Publications

Year 2016


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D'Auria, Giuseppe, Torrents, Eduard, Luquin, Marina, Comas, Iñaki, Julián, Esther, (2016). Draft genome sequence of Mycobacterium brumae ATCC 51384 Genome Announcements 4, (2), e00237-16

Here, we report the draft genome sequence of Mycobacterium brumae type strain ATCC 51384. This is the first draft genome sequence of M. brumae, a nonpathogenic, rapidly growing, nonchromogenic mycobacterium, with immunotherapeutic capacities.


Garreta, Elena, Marco, Andres, Izpisua Belmonte, Juan Carlos, Montserrat, Nuria, (2016). Genome editing in human pluripotent stem cells: a systematic approach unrevealing pancreas development and disease Stem Cell Investigation 4, (11), 1-4

Although mouse models have represented a major tool for understanding and predicting molecular mechanisms responsible for several human genetic diseases, still species-specific differences between mouse and humans in their biochemical and physiological characteristics represent a major hurdle when translating promising findings into the human setting (1). For instance, in several types of maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY; autosomal dominant), mice with heterozygous mutations do not develop diabetes (2). In this regard, the derivation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in 1998 represented an unprecedented opportunity for human disease modelling, and a promising source for cell replacement therapies (3). Later on, the possibility to generate patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) has opened new venues for the potential translation of stem-cell related studies into the clinic (4).


Solano-Collado, Virtu, Hüttener, Márrio, Espinosa, Manuel, Juárez, Antonio, Bravo, Alicia, (2016). MgaSpn and H-NS: Two unrelated global regulators with similar DNA-binding properties Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences 3, Article 60

Global regulators play an essential role in the adaptation of bacterial cells to specific niches. Bacterial pathogens thriving in the tissues and organs of their eukaryotic hosts are a well-studied example. Some of the proteins that recognize local DNA structures rather than specific nucleotide sequences act as global modulators in many bacteria, both Gram-negative and -positive. To this class of regulators belong the H-NS-like proteins, mainly identified in γ-Proteobacteria, and the MgaSpn-like proteins identified in Firmicutes. H-NS and MgaSpn from Escherichia coli and Streptococcus pneumoniae, respectively, neither have sequence similarity nor share structural domains. Nevertheless, they display common features in their interaction with DNA, namely: (i) they bind to DNA in a non-sequence-specific manner, (ii) they have a preference for intrinsically curved DNA regions, and (iii) they are able to form multimeric complexes on linear DNA. Using DNA fragments from the hemolysin operon regulatory region of the E. coli plasmid pHly152, we show in this work that MgaSpn is able to recognize particular regions on extended H-NS binding sites. Such regions are either located at or flanked by regions of potential bendability. Moreover, we show that the regulatory region of the pneumococcal P1623B promoter, which is recognized by MgaSpn, contains DNA motifs that are recognized by H-NS. These motifs are adjacent to regions of potential bendability. Our results suggest that both regulatory proteins recognize similar structural characteristics of DNA.

Keywords: Global transcriptional regulators, Nucleoid-associated proteins, Mga/AtxA family, Protein-DNA interactions, DNA bendability


Noguera-Ortega, Estela, Secanella-Fandos, Silvia, Eraña, Hasier, Gasión, Jofre, Rabanal, Rosa M., Luquin, Marina, Torrents, Eduard, Julián, Esther, (2016). Nonpathogenic Mycobacterium brumae inhibits bladder cancer growth in vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo European Urology Focus 2, (1), 67-76

Background Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) prevents tumour recurrence and progression in non–muscle-invasive bladder cancer (BC). However, common adverse events occur, including BCG infections. Objective To find a mycobacterium with similar or superior antitumour activity to BCG but with greater safety. Design In vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo comparisons of the antitumour efficacy of nonpathogenic mycobacteria and BCG. Intervention The in vitro antitumour activity of a broad set of mycobacteria was studied in seven different BC cell lines. The most efficacious was selected and its ex vivo capacity to activate immune cells and its in vivo antitumour activity in an orthotopic murine model of BC were investigated. Outcome measurements and statistical analysis Growth inhibition of BC cells was the primary outcome measurement. Parametric and nonparametric tests were use to analyse the in vitro results, and a Kaplan-Meier test was applied to measure survival in mycobacteria-treated tumour-bearing mice. Results and limitations Mycobacterium brumae is superior to BCG in inhibiting low-grade BC cell growth, and has similar effects to BCG against high-grade cells. M. brumae triggers an indirect antitumour response by activating macrophages and the cytotoxic activity of peripheral blood cells against BC cells. Although no significant differences were observed between BCG and M. brumae treatments in mice, M. brumae treatment prolonged survival in comparison to BCG treatment in tumour-bearing mice. In contrast to BCG, M. brumae does not persist intracellularly or in tumour-bearing mice, so the risk of infection is lower. Conclusions Our preclinical data suggest that M. brumae represents a safe and efficacious candidate as a therapeutic agent for non–muscle-invasive BC. Patient summary We investigated the antitumour activity of nonpathogenic mycobacteria in in vitro and in vivo models of non–muscle-invasive bladder cancer. We found that Mycobacterium brumae effectively inhibits bladder cancer growth and helps the host immune system to eradicate cancer cells, and is a promising agent for antitumour immunotherapy.

Keywords: Animal models, Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, Cytokines, Immunomodulation, Immunotherapy, Mycobacteria, Urothelial cell line


Rovira, Xavier, Trapero, Ana, Pittolo, Silvia, Zussy, Charleine, Faucherre, Adèle, Jopling, Chris, Giraldo, Jesús, Pin, Jean-Philippe, Gorostiza, Pau, Goudet, Cyril, Llebaria, Amadeu, (2016). OptoGluNAM4.1, a Photoswitchable allosteric antagonist for real-time control of mGlu4 receptor activity Cell Chemical Biology 23, (8), 929-934

OptoGluNAM4.1, a negative allosteric modulator (NAM) of metabotropic glutamate receptor 4 (mGlu4) contains a reactive group that covalently binds to the receptor and a blue-light-activated, fast-relaxing azobenzene group that allows reversible receptor activity photocontrol in vitro and in vivo. OptoGluNAM4.1 induces light-dependent behavior in zebrafish and reverses the activity of the mGlu4 agonist LSP4-2022 in a mice model of chronic pain, defining a photopharmacological tool to better elucidate the physiological roles of the mGlu4 receptor in the nervous system.


