown. The present study examined prion biomarker levels in the brain and CSF of sporadic CJD (sCJD) cases and their correlation with neuropathological lesion profiles. Methods The expression levels of 14-3-3, Tau, phospho-Tau and α-synuclein were measured in the CSF and brain of sCJD cases in a subtype- and region-specific manner. In addition, the activity of prion biomarker kinases, the expression levels of CJD hallmarks and the most frequent neuropathological sCJD findings were analysed. Results Prion biomarkers levels were increased in the CSF of sCJD patients; however, correlations between mRNA, total protein and their phosphorylated forms in brain were different. The observed downregulation of the main Tau kinase, GSK3, in sCJD brain samples may help to explain the differential phospho-Tau/Tau ratios between sCJD and other dementias in the CSF. Importantly, CSF biomarkers levels do not necessarily correlate with sCJD neuropathological findings. Interpretation Present findings indicate that prion biomarkers levels in sCJD tissues and their release into the CSF are differentially regulated following specific modulated responses, and suggest a functional role for these proteins in sCJD pathogenesis.

Keywords: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Prion Protein, Cerebrospinal fluid, Prion Biomarkers, disease subtype, Glycogen synthase kinase 3


Solórzano, Carla, Srikumar, Shabarinath, Canals, Rocío, Juárez, Antonio, Paytubi, Sonia, Madrid, Cristina, (2015). Hha has a defined regulatory role that is not dependent upon H-NS or StpA Frontiers in Microbiology 6, Article 773

The Hha family of proteins is involved in the regulation of gene expression in enterobacteria by forming complexes with H-NS-like proteins. Whereas several amino acid residues of both proteins participate in the interaction, some of them play a key role. Residue D48 of Hha protein is essential for the interaction with H-NS, thus the D48N substitution in Hha protein abrogates H-NS/Hha interaction. Despite being a paralog of H-NS protein, StpA interacts with HhaD48N with higher affinity than with the wild type Hha protein. To analyze whether Hha is capable of acting independently of H-NS and StpA, we conducted transcriptomic analysis on the hha and stpA deletion strains and the hhaD48N substitution strain of Salmonella Typhimurium using a custom microarray. The results obtained allowed the identification of 120 genes regulated by Hha in an H-NS/StpA-independent manner, 38% of which are horizontally acquired genes. A significant number of the identified genes are involved in functions related to cell motility, iron uptake, and pathogenicity. Thus, motility assays, siderophore detection and intra-macrophage replication assays were performed to confirm the transcriptomic data. Our findings point out the importance of Hha protein as an independent regulator in S. Typhimurium, highlighting a regulatory role on virulence.

Keywords: Salmonella, Gene regulation, Motility, Pathogenicity island, H-NS, HHA, STPA


Zaffino, R. L., Galan, T., Pardo, W. A., Mir, M., Samitier, J., (2015). Nanoprobes for enhanced electrochemical DNA sensors Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology 7, (6), 817-827

Biosensors, small devices enabling selective bioanalysis because of properly assembled biological recognition molecules, represent the fortuitous results of years of interdisciplinary and complementary investigations in different fields of science. The ultimate role of a biosensor is to provide coupling between the recognition element and the analyte of interest, bringing a quantitative value of its concentrations into a complex sample matrix. They offer many advantages. Among them, portability, low cost with fast response times, and the possibility to operate in situ without the need for sample preparation are certainly the most important. Among biosensors, a large space is occupied by DNA biosensors. Screening genomic DNA is of fundamental importance for the development of new tools available to physicians during the clinical process. Sequencing of individual human genomes, accomplished principally by microarrays with optical detection, is complex and expensive for current clinical protocols. Efforts in research are focused on simplifying and reducing the cost of DNA biosensors. For this purpose, other transduction techniques are under study to make more portable and affordable DNA biosensors. Compared with traditional optical detection tools, electrochemical methods allow the same sensitivity and specificity but are less expensive and less labor intensive. Scalability of electrochemical devices makes it possible to use the advantages introduced by nanosized components. The involvement of nanomaterials and nanostructures with custom-tailored shapes and properties is expected to rapidly boost the field of electrochemical DNA biosensors and, in general, that of next-generation sequencing technologies.


Perez-Balaguer, Ariadna, Ortiz-Martínez, Fernando, García-Martínez, Araceli, Pomares-Navarro, Critina, Lerma, Enrique, Peiró, Gloria, (2015). FOXA2 mRNA expression is associated with relapse in patients with Triple-Negative/Basal-like breast carcinoma Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 153, (2), 465-474

The FOXA family of transcription factors regulates chromatin structure and gene expression especially during embryonic development. In normal breast tissue FOXA1 acts throughout mammary development; whereas in breast carcinoma its expression promotes luminal phenotype and correlates with good prognosis. However, the role of FOXA2 has not been previously studied in breast cancer. Our purpose was to analyze the expression of FOXA2 in breast cancer cells, to explore its role in breast cancer stem cells, and to correlate its mRNA expression with clinicopathological features and outcome in a series of patients diagnosed with breast carcinoma. We analyzed FOXA2 mRNA expression in a retrospective cohort of 230 breast cancer patients and in cell lines. We also knocked down FOXA2 mRNA expression by siRNA to determine the impact on cell proliferation and mammospheres formation using a cancer stem cells culture assay. In vitro studies demonstrated higher FOXA2 mRNA expression in Triple-Negative/Basal-like cells. Further, when it was knocked down, cells decreased proliferation and its capability of forming mammospheres. Similarly, FOXA2 mRNA expression was detected in 10 % (23/230) of the tumors, especially in Triple-Negative/Basal-like phenotype (p < 0.001, Fisher's test). Patients whose tumors expressed FOXA2 had increased relapses (59 vs. 79 %, p = 0.024, log-rank test) that revealed an independent prognostic value (HR = 3.29, C.I.95 % = 1.45-7.45, p = 0.004, Cox regression). Our results suggest that FOXA2 promotes cell proliferation, maintains cancer stem cells, favors the development of Triple-Negative/Basal-like tumors, and is associated with increase relapses.

Keywords: Breast carcinoma, Cancer stem cells, FOXA2, Prognosis


Andrade, F., Fonte, P., Oliva, M., Videira, M., Ferreira, D., Sarmento, B., (2015). Solid state formulations composed by amphiphilic polymers for delivery of proteins: Characterization and stability International Journal of Pharmaceutics 486, (1-2), 195-206

Abstract Nanocomposite powders composed by polymeric micelles as vehicles for delivery proteins were developed in this work, using insulin as model protein. Results showed that size and polydispersity of micelles were dependent on the amphiphilic polymer used, being all lower than 300 nm, while all the formulations displayed spherical shape and surface charge close to neutrality. Percentages of association efficiency and loading capacity up to 94.15 ± 3.92 and 8.56 ± 0.36, respectively, were obtained. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) measurements confirmed that insulin was partially present at the hydrophilic shell of the micelles. Lyophilization did not significantly change the physical characteristics of micelles, further providing easily dispersion when in contact to aqueous medium. The native-like conformation of insulin was maintained at high percentages (around 80%) after lyophilization as indicated by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and far-UV circular dichroism (CD). Moreover, Raman spectroscopy did not evidenced significant interactions among the formulation components. The formulations shown to be physically stable upon storage up to 6 months both at room-temperature (20 C) and fridge (4 C), with only a slight loss (maximum of 15%) of the secondary structure of the protein. Among the polymers tested, Pluronic® F127 produced the carrier formulations more promising for delivery of proteins.

Keywords: Amphiphilic polymers, Insulin, Lyophilization, Polymeric micelles, Stability


Abadías, Clara, Serés, Carme, Torrent-Burgués, J., (2015). AFM in peak force mode applied to worn siloxane-hydrogel contact lenses Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 128, 61-66

The objective of this work is to apply Atomic Force Microscopy in Peak Force mode to obtain topographic characteristics (mean roughness, root-mean-square roughness, skewness and kurtosis) and mechanical characteristics (adhesion, elastic modulus) of Siloxane-Hydrogel Soft Contact Lenses (CLs) of two different materials, Lotrafilcon B of Air Optix (AO) and Asmofilcon A of PremiO (P), after use (worn CLs). Thus, the results obtained with both materials will be compared, as well as the changes produced by the wear at a nanoscopic level. The results show significant changes in the topographic and mechanical characteristics of the CLs, at a nanoscopic level, due to wear. The AO CL show values of the topographic parameters lower than those of the P CL after wear, which correlates with a better comfort qualification given to the former by the wearers. A significant correlation has also been obtained between the adhesion values found after the use of the CLs with tear quality tests, both break-up-time and Schirmer.

Keywords: Adhesion, Atomic force microscopy-peak force mode, Surface topography, Worn siloxane-hydrogel contact lenses, Young modulus


Gumi-Audenis, B., Sanz, F., Giannotti, M. I., (2015). Impact of galactosylceramides on the nanomechanical properties of lipid bilayer models: an AFM-force spectroscopy study Soft Matter 11, (27), 5447-5454

Galactosylceramides (GalCer) are glycosphingolipids bound to a monosaccharide group, responsible for inducing extensive hydrogen bonds that yield their alignment and accumulation in the outer leaflet of the biological membrane together with cholesterol (Chol) in rafts. In this work, the influence of GalCer on the nanomechanical properties of supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) based on DPPC (1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine) and DLPC (1,2-didodecanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocoline) as model systems was assessed. Phosphatidylcholine (PC):GalCer SLBs were characterized by means of differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and atomic force microscopy (AFM), in both imaging and force spectroscopy (AFM-FS) modes. Comparing both PC systems, we determined that the behaviour of SLB mixtures is governed by the PC phase-like state at the working temperature. While a phase segregated system is observed for DLPC:GalCer SLBs, GalCer are found to be dissolved in DPPC SLBs for GalCer contents up to 20 mol%. In both systems, the incorporation of GalCer intensifies the nanomechanical properties of SLBs. Interestingly, segregated domains of exceptionally high mechanical stability are formed in DLPC:GalCer SLBs. Finally, the role of 20 mol% Chol in GalCer organization and function in the membranes was assessed. Both PC model systems displayed phase segregation and remarkable nanomechanical stability when GalCer and Chol coexist in SLBs.


Hoyo, J., Guaus, E., Torrent-Burgués, J., Sanz, F., (2015). Biomimetic monolayer films of digalactosyldiacylglycerol incorporating plastoquinone Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes 1848, (6), 1341-1351

The photosynthesis is the process used by plants and bacteria cells to convert inorganic matter in organic thanks to the light energy. This process consist on several steps, being one of them the electronic transport from the photosystem II to the cytochrome thanks to plastoquinone-9 (PQ). Here we prepare membranes that mimic the characteristics and composition of natural photosynthetic cell membranes and we characterize them in order to obtain the PQ molecules position in the membrane and their electrochemical behaviour. The selected galactolipid is digalactosyldiacylglycerol (DGDG) that represents the 30% of the thylakoid membrane lipid content. The results obtained are worthful for several science fields due to the relevance of galactolipids as anti-algal, anti-viral, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory agents and the antioxidant and free radical scavenger properties of prenylquinones. Both pure components (DGDG and PQ) and the DGDG:PQ mixtures have been studied using surface pressure-area isotherms. These isotherms give information about the film stability and indicate the thermodynamic behaviour of the mixture and their physical state. The Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) film has been transferred forming a monolayer that mimics the bottom layer of the biological membranes. This monolayer on mica has been topographically characterized using AFM and both the height and the physical state that they present have been obtained. Moreover, these monolayers have been transferred onto ITO that is a hydrophilic substrate with good optical and electrical features, so that, it is suitable for studying the electrochemical behaviour of these systems and it is a good candidate for energy producing devices.

Keywords: Biomimetic membrane, Digalactosyldiacylglycerol, Electron transfer, LangmuirBlodgett film, Modified ITO electrode, Plastoquinone


Mrkonji, Garcia-Elias, A., Pardo-Pastor, C., Bazellières, E., Trepat, X., Vriens, J., Ghosh, D., Voets, T., Vicente, R., Valverde, M. A., (2015). TRPV4 participates in the establishment of trailing adhesions and directional persistence of migrating cells Pflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology 467, (10), 2107-2119

Calcium signaling participates in different cellular processes leading to cell migration. TRPV4, a non-selective cation channel that responds to mechano-osmotic stimulation and heat, is also involved in cell migration. However, the mechanistic involvement of TRPV4 in cell migration is currently unknown. We now report that expression of the mutant channel TRPV4-121AAWAA (lacking the phosphoinositide-binding site 121KRWRK125 and the response to physiological stimuli) altered HEK293 cell migration. Altered migration patterns included periods of fast and persistent motion followed by periods of stalling and turning, and the extension of multiple long cellular protrusions. TRPV4-WT overexpressing cells showed almost complete loss of directionality with frequent turns, no progression, and absence of long protrusions. Traction microscopy revealed higher tractions forces in the tail of TRPV4-121AAWAA than in TRPV4-WT expressing cells. These results are consistent with a defective and augmented tail retraction in TRPV4-121AAWAA- and TRPV4-WT-expressing cells, respectively. The activity of calpain, a protease implicated in focal adhesion (FA) disassembly, was decreased in TRPV4-121AAWAA compared with TRPV4-WT-expressing cells. Consistently, larger focal adhesions were seen in TRPV4-121AAWAA compared with TRPV4-WT-expressing HEK293 cells, a result that was also reproduced in T47D and U87 cells. Similarly, overexpression of the pore-dead mutant TRPV4-M680D resumed the TRPV4-121AAWAA phenotype presenting larger FA. The migratory phenotype obtained in HEK293 cells overexpressing TRPV4-121AAWAA was mimicked by knocking-down TRPC1, a cationic channel that participates in cell migration. Together, our results point to the participation of TRPV4 in the dynamics of trailing adhesions, a function that may require the interplay of TRPV4 with other cation channels or proteins present at the FA sites.