Gumí-Audenis, Berta, Costa, Luca, Carlá, Francesco, Comin, Fabio, Sanz, Fausto, Giannotti, Marina, (2016). Structure and nanomechanics of model membranes by atomic force microscopy and spectroscopy: Insights into the role of cholesterol and sphingolipids Membranes 6, (4), 58

Biological membranes mediate several biological processes that are directly associated with their physical properties but sometimes difficult to evaluate. Supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) are model systems widely used to characterize the structure of biological membranes. Cholesterol (Chol) plays an essential role in the modulation of membrane physical properties. It directly influences the order and mechanical stability of the lipid bilayers, and it is known to laterally segregate in rafts in the outer leaflet of the membrane together with sphingolipids (SLs). Atomic force microscope (AFM) is a powerful tool as it is capable to sense and apply forces with high accuracy, with distance and force resolution at the nanoscale, and in a controlled environment. AFM-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS) has become a crucial technique to study the nanomechanical stability of SLBs by controlling the liquid media and the temperature variations. In this contribution, we review recent AFM and AFM-FS studies on the effect of Chol on the morphology and mechanical properties of model SLBs, including complex bilayers containing SLs. We also introduce a promising combination of AFM and X-ray (XR) techniques that allows for in situ characterization of dynamic processes, providing structural, morphological, and nanomechanical information

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Force spectroscopy, Lipid membranes, Supported lipid bilayers, Nanomechanics, Cholesterol, Sphingolipids, Membrane structure, XR-AFM combination


Farré, R., Navajas, D., Montserrat, J. M., (2016). Technology for noninvasive mechanical ventilation: Looking into the black box ERS Monograph 2, (1), 00004

Current devices for providing noninvasive respiratory support contain sensors and built-in intelligence for automatically modifying ventilation according to the patient's needs. These devices, including automatic continuous positive airway pressure devices and noninvasive ventilators, are technologically complex and offer a considerable number of different modes of ventilation and setting options, the details of which are sometimes difficult to capture by the user. Therefore, better predicting and interpreting the actual performance of these ventilation devices in clinical application requires understanding their functioning principles and assessing their performance under well controlled bench test conditions with simulated patients. This concise review presents an updated perspective of the theoretical basis of intelligent continuous positive airway pressure and noninvasive ventilation devices, and of the tools available for assessing how these devices respond under specific ventilation phenotypes in patients requiring breathing support.


Aragonès, Albert C., Haworth, Naomi L., Darwish, Nadim, Ciampi, Simone, Bloomfield, Nathaniel J., Wallace, Gordon G., Diez-Perez, Ismael, Coote, Michelle L., (2016). Electrostatic catalysis of a Diels–Alder reaction Nature 531, (7592), 88-91

It is often thought that the ability to control reaction rates with an applied electrical potential gradient is unique to redox systems. However, recent theoretical studies suggest that oriented electric fields could affect the outcomes of a range of chemical reactions, regardless of whether a redox system is involved1, 2, 3, 4. This possibility arises because many formally covalent species can be stabilized via minor charge-separated resonance contributors. When an applied electric field is aligned in such a way as to electrostatically stabilize one of these minor forms, the degree of resonance increases, resulting in the overall stabilization of the molecule or transition state. This means that it should be possible to manipulate the kinetics and thermodynamics of non-redox processes using an external electric field, as long as the orientation of the approaching reactants with respect to the field stimulus can be controlled. Here, we provide experimental evidence that the formation of carbon–carbon bonds is accelerated by an electric field. We have designed a surface model system to probe the Diels–Alder reaction, and coupled it with a scanning tunnelling microscopy break-junction approach5, 6, 7. This technique, performed at the single-molecule level, is perfectly suited to deliver an electric-field stimulus across approaching reactants. We find a fivefold increase in the frequency of formation of single-molecule junctions, resulting from the reaction that occurs when the electric field is present and aligned so as to favour electron flow from the dienophile to the diene. Our results are qualitatively consistent with those predicted by quantum-chemical calculations in a theoretical model of this system, and herald a new approach to chemical catalysis.

Keywords: Electrocatalysis, Scanning probe microscopy


Sunyer, R., Conte, V., Escribano, J., Elosegui-Artola, A., Labernadie, A., Valon, L., Navajas, D., García-Aznar, J. M., Muñoz, J. J., Roca-Cusachs, P., Trepat, X., (2016). Collective cell durotaxis emerges from long-range intercellular force transmission Science 353, (6304), 1157-1161

The ability of cells to follow gradients of extracellular matrix stiffness-durotaxis-has been implicated in development, fibrosis, and cancer. Here, we found multicellular clusters that exhibited durotaxis even if isolated constituent cells did not. This emergent mode of directed collective cell migration applied to a variety of epithelial cell types, required the action of myosin motors, and originated from supracellular transmission of contractile physical forces. To explain the observed phenomenology, we developed a generalized clutch model in which local stick-slip dynamics of cell-matrix adhesions was integrated to the tissue level through cell-cell junctions. Collective durotaxis is far more efficient than single-cell durotaxis; it thus emerges as a robust mechanism to direct cell migration during development, wound healing, and collective cancer cell invasion.


Elosegui, Alberto, Oria, Roger, Chen, Yunfeng, Kosmalska, Anita, Perez-Gonzalez, Carlos, Castro, Natalia, Zhu, Cheng, Trepat, Xavier, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, (2016). Mechanical regulation of a molecular clutch defines force transmission and transduction in response to matrix rigidity Nature Cell Biology 18, (5), 540-548

Cell function depends on tissue rigidity, which cells probe by applying and transmitting forces to their extracellular matrix, and then transducing them into biochemical signals. Here we show that in response to matrix rigidity and density, force transmission and transduction are explained by the mechanical properties of the actin-talin-integrin-fibronectin clutch. We demonstrate that force transmission is regulated by a dynamic clutch mechanism, which unveils its fundamental biphasic force/rigidity relationship on talin depletion. Force transduction is triggered by talin unfolding above a stiffness threshold. Below this threshold, integrins unbind and release force before talin can unfold. Above the threshold, talin unfolds and binds to vinculin, leading to adhesion growth and YAP nuclear translocation. Matrix density, myosin contractility, integrin ligation and talin mechanical stability differently and nonlinearly regulate both force transmission and the transduction threshold. In all cases, coupling of talin unfolding dynamics to a theoretical clutch model quantitatively predicts cell response.


Wolfenson, Haguy, Meacci, Giovanni, Liu, Shuaimin, Stachowiak, Matthew R., Iskratsch, Thomas, Ghassemi, Saba, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Oshaughnessy, Ben, Hone, James, Sheetz, Michael P., (2016). Tropomyosin controls sarcomere-like contractions for rigidity sensing and suppressing growth on soft matrices Nature Cell Biology 18, 33-42

Cells test the rigidity of the extracellular matrix by applying forces to it through integrin adhesions. Recent measurements show that these forces are applied by local micrometre-scale contractions, but how contraction force is regulated by rigidity is unknown. Here we performed high temporal- and spatial-resolution tracking of contractile forces by plating cells on sub-micrometre elastomeric pillars. We found that actomyosin-based sarcomere-like contractile units (CUs) simultaneously moved opposing pillars in net steps of [sim]2.5[thinsp]nm, independent of rigidity. What correlated with rigidity was the number of steps taken to reach a force level that activated recruitment of [alpha]-actinin to the CUs. When we removed actomyosin restriction by depleting tropomyosin 2.1, we observed larger steps and higher forces that resulted in aberrant rigidity sensing and growth of non-transformed cells on soft matrices. Thus, we conclude that tropomyosin 2.1 acts as a suppressor of growth on soft matrices by supporting proper rigidity sensing.

Keywords: Cell adhesion, Mechanotransduction


Torras, Núria, Agusil, Juan Pablo, Vázquez, Patricia, Duch, Marta, Hernández-Pinto, Alberto M., Samitier, Josep, de la Rosa, Enrique J., Esteve, Jaume, Suárez, Teresa, Pérez-García, Lluïsa, Plaza, José A., (2016). Suspended planar-array chips for molecular multiplexing at the microscale Advanced Materials 28, (7), 1449–1454

A novel suspended planar-array chips technology is described, which effectively allows molecular multiplexing using a single suspended chip to analyze extraordinarily small volumes. The suspended chips are fabricated by combining silicon-based technology and polymer-pen lithography, obtaining increased molecular pattern flexibility, and improving miniaturization and parallel production. The chip miniaturization is so dramatic that it permits the intracellular analysis of living cells.

Keywords: Chip-in-a-cell, Suspended-arrays, Planar-arrays, Silicon chips, Single-cell analysis


Ladoux, B., Mège, R. M., Trepat, X., (2016). Front-rear polarization by mechanical cues: From single cells to tissues Trends in Cell Biology 26, (6), 420-433

Directed cell migration is a complex process that involves front-rear polarization, characterized by cell adhesion and cytoskeleton-based protrusion, retraction, and contraction of either a single cell or a cell collective. Single cell polarization depends on a variety of mechanochemical signals including external adhesive cues, substrate stiffness, and confinement. In cell ensembles, coordinated polarization of migrating tissues results not only from the application of traction forces on the extracellular matrix but also from the transmission of mechanical stress through intercellular junctions. We focus here on the impact of mechanical cues on the establishment and maintenance of front-rear polarization from single cell to collective cell behaviors through local or large-scale mechanisms.

Keywords: Cell forces, Cell polarity, Collective cell migration, Mechanobiology, Micropatterning, Substrate stiffness


Tekeli, I., Aujard, I., Trepat, X., Jullien, L., Raya, A., Zalvidea, D., (2016). Long-term in vivo single-cell lineage tracing of deep structures using three-photon activation Light: Science and Applications 5, (6), e16084

Genetic labeling techniques allow for noninvasive lineage tracing of cells in vivo. Two-photon inducible activators provide spatial resolution for superficial cells, but labeling cells located deep within tissues is precluded by scattering of the far-red illumination required for two-photon photolysis. Three-photon illumination has been shown to overcome the limitations of two-photon microscopy for in vivo imaging of deep structures, but whether it can be used for photoactivation remains to be tested. Here we show, both theoretically and experimentally, that three-photon illumination overcomes scattering problems by combining longer wavelength excitation with high uncaging three-photon cross-section molecules. We prospectively labeled heart muscle cells in zebrafish embryos and found permanent labeling in their progeny in adult animals with negligible tissue damage. This technique allows for a noninvasive genetic manipulation in vivo with spatial, temporal and cell-type specificity, and may have wide applicability in experimental biology.

Keywords: Multi-photon microscopy, Photoactivation, Three-photon microscopy, Zebrafish


Ma, Xing, Horteläo, Ana C., Patiño, Tania, Sánchez, Samuel, (2016). Enzyme catalysis to power micro/nanomachines ACS Nano 10, (10), 9111–9122

Enzymes play a crucial role in many biological processes which require harnessing and converting free chemical energy into kinetic forces in order to accomplish tasks. Enzymes are considered to be molecular machines, not only because of their capability of energy conversion in biological systems but also because enzymatic catalysis can result in enhanced diffusion of enzymes at a molecular level. Enlightened by nature’s design of biological machinery, researchers have investigated various types of synthetic micro/nanomachines by using enzymatic reactions to achieve self-propulsion of micro/nanoarchitectures. Yet, the mechanism of motion is still under debate in current literature. Versatile proof-of-concept applications of these enzyme-powered micro/nanodevices have been recently demonstrated. In this review, we focus on discussing enzymes not only as stochastic swimmers but also as nanoengines to power self-propelled synthetic motors. We present an overview on different enzyme-powered micro/nanomachines, the current debate on their motion mechanism, methods to provide motion and speed control, and an outlook of the future potentials of this multidisciplinary field.