Keywords: Calcium, Calpain, Focal adhesion, Migration, Traction forces, TRPV4


Zaritsky, Assaf, Welf, Erik S., Tseng, Yun-Yu, Angeles Rabadán, M., Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Trepat, Xavier, Danuser, Gaudenz, (2015). Seeds of locally aligned motion and stress coordinate a collective cell migration Biophysical Journal 109, (12), 2492-2500

Abstract We find how collective migration emerges from mechanical information transfer between cells. Local alignment of cell velocity and mechanical stress orientation—a phenomenon dubbed “plithotaxis”—plays a crucial role in inducing coordinated migration. Leader cells at the monolayer edge better align velocity and stress to migrate faster toward the open space. Local seeds of enhanced motion then generate stress on neighboring cells to guide their migration. Stress-induced motion propagates into the monolayer as well as along the monolayer boundary to generate increasingly larger clusters of coordinately migrating cells that move faster with enhanced alignment of velocity and stress. Together, our analysis provides a model of long-range mechanical communication between cells, in which plithotaxis translates local mechanical fluctuations into globally collective migration of entire tissues.


Perrault, Cecile, Brugues, Agusti, Bazellieres, Elsa, Ricco, Pierre, Lacroix, Damien, Trepat, Xavier, (2015). Traction forces of endothelial cells under slow shear flow Biophysical Journal 109, (8), 1533-1536

Endothelial cells are constantly exposed to fluid shear stresses that regulate vascular morphogenesis, homeostasis, and disease. The mechanical responses of endothelial cells to relatively high shear flow such as that characteristic of arterial circulation has been extensively studied. Much less is known about the responses of endothelial cells to slow shear flow such as that characteristic of venous circulation, early angiogenesis, atherosclerosis, intracranial aneurysm, or interstitial flow. Here we used a novel, to our knowledge, microfluidic technique to measure traction forces exerted by confluent vascular endothelial cell monolayers under slow shear flow. We found that cells respond to flow with rapid and pronounced increases in traction forces and cell-cell stresses. These responses are reversible in time and do not involve reorientation of the cell body. Traction maps reveal that local cell responses to slow shear flow are highly heterogeneous in magnitude and sign. Our findings unveil a low-flow regime in which endothelial cell mechanics is acutely responsive to shear stress. Endothelial cells are constantly exposed to fluid shear stresses that regulate vascular morphogenesis, homeostasis, and disease. The mechanical responses of endothelial cells to relatively high shear flow such as that characteristic of arterial circulation has been extensively studied. Much less is known about the responses of endothelial cells to slow shear flow such as that characteristic of venous circulation, early angiogenesis, atherosclerosis, intracranial aneurysm, or interstitial flow. Here we used a novel, to our knowledge, microfluidic technique to measure traction forces exerted by confluent vascular endothelial cell monolayers under slow shear flow. We found that cells respond to flow with rapid and pronounced increases in traction forces and cell-cell stresses. These responses are reversible in time and do not involve reorientation of the cell body. Traction maps reveal that local cell responses to slow shear flow are highly heterogeneous in magnitude and sign. Our findings unveil a low-flow regime in which endothelial cell mechanics is acutely responsive to shear stress.


Dreux, Nicolas, Cendra, Maria del Mar, Massier, Sébastien, Darfeuille-Michaud, Arlette, Barnich, Nicolas, Torrents, Eduard, (2015). Ribonucleotide reductase NrdR as a novel regulator for motility and chemotaxis during adherent-invasive Escherichia coli infection Infection and Immunity 83, (4), 1305-1317

A critical step in the life cycle of all organisms is the duplication of the genetic material during cell division. Ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs) are essential enzymes for this step because they control the de novo production of the deoxyribonucleotides required for DNA synthesis and repair. Enterobacteriaceae have three functional classes of RNRs (Ia, Ib and III), which are transcribed from separate operons and encoded, respectively by the genes nrdAB, nrdHIEF and nrdDG. Here, we investigated the role of RNRs in the virulence of adherent-invasive E. coli (AIEC) isolated from Crohn's disease (CD) patients. Interestingly, the LF82 strain of AIEC harbors four different RNRs (two class Ia, one class Ib and one class III). Although the E. coli RNR enzymes have been extensively characterized both biochemically and enzymatically, little is known about their roles during bacterial infection. We found that RNR expression was modified in AIEC LF82 bacteria during cell infection, suggesting that RNRs play an important role in AIEC virulence. Knockout of the nrdR and nrdD genes, which encodes a transcriptional regulator of RNRs and class III anaerobic RNR respectively, decreased AIEC LF82's ability to colonize the gut mucosa of transgenic mice that express human CEACAM6 (carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell-adhesion molecule 6). Microarray experiments demonstrated that NrdR plays an indirect role in AIEC virulence by interfering with bacterial motility and chemotaxis. Thus, the development of drugs targeting RNR classes, in particular NrdR and NrdD, could be a promising new strategy to control gut colonization by AIEC bacteria in CD patients.


Pla-Vilanova, P., Aragonès, A. C., Ciampi, S., Sanz, F., Darwish, N., Diez-Perez, I., (2015). The spontaneous formation of single-molecule junctions via terminal alkynes Nanotechnology 26, 381001

Herein, we report the spontaneous formation of single-molecule junctions via terminal alkyne contact groups. Self-assembled monolayers that form spontaneously from diluted solutions of 1, 4-diethynylbenzene (DEB) were used to build single-molecule contacts and assessed using the scanning tunneling microscopy-break junction technique (STM-BJ). The STM-BJ technique in both its dynamic and static approaches was used to characterize the lifetime (stability) and the conductivity of a single-DEB wire. It is demonstrated that single-molecule junctions form spontaneously with terminal alkynes and require no electrochemical control or chemical deprotonation. The alkyne anchoring group was compared against typical contact groups exploited in single-molecule studies, i.e. amine (benzenediamine) and thiol (benzendithiol) contact groups. The alkyne contact showed a conductance magnitude comparable to that observed with amine and thiol groups. The lifetime of the junctions formed from alkynes were only slightly less than that of thiols and greater than that observed for amines. These findings are important as (a) they extend the repertoire of chemical contacts used in single-molecule measurements to 1-alkynes, which are synthetically accessible and stable and (b) alkynes have a remarkable affinity toward silicon surfaces, hence opening the door for the study of single-molecule transport on a semiconducting electronic platform.

Keywords: Ferrocene, Molecular electronics, Single-molecule electronics, Single-molecule junctions, Singlemolecule contacts, STM-break junction, Terminal alkyne


Hoyo, J., Guaus, E., Torrent-Burgués, J., Sanz, F., (2015). Electrochemistry of LB films of mixed MGDG: UQ on ITO Bioelectrochemistry 104, 26-34

The electrochemical behaviour of biomimetic monolayers of monogalactosyldiacylglycerol (MGDG) incorporating ubiquinone-10 (UQ) has been investigated. MGDG is the principal component in the thylakoid membrane and UQ seems a good substitute for plastoquinone-9, involved in photosynthesis chain. The monolayers have been performed using the Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) techniques and the redox behaviour of the LB films, transferred at several surface pressures on a glass covered with indium-tin oxide (ITO), has been characterized by cyclic voltammetry. The cyclic voltammograms show that UQ molecules present two redox processes (I and II) at high UQ content and high surface pressures, and only one redox process (I) at low UQ content and low surface pressures. The apparent rate constants calculated for processes I and II indicate a different kinetic control for the reduction and the oxidation of UQ/UQH2 redox couple, being kRapp(I)=2.2·10-5s-1, kRapp(II)=5.1·10-14 kOapp(I)=3.3·10-3s-1 and kOapp(II)=6.1·10-6s-1, respectively. The correlation of the redox response with the physical states of the LB films allows determining the positions of the UQ molecules in the biomimetic monolayer, which change with the surface pressure and the UQ content. These positions are known as diving and swimming.

Keywords: Cyclic voltammetry, Electron transfer, Langmuir-Blodgett film, Modified ITO electrode, Monogalactosyldiacylglycerol, Ubiquinone


Barreiros dos Santos, M., Azevedo, S., Agusil, J. P., Prieto-Simón, B., Sporer, C., Torrents, E., Juárez, A., Teixeira, V., Samitier, J., (2015). Label-free ITO-based immunosensor for the detection of very low concentrations of pathogenic bacteria Bioelectrochemistry 101, 146-152

Abstract Here we describe the fabrication of a highly sensitive and label-free ITO-based impedimetric immunosensor for the detection of pathogenic bacteria Escherichia coli O157:H7. Anti-E. coli antibodies were immobilized onto ITO electrodes using a simple, robust and direct methodology. First, the covalent attachment of epoxysilane on the ITO surface was demonstrated by Atomic Force Microscopy and cyclic voltammetry. The immobilization of antibody on the epoxysilane layer was quantified by Optical Waveguide Lightmode Spectroscopy, obtaining a mass variation of 12 ng cm− 2 (0.08 pmol cm− 2). Microcontact printing and fluorescence microscopy were used to demonstrate the specific binding of E. coli O157:H7 to the antibody-patterned surface. We achieved a ratio of 1:500 Salmonella typhimurium/E. coli O157:H7, thus confirming the selectivity of the antibodies and efficiency of the functionalization procedure. Finally, the detection capacity of the ITO-based immunosensor was evaluated by Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy. A very low limit of detection was obtained (1 CFU mL− 1) over a large linear working range (10–106 CFU mL− 1). The specificity of the impedimetric immunosensor was also examined. Less than 20% of non-specific bacteria (S. typhimurium and E. coli K12) was observed. Our results reveal the applicability of ITO for the development of highly sensitive and selective impedimetric immunosensors.

Keywords: E. coli O157:H7, Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy, Immunosensor, Indium tin oxide, Label-free detection


Moles, E., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2015). Loading antimalarial drugs into noninfected red blood cells: An undesirable roommate for Plasmodium Future Medicinal Chemistry 7, (7), 837-840

The malaria parasite, Plasmodium spp., is a delicate unicellular organism unable to survive in free form for more than a couple of minutes in the bloodstream. Upon injection in a human by its Anopheles mosquito vector, Plasmodium sporozoites pass through the liver with the aim of invading hepatocytes. Those which succeed spend inside their host cell a recovery time before replicating and entering the blood circulation as fragile merozoites, although their exposure to host defenses is extraordinarily short. Quick invasion of red blood cells (RBCs) in a process lasting just a few minutes allows the parasite to escape immune system surveillance. For most of its erythrocytic cycle the pathogen feeds mainly on hemoglobin as it progresses from the early blood stages, termed rings, to the late forms trophozoites and schizonts. Early stages are ideal targets for antimalarial therapies because drugs delivered to them would have a longer time to kill the parasite before it completes its development. However, only 6 h after invasion does the permeability of the infected erythrocyte to anions and small nonelectrolytes, including some drugs, start to increase as the parasite matures [1]. During this maturation process the parasite hydrolyzes hemoglobin in a digestive vacuole, which is the target of many amphiphilic drugs that freely cross the RBC membrane and accumulate intracellularly. As a result, most antimalarials start affecting the infected cell relatively late in the intraerythrocytic parasite life cycle, when their effect is probably often too short to be lethal to Plasmodium.

Keywords: Malaria, Nanomedicine, Plasmodium, Red blood cell, Targeted drug delivery


Fernández-Remolar, D. C., Santamaría, J., Amils, R., Parro, V., Gómez-Ortíz, D., Izawa, M. R. M., Banerjee, N. R., Pérez-Rodríguez', R., Rodríguez, N., López-Martínez, N., (2015). Formation of iron-rich shelled structures by microbial communities Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 120, (1), 147-168

In this paper, we describe the discovery and characterization of shelled structures that occur inside galleries of Pyrenees mines. The structures are formed by the mineralization of iron and zinc oxides, dominantly franklinite (ZnFe2O4) and poorly ordered goethite (α-FeO(OH)). Subsurface oxidation and hydration of polymetallic sulfide orebodies produce solutions rich in dissolved metal cations including Fe2+/3+ and Zn2+. The microbially precipitated shell-like structure grows by lateral or vertical stacking of thin laminae of iron oxide particles which are accreted mostly by fungal filaments. The resulting structures are composed of randomly oriented aggregates of needle-like, uniform-sized crystals, suggesting some biological control in the structure formation. Such structures are formed by the integration of two separated shells, following a complex process driven likely by different strategies of fungal microorganisms that produced the complex macrostructure.

Keywords: Geobiology, Iron oxides, Microbial mineralization


Caballero, David, Goetz, Jacky G., (2015). Foreword: Physics of cell migration Cell Adhesion & Migration 9, (5), 325-326

Galan, Teresa, Lagunas, Anna, Martinez, Elena, Samitier, Josep, (2015). Fabrication of bioactive polypyrrole microelectrodes on insulating surfaces by surface-guided biocatalytical polymerization RSC Advances 5, (82), 67082-67088

Although promising, organic microelectronics lacks standard fabrication methods comparable to photolithography in terms of resolution. Here we propose a novel and easily scalable on-surface biocatalytical procedure for the fabrication of polypyrrole microelectrodes on insulating surfaces. Arrays of polypyrrole microelectrodes were obtained by surface-guided biocatalytical polymerization, achieving up to 5 [small micro]m in resolution and conductivities up to 3 S cm-1. The mild reaction conditions provided by the biocatalytical approach permit the entrapment of bioactive compounds during polymer synthesis. This system is convenient for drug release purposes, as demonstrated by the controlled release of entrapped biotin through electrical stimulation. These results pave the way for the application of polypyrrole microelectrodes produced through biocatalysis in the development of implantable devices for remotely controlled tissue interactions.


Rigat, L., Homs-Corbera, A., Samitier, J., (2015). Highly hydrophilic microfluidic device prototyping using a novel poly(dimethylsiloxane)-based polymeric mix RSC Advances 5, (10), 7423-7425

We present a novel methodology to create in a simple, fast and cheap way an interpenetrating polymer network biomaterial, mixing 2-hydroxyethil methacrylate and poly(dimethylsiloxane), for long-lasting highly hydrophilic microfluidic device prototyping. The presented polymer could be potentially useful to develop point-of-care microfluidic diagnostic devices allowing blood displacement without exertion in microchannels while proving to have low biological analytes adhesion.