Van Der Hofstadt, Marc, Fabregas, Rene, Millan, Ruben, Juarez, Antonio, Fumagalli, Laura, Gomila, Gabriel, (2016). Internal hydration properties of single bacterial endospores probed by electrostatic force microscopy ACS Nano 10, (12), 11327–11336

We show that the internal hydration properties of single Bacillus cereus endospores in air under different relative humidity (RH) conditions can be determined through the measurement of its electric permittivity by means of quantitative electrostatic force microscopy (EFM). We show that an increase in the RH from 0% to 80% induces a large increase in the equivalent homogeneous relative electric permittivity of the bacterial endospores, from ~4 up to ~17, accompanied only by a small increase in the endospore height, of just a few nanometers. These results correlate the increase of the moisture content of the endospore with the corresponding increase of environmental RH. 3D finite element numerical calculations, which include the internal structure of the endospores, indicate that the moisture is mainly accumulated in the external layers of the endospore, hence preserving the core of the endospore at low hydration levels. This mechanism is different from what we observe for vegetative bacterial cells of the same species, in which the cell wall at high humid atmospheric conditions is not able to preserve the cytoplasmic region at low hydration levels. These results show the potential of quantitative EFM under environmental humidity control to study the hygroscopic properties of small scale biological (and non-biological) entities and to determine its internal hydration state. A better understanding of nano-hygroscopic properties can be of relevance in the study of essential biological processes and in the design of bio-nanotechnological applications.


Ma, Xing, Wang, Xu, Hahn, Kersten, Sánchez, Samuel, (2016). Motion control of urea powered biocompatible hollow microcapsules ACS Nano 10, (3), 3597-3605

The quest for biocompatible micro-swimmers powered by compatible fuel and with full motion control over their self-propulsion is a long-standing challenge in the field of active matter and microrobotics. Here, we present an active hybrid microcapsule motor based on Janus hollow mesoporous silica micro particles (JHP) powered by the bio-catalytic decomposition of urea at physiological concentrations. The directional self-propelled motion lasts longer than 10 minutes with an average velocity of up to 5 body lengths per second. Additionally, we control the velocity of the micro-motor by chemically inhibiting and reactivating the enzymatic activity of urease. The incorporation of magnetic material within the Janus structure provides remote magnetic control on the movement direction. Furthermore, the mesoporous/hollow structure can load both small molecules and larger particles up to hundreds of nano-meters, making the hybrid micro-motor an active and controllable drug delivery micro-system.


Bakker, Maarten H., Lee, Cameron C., Meijer, E. W., Dankers, Patricia Y. W., Albertazzi, Lorenzo, (2016). Multicomponent supramolecular polymers as a modular platform for intracellular delivery ACS Nano 10, (2), 1845-1852

Supramolecular polymers are an emerging family of nanosized structures with potential use in materials chemistry and medicine. Surprisingly, application of supramolecular polymers in the field of drug delivery has received only limited attention. Here, we explore the potential of PEGylated 1,3,5-benzenetricarboxamide (BTA) supramolecular polymers for intracellular delivery. Exploiting the unique modular approach of supramolecular chemistry, we can coassemble neutral and cationic BTAs and control the overall properties of the polymer by simple monomer mixing. Moreover, this platform offers a versatile approach toward functionalization. The core can be efficiently loaded with a hydrophobic guest molecule, while the exterior can be electrostatically complexed with siRNA. It is demonstrated that both compounds can be delivered in living cells, and that they can be combined to enable a dual delivery strategy. These results show the advantages of employing a modular system and pave the way for application of supramolecular polymers in intracellular delivery.


Biagi, Maria Chiara, Fabregas, Rene, Gramse, Georg, Van Der Hofstadt, Marc, Juárez, Antonio, Kienberger, Ferry, Fumagalli, Laura, Gomila, Gabriel, (2016). Nanoscale electric permittivity of single bacterial cells at gigahertz frequencies by scanning microwave microscopy ACS Nano 10, (1), 280-288

We quantified the electric permittivity of single bacterial cells at microwave frequencies and nanoscale spatial resolution by means of near-field scanning microwave microscopy. To this end, calibrated complex admittance images have been obtained at ?19 GHz and analyzed with a methodology that removes the nonlocal topographic cross-talk contributions and thus provides quantifiable intrinsic dielectric images of the bacterial cells. Results for single Escherichia coli cells provide a relative electric permittivity of ?4 in dry conditions and ?20 in humid conditions, with no significant loss contributions. Present findings, together with the ability of microwaves to penetrate the cell membrane, open an important avenue in the microwave label-free imaging of single cells with nanoscale spatial resolution.


Ma, Xing, Jang, Seungwook, Popescu, Mihail N., Uspal, William E., Miguel-López, Albert, Hahn, Kersten, Kiam, Dong-Pyo, Sánchez, Samuel, (2016). Reversed Janus micro/nanomotors with internal chemical engine ACS Nano 10, (9), 8751-8759

Self-motile Janus colloids are important for enabling a wide variety of microtechnology applications as well as for improving our understanding of the mechanisms of motion of artificial micro- and nanoswimmers. We present here micro/nanomotors which possess a reversed Janus structure of an internal catalytic “chemical engine”. The catalytic material (here platinum (Pt)) is embedded within the interior of the mesoporous silica (mSiO2)-based hollow particles and triggers the decomposition of H2O2 when suspended in an aqueous peroxide (H2O2) solution. The pores/gaps at the noncatalytic (Pt) hemisphere allow the exchange of chemical species in solution between the exterior and the interior of the particle. By varying the diameter of the particles, we observed size-dependent motile behavior in the form of enhanced diffusion for 500 nm particles, and self-phoretic motion, toward the nonmetallic part, for 1.5 and 3


Beun, L. H., Albertazzi, L., Van Der Zwaag, D., De Vries, R., Cohen Stuart, M. A., (2016). Unidirectional living growth of self-assembled protein nanofibrils revealed by super-resolution microscopy ACS Nano 10, (5), 4973-4980

Protein-based nanofibrils are emerging as a promising class of materials that provide unique properties for applications such as biomedical and food engineering. Here, we use atomic force microscopy and stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy imaging to elucidate the growth dynamics, exchange kinetics, and polymerization mechanism for fibrils composed of a de novo designed recombinant triblock protein polymer. This macromolecule features a silk-inspired self-assembling central block composed of GAGAGAGH repeats, which are known to fold into a β roll with turns at each histidine and, once folded, to stack, forming a long, ribbon-like structure. We find several properties that allow the growth of patterned protein nanofibrils: the self-assembly takes place on only one side of the growing fibrils by the essentially irreversible addition of protein polymer subunits, and these fibril ends remain reactive indefinitely in the absence of monomer ("living ends"). Exploiting these characteristics, we can grow stable diblock protein nanofibrils by the sequential addition of differently labeled proteins. We establish control over the block length ratio by simply varying monomer feed conditions. Our results demonstrate the use of engineered protein polymers in creating precisely patterned protein nanofibrils and open perspectives for the hierarchical self-assembly of functional biomaterials.