Tong, Z., Segura-Feliu, M., Seira, O., Homs-Corbera, A., Del Río, J. A., Samitier, J., (2015). A microfluidic neuronal platform for neuron axotomy and controlled regenerative studies RSC Advances 5, (90), 73457-73466

Understanding the basic mechanisms of neural regeneration after injury is a pre-requisite for developing appropriate treatments. Traditional approaches to model axonal lesions, such as high intensity power laser ablation or sharp metal scratching, are complex to implement, have low throughputs, and generate cuts that are difficult to modulate. We present here a novel reproducible microfluidic approach to model in vitro mechanical lesion of tens to hundreds of axons simultaneously in a controlled manner. The dimensions of the induced axonal injury and its distance from the neuronal cell body are precisely controlled while preserving both the proximal and distal portions of axons. We have observed that distal axons undergo Wallerian-like anterograde degeneration after axotomy; in contrast, proximal portions of the axons remain un-degenerated, possessing the potential to re-grow. More importantly, surpassing the previous axotomy methods performed in Petridishes in which local microenvironments cannot be tailored, our platform holds the capability to implement fine-tuned treatments to lesioned axon stumps in a local, controlled manner. Specifically, molecules such as chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans and its degrading enzyme chondroitinase ABC, hydrogels, and supporting cells have been shown to be deliverable to the lesioned site of injured axons. In addition, this system also permits double interventions at the level of the lesioned axons and the perikaryon. This proves the potential of our model by demonstrating how axonal regrowth can be evaluated under circumstances that are better mimics of biological problems. We believe that this novel mechanical microfluidic axotomy approach is easy to perform, yields high throughput axon lesions, is physiologically relevant, and offers a simplified platform for screening of potential new neurological drugs.


Estévez, M., Martínez, E., Yarwood, S. J., Dalby, M. J., Samitier, J., (2015). Adhesion and migration of cells responding to microtopography Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A 103, (5), 1659-1668

It is known that cells respond strongly to microtopography. However, cellular mechanisms of response are unclear. Here, we study wild-type fibroblasts responding to 25 μm2 posts and compare their response to that of FAK-/- fibroblasts and fibroblasts with PMA treatment to stimulate protein kinase C (PKC) and the small g-protein Rac. FAK knockout cells modulated adhesion number and size in a similar way to cells on topography; that is, they used more, smaller adhesions, but migration was almost completely stalled demonstrating the importance of FAK signaling in contact guidance and adhesion turnover. Little similarity, however, was observed to PKC stimulated cells and cells on the topography. Interestingly, with PKC stimulation the cell nuclei became highly deformable bringing focus on these surfaces to the study of metastasis. Surfaces that aid the study of cellular migration are important in developing understanding of mechanisms of wound healing and repair in aligned tissues such as ligament and tendon.

Keywords: Adhesion, Cell migration, Cell morphology, Focal adhesion kinase, Microstructures


Hoyo, J., Guaus, E., Torrent-Burgués, J., Sanz, F., (2015). Biomimetic monolayer films of monogalactosyldiacylglycerol incorporating plastoquinone Journal of Physical Chemistry B 119, (20), 6170-6178

Photosynthetic organisms use light to convert the inorganic matter in organic one. Photosynthetic process consists on several steps, and one of them involves plastoquinone (PQ) that acts as electron and proton shuttle between photosystem II and cytochrome. We prepared membranes that mimic the characteristics and composition of natural photosynthetic membranes and we characterized them using several techniques in order to obtain both the PQ molecules disposition in the membrane and their electrochemical behavior. The selected lipid was monogalactosyldiacylglycerol (MGDG) that represents the 50% of the lipid content of the thylakoid membrane. Both MGDG and PQ, and the MGDG:PQ mixtures have been studied using surface pressure-area isotherms and the presence of PQ alters the physical state and compactness of the MGDG matrix. Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) films have been obtained by transferring a monolayer that mimics half of the bilayer of a biological membrane. The AFM topographical characterization of the monolayers on mica indicates the presence of differentiated domains, corresponding to different physical states linked to the influence of the PQ content. Moreover, the electrochemical behavior of the monolayers has been studied when transferred on ITO, observing one main electrochemical process that is due to the diving position of PQ molecules in the lipid matrix.


Giannotti, Marina I., Cabeza de Vaca, Israel, Artés, Juan Manuel, Sanz, Fausto, Guallar, Victor, Gorostiza, Pau, (2015). Direct measurement of the nanomechanical stability of a redox protein active site and its dependence upon metal binding Journal of Physical Chemistry B 119, (36), 12050-12058

The structural basis of the low reorganization energy of cupredoxins has long been debated. These proteins reconcile a conformationally heterogeneous and exposed metal-chelating site with the highly rigid copper center required for efficient electron transfer. Here we combine single-molecule mechanical unfolding experiments with statistical analysis and computer simulations to show that the metal-binding region of apo-azurin is mechanically flexible and that high mechanical stability is imparted by copper binding. The unfolding pathway of the metal site depends on the pulling residue and suggests that partial unfolding of the metal binding site could be facilitated by the physical interaction with certain regions of the redox protein. The structural basis of the low reorganization energy of cupredoxins has long been debated. These proteins reconcile a conformationally heterogeneous and exposed metal-chelating site with the highly rigid copper center required for efficient electron transfer. Here we combine single-molecule mechanical unfolding experiments with statistical analysis and computer simulations to show that the metal-binding region of apo-azurin is mechanically flexible and that high mechanical stability is imparted by copper binding. The unfolding pathway of the metal site depends on the pulling residue and suggests that partial unfolding of the metal binding site could be facilitated by the physical interaction with certain regions of the redox protein.


Perea-Gil, I., Uriarte, J. J., Prat-Vidal, C., Gálvez-Montón, C., Roura, S., Llucià-Valldeperas, A., Soler-Botija, C., Farré, R., Navajas, D., Bayes-Genis, A., (2015). In vitro comparative study of two decellularization protocols in search of an optimal myocardial scaffold for recellularization American Journal of Translational Research 7, (3), 558-573

Introduction. Selection of a biomaterial-based scaffold that mimics native myocardial extracellular matrix (ECM) architecture can facilitate functional cell attachment and differentiation. Although decellularized myocardial ECM accomplishes these premises, decellularization processes may variably distort or degrade ECM structure. Materials and methods. Two decellularization protocols (DP) were tested on porcine heart samples (epicardium, mid myocardium and endocardium). One protocol, DP1, was detergent-based (SDS and Triton X-100), followed by DNase I treatment. The other protocol, DP2, was focused in trypsin and acid with Triton X-100 treatments. Decellularized myocardial scaffolds were reseeded by embedding them in RAD16-I peptidic hydrogel with adipose tissue-derived progenitor cells (ATDPCs). Results. Both protocols yielded acellular myocardial scaffolds (~82% and ~94% DNA reduction for DP1 and DP2, respectively). Ultramicroscopic assessment of scaffolds was similar for both protocols and showed filamentous ECM with preserved fiber disposition and structure. DP1 resulted in more biodegradable scaffolds (P = 0.04). Atomic force microscopy revealed no substantial ECM stiffness changes post-decellularization compared to native tissue. The Young’s modulus did not differ between heart layers (P = 0.69) or decellularization protocols (P = 0.15). After one week, recellularized DP1 scaffolds contained higher cell density (236 ± 106 and 98 ± 56 cells/mm2 for recellularized DP1 and DP2 scaffolds, respectively; P = 0.04). ATDPCs in both DP1 and DP2 scaffolds expressed the endothelial marker isolectin B4, but only in the DP1 scaffold ATDPCs expressed the cardiac markers GATA4, connexin43 and cardiac troponin T. Conclusions. In our hands, DP1 produced myocardial scaffolds with higher cell repopulation and promotes ATDPCs expression of endothelial and cardiomyogenic markers.

Keywords: Acellular myocardial scaffold, Adipose tissue-derived progenitor cells, Decellularization protocols, Extracellular matrix, Myocardial infarction, Recellularization


Crespo, A., Pedraz, L., Torrents, E., (2015). Function of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa NrdR transcription factor: Global transcriptomic analysis and its role on ribonucleotide reductase gene expression PLoS ONE 10, (4), e0123571

Ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs) are a family of sophisticated enzymes responsible for the synthesis of the deoxyribonucleotides (dNTPs), the building blocks for DNA synthesis and repair. Although any living cell must contain one RNR activity to continue living, bacteria have the capacity to encode different RNR classes in the same genome, allowing them to adapt to different environments and growing conditions. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is well known for its adaptability and surprisingly encodes all three known RNR classes (Ia, II and III). There must be a complex transcriptional regulation network behind this RNR activity, dictating which RNR class will be expressed according to specific growing conditions. In this work, we aim to uncover the role of the transcriptional regulator NrdR in P. aeruginosa. We demonstrate that NrdR regulates all three RNR classes, being involved in differential control depending on whether the growth conditions are aerobic or anaerobic. Moreover, we also identify for the first time that NrdR is not only involved in controlling RNR expression but also regulates topoisomerase I (topA) transcription. Finally, to obtain the entire picture of NrdR regulon, we performed a global transcriptomic analysis comparing the transcription profile of wild-type and nrdR mutant strains. The results provide many new data about the regulatory network that controls P. aeruginosa RNR transcription, bringing us a step closer to the understanding of this complex system.


Julián, E., Baelo, A., Gavaldà, J., Torrents, E., (2015). Methyl-hydroxylamine as an efficacious antibacterial agent that targets the ribonucleotide reductase enzyme PLoS ONE 10, (3), e0122049

The emergence of multidrug-resistant bacteria has encouraged vigorous efforts to develop antimicrobial agents with new mechanisms of action. Ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) is a key enzyme in DNA replication that acts by converting ribonucleotides into the corresponding deoxyribonucleotides, which are the building blocks of DNA replication and repair. RNR has been extensively studied as an ideal target for DNA inhibition, and several drugs that are already available on the market are used for anticancer and antiviral activity. However, the high toxicity of these current drugs to eukaryotic cells does not permit their use as antibacterial agents. Here, we present a radical scavenger compound that inhibited bacterial RNR, and the compound's activity as an antibacterial agent together with its toxicity in eukaryotic cells were evaluated. First, the efficacy of N-methyl-hydroxylamine (M-HA) in inhibiting the growth of different Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria was demonstrated, and no effect on eukaryotic cells was observed. M-HA showed remarkable efficacy against Mycobacterium bovis BCG and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Thus, given the M-HA activity against these two bacteria, our results showed that M-HA has intracellular antimycobacterial activity against BCG-infected macrophages, and it is efficacious in partially disassembling and inhibiting the further formation of P. aeruginosa biofilms. Furthermore, M-HA and ciprofloxacin showed a synergistic effect that caused a massive reduction in a P. aeruginosa biofilm. Overall, our results suggest the vast potential of M-HA as an antibacterial agent, which acts by specifically targeting a bacterial RNR enzyme.


Torres, M., Rojas, M., Campillo, N., Cardenes, N., Montserrat, J. M., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2015). Parabiotic model for differentiating local and systemic effects of continuous and intermittent hypoxia Journal of Applied Physiology 118, (1), 42-47

Hypoxia can be damaging either because cells are directly sensitive to low oxygen pressure in their local microenvironment and/or because they are exposed to circulating factors systemically secreted in response to hypoxia. The conventional hypoxia model, breathing hypoxic air, does not allow one to distinguish between these local and systemic effects. Here we propose and validate a model for differentially applying local and systemic hypoxic challenges in an animal. We used parabiosis, two mice sharing circulation by surgical union through the skin, and tested the hypothesis that when one of the parabionts breathes room air and the other one is subjected to hypoxic air, both mice share systemic circulation but remain normoxic and hypoxic, respectively. We tested two common hypoxic paradigms in 10 parabiotic pairs: continuous hypoxia (10% O2) mimicking chronic lung diseases, and intermittent hypoxia (40 s, 21% O2; 20 s, 5% O2) simulating sleep apnea. Arterial oxygen saturation and oxygen partial pressure at muscle tissue were measured in both parabionts. Effective cross-circulation was assessed by intraperitoneally injecting a dye in one of the parabionts and measuring blood dye concentration in both animals after 2 h. The results confirmed the hypothesis that tissues of the parabiont under room air were perfused with normally oxygenated blood and, at the same time, were exposed to all of the systemic mediators secreted by the other parabiont actually subjected to hypoxia. In conclusion, combination of parabiosis and hypoxic/normoxic air breathing is a novel approach to investigate the effects of local and systemic hypoxia in respiratory diseases.

Keywords: Animal model, Local hypoxia, Parabiosis, Systemic hypoxia


Barniol-Xicota, M., Escandell, A., Valverde, E., Julián, E., Torrents, E., Vázquez, S., (2015). Antibacterial activity of novel benzopolycyclic amines Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry 23, (2), 290-296

Staphylococcus aureus, especially strains resistant to multiple antibiotics, is a major pathogen for humans and animals. In this paper we have synthesized and evaluated the antibacterial activity of a new series of benzopolycyclic amines. Some of them exhibited μM MIC values against Staphylococcus aureus and other bacteria, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus MRSA. Compound 8 that displayed a good selectivity index, showed to be active in eliminating bacterial cells forming a preexisting biofilm.

Keywords: Antibacterials, Minimal biofilm inhibitory concentration, Polycyclic compounds, Staphylococcus aureus


Sachot, Nadège, Castano, Oscar, Planell, Josep A., Engel, Elisabeth, (2015). Optimization of blend parameters for the fabrication of polycaprolactone-silicon based ormoglass nanofibers by electrospinning Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part B: Applied Biomaterials 103, (6), 1287–1293

Electrospinning is a method that can be used to efficiently produce scaffolds that mimic the fibrous structure of natural tissue, such as muscle structures or the extracellular matrix of bone. The technique is often used as a way of depositing composites (organic/inorganic materials) to obtain bioactive nanofibers which have the requisite mechanical properties for use in tissue engineering. However, many factors can influence the formation and collection of fibers, including experimental variables such as the parameters of the solution of the electrospun slurry. In this study, we assessed the influence of the polymer concentration, glass content and glass hydrolysis level on the morphology and thickness of fibers produced by electrospinning for a PCL-(Si-Ca-P2) bioactive ormoglass—organically modified glass—blend. Based on previous assays, this combination of materials shows good angiogenic and osteogenic properties, which gives it great potential for use in tissue engineering. The results of our study showed that blend preparation directly affected the features of the resulting fibers, and when the parameters of the blend are precisely controlled, fibers with a regular diameter could be produced fairly easily when 2,2,2-trifluoroethanol was used as a solvent instead of tetrahydrofuran. The diameter of the homogeneous fibers ranged from 360 to 620 nm depending on the experimental conditions used. This demonstrates that experimental optimization of the electrospinning process is crucial in order to obtain a deposit of hybrid nanofibers with a regular shape.

Keywords: Si-based glasses, Ormoglass, Electrospinning, Hybrid materials, Bioactivity, Angiogenesis


da Palma, R. K., Campillo, N., Uriarte, J. J., Oliveira, L. V. F., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2015). Pressure- and flow-controlled media perfusion differently modify vascular mechanics in lung decellularization Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials 49, 69-79

Organ biofabrication is a potential future alternative for obtaining viable organs for transplantation. Achieving intact scaffolds to be recellularized is a key step in lung bioengineering. Perfusion of decellularizing media through the pulmonary artery has shown to be effective. How vascular perfusion pressure and flow vary throughout lung decellularization, which is not well known, is important for optimizing the process (minimizing time) while ensuring scaffold integrity (no barotrauma). This work was aimed at characterizing the pressure/flow relationship at the pulmonary vasculature and at how effective vascular resistance depends on pressure- and flow-controlled variables when applying different methods of media perfusion for lung decellularization. Lungs from 43 healthy mice (C57BL/6; 7-8 weeks old) were investigated. After excision and tracheal cannulation, lungs were inflated at 10cmH2O airway pressure and subjected to conventional decellularization with a solution of 1% sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). Pressure (PPA) and flow (V'PA) at the pulmonary artery were continuously measured. Decellularization media was perfused through the pulmonary artery: (a) at constant PPA=20cmH2O or (b) at constant V'PA=0.5 and 0.2ml/min. Effective vascular resistance was computed as Rv=PPA/V'PA. Rv (in cmH2O/(ml/min)); mean±SE) considerably varied throughout lung decellularization, particularly for pressure-controlled perfusion (from 29.1±3.0 in baseline to a maximum of 664.1±164.3 (p<0.05), as compared with flow-controlled perfusion (from 49.9±3.3 and 79.5±5.1 in baseline to a maximum of 114.4±13.9 and 211.7±70.5 (p<0.05, both), for V'PA of 0.5 and 0.2ml/min respectively. Most of the media infused to the pulmonary artery throughout decellularization circulated to the airways compartment across the alveolar-capillary membrane. This study shows that monitoring perfusion mechanics throughout decellularization provides information relevant for optimizing the process time while ensuring that vascular pressure is kept within a safety range to preserve the organ scaffold integrity.

Keywords: Acellular lung, Fluid mechanics, Lung bioengineering, Lung scaffold, Organ biofabrication, Tissue engineering, Vascular resistance


Van Der Hofstadt, M., Hüttener, M., Juárez, A., Gomila, G., (2015). Nanoscale imaging of the growth and division of bacterial cells on planar substrates with the atomic force microscope Ultramicroscopy 154, 29-36

Abstract With the use of the atomic force microscope (AFM), the Nanomicrobiology field has advanced drastically. Due to the complexity of imaging living bacterial processes in their natural growing environments, improvements have come to a standstill. Here we show the in situ nanoscale imaging of the growth and division of single bacterial cells on planar substrates with the atomic force microscope. To achieve this, we minimized the lateral shear forces responsible for the detachment of weakly adsorbed bacteria on planar substrates with the use of the so called dynamic jumping mode with very soft cantilever probes. With this approach, gentle imaging conditions can be maintained for long periods of time, enabling the continuous imaging of the bacterial cell growth and division, even on planar substrates. Present results offer the possibility to observe living processes of untrapped bacteria weakly attached to planar substrates.

Keywords: Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), Living cell imaging, Bacteria division, Gelatine immobilization, Dynamic jumping mode


Martorell, L., Corrales, I., Ramirez, L., Parra, R., Raya, A., Barquinero, J., Vidal, F., (2015). Molecular characterization of ten F8 splicing mutations in RNA isolated from patient's leucocytes: Assessment of in silico prediction tools accuracy Haemophilia 21, (2), 249-257

Summary: Although 8% of reported FVIII gene (F8) mutations responsible for haemophilia A (HA) affect mRNA processing, very few have been fully characterized at the mRNA level and/or systematically predicted their biological consequences by in silico analysis. This study is aimed to elucidate the effect of potential splice site mutations (PSSM) on the F8 mRNA processing, investigate its correlation with disease severity, and assess their concordance with in silico predictions. We studied the F8 mRNA from 10 HA patient's leucocytes with PSSM by RT-PCR and compared the experimental results with those predicted in silico. The mRNA analysis could explain all the phenotypes observed and demonstrated exon skipping in six cases (c.222G>A, c.601+1delG, c.602-11T>G, c.671-3C>G, c.6115+9C>G and c.6116-1G>A) and activation of cryptic splicing sites, both donor (c.1009+1G>A and c.1009+3A>C) and acceptor sites (c.266-3delC and c.5587-1G>A). In contrast, the in silico analysis was able to predict the score variation of most of the affected splice site, but the precise mechanism could only be correctly determined in two of the 10 mutations analysed. In addition, we have detected aberrant F8 transcripts, even in healthy controls, so this must be taken into account as they could mask the actual contribution of some PSSM. We conclude that F8 mRNA analysis using leucocytes still constitutes an excellent approach to investigate the transcriptional effects of the PSSM in HA, whereas prediction in silico is not always reliable for diagnostic decision-making.

Keywords: Haemophilia A, Leucocytes, RNA splicing, Splice site mutation, Synonymous mutation


del Moral-Zamora, Beatriz, Punter-Villagrassa, Jaime, Oliva-Brañas, Ana M., Álvarez-Azpeitia, Juan Manuel, Colomer-Farrarons, Jordi, Samitier, Josep, Homs-Corbera, Antoni, Miribel-Català, Pere Ll, (2015). Combined dielectrophoretic and impedance system for on-chip controlled bacteria concentration: application to Escherichia coli Electrophoresis 36, (9-10), 1130-1141

The present paper reports a bacteria autonomous controlled concentrator prototype with a user-friendly interface for bench-top applications. It is based on a micro-fluidic lab-on-a-chip and its associated custom instrumentation, which consists in a dielectrophoretic actuator, to pre-concentrate the sample, and an impedance analyser, to measure concentrated bacteria levels. The system is composed by a single micro-fluidic chamber with interdigitated electrodes and a instrumentation with custom electronics. The prototype is supported by a real-time platform connected to a remote computer, which automatically controls the system and displays impedance data used to monitor the status of bacteria accumulation on-chip. The system automates the whole concentrating operation. Performance has been studied for controlled volumes of Escherichia coli (E. coli) samples injected into the micro-fluidic chip at constant flow rate of 10 μL/min. A media conductivity correcting protocol has been developed, as the preliminary results showed distortion of the impedance analyser measurement produced by bacterial media conductivity variations through time. With the correcting protocol, the measured impedance values were related to the quantity of bacteria concentrated with a correlation of 0.988 and a coefficient of variation of 3.1%. Feasibility of E. coli on-chip automated concentration, using the miniaturized system, has been demonstrated. Furthermore, the impedance monitoring protocol had been adjusted and optimized, to handle changes in the electrical properties of the bacteria media over time.

Keywords: Autonomous Device, Bacteria Concentrator, Dielectrophoresis, Escherichia coli, Impedance Analysis


Del Moral Zamora, B., Álvarez Azpeitia, J.M., Oliva Brañas, A.M., Colomer-Farrarons, J., Castellarnau, M., Miribel-Català, P., Homs-Corbera, A., Juárez, A., Samitier, J., (2015). Continuous flow dielectrophoretic concentrator enhancement based on dielectric poles Electrophoresis 36, (13), 1405–1413

We describe a novel continuous-flow cell concentrator microdevice based on dielectrophoresis, and its associated custom-made control unit. The performances of a classical interdigitated metal electrode-based dielectrophoresis microfluidic device and this enhanced version, that includes insulator-based pole structures, were compared using the same setup. Escherichia coli samples were concentrated at several continuous flows and the device's trapping efficiencies were evaluated by exhaustive cell counts. Our results show that pole structures enhance the retention up to 12.6%, obtaining significant differences for flow rates up to 20

Keywords: Concentrator, Dielectrophoresis, Escherichia coli, Lab-on-a-chip


Jaramillo, Maria del Carmen, Huttener, Mario, Alvarez, Juan Manuel, Homs-Corbera, Antoni, Samitier, Josep, Torrents, Eduard, Juárez, Antonio, (2015). Dielectrophoresis chips improve PCR detection of the food-spoiling yeast Zygosaccharomyces rouxii in apple juice Electrophoresis 36, (13), 1471-1478

DEP manipulation of cells present in real samples is challenging. We show in this work that an interdigitated DEP chip can be used to trap and wash a population of the food-spoiling yeast Zygosaccharomyces rouxii that contaminates a sample of apple juice. By previously calibrating the chip, the yeast population loaded is efficiently trapped, washed and recovered in a small-volume fraction which, in turn, can be used for efficient PCR detection of this yeast. DEP washing of yeast cells gets rid of PCR inhibitors present in apple juice and facilitates PCR analysis. This and previous works on the use of DEP chips to improve PCR analysis show that a potential use of DEP is to be used as a treatment of real samples prior to PCR.

Keywords: Dielectrophoresis, PCR, Saccharomyces, Yeast


del Moral Zamora, Beatriz, Manuel Álvarez Azpeitia, Juan, Brañas, Ana Ma Oliva, Colomer-Farrarons, Jordi, Castellarnau, Marc, Miribel-Català, Pere Ll, Homs-Corbera, Antoni, Juárez, Antonio, Samitier, Josep, (2015). Dielectrophoretic concentrator enhancement based on dielectric poles for continuously flowing samples Electrophoresis 36, (13), 1405-1413

We describe a novel continuous-flow cell concentrator micro-device based on dielectrophoresis (DEP), and its associated custom-made control unit. The performances of a classical interdigitated metal electrode-based DEP microfluidic device and this enhanced version, that includes insulator-based pole structures, were compared using the same setup. Escherichia coli (E. coli) samples were concentrated at several continuous flows and the device's trapping efficiencies were evaluated by exhaustive cell counts. Our results show that pole structures enhance the retention up to 12.6%, obtaining significant differences for flow rates up to 20 μl/min, when compared to an equivalent classical interdigitated electrodes setup. In addition, we performed a subsequent proteomic analysis to evaluate the viability of the biological samples after the long exposure to the actuating electrical field. No E. coli protein alteration in any of the two systems was observed.

Keywords: Concentrator, Dielectrophoresis, Escherichia coli, Lab- on- a- chip


Pardo, W. A., Mir, M., Samitier, J., (2015). Signal enhancement in ultraflat electrochemical DNA biosensors Electrophoresis 36, (16), 1905-1911

The ability of holding back the undesired molecules, but at the same time to provide the right distribution and orientation of the bioreceptors, are critical targets to reach an efficient hybridization and enhanced detection in electrochemical DNA biosensors. The main actors responsible of these key functions are the substrate of the sensor and the interface auto-assembled on it. In this paper we present the annealing as a method to improve commercial gold evaporated substrates for biosensor applications. The restructuring of granulated gold surface by means of annealing heating treatment leads to the formation of ultraflat gold lamellar terraces. The formation of terraces was characterized with scanning tunneling microscopy and optical interferometry. The performance of the sensor sensitivity on granular substrates and ultraflat substrates was studied, concerning the orientation and surface coverage of the bioreceptor interface applied in electrochemical biosensor. The hybridization efficiency of ferrocene-labeled DNA amplified by PCR was characterized with surface plasmon resonance and electrochemistry. The experimental results demonstrate that annealing process, positive influence on optical and voltammetric readings, due to a structured organization of the bioreceptors on the flat substrate, gaining more efficient immobilization and DNA hybridization. The results suggest the annealing as a powerful tool for improving gold substrates in biosensors applications.

Keywords: Annealing ultraflat surfaces, DNA biosensor, DNA hybridization, Electrochemistry, Self-assembled monolayer


Maynou, Joan, Pairo, Erola, Marco, Santiago, Perera, Alexandre, (2015). Sequence information gain based motif analysis BMC Bioinformatics 16, (1), 377

BACKGROUND:The detection of regulatory regions in candidate sequences is essential for the understanding of the regulation of a particular gene and the mechanisms involved. This paper proposes a novel methodology based on information theoretic metrics for finding regulatory sequences in promoter regions.RESULTS:This methodology (SIGMA) has been tested on genomic sequence data for Homo sapiens and Mus musculus. SIGMA has been compared with different publicly available alternatives for motif detection, such as MEME/MAST, Biostrings (Bioconductor package), MotifRegressor, and previous work such Qresiduals projections or information theoretic based detectors. Comparative results, in the form of Receiver Operating Characteristic curves, show how, in 70 % of the studied Transcription Factor Binding Sites, the SIGMA detector has a better performance and behaves more robustly than the methods compared, while having a similar computational time. The performance of SIGMA can be explained by its parametric simplicity in the modelling of the non-linear co-variability in the binding motif positions.CONCLUSIONS:Sequence Information Gain based Motif Analysis is a generalisation of a non-linear model of the cis-regulatory sequences detection based on Information Theory. This generalisation allows us to detect transcription factor binding sites with maximum performance disregarding the covariability observed in the positions of the training set of sequences. SIGMA is freely available to the public at http://b2slab.upc.edu.