Keywords: Nanofibrils, Protein polymers, Self-assembly, STORM microscopy


Ma, Xing, Hortelao, Ana C., Miguel-López, Albert, Sánchez, Samuel, (2016). Bubble-free propulsion of ultrasmall tubular nanojets powered by biocatalytic reactions Journal of the American Chemical Society 138, (42), 13782–13785

The motion of self-propelled tubular micro- and nanojets has so far been achieved by bubble propulsion, e.g., O2 bubbles formed by catalytic decomposition of H2O2, which renders future biomedical applications inviable. An alternative self-propulsion mechanism for tubular engines on the nanometer scale is still missing. Here, we report the fabrication and characterization of bubble-free propelled tubular nanojets (as small as 220 nm diameter), powered by an enzyme-triggered biocatalytic reaction using urea as fuel. We studied the translational and rotational dynamics of the nanojets as functions of the length and location of the enzymes. Introducing tracer nanoparticles into the system, we demonstrated the presence of an internal flow that extends into the external fluid via the cavity opening, leading to the self-propulsion. One-dimensional nanosize, longitudinal self-propulsion, and biocompatibility make the tubular nanojets promising for future biomedical applications.


Garzoni, M., Baker, M. B., Leenders, C. M. A., Voets, I. K., Albertazzi, L., Palmans, A. R. A., Meijer, E. W., Pavan, G. M., (2016). Effect of H-bonding on order amplification in the growth of a supramolecular polymer in water Journal of the American Chemical Society 138, (42), 13985-13995

While a great deal of knowledge on the roles of hydrogen bonding and hydrophobicity in proteins has resulted in the creation of rationally designed and functional peptidic structures, the roles of these forces on purely synthetic supramolecular architectures in water have proven difficult to ascertain. Focusing on a 1,3,5-benzenetricarboxamide (BTA)-based supramolecular polymer, we have designed a molecular modeling strategy to dissect the energetic contributions involved in the self-assembly (electrostatic, hydrophobic, etc.) upon growth of both ordered BTA stacks and random BTA aggregates. Utilizing this set of simulations, we have unraveled the cooperative mechanism for polymer growth, where a critical size must be reached in the aggregates before emergence and amplification of order into the experimentally observed fibers. Furthermore, we have found that the formation of ordered fibers is favored over disordered aggregates solely on the basis of electrostatic interactions. Detailed analysis of the simulation data suggests that H-bonding is a major source of this stabilization energy. Experimental and computational comparison with a newly synthesized 1,3,5-benzenetricarboxyester (BTE) derivative, lacking the ability to form the H-bonding network, demonstrated that this BTE variant is also capable of fiber formation, albeit at a reduced persistence length. This work provides unambiguous evidence for the key 1D driving force of hydrogen bonding in enhancing the persistency of monomer stacking and amplifying the level of order into the growing supramolecular polymer in water. Our computational approach provides an important relationship directly linking the structure of the monomer to the structure and properties of the supramolecular polymer.


Aloi, Antonio, Vargas Jentzsch, Andreas, Vilanova, Neus, Albertazzi, Lorenzo, Meijer, E. W., Voets, Ilja K., (2016). Imaging nanostructures by single-molecule localization microscopy in organic solvents Journal of the American Chemical Society 138, (9), 2953-2956

The introduction of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy (SRM) opened an unprecedented vista into nanoscopic length scales, unveiling a new degree of complexity in biological systems in aqueous environments. Regrettably, supramolecular chemistry and material science benefited far less from these recent developments. Here we expand the scope of SRM to photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM) imaging of synthetic nanostructures that are highly dynamic in organic solvents. Furthermore, we characterize the photophysical properties of commonly used photoactivatable dyes in a wide range of solvents, which is made possible by the addition of a tiny amount of an alcohol. As proof-of-principle, we use PALM to image silica beads with radii close to Abbe’s diffraction limit. Individual nanoparticles are readily identified and reliably sized in multicolor mixtures of large and small beads. We further use SRM to visualize nm-thin yet


Vilela, Diana, Parmar, Jemish, Zeng, Yongfei, Zhao, Yanli, Sánchez, Samuel, (2016). Graphene based microbots for toxic heavy metal removal and recovery from water Nano Letters 16, (4), 2860-2866

Heavy metal contamination in water is a serious risk to the public health and other life forms on earth. Current research in nanotechnology is developing new nano-systems and nanomaterials for fast and efficient removal of pollutants and heavy metals from water. Here, we report graphene oxide-based microbots (GOx-microbots) as active self-propelled systems for the capture, transfer and removal of a heavy metal -lead-, and its subsequent recovery for recycling purposes. Microbots? structure consists of nano-sized multilayers of graphene oxide, nickel and platinum which provide different functionalities. The outer layer of graphene oxide captures lead on the surface, the inner layer of platinum function as the engine decomposing hydrogen peroxide fuel for self-propulsion, whilst the middle layer of nickel enables external magnetic control of the microbots. Mobile GOx-microbots remove lead ten times more efficiently than non-mobile GOx-microbots, cleaning water from 1000 ppb down to below 50 ppb in 60 min. Furthermore, after chemical detachment of lead from the surface of GOx-microbots, the microbots can be reused. Finally, we demonstrate the magnetic control of the GOx-microbots inside a microfluidic system as a proof-of-concept for automatic microbots-based system to remove and recover heavy metals. Heavy metal contamination in water is a serious risk to the public health and other life forms on earth. Current research in nanotechnology is developing new nano-systems and nanomaterials for fast and efficient removal of pollutants and heavy metals from water. Here, we report graphene oxide-based microbots (GOx-microbots) as active self-propelled systems for the capture, transfer and removal of a heavy metal -lead-, and its subsequent recovery for recycling purposes. Microbots? structure consists of nano-sized multilayers of graphene oxide, nickel and platinum which provide different functionalities. The outer layer of graphene oxide captures lead on the surface, the inner layer of platinum function as the engine decomposing hydrogen peroxide fuel for self-propulsion, whilst the middle layer of nickel enables external magnetic control of the microbots. Mobile GOx-microbots remove lead ten times more efficiently than non-mobile GOx-microbots, cleaning water from 1000 ppb down to below 50 ppb in 60 min. Furthermore, after chemical detachment of lead from the surface of GOx-microbots, the microbots can be reused. Finally, we demonstrate the magnetic control of the GOx-microbots inside a microfluidic system as a proof-of-concept for automatic microbots-based system to remove and recover heavy metals.