Castangia, I., Manca, M. L., Matricardi, P., Catalán-Latorre, A., Nácher, A., Diez-Sales, O., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Fadda, A. M., Manconi, M., (2015). Effects of ethanol and diclofenac on the organization of hydrogenated phosphatidylcholine bilayer vesicles and their ability as skin carriers Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine 26, 137

In this study, the effects of ethanol and/or diclofenac on vesicle bilayer structure have been studied. Liposomes with hydrogenated soy phosphatidylcholine, cholesterol and two different concentrations of diclofenac sodium (5 and 10 mg/ml) were obtained. In addition, ethanol was mixed in the water phase at different concentrations (5, 10 and 20 % v/v) to obtain ethosomes. To characterize vesicles, rehological analysis were carried out to investigate the intervesicle interactions, while bilayer structure was evaluated by small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering. Finally, the ethanol and/or diclofenac concentration-dependent ability to improve diclofenac skin delivery was evaluated in vitro. The addition of 20 % ethanol and/or diclofenac led to solid-like ethosome dispersion due to the formation of a new intervesicle structure, as previously found in transcutol containing vesicle dispersions. However, when using 5–10 % of ethanol the induction to form vesicle interconnections was less evident but the simultaneous presence of the drug at the highest concentration facilitated this phenomenon. Ethosomes containing the highest amount of both, drug (10 mg/ml) and ethanol (20 % v/v), improved the drug deposition in the skin strata and in the receptor fluid up to 1.5-fold, relative to liposomes. Moreover this solid-like formulation can easily overcome drawbacks of traditional liquid liposome formulations which undergo a substantial loss at the application site.


Botaya, Luis, Otero, Jorge, González, Laura, Coromina, Xavier, Gomila, Gabriel, Puig-Vidal, Manel, (2015). Quartz tuning fork-based conductive atomic force microscope with glue-free solid metallic tips Sensors and Actuators A: Physical 232, 259-266

Abstract Here, we devise a conductive Atomic Force Microscope (C-AFM) based on quartz tuning forks (QTFs) and metallic tips capable of simultaneously imaging the topography and conductance of a sample with nanoscale spatial resolution. The system is based on a header design which allows the metallic tip to be placed in tight and stable mechanical contact with the QTF without the need to use any glue. This allows electrical measurements to be taken with an electrically excited QTF with the two prongs free. The amplitude oscillation of the QTF is used to control the tip-sample distance and to acquire the topographic images. Meanwhile, the metallic tip is connected to a current–voltage amplifier circuit to measure the tip-sample field emission/tunneling current and to produce the conductive images. This method allows decoupled electrical measurement of the topography and electrical properties of the sample. The results we obtain from calibration samples demonstrate the feasibility of this measurement method and the adequacy of the performance of the system.

Keywords: AFM, Conductive AFM, Quartz tuning fork


Notari, M., Pulecio, J., Raya, A., (2015). Update on the pathogenic implications and clinical potential of microRNAs in cardiac disease BioMed Research International 2015, Article ID 105620

miRNAs, a unique class of endogenous noncoding RNAs, are highly conserved across species, repress gene translation upon binding to mRNA, and thereby influence many biological processes. As such, they have been recently recognized as regulators of virtually all aspects of cardiac biology, from the development and cell lineage specification of different cell populations within the heart to the survival of cardiomyocytes under stress conditions. Various miRNAs have been recently established as powerful mediators of distinctive aspects in many cardiac disorders. For instance, acute myocardial infarction induces cardiac tissue necrosis and apoptosis but also initiates a pathological remodelling response of the left ventricle that includes hypertrophic growth of cardiomyocytes and fibrotic deposition of extracellular matrix components. In this regard, recent findings place various miRNAs as unquestionable contributing factors in the pathogenesis of cardiac disorders, thus begging the question of whether miRNA modulation could become a novel strategy for clinical intervention. In the present review, we aim to expose the latest mechanistic concepts regarding miRNA function within the context of CVD and analyse the reported roles of specific miRNAs in the different stages of left ventricular remodelling as well as their potential use as a new class of disease-modifying clinical options.


Paxton, W., Sánchez, S., Nitta, T., (2015). Guest editorial: Special issue micro- and nanomachines IEEE Transactions on Nanobioscience 14, (3), 258-259

The articles in this special section focus on the technologies and applications supported by micro- and nanomachines. The world of artificial micro- and nanomachines has greatly expanded over the last few years to include a range of disciplines from chemistry, physics, biology, to micro/nanoengineering, robotics, and theoretical physics. The dream of engineering nanomachines involves fabricating devices that mimic the mechanical action of biological motors that operate over multiple length scales: from molecular-scale enzymes and motors such as kinesins to the micro-scale biomachinery responsible for the motility of tiny organisms such as the flagella motors of E. coli. However, the design and fabrication of artificial nano- and micromachines with comparable performance as their biological counterparts is not a straightforward task. It requires a detailed understanding of the basic principles of the operation of biomotors and mechanisms that couple the dissipation of energy to mechanical motion. Moreover, micro engineering and microfabrication knowledge is required in order to design efficient, small and even smart micro- and nanomachines.


Seo, K. D., Kwak, B. K., Sánchez, S., Kim, D. S., (2015). Microfluidic-assisted fabrication of flexible and location traceable organo-motor IEEE Transactions on Nanobioscience 14, (3), 298-304

In this paper, we fabricate a flexible and location traceable micromotor, called organo-motor, assisted by microfluidic devices and with high throughput. The organo-motors are composed of organic hydrogel material, poly (ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA), which can provide the flexibility of their structure. For spatial and temporal traceability of the organo-motors under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPION; Fe3O4) were incorporated into the PEGDA microhydrogels. Furthermore, a thin layer of platinum (Pt) was deposited onto one side of the SPION-PEGDA microhydrogels providing geometrical asymmetry and catalytic propulsion in aqueous fluids containing hydrogen peroxide solution, H2O2. Furthermore, the motion of the organo-motor was controlled by a small external magnet enabled by the presence of SPION in the motor architecture.

Keywords: Flexible, Hydrogel, Magnetic resonance imaging, Microfluidics, Micromotor, Microparticle, Organo-motor, Poly (ethylene glycol) diacrylate, Self-propulsion, Superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles


Gumí-Audenis, B., Carlà, F., Vitorino, M. V., Panzarella, A., Porcar, L., Boilot, M., Guerber, S., Bernard, P., Rodrigues, M. S., Sanz, F., Giannotti, M. I., Costa, L., (2015). Custom AFM for X-ray beamlines: in situ biological investigations under physiological conditions Journal of Synchrotron Radiation 22, 1364-1371

A fast atomic force microscope (AFM) has been developed that can be installed as a sample holder for grazing-incidence X-ray experiments at solid/gas or solid/liquid interfaces. It allows a wide range of possible investigations, including soft and biological samples under physiological conditions (hydrated specimens). The structural information obtained using the X-rays is combined with the data gathered with the AFM (morphology and mechanical properties), providing a unique characterization of the specimen and its dynamics in situ during an experiment. In this work, lipid monolayers and bilayers in air or liquid environment have been investigated by means of AFM, both with imaging and force spectroscopy, and X-ray reflectivity. In addition, this combination allows the radiation damage induced by the beam on the sample to be studied, as has been observed on DOPC and DPPC supported lipid bilayers under physiological conditions.

Keywords: In situ atomic force microscopy, Grazing-incidence scattering and reflectivity, Radiation damage, Model lipid membranes


Garde, A., Giraldo, B. F., Jané, R., Latshang, T. D., Turk, A. J., Hess, T., Bosch, M-.M., Barthelmes, D., Merz, T. M., Hefti, J. Pichler, Schoch, O. D., Bloch, K. E., (2015). Time-varying signal analysis to detect high-altitude periodic breathing in climbers ascending to extreme altitude Medical & Biological Engineering & Computing 53, (8), 699-712

This work investigates the performance of cardiorespiratory analysis detecting periodic breathing (PB) in chest wall recordings in mountaineers climbing to extreme altitude. The breathing patterns of 34 mountaineers were monitored unobtrusively by inductance plethysmography, ECG and pulse oximetry using a portable recorder during climbs at altitudes between 4497 and 7546 m on Mt. Muztagh Ata. The minute ventilation (VE) and heart rate (HR) signals were studied, to identify visually scored PB, applying time-varying spectral, coherence and entropy analysis. In 411 climbing periods, 30–120 min in duration, high values of mean power (MPVE) and slope (MSlopeVE) of the modulation frequency band of VE, accurately identified PB, with an area under the ROC curve of 88 and 89 %, respectively. Prolonged stay at altitude was associated with an increase in PB. During PB episodes, higher peak power of ventilatory (MPVE) and cardiac (MP LF HR ) oscillations and cardiorespiratory coherence (MP LF Coher ), but reduced ventilation entropy (SampEnVE), was observed. Therefore, the characterization of cardiorespiratory dynamics by the analysis of VE and HR signals accurately identifies PB and effects of altitude acclimatization, providing promising tools for investigating physiologic effects of environmental exposures and diseases.

Keywords: High-altitude periodic breathing, Cardiorespiratory characterization, Time-varying spectral analysis, Acclimatization, Hypoxia


da Palma, R. K., Farré, R., Montserrat, J. M., Gorbenko Del Blanco, D., Egea, G., de Oliveira, L. V. F., Navajas, D., Almendros, I., (2015). Increased upper airway collapsibility in a mouse model of Marfan syndrome Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology 207, 58-60

Marfan syndrome (MFS) is a genetic disorder caused by mutations in the FBN1 gene that codifies for fibrilin-1. MFS affects elastic fiber formation and the resulting connective tissue shows abnormal tissue laxity and organization. Although an increased prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea among patients with MFS has been described, the potential effects of this genetic disease on the collapsible properties of the upper airway are unknown. The aim of this study was to assess the collapsible properties of the upper airway in a mouse model of MFS Fbn1(C1039G/+) that is representative of most of the clinical manifestations observed in human patients. The upper airway in wild-type and Marfan mice was cannulated and its critical pressure (Pcrit) was measured in vivo by increasing the negative pressure through a controlled pressure source. Pcrit values from MFS mice were higher (less negative) compared to wild-type mice (-3.1±0.9cmH2O vs. -7.8±2.0cm H2O) suggesting that MFS increases the upper airway collapsibility, which could in turn explain the higher prevalence of OSA in MFS patients.

Keywords: Marfan syndrome, Obstructive sleep apnea, Upper airway collapsibility


Won, J. E., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Castaño, O., Planell, J. A., Seo, S. J., Lee, E. J., Han, C. M., Kim, H. W., (2015). Fibronectin immobilization on to robotic-dispensed nanobioactive glass/polycaprolactone scaffolds for bone tissue engineering Biotechnology Letters 37, (4), 935-342

Bioactive nanocomposite scaffolds with cell-adhesive surface have excellent bone regeneration capacities. Fibronectin (FN)-immobilized nanobioactive glass (nBG)/polycaprolactone (PCL) (FN-nBG/PCL) scaffolds with an open pore architecture were generated by a robotic-dispensing technique. The surface immobilization level of FN was significantly higher on the nBG/PCL scaffolds than on the PCL scaffolds, mainly due to the incorporated nBG that provided hydrophilic chemical-linking sites. FN-nBG/PCL scaffolds significantly improved cell responses, including initial anchorage and subsequent cell proliferation. Although further in-depth studies on cell differentiation and the in vivo animal responses are required, bioactive nanocomposite scaffolds with cell-favoring surface are considered to provide promising three-dimensional substrate for bone regeneration.

Keywords: Bone scaffolds, Cell response, Fibronectin, Nanobioactive glass, Nanocomposites, Polycaprolactone, Bone, Cell proliferation, Cells, Cytology, Glass, Nanocomposites, Polycaprolactone, Robotics, Bone scaffolds, Bone tissue engineering, Cell response, Fibronectin, Fibronectin immobilizations, Nano bioactive glass, Nanocomposite scaffolds, Three-dimensional substrates, Scaffolds (biology)


Rajasekaran, Vijaykumar, Aranda, Joan, Casals, Alicia, Pons, Jose L., (2015). An adaptive control strategy for postural stability using a wearable robot Robotics and Autonomous Systems 73, 16-23

Abstract Wearable robots are expected to expand the use of robotics in rehabilitation since they can widen the assistance application context. An important aspect of a rehabilitation therapy, in terms of lower extremity assistance, is balance control. In this article, we propose and evaluate an adaptive control strategy for robotic rehabilitation therapies to guarantee static stability using a wearable robot. Postural balance control can be implemented either acting on the hip, on the ankle joint or on both, depending on the kind of perturbation acting on the subject: internal or external. Internal perturbations can be produced by any voluntary movement of the body, such as bending the trunk. External perturbations, in the form of an impact force, are applied by the exoskeleton without any prior notice to observe the proactive response of the subject. We have used a 6 degree of freedom planar lower limb exoskeleton, H1, to perform this analysis. The developed control strategy has been designed to provide the necessary assistance, related to balance recovery and postural stability, under the “Assist-as-needed” paradigm. The interaction forces between orthosis and subject are monitored, as they play a relevant role in the definition of assistive and resistive movements to be applied to the joints. The proposed method has been tested with 5 healthy subjects in presence of internal and external disturbances. The results demonstrate that knowing the stability limit of each subject, in combination with a therapeutically selected scaling factor, the proposed adaptive control helps in providing an effective assistance in therapy. This method is efficient in handling the individual and combined effect of external perturbations acting on any joint movements.

Keywords: Exoskeleton controls, Postural stability, Balance controls, Adaptive control


Hernansanz, A., Casals, A., Amat, J., (2015). A multi-robot cooperation strategy for dexterous task oriented teleoperation Robotics and Autonomous Systems 68, 156-172

The use of multiple robots working cooperatively in a redundant way offers new possibilities in the execution of complex tasks in dynamic workspaces. The aim of this work is to increase the range of applicability of teleoperated systems by means of the automatic cooperation of multiple slave robots which, controlled by a human operator, act as if they were a unique robot: a Multi-Robot Cooperation Platform for Task-Oriented Teleoperation, MRCP. From the human operator commands, this robotic platform, the MRCP, dynamically selects the most suitable slave robot and manages, when necessary, a task transfer from one robot to another in order to achieve a smooth execution of teleoperated tasks. The result of the proposed methodology is an improved teleoperated system in terms of reachable workspace (volume, manoeuvrability and accessibility) and dexterity, thus widening its range of applicability. This approach allows human operators to focus their attention on the ongoing task more than on the teleoperated robots.

Keywords: Multi-robot cooperation, Single-operator-multiple-robot, Task-oriented teleoperation


Arcentales, A., Caminal, P., Diaz, I., Benito, S., Giraldo, B., (2015). Classification of patients undergoing weaning from mechanical ventilation using the coherence between heart rate variability and respiratory flow signal Physiological Measurement 36, (7), 1439-1452

Weaning from mechanical ventilation is still one of the most challenging problems in intensive care. Unnecessary delays in discontinuation and weaning trials that are undertaken too early are both undesirable. This study investigated the contribution of spectral signals of heart rate variability (HRV) and respiratory flow, and their coherence to classifying patients on weaning process from mechanical ventilation. A total of 121 candidates for weaning, undergoing spontaneous breathing tests, were analyzed: 73 were successfully weaned (GSucc), 33 failed to maintain spontaneous breathing so were reconnected (GFail), and 15 were extubated after the test but reintubated within 48 h (GRein). The power spectral density and magnitude squared coherence (MSC) of HRV and respiratory flow signals were estimated. Dimensionality reduction was performed using principal component analysis (PCA) and sequential floating feature selection. The patients were classified using a fuzzy K-nearest neighbour method. PCA of the MSC gave the best classification with the highest accuracy of 92% classifying GSucc versus GFail patients, and 86% classifying GSucc versus GRein patients. PCA of the respiratory flow signal gave the best classification between GFail and GRein patients (79% accuracy). These classifiers showed a good balance between sensitivity and specificity. Besides, the spectral coherence between HRV and the respiratory flow signal, in patients on weaning trial process, can contribute to the extubation decision.


Arvizu-Rodríguez, L. E., Palacios-Padrós, A., Chalé-Lara, F., Fernández-Muñoz, J. L., Díez-Pérez, I., Sanz, F., Espinosa-Faller, F. J., Sandoval, J., Caballero-Briones, F., (2015). Phase and surface modification by electrochemical post deposition treatments in ultrasonic-assisted CuInSe2/Cu electrodeposited films Chalcogenide Letters 12, (10), 537-545

CuInSe2 films were prepared onto Cu-cladded substrates by ultrasonic-assisted electrodeposition using different bath compositions and a fixed deposition potential of E=-1500 mV vs Ag/AgCl. In situ electrochemical treatments named selenization and electrocrystallization, in a Se4+ electrolyte were applied to modify the morphology, film structure and the phase composition. Films were characterized by scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy and photocurrent response. A Cu2-xSe layer develops as the electrode is introduced into the electrolyte. The presence of Cu-In, In-Se, Cu-Se, cubic, hexagonal and tetragonal CuInSe2 phases as well as elemental In and Se was observed. After selenization, partial phase dissolution and Se deposition is observed and after the electrocrystallization treatment the secondary phases such as Cu-Se, Cu-In, In and Se reduce substantially and the grain sizes increase, as well as the photocurrent response. Phase diagrams are constructed for each set of films and reaction mechanisms are proposed to explain the phase evolution.

Keywords: CuInSe2, Electrodeposition, In situ electrochemical treatments, Phase composition, Surface modification


Khalil, I. S. M., Magdanz, V., Sánchez, S., Schmidt, O. G., Misra, S., (2015). Precise localization and control of catalytic janus micromotors using weak magnetic fields International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems 12, (2), 1-7

We experimentally demonstrate the precise localization of spherical Pt-Silica Janus micromotors (diameter 5 μm) under the influence of controlled magnetic fields. First, we control the motion of the Janus micromotors in two-dimensional (2D) space. The control system achieves precise localization within an average region-of-convergence of 7 μm. Second, we show that these micromotors provide sufficient propulsion force, allowing them to overcome drag and gravitational forces and move both downwards and upwards. This propulsion is studied by moving the micromotors in three-dimensional (3D) space. The micromotors move downwards and upwards at average speeds of 19.1 μm/s and 9.8 μm/s, respectively. Moreover, our closed-loop control system achieves localization in 3D space within an average region-of-convergence of 6.3 μm in diameter. The precise motion control and localization of the Janus micromotors in 2D and 3D spaces provides broad possibilities for nanotechnology applications.

Keywords: 3D space, Localization, Magnetic control, Micromotors, Self-propulsion


Morales, R., Badesa, F. J., Garcia-Aracil, N., Aranda, J., Casals, A., (2015). Autoadaptive neurorehabilitation robotic system assessment with a post-stroke patient Revista Iberoamericana de Automatica e Informatica Industrial 12, (1), 92-98

This paper presents a new rehabilitation system that is able to adapt its performance to patient's psychophysiological state during the execution of robotic rehabilitation tasks. Using this approach, the motivation and participation of the patient during rehabilitation activity can be maximized. In this paper, the results of the study with healthy subjects presented in (Badesa et al., 2014b) have been extended for using them with patients who have suffered a stroke. In the first part of the article, the different components of the adaptive system are exposed, as well as a comparison of different machine learning techniques to classify the patient's psychophysiological state between three possible states: stressed, average excitation level and relaxed are presented. Finally, the results of the auto-adaptive system which modifies the behavior of the rehabilitation robot and virtual task in function of measured physiological signals are shown for a patient in the chronic phase of stroke.

Keywords: Physiological state multimodal interfaces rehabilitation robotics control


Keremidarska, M., Gugutkov, D., Altankov, G., Krasteva, N., (2015). Impact of electrospun nanofibres orientation on mesenchymal stem cell adhesion and morphology Comptes Rendus de L'Academie Bulgare des Sciences 68, (10), 1271-1276

Electrospun nanofibrous materials mimicking the architecture of native extracellular matrix (ECM) hold great promise as scaffolds in tissue engineering. In order to optimize the properties of nanofibrous scaffolds it is important to understand the impact of fibres’ organization on cell behaviour. Herein, we investigated the effect of nanofibres (NFs) alignment on human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hAD-MSCs) adhesion and morphology. Electrospun composite fibrinogen/poly-lactic acid (FNG/PLA) NF scaffolds with same composition and comparable fibre size were fabricated into randomly oriented and aligned configuration and stem cells adhesion was characterized by the meaning of overall cell morphology, actin cytoskeleton organization and expression of molecules, involved in the development of focal adhesion complexes. We found that hAD-MSCs altered their morphology, actin cytoskeleton and cell attachment in accordance with nanofibre orientation while cell spreading, focal adhesions and expression of β1 and αNintegrin receptors were not influenced significantly by fibre orientation. These results confirmed that fibre alignment of scaffold guide cellular arrangement and could be beneficial for stem differentiation and therefore for the successful scaffolds development if its contact guidance coincided with the cell shape and cytoskeletal tension.

Keywords: Electrospinning, Fibrinogen/polylactic acid hybrid nanofibres, Human adipose-derived stem cells


Brazil, R., (2015). Drugs on demand Chemistry & Industry 79, (2), 36-39

Lozano, M., Fiz, J. A., Jané, R., (2015). Análisis de sonidos adventicios continuos en pacientes asmáticos mediante el espectro de Hilbert CASEIB Proceedings XXXIII Congreso Anual de la Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (CASEIB 2015) , Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (Madrid, Spain) , 179-182

Los sonidos adventicios continuos (CAS) son uno de los principales síntomas del asma. Dada su importancia clínica, el análisis de estas señales requiere del uso de técnicas que permitan segmentarlas y caracterizarlas con una precisión alta. Sin embargo, la mayoría de técnicas propuestas anteriormente estaban basadas en el análisis de Fourier o wavelet, técnicas que tienen una resolución limitada a priori y son altamente dependientes de la amplitud de los CAS. En este estudio se presenta una técnica alternativa para el análisis de CAS basada en el espectro de Hilbert. El método presentado combina la descomposición empírica en modos por conjuntos con el estimador de Kay de la frecuencia instantánea, para obtener una representación tiempo-frecuencia con una alta concentración de energía y una resolución temporal y frecuencial elevada. Con el fin de mostrar las ventajas que ofrece el método presentado, se ha aplicado a cuatro señales de sonidos respiratorios registradas en pacientes asmáticos que contienen distintos tipos de CAS, reforzando la hipótesis confirmada en nuestro estudio previo de que el espectro de Hilbert permite segmentar y caracterizar los CAS con mayor precisión que otras técnicas tradicionales ampliamente utilizadas, como el espectrograma.


Alsaleh, S. M., Aviles, A. I., Sobrevilla, P., Casals, A., Hahn, J. K., (2015). Automatic and robust single-camera specular highlight removal in cardiac images Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Milan, Italy) , 675-678

In computer-assisted beating heart surgeries, accurate tracking of the heart's motion is of huge importance and there is a continuous need to eliminate any source of error that might disturb the tracking process. One source of error is the specular reflection that appears on the glossy surface of the heart. In this paper, we propose a robust solution for the detection and removal of specular highlights. A hybrid color attributes and wavelet based edge projection approach is applied to accurately identify the affected regions. These regions are then recovered using a dynamic search-based inpainting with adaptive windowing. Experimental results demonstrate the precision and efficiency of the proposed method. Moreover, it has a real-time performance and can be generalized to various other applications.

Keywords: Heart, Image color analysis, Image edge detection, Surgery, Tracking, Wavelet transforms


Giraldo, B. F., Rodríguez, J., Arcentales, A., Voss, A., Caminal, P., Bayes-Genis, A., (2015). Caracterización de pacientes isquémicos y dilatados a partir de las señales ECG y de presión sanguínea CASEIB Proceedings XXXIII Congreso Anual de la Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (CASEIB 2015) , Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (Madrid, Spain) , 31-34

Las enfermedades cardiovasculares son una de las principales causas de muerte en países desarrollados. Se han analizado 42 pacientes con cardiomiopatía isquémica (ICM) o dilatada (DCM), clasificados en función de la fracción de eyección ventricular izquierda (LVEF), en grupos de alto riesgo (HR: LVEF


Giraldo, B. F., Rodriguez, J., Caminal, P., Bayes-Genis, A., Voss, A., (2015). Cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular interactions in cardiomyopathy patients using joint symbolic dynamic analysis Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Milan, Italy) , 306-309

Cardiovascular diseases are the first cause of death in developed countries. Using electrocardiographic (ECG), blood pressure (BP) and respiratory flow signals, we obtained parameters for classifying cardiomyophaty patients. 42 patients with ischemic (ICM) and dilated (DCM) cardiomyophaties were studied. The left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) was used to stratify patients with low risk (LR: LVEF>35%, 14 patients) and high risk (HR: LVEF≤ 35%, 28 patients) of heart attack. RR, SBP and TTot time series were extracted from the ECG, BP and respiratory flow signals, respectively. The time series were transformed to a binary space and then analyzed using Joint Symbolic Dynamic with a word length of three, characterizing them by the probability of occurrence of the words. Extracted parameters were then reduced using correlation and statistical analysis. Principal component analysis and support vector machines methods were applied to characterize the cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular interactions in ICM and DCM cardiomyopaties, obtaining an accuracy of 85.7%.

Keywords: Blood pressure, Electrocardiography, Joints, Kernel, Principal component analysis, Support vector machines, Time series analysis


Sola-Soler, J., Giraldo, B. F., Fiz, J. A., Jané, R., (2015). Cardiorespiratory Phase Synchronization in OSA subjects during wake and sleep states Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Milan, Italy) , 7708-7711

Cardiorespiratory Phase Synchronization (CRPS) is a manifestation of coupling between cardiac and respiratory systems complementary to Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia. In this work, we investigated CRPS during wake and sleep stages in Polysomnographic (PSG) recordings of 30 subjects suspected from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The population was classified into three severity groups according to the Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI): G1 (AHI<;15), G2 (15<;=AHI<;30) and G3 (AHI>30). The synchrogram between single lead ECG and respiratory abdominal band signals from PSG was computed with the Hilbert transform technique. The different phase locking ratios (PLR) m:n were monitored throughout the night. Ratio 4:1 was the most frequent and it became more dominant as OSA severity increased. CRPS was characterized by the percentage of synchronized time (%Sync) and the average duration of synchronized epochs (AvDurSync) using three different thresholds. Globally, we observed that %Sync significantly decreased and AvDurSync slightly increased with OSA severity. A high synchronization threshold enhanced these population differences. %Sync was significantly higher in NREM than in REM sleep in G2 and G3 groups. Population differences observed during sleep did not translate to the initial wake state. Reduced CRPS could be an early marker of OSA severity during sleep, but further studies are needed to determine whether CRPS is also present during wakefulness.

Keywords: Band-pass filters, Electrocardiography, Heart beat, Sleep apnea, Sociology, Statistics, Synchronization


Rajasekaran, V., Aranda, J., Casals, A., (2015). Compliant gait assistance triggered by user intention Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Milan, Italy) , 3885-3888

An automatic gait initialization strategy based on user intention sensing in the context of rehabilitation with a lower-limb wearable robot is proposed and evaluated. The proposed strategy involves monitoring the human-orthosis interaction torques and initial position deviation to determine the gait initiation instant and to modify orthosis operation for gait assistance, when needed. During gait, the compliant control algorithm relies on the adaptation of the joints' stiffness in function of their interaction torques and their deviation from the desired trajectories, while maintaining the dynamic stability. As a reference input, the average of a set of recorded gaits obtained from healthy subjects is used. The algorithm has been tested with five healthy subjects showing its efficient behavior in initiating the gait and maintaining the equilibrium while walking in presence of external forces. The work is performed as a preliminary study to assist patients suffering from incomplete Spinal cord injury and Stroke.