Aragonès, A. C., Aravena, D., Cerdá, J. I., Acís-Castillo, Z., Li, H., Real, J. A., Sanz, F., Hihath, J., Ruiz, E., Díez-Pérez, I., (2016). Large conductance switching in a single-molecule device through room temperature spin-dependent transport Nano Letters 16, (1), 218-226

Controlling the spin of electrons in nanoscale electronic devices is one of the most promising topics aiming at developing devices with rapid and high density information storage capabilities. The interface magnetism or spinterface resulting from the interaction between a magnetic molecule and a metal surface, or vice versa, has become a key ingredient in creating nanoscale molecular devices with novel functionalities. Here, we present a single-molecule wire that displays large (>10000%) conductance switching by controlling the spin-dependent transport under ambient conditions (room temperature in a liquid cell). The molecular wire is built by trapping individual spin crossover FeII complexes between one Au electrode and one ferromagnetic Ni electrode in an organic liquid medium. Large changes in the single-molecule conductance (>100-fold) are measured when the electrons flow from the Au electrode to either an α-up or a β-down spin-polarized Ni electrode. Our calculations show that the current flowing through such an interface appears to be strongly spin-polarized, thus resulting in the observed switching of the single-molecule wire conductance. The observation of such a high spin-dependent conductance switching in a single-molecule wire opens up a new door for the design and control of spin-polarized transport in nanoscale molecular devices at room temperature.

Keywords: Density functional calculations, Magnetoresistance, Single-molecule junctions, Spin orbit coupling, Spin-crossover complexes, Spinterface, STM break-junction


Izquierdo-Serra, M., Bautista-Barrufet, A., Trapero, A., Garrido-Charles, A., Diaz-Tahoces, A., Camarero, N., Pittolo, S., Valbuena, S., Perez-Jimenez, A., Gay, M., Garcia-Moll, A., Rodriguez-Escrich, C., Lerma, J., De La Villa, P., Fernandez, E., Pericas, M. A., Llebaria, A., Gorostiza, P., (2016). Optical control of endogenous receptors and cellular excitability using targeted covalent photoswitches Nature Communications 7, 12221

Light-regulated drugs allow remotely photoswitching biological activity and enable plausible therapies based on small molecules. However, only freely diffusible photochromic ligands have been shown to work directly in endogenous receptors and methods for covalent attachment depend on genetic manipulation. Here we introduce a chemical strategy to covalently conjugate and photoswitch the activity of endogenous proteins and demonstrate its application to the kainate receptor channel GluK1. The approach is based on photoswitchable ligands containing a short-lived, highly reactive anchoring group that is targeted at the protein of interest by ligand affinity. These targeted covalent photoswitches (TCPs) constitute a new class of light-regulated drugs and act as prosthetic molecules that photocontrol the activity of GluK1-expressing neurons, and restore photoresponses in degenerated retina. The modularity of TCPs enables the application to different ligands and opens the way to new therapeutic opportunities.


Parmar, J., Vilela, D., Pellicer, E., Esqué-de los Ojos, D., Sort, J., Sánchez, S., (2016). Reusable and long-lasting active microcleaners for heterogeneous water remediation Advanced Functional Materials 26, (23), 4152-4161

Self-powered micromachines are promising tools for future environmental remediation technology. Waste-water treatment and water reuse is an essential part of environmental sustainability. Herein, we present reusable Fe/Pt multi-functional active microcleaners that are capable of degrading organic pollutants (malachite green and 4-nitrophenol) by generated hydroxyl radicals via a Fenton-like reaction. Various different properties of microcleaners, such as the effect of their size, short-term storage, long-term storage, reusability, continuous swimming capability, surface composition, and mechanical properties, are studied. It is found that these microcleaners can continuously swim for more than 24 hours and can be stored more than 5 weeks during multiple cleaning cycles. The produced microcleaners can also be reused, which reduces the cost of the process. During the reuse cycles the outer iron surface of the Fe/Pt microcleaners generates the in-situ, heterogeneous Fenton catalyst and releases a low concentration of iron into the treated water, while the mechanical properties also appear to be improved due to both its surface composition and structural changes. The microcleaners are characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), nanoindentation, and finite-element modeling (FEM).

Keywords: Catalysts, Heterogeneous catalysis, Microcleaners, Micromotors, Nanorobots, Wastewater treatment


da Silva, Ricardo M. P., van der Zwaag, Daan, Albertazzi, Lorenzo, Lee, Sungsoo S., Meijer, E. W., Stupp, Samuel I., (2016). Super-resolution microscopy reveals structural diversity in molecular exchange among peptide amphiphile nanofibres Nature Communications 7, 11561

The dynamic behaviour of supramolecular systems is an important dimension of their potential functions. Here, we report on the use of stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy to study the molecular exchange of peptide amphiphile nanofibres, supramolecular systems known to have important biomedical functions. Solutions of nanofibres labelled with different dyes (Cy3 and Cy5) were mixed, and the distribution of dyes inserting into initially single-colour nanofibres was quantified using correlative image analysis. Our observations are consistent with an exchange mechanism involving monomers or small clusters of molecules inserting randomly into a fibre. Different exchange rates are observed within the same fibre, suggesting that local cohesive structures exist on the basis of [beta]-sheet discontinuous domains. The results reported here show that peptide amphiphile supramolecular systems can be dynamic and that their intermolecular interactions affect exchange patterns. This information can be used to generate useful aggregate morphologies for improved biomedical function.


Simmchen, J., Katuri, J., Uspal, W. E., Popescu, M. N., Tasinkevych, M., Sánchez, S., (2016). Topographical pathways guide chemical microswimmers Nature Communications 7, 10598

Achieving control over the directionality of active colloids is essential for their use in practical applications such as cargo carriers in microfluidic devices. So far, guidance of spherical Janus colloids was mainly realized using specially engineered magnetic multilayer coatings combined with external magnetic fields. Here we demonstrate that step-like submicrometre topographical features can be used as reliable docking and guiding platforms for chemically active spherical Janus colloids. For various topographic features (stripes, squares or circular posts), docking of the colloid at the feature edge is robust and reliable. Furthermore, the colloids move along the edges for significantly long times, which systematically increase with fuel concentration. The observed phenomenology is qualitatively captured by a simple continuum model of self-diffusiophoresis near confining boundaries, indicating that the chemical activity and associated hydrodynamic interactions with the nearby topography are the main physical ingredients behind the observed behaviour.


De Koker, Stefaan, Cui, Jiwei, Vanparijs, Nane, Albertazzi, Lorenzo, Grooten, Johan, Caruso, Frank, De Geest, Bruno G., (2016). Engineering polymer hydrogel nanoparticles for lymph node-targeted delivery Angewandte Chemie - International Edition 55, (4), 1334-1339

The induction of antigen-specific adaptive immunity exclusively occurs in lymphoid organs. As a consequence, the efficacy by which vaccines reach these tissues strongly affects the efficacy of the vaccine. Here, we report the design of polymer hydrogel nanoparticles that efficiently target multiple immune cell subsets in the draining lymph nodes. Nanoparticles are fabricated by infiltrating mesoporous silica particles (ca. 200 nm) with poly(methacrylic acid) followed by disulfide-based crosslinking and template removal. PEGylation of these nanoparticles does not affect their cellular association in vitro, but dramatically improves their lymphatic drainage in vivo. The functional relevance of these observations is further illustrated by the increased priming of antigen-specific T cells. Our findings highlight the potential of engineered hydrogel nanoparticles for the lymphatic delivery of antigens and immune-modulating compounds.

Keywords: Dendritic cells, Disulfides, Hydrogels, Nanoparticles, Vaccines


Maggi, Claudio, Simmchen, Juliane, Saglimbeni, Filippo, Katuri, Jaideep, Dipalo, Michele, De Angelis, Francesco, Sánchez, Samuel, Di Leonardo, Roberto, (2016). Self-assembly of micromachining systems powered by Janus micromotors Small 12, (4), 446-451

Janus particles can self-assemble around microfabricated gears in reproducible configurations with a high degree of spatial and orientational order. The final configuration maximizes the torque applied on the rotor leading to a unidirectional and steady rotating motion. The interplay between geometry and dynamical behavior leads to the self-assembly of Janus micromotors starting from randomly distributed particles.

Keywords: Active catalytic particles, Microgears, Micromachines, Janus particles, Self-assembly, Self-propulsion


Garreta, E., de Oñate, L., Fernández-Santos, M. E., Oria, R., Tarantino, C., Climent, A. M., Marco, A., Samitier, M., Martínez, E., Valls-Margarit, M., Matesanz, R., Taylor, D. A., Fernández-Avilés, F., Izpisua Belmonte, J. C., Montserrat, N., (2016). Myocardial commitment from human pluripotent stem cells: Rapid production of human heart grafts Biomaterials 98, 64-78

Genome editing on human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) together with the development of protocols for organ decellularization opens the door to the generation of autologous bioartificial hearts. Here we sought to generate for the first time a fluorescent reporter human embryonic stem cell (hESC) line by means of Transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) to efficiently produce cardiomyocyte-like cells (CLCs) from hPSCs and repopulate decellularized human heart ventricles for heart engineering. In our hands, targeting myosin heavy chain locus (MYH6) with mCherry fluorescent reporter by TALEN technology in hESCs did not alter major pluripotent-related features, and allowed for the definition of a robust protocol for CLCs production also from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) in 14 days. hPSCs-derived CLCs (hPSCs-CLCs) were next used to recellularize acellular cardiac scaffolds. Electrophysiological responses encountered when hPSCs-CLCs were cultured on ventricular decellularized extracellular matrix (vdECM) correlated with significant increases in the levels of expression of different ion channels determinant for calcium homeostasis and heart contractile function. Overall, the approach described here allows for the rapid generation of human cardiac grafts from hPSCs, in a total of 24 days, providing a suitable platform for cardiac engineering and disease modeling in the human setting.

Keywords: Cardiac function, Extracellular matrix, Gene targeting, Pluripotent stem cells


Plutoni, C., Bazellieres, E., Le Borgne-Rochet, M., Comunale, F., Brugues, A., Séveno, M., Planchon, D., Thuault, S., Morin, N., Bodin, S., Trepat, X., Gauthier-Rouvière, C., (2016). P-cadherin promotes collective cell migration via a Cdc42-mediated increase in mechanical forces Journal of Cell Biology 212, (2), 199-217

Collective cell migration (CCM) is essential for organism development, wound healing, and metastatic transition, the primary cause of cancer-related death, and it involves cell-cell adhesion molecules of the cadherin family. Increased P-cadherin expression levels are correlated with tumor aggressiveness in carcinoma and aggressive sarcoma; however, how P-cadherin promotes tumor malignancy remains unknown. Here, using integrated cell biology and biophysical approaches, we determined that P-cadherin specifically induces polarization and CCM through an increase in the strength and anisotropy of mechanical forces. We show that this mechanical regulation is mediated by the P-cadherin/Î’-PIX/Cdc42 axis; P-cadherin specifically activates Cdc42 through Î’-PIX, which is specifically recruited at cell-cell contacts upon CCM. This mechanism of cell polarization and migration is absent in cells expressing E-or R-cadherin. Thus, we identify a specific role of P-cadherin through Î’-PIX-mediated Cdc42 activation in the regulation of cell polarity and force anisotropy that drives CCM.