Keywords: Biomedical monitoring, Exoskeletons, Joints, Knee, Legged locomotion, Trajectory, Exoskeleton, adaptive control, gait assistance, gait initiation, rehabilitation, wearable robot


Estrada, L., Torres, A., Sarlabous, L., Jané, R., (2015). EMG-derived respiration signal using the fixed sample entropy during an Inspiratory load protocol Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Milan, Italy) , 1703-1706

Extracting clinical information from one single measurement represents a step forward in the assessment of the respiratory muscle function. This attracting idea entails the reduction of the instrumentation and fosters to develop new medical integrated technologies. We present the use of the fixed sample entropy (fSampEn) as a more direct method to non-invasively derive the breathing activity from the diaphragm electromyographic (EMGdi) signal, and thus to extract the respiratory rate, an important vital sign which is cumbersome and time-consuming to be measured by clinicians. fSampEn is a method to evaluate the EMGdi activity that is less sensitive to the cardiac activity (ECG) and its application has proven to be useful to evaluate the load of the respiratory muscles. The behavior of the proposed method was tested in signals from two subjects that performed an inspiratory load protocol, which consists of increments in the inspiratory mouth pressure (Pmouth). Two respiratory signals were derived and compared to the Pmouth signal: the ECG-derived respiration (EDR) signal from the lead-I configuration, and the EMG-derived respiration (EMGDR) signal by applying the fSampEn method over the EMGdi signal. The similitude and the lag between signals were calculated through the cross-correlation between each derived respiratory signal and the Pmouth. The EMGDR signal showed higher correlation and lower lag values (≥ 0.91 and ≤ 0.70 s, respectively) than the EDR signal (≥ 0.83 and ≤0.99 s, respectively). Additionally, the respiratory rate was estimated with the Pmouth, EDR and EMGDR signals showing very similar values. The results from this preliminary work suggest that the fSampEn method can be used to derive the respiration waveform from the respiratory muscle electrical activity.

Keywords: Band-pass filters, Electrocardiography, Electromyography, Entropy, Mouth, Muscles, Protocols


Fonollosa, J., Neftci, E., Huerta, R., Marco, S., (2015). Evaluation of calibration transfer strategies between Metal Oxide gas sensor arrays Procedia Engineering EUROSENSORS 2015 , Elsevier (Freiburg, Germany) 120, 261-264

Abstract Inherent variability of chemical sensors makes necessary individual calibration of chemical detection systems. This shortcoming has traditionally limited usability of systems based on Metal Oxide (MOX) sensor arrays and prevented mass-production for some applications. Here, aiming at exploring transfer calibration between electronic nose systems, we exposed five identical 8-sensor detection units to controlled gas conditions. Our results show that a calibration model provides more accurate predictions when the tested board is included in the calibration dataset. However, we show that previously built calibration models can be extended to other units using a reduced number of measurements. While baseline correction seems imperative for successful baseline correction, among the different tested strategies, piecewise direct standardization provides more accurate predictions.

Keywords: Electronic nose, Calibration, MOX sensor, Machine Olfaction


Estrada, L., Torres, A., Garcia-Casado, J., Sarlabous, L., Prats-Boluda, G., Jané, R., (2015). Evaluation of sternocleidomastoid muscle activity by electromyography recorded with concentric ring electrodes CASEIB Proceedings XXXIII Congreso Anual de la Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (CASEIB 2015) , Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (Madrid, Spain) , 183-186

Los sonidos adventicios continuos (CAS) son uno de los principales síntomas del asma. Dada su importancia clínica, el análisis de estas señales requiere del uso de técnicas que permitan segmentarlas y caracterizarlas con una precisión alta. Sin embargo, la mayoría de técnicas propuestas anteriormente estaban basadas en el análisis de Fourier o wavelet, técnicas que tienen una resolución limitada a priori y son altamente dependientes de la amplitud de los CAS. En este estudio se presenta una técnica alternativa para el análisis de CAS basada en el espectro de Hilbert. El método presentado combina la descomposición empírica en modos por conjuntos con el estimador de Kay de la frecuencia instantánea, para obtener una representación tiempo-frecuencia con una alta concentración de energía y una resolución temporal y frecuencial elevada. Con el fin de mostrar las ventajas que ofrece el método presentado, se ha aplicado a cuatro señales de sonidos respiratorios registradas en pacientes asmáticos que contienen distintos tipos de CAS, reforzando la hipótesis confirmada en nuestro estudio previo de que el espectro de Hilbert permite segmentar y caracterizar los CAS con mayor precisión que otras técnicas tradicionales ampliamente utilizadas, como el espectrograma.


Aviles, A. I., Alsaleh, S. M., Sobrevilla, P., Casals, A., (2015). Force-feedback sensory substitution using supervised recurrent learning for robotic-assisted surgery Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Milan, Italy) , 1-4

The lack of force feedback is considered one of the major limitations in Robot Assisted Minimally Invasive Surgeries. Since add-on sensors are not a practical solution for clinical environments, in this paper we present a force estimation approach that starts with the reconstruction of a 3D deformation structure of the tissue surface by minimizing an energy functional. A Recurrent Neural Network-Long Short Term Memory (RNN-LSTM) based architecture is then presented to accurately estimate the applied forces. According to the results, our solution offers long-term stability and shows a significant percentage of accuracy improvement, ranging from about 54% to 78%, over existing approaches.

Keywords: Computer architecture, Estimation, Force, Microprocessors, Robot sensing systems, Surgery


Urra, O., Casals, A., Jané, R., (2015). The impact of visual feedback on the motor control of the upper-limb Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Milan, Italy) , 3945-3948

Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability with upper-limb hemiparesis being one of the most frequent consequences. Given that stroke only affects the paretic arm's control structure (the set of synergies and activation vectors needed to perform a movement), we propose that the control structure of the non-affected arm can serve as a physiological reference to rehabilitate the paretic arm. However, it is unclear how rehabilitation can effectively tune the control structure of a patient. The use of Visual Feedback (VF) is recommended to boost stroke rehabilitation, as it is able to positively modify neural mechanisms and improve motor performance. Thus, in this study we investigate whether VF can effectively modify the control structure of the upper-limb. We asked six neurologically intact subjects to perform a complete upper-limb rehabilitation routine comprised of 12 movements in absence and presence of VF. Our results indicate that VF significantly increases interlimb similarity both in terms of synergies and activation coefficients. However, the magnitude of improvement depended upon each subject. In general, VF brings the control structure of the nondominant side closer to the control structure of dominant side, suggesting that VF modifies the control structure towards more optimized motor patterns. This is especially interesting because stroke mainly affects the activation coefficients of patients and because it has been shown that the control of the affected side resembles that of the nondominant side. In conclusion, VF may enhance motor performance by effectively tuning the control-structure. Notably, this finding offers new insights to design improved stroke rehabilitation.

Keywords: Bars, Biomedical engineering, Electrodes, Electromyography, Mirrors, Muscles, Visualization


Mur, O., Frigola, M., Casals, A., (2015). Modelling daily actions through hand-based spatio-temporal features ICAR 2015 International Conference on Advanced Robotics , IEEE (Istanbul, Turkey) , 478-483

In this paper, we propose a new approach to domestic action recognition based on a set of features which describe the relation between poses and movements of both hands. These features represent a set of basic actions in a kitchen in terms of the mimics of the hand movements, without needing information of the objects present in the scene. They address specifically the intra-class dissimilarity problem, which occurs when the same action is performed in different ways. The goal is to create a generic methodology that enables a robotic assistant system to recognize actions related to daily life activities and then, be endowed with a proactive behavior. The proposed system uses depth and color data acquired from a Kinect-style sensor and a hand tracking system. We analyze the relevance of the proposed hand-based features using a state-space search approach. Finally, we show the effectiveness of our action recognition approach using our own dataset.

Keywords: Histograms, Joints, Robot sensing systems, Thumb, Tracking, Human activity recognition, Disable and elderly assistance


Estrada, L., Torres, A., Sarlabous, L., Jané, R., (2015). Respiratory signal derived from the smartphone built-in accelerometer during a Respiratory Load Protocol Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Milan, Italy) , 6768-6771

The scope of our work focuses on investigating the potential use of the built-in accelerometer of the smartphones for the recording of the respiratory activity and deriving the respiratory rate. Five healthy subjects performed an inspiratory load protocol. The excursion of the right chest was recorded using the built-in triaxial accelerometer of a smartphone along the x, y and z axes and with an external uniaxial accelerometer. Simultaneously, the respiratory airflow and the inspiratory mouth pressure were recorded, as reference respiratory signals. The chest acceleration signal recorded in the z axis with the smartphone was denoised using a scheme based on the ensemble empirical mode decomposition, a noise data assisted method which decomposes nonstationary and nonlinear signals into intrinsic mode functions. To distinguish noisy oscillatory modes from the relevant modes we use the detrended fluctuation analysis. We reported a very strong correlation between the acceleration of the z axis of the smartphone and the reference accelerometer across the inspiratory load protocol (from 0.80 to 0.97). Furthermore, the evaluation of the respiratory rate showed a very strong correlation (0.98). A good agreement was observed between the respiratory rate estimated with the chest acceleration signal from the z axis of the smartphone and with the respiratory airflow signal: Bland-Altman limits of agreement between -1.44 and 1.46 breaths per minute with a mean bias of -0.01 breaths per minute. This preliminary study provides a valuable insight into the use of the smartphone and its built-in accelerometer for respiratory monitoring.

Keywords: Acceleration, Accelerometers, Correlation, Empirical mode decomposition, Fluctuations, Protocols, Time series analysis


Aviles, A. I., Alsaleh, S., Sobrevilla, P., Casals, A., (2015). Sensorless force estimation using a neuro-vision-based approach for robotic-assisted surgery NER 2015 7th International IEEE/EMBS Conference on Neural Engineering , IEEE (Montpellier, France) , 86-89

This paper addresses the issue of lack of force feedback in robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgeries. Force is an important measure for surgeons in order to prevent intra-operative complications and tissue damage. Thus, an innovative neuro-vision based force estimation approach is proposed. Tissue surface displacement is first measured via minimization of an energy functional. A neuro approach is then used to establish a geometric-visual relation and estimate the applied force. The proposed approach eliminates the need of add-on sensors, carrying out biocompatibility studies and is applicable to tissues of any shape. Moreover, we provided an improvement from 15.14% to 56.16% over other approaches which demonstrate the potential of our proposal.

Keywords: Estimation, Force, Minimally invasive surgery, Robot sensing systems, Three-dimensional displays


Urra, O., Casals, A., Jané, R., (2015). Visual feedback facilitates intermanual transfer of the motor control of the dominant arm towards the nondominant arm CASEIB Proceedings XXXIII Congreso Anual de la Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (CASEIB 2015) , Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (Madrid, Spain) , 503-506

Visual feedback (VF) is applied to recover motor skills after stroke. However, the exact mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of VF remain unclear, limiting its optimal use in clinical practice. We previously reported that the effect of neural mechanisms triggered by VF is reflected in the upperlimb at the level of the control structure (the set of synergies/corresponding activation coefficients used to perform a task). Here, we hypothesize that VF may facilitate the transfer of superior motor programs stored in the dominant hemisphere to optimize the nondominant arm’s motor control. In order to test this hypothesis we have quantified the intermanual transfer (IMT) of the dominant control structure to the nondominant arm during the execution of a complete set of standard rehabilitation routines. We demonstrate that IMT is the main mechanism by which VF increases interlimb similarity and we show that the magnitude of IMT can be up to 75% in neurologically intact subjects. Thus, this study provides sound physiological evidence to encourage the use of VF in stroke rehabilitation.


Tomas Roig, J., Piscitelli, F., Gil, V., Havemann Reinecke, U., (2015). Chronic psychosocial stress and endocannabinoid system interact to affect the transcription of SLC6A4, in the mouse corticostriatal circuits European Neuropsychopharmacology 28th ECNP Congress , Elsevier (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) 25, (Supplement 2), P.1.a.001

Vulnerability for psychosis is determined by the interacting contributions of multiple genetic and environmental factors. Dysregulation of corticostriatal circuitry has long been thought to be critical in the etiology of psychotic disorders. Psychosocial stress is known to have a great influence on brain function and behavior. In response to persistent stress exposure, chronic glucocorticoid exposure appears to have adverse effects on numerous brain regions. Glucocorticoid receptor (GR) functioning is regulated in part by FKBP5 and its activity modulates serotoninergic neurotransmission. Extracellular serotonin reuptake is monitored by the serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4. Cannabinoid CB1 receptor mediates glucocorticoid effects and it’s highly expressed in the corticostriatal circuits.


Oller-Moreno, S., Singla-Buxarrais, G., Jiménez-Soto, J. M., Pardo, Antonio, Garrido-Delgado, R., Arce, L., Marco, Santiago, (2015). Sliding window multi-curve resolution: Application to gas chromatography - Ion Mobility Spectrometry Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 15th International Meeting on Chemical Sensors , Elsevier (Buenos Aires, Argentina) 217, 13-21

Abstract Blind Source Separation (BSS) techniques aim to extract a set of source signals from a measured mixture in an unsupervised manner. In the chemical instrumentation domain source signals typically refer to time-varying analyte concentrations, while the measured mixture is the set of observed spectra. Several techniques exist to perform BSS on Ion Mobility Spectrometry, being Simple-to-use interactive self-modeling mixture analysis (SIMPLISMA) and Multivariate Curve Resolution (MCR) the most commonly used. The addition of a multi-capillary gas chromatography column using the ion mobility spectrometer as detector has been proposed in the past to increase chemical resolution. Short chromatography times lead to high levels of co-elution, and ion mobility spectra are key to resolve them. For the first time, BSS techniques are used to deconvolve samples of the gas chromatography - ion mobility spectrometry tandem. We propose a method to extract spectra and concentration profiles based on the application of MCR in a sliding window. Our results provide clear concentration profiles and pure spectra, resolving peaks that were not detected by the conventional use of MCR. The proposed technique could also be applied to other hyphenated instruments with similar strong co-elutions.