Moles, E., Moll, K., Ch'ng, J. H., Parini, P., Wahlgren, M., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2016). Development of drug-loaded immunoliposomes for the selective targeting and elimination of rosetting Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells Journal of Controlled Release 241, 57-67

Parasite proteins exported to the surface of Plasmodium falciparum-parasitized red blood cells (pRBCs) have a major role in severe malaria clinical manifestation, where pRBC cytoadhesion and rosetting processes have been strongly linked with microvascular sequestration while avoiding both spleen filtration and immune surveillance. The parasite-derived and pRBC surface-exposed PfEMP1 protein has been identified as one of the responsible elements for rosetting and, therefore, considered as a promising vaccine candidate for the generation of rosette-disrupting antibodies against severe malaria. However, the potential role of anti-rosetting antibodies as targeting molecules for the functionalization of antimalarial drug-loaded nanovectors has never been studied. Our manuscript presents a proof-of-concept study where the activity of an immunoliposomal vehicle with a dual performance capable of specifically recognizing and disrupting rosettes while simultaneously eliminating those pRBCs forming them has been assayed in vitro. A polyclonal antibody against the NTS-DBL1

Keywords: Combination therapy, Immunoliposomes, Malaria, Nanomedicine, Rosetting, Targeted drug delivery


Parra-Cabrera, C., Samitier, J., Homs-Corbera, A., (2016). Multiple biomarkers biosensor with just-in-time functionalization: Application to prostate cancer detection Biosensors and Bioelectronics 77, 1192-1200

We present a novel lab-on-a-chip (LOC) device for the simultaneous detection of multiple biomarkers using simple voltage measurements. The biosensor functionalization is performed in-situ, immediately before its use, facilitating reagents storage and massive devices fabrication. Sensitivity, limit of detection (LOD) and limit of quantification (LOQ) are tunable depending on the in-chip flown sample volumes. As a proof-of-concept, the system has been tested and adjusted to quantify two proteins found in blood that are susceptible to be used combined, as a screening tool, to diagnose prostate cancer (PCa): prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and spondin-2 (SPON2). This combination of biomarkers has been reported to be more specific for PCa diagnostics than the currently accepted but rather controversial PSA indicator. The range of detection for PSA and SPON2 could be adjusted to the clinically relevant range of 1 to 10. ng/ml. The system was tested for specificity to the evaluated biomarkers. This multiplex system can be modified and adapted to detect a larger quantity of biomarkers, or different ones, of relevance to other specific diseases.

Keywords: Adjustable sensing, Impedance measurements, In situ functionalization, Microfluidics, Prostate specific antigen, Self-assembled monolayers


Giannotti, Marina I., Abasolo, Ibane, Oliva, Mireia, Andrade, Fernanda, García-Aranda, Natalia, Melgarejo, Marta, Pulido, Daniel, Corchero, José Luis, Fernández, Yolanda, Villaverde, Antonio, Royo, Miriam, Garcia-Parajo, Maria F., Sanz, Fausto, Schwartz Jr, Simó, (2016). Highly versatile polyelectrolyte complexes for improving the enzyme replacement therapy of lysosomal storage disorders ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 8, (39), 25741–25752

Lysosomal storage disorders are currently treated by enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) through the direct administration of the unprotected recombinant protein to the patients. Herein we present an ionically cross-linked polyelectrolyte complex (PEC) composed of trimethyl chitosan (TMC) and

Keywords: Enzyme replacement therapy, Fabry disease, Lysosomal delivery, Nanomedicine, Polyelectrolyte complexes, Trimethyl chitosan, α-galactosidase A


Li, Hui, Fierens, Kaat, Zhang, Zhiyue, Vanparijs, Nane, Schuijs, Martijn J., Van Steendam, Katleen, Feiner Gracia, Natàlia, De Rycke, Riet, De Beer, Thomas, De Beuckelaer, Ans, De Koker, Stefaan, Deforce, Dieter, Albertazzi, Lorenzo, Grooten, Johan, Lambrecht, Bart N., De Geest, Bruno G., (2016). Spontaneous protein adsorption on graphene oxide nanosheets allowing efficient intracellular vaccine protein delivery ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 8, (2), 1147-1155

Nanomaterials hold potential of altering the interaction between therapeutic molecules and target cells or tissues. High aspect ratio nanomaterials in particular have been reported to possess unprecedented properties and are intensively investigated for their interaction with biological systems. Graphene oxide (GOx) is a water-soluble graphene derivative that combines high aspect ratio dimension with functional groups that can be exploited for bioconjugation. Here, we demonstrate that GOx nanosheets can spontaneously adsorb proteins by a combination of interactions. This property is then explored for intracellular protein vaccine delivery, in view of the potential of GOx nanosheets to destabilize lipid membranes such as those of intracellular vesicles. Using a series of in vitro experiments, we show that GOx nanosheet adsorbed proteins are efficiently internalized by dendritic cells (DCs: the most potent class of antigen presenting cells of the immune system) and promote antigen cross-presentation to CD8 T cells. The latter is a hallmark in the induction of potent cellular antigen-specific immune responses against intracellular pathogens and cancer. Nanomaterials hold potential of altering the interaction between therapeutic molecules and target cells or tissues. High aspect ratio nanomaterials in particular have been reported to possess unprecedented properties and are intensively investigated for their interaction with biological systems. Graphene oxide (GOx) is a water-soluble graphene derivative that combines high aspect ratio dimension with functional groups that can be exploited for bioconjugation. Here, we demonstrate that GOx nanosheets can spontaneously adsorb proteins by a combination of interactions. This property is then explored for intracellular protein vaccine delivery, in view of the potential of GOx nanosheets to destabilize lipid membranes such as those of intracellular vesicles. Using a series of in vitro experiments, we show that GOx nanosheet adsorbed proteins are efficiently internalized by dendritic cells (DCs: the most potent class of antigen presenting cells of the immune system) and promote antigen cross-presentation to CD8 T cells. The latter is a hallmark in the induction of potent cellular antigen-specific immune responses against intracellular pathogens and cancer.


van der Zwaag, Daan, Vanparijs, Nane, Wijnands, Sjors, De Rycke, Riet, De Geest, Bruno G., Albertazzi, Lorenzo, (2016). Super resolution imaging of nanoparticles cellular uptake and trafficking ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 8, (10), 6391-6399

Understanding the interaction between synthetic nanostructures and living cells is of crucial importance for the development of nanotechnology-based intracellular delivery systems. Fluorescence microscopy is one of the most widespread tools owing to its ability to image multiple colors in native conditions. However, due to the limited resolution, it is unsuitable to address individual diffraction-limited