Keywords: Blind Source Separation, Multivariate Curve Resolution, Ion Mobility Spectrometry, Gas Chromatography, Hyphenated instrumentation, SIMPLISMA, co-elution


Basas, J., Rojo, E., Gomis, X., Sierra, J.M., Torrents, E., Almirante, B., Gavaldà, J., (2015). Actividad de anidulafungia vs. anfotericina b liposomal frente a C. Parapsilopsis creciendo en biopelículas en distintos materiales Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiología Clínica XIX Congreso de la Sociedad Española de Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiología Clínica (SEIMC) , Elsevier (Sevilla, Spain) 33, 37

La infección del catéter venoso central está estrechamente relacionada con la capacidad de los microorganismos para producir biopelículas. Existen metodologías distintas para el estudio in vitro de la sensibilidad antibiótica de microorganismos creciendo en biopelículas; con placas de microtitulación (poliestireno) y con diferentes materiales (discos silicona, placas titanio...). Se ha descrito que las especies de Candida crecen con morfologías diferentes dependiendo del sustrato donde se implantan. Por tanto, la elección del material donde crecen las biopelículas podría tener su importancia en los estudios de sensibilidad in vitro. Previamente, en un modelo experimental de infección de catéter por C. parapsilopsis observamos que el sellado con anidulafungina (And) era más eficaz que con anfotericina B liposomal (LAmB). Teniendo en cuenta estas consideraciones el mejor sustrato para valorar la eficacia in vitro sería en discos de silicona (utilizado para la fabricación de catéteres) y no en placas de microtitulación (técnica estándar).


Torrents, E., (2015). Tratamientos antimicrobianos dirigidos. ¿Es posible la nanomedicina en las enfermedades infecciosas? Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiología Clínica XIX Congreso de la Sociedad Española de Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiología Clínica (SEIMC) , Elsevier (Sevilla, Spain) 33, 6

A lo largo del siglo XX, los avances en el desarrollo de los antibióticos han jugado un papel de gran importancia en la lucha contra las enfermedades infecciosas. Sin embargo, el uso inadecuado de éstos está conduciendo a la aparición de resistencias a múltiples fármacos (multidrug resistance, MDR) en diversos patógenos. El gran costo y complejidad asociados al descubrimiento de nuevos fármacos agrava la situación, propiciando que un número muy reducido de nuevos antibióticos se haya descubierto en los últimos 40 años. Esta situación provocará, si no se toman acciones para evitarlo, un gran problema de salud pública global durante el siglo XXI. En la última década se ha producido, en cambio, un gran avance en el campo de la nanotecnología, permitiendo el diseño de nanopartículas con propiedades fisicoquímicas deseables para su uso en microbiología. La escala de estas partículas ofrece un gran incremento en su relación superficie/volumen respecto a otras formas de liberación de fármacos, lo que ha permitido reconsiderar el uso de antiguas sustancias antimicrobianas, como la plata, el cobre o el zinc. Las nanopartículas se están así proyectando como una nueva línea de defensa contra los patógenos bacterianos, en especial los multirresistentes. Se comentarán los avances recientes en el diseño de nanopartículas, demostrando el potencial de éstas en la lucha contra las infecciones bacterianas. Igualmente, se comentarán nuevas estrategias, como la combinación diferentes fármacos y/o antibióticos encapsulados en nanopartículas (nanoantibióticos). Por último, explicaremos nuestra propia experiencia en el uso de nanopartículas de PLGA, o ácido poli(láctico-co-glicólico) modificadas, para la lucha contra la bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa creciendo en forma de biofilm.


Artés, Juan Manuel, Hihath, J., Diéz-Pérez, I., (2015). Biomolecular electronics Molecular Electronics: An Experimental and Theoretical Approach (ed. Baldea, I.), Pan Stanford Publishing (Singapore, Singapore) 325, 281-324

Molecular electronics, an emerging research field at the border of physics, chemistry, and material sciences, attracted a great interest in the last decade. To achieve the ultimate goal of designing molecular electronic devices with the desired functionality and experimental manipulation at the single-molecule level, theoretical understanding of electron transport at the nanoscale is an important prerequisite. This book, a multi-authored volume comprising reviews written by leading scientists, discusses recent advances in the field. It emphasizes the need for studies beyond the low-bias regime, a fact on which the scientific community became aware in the last years. To make the book useful for scientists of various disciplines interested in “learning by doing,” each chapter is written in a science/tutorial hybrid style, with its own introduction presenting fundamental concepts and frameworks. The content reflects the strong transdisciplinary efforts needed for substantial progress.


Rokbani, Nizar, Casals, Alicia, Alimi, AdelM, (2015). IK-FA, a New Heuristic Inverse Kinematics Solver Using Firefly Algorithm Computational Intelligence Applications in Modeling and Control (ed. Azar, Ahmad Taher, Vaidyanathan, Sundarapandian), Springer International Publishing (Lausanne, Switzerland) 575, 369-395

In this paper, a heuristic method based on Firefly Algorithm is proposed for inverse kinematics problems in articulated robotics. The proposal is called, IK-FA. Solving inverse kinematics, IK, consists in finding a set of joint-positions allowing a specific point of the system to achieve a target position. In IK-FA, the Fireflies positions are assumed to be a possible solution for joints elementary motions. For a robotic system with a known forward kinematic model, IK-Fireflies, is used to generate iteratively a set of joint motions, then the forward kinematic model of the system is used to compute the relative Cartesian positions of a specific end-segment, and to compare it to the needed target position. This is a heuristic approach for solving inverse kinematics without computing the inverse model. IK-FA tends to minimize the distance to a target position, the fitness function could be established as the distance between the obtained forward positions and the desired one, it is subject to minimization. In this paper IK-FA is tested over a 3 links articulated planar system, the evaluation is based on statistical analysis of the convergence and the solution quality for 100 tests. The impact of key FA parameters is also investigated with a focus on the impact of the number of fireflies, the impact of the maximum iteration number and also the impact of (

Keywords: Robotics, Inverse kinematics, Heuristics, Computational kinematics, Swarm intelligence


Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Conte, Vito, Sunyer, Raimon, Muñoz, José J., Trepat, Xavier, (2015). Mapping forces and kinematics during collective cell migration Methods in Cell Biology - Biophysical Methods in Cell Biology (ed. Wilson, L., Tran, P.), Academic Press (Santa Barbara, USA) 125, 309-330

Abstract Fundamental biological processes including morphogenesis and tissue repair require cells to migrate collectively. In these processes, epithelial or endothelial cells move in a cooperative manner coupled by intercellular junctions. Ultimately, the movement of these multicellular systems occurs through the generation of cellular forces, exerted either on the substrate via focal adhesions (cell–substrate forces) or on neighboring cells through cell–cell junctions (cell–cell forces). Quantitative measurements of multicellular forces and kinematics with cellular or subcellular resolution have become possible only in recent years. In this chapter, we describe some of these techniques, which include particle image velocimetry to map cell velocities, traction force microscopy to map forces exerted by cells on the substrate, and monolayer stress microscopy to map forces within and between cells. We also describe experimental protocols to perform these measurements. The combination of these techniques with high-resolution imaging tools and molecular perturbations will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying collective cell migration in health and disease.

Keywords: Collective cell migration, Monolayer stress microscopy, Traction force microscopy


Rico, P., Cantini, M., Altankov, G., Sanchez, M. , (2015). Matrix-protein interactions with synthetic surfaces Polymers in Regenerative Medicine: Biomedical Applications from Nano- to Macro-Structures (ed. Monleon Pradas, M., Vicent, M.J.), John Wiley & Sons Inc (Hoboken, USA) , 91-146

The ability of polymers to span wide ranges of mechanical properties and morph into desired shapes makes them useful for a variety of applications, including scaffolds, self-assembling materials, and nanomedicines. With an interdisciplinary list of subjects and contributors, this book overviews the biomedical applications of polymers and focuses on the aspect of regenerative medicine. Chapters also cover fundamentals, theories, and tools for scientists to apply polymers in the following ways: Matrix protein interactions with synthetic surfaces Methods and materials for cell scaffolds Complex cell-materials microenvironments in bioreactors Polymer therapeutics as nano-sized medicines for tissue repair Functionalized mesoporous materials for controlled delivery Nucleic acid delivery nanocarriers Concepts include macro and nano requirements for polymers as well as future perspectives, trends, and challenges in the field. From self-assembling peptides to self-curing systems, this book presents the full therapeutic potential of novel polymeric systems and topics that are in the leading edge of technology.


Comelles, J., Hortigüela, V., Martínez, E., Riveline, D., (2015). Methods for rectifying cell motions in vitro: Breaking symmetry using microfabrication and microfluidics Methods in Cell Biology - Biophysical Methods in Cell Biology (ed. Wilson, L., Tran, P.), Academic Press (Santa Barbara, USA) 125, 437-452

Cell motility is an important phenomenon in cell biology, developmental biology, and cancer. Here we report methods that we designed to identify and characterize external factors which direct cell motions by breaking locally the symmetry. We used microfabrication and microfluidics techniques to impose and combine mechanical and chemical cues to moving fibroblasts. Gradients can thereby be engineered at the cellular scale and this approach has allowed to disentangle roles of the nucleus and protrusion activity in setting cell directions.

Keywords: Adhesion, Biological physics, Cell motility, Gradient, Ratchet


Vinagre, M., Aranda, J., Casals, A., Aranda, J., Casals, A., (2015). A new relational geometric feature for human action recognition Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering (ed. Ferrier, J.L., Gusikhin, O., Madani, K., Sasiadek, J.), Springer (Lausanne, Switzerland) 325, 263-278

Pose-based features have demonstrated to outperform low-levelappearance features in human action recognition. New RGB-D cameras provide locations of human joints with which geometric correspondences can be easily calculated. In this article, a new geometric correspondence between joints called Trisarea feature is presented. It is defined as the area of the triangle formed by three joints. Relevant triangles describing human pose are identified and it is shown how the variation over time of the selected Trisarea features constitutes a descriptor of human action. Experimental results show a comparison with other methods and demonstrate how this Trisarea-based representation can be applied to human action recognition.

Keywords: Action descriptor, Action recognition, Pose-based feature


de Oñate, L., Garreta, E., Tarantino, C., Martínez, E., Capilla, E., Navarro, I., Gutiérrez, J., Samitier, J., Campistol, J.M., Muñoz-Cánovas, P., Montserrat, N., (2015). Research on skeletal muscle diseases using pluripotent stem cells Muscle Cell and Tissue (ed. Sakuma, K.), InTech (Rijeka, Croatia) , 333-357

The generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), especially the generation of patient-derived pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) suitable for disease modelling in vitro, opens the door for the potential translation of stem-cell related studies into the clinic. Successful replacement, or augmentation, of the function of damaged cells by patient-derived differentiated stem cells would provide a novel cell-based therapy for skeletal muscle-related diseases. Since iPSCs resemble human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in their ability to generate cells of the three germ layers, patient-specific iPSCs offer definitive solutions for the ethical and histo-incompatibility issues related to hESCs. Indeed human iPSC (hiPSC)-based autologous transplantation is heralded as the future of regenerative medicine. Interestingly, during the last years intense research has been published on disease-specific hiPSCs derivation and differentiation into relevant tissues/organs providing a unique scenario for modelling disease progression, to screen patient-specific drugs and enabling immunosupression-free cell replacement therapies. Here, we revise the most relevant findings in skeletal muscle differentiation using mouse and human PSCs. Finally and in an effort to bring iPSC technology to the daily routine of the laboratory, we provide two different protocols for the generation of patient-derived iPSCs.

Keywords: Pluripotent stem cells, Myogenic differentiation, Disease modelling, Patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells, Muscular dystrophy


Fernàndez-Busquets, X., de Groot, N.S., Ventura, S., (2015). Structural and computational insights into conformational diseases: A review Frontiers in Medicinal Chemistry (ed. Atta-ur-Rahman, Reitz, A.B., Choudhary, I, Wang, J.), Bentham Science Publishers (Bussum, The Netherlands) 7, 134-182

Protein aggregation correlates with the development of several deleterious human disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, prion-associated transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, type II diabetes and several types of cancers. The polypeptides involved in these disorders may be globular proteins with a defined 3Dstructure or natively unfolded proteins in their soluble conformations. In either case, proteins associated with these pathogenesis all aggregate into amyloid fibrils sharing a common structure, in which


Rajasekaran, V., Aranda, J., Casals, A., (2015). User intention driven adaptive gait assistance using a wearable exoskeleton Robot 2015: Second Iberian Robotics Conference (ed. Paulo Reis, L., Paulo Moreira, A., Lima, P. U., Montano, L., Muñoz-Martinez, V.), Springer International (Lausanne, Switzerland) 418, 289-301

A user intention based rehabilitation strategy for a lower-limb wearable robot is proposed and evaluated. The control strategy, which involves monitoring the human-orthosis interaction torques, determines the gait initiation instant and modifies orthosis operation for gait assistance, when needed. Orthosis operation is classified as assistive or resistive in function of its evolution with respect to a normal gait pattern. The control algorithm relies on the adaptation of the joints’ stiffness in function of their interaction torques and their deviation from the desired trajectories. An average of recorded gaits obtained from healthy subjects is used as reference input. The objective of this work is to develop a control strategy that can trigger the gait initiation from the user’s intention and maintain the dynamic stability, using an efficient real-time stiffness adaptation for multiple joints, simultaneously maintaining their synchronization. The algorithm has been tested with five healthy subjects showing its efficient behavior in initiating the gait and maintaining the equilibrium while walking in presence of external forces. The work is performed as a preliminary study to assist patients suffering from incomplete Spinal cord injury and Stroke.

Keywords: Adaptive control, Exoskeleton, Gait assistance, Gait initiation, Wearable robot


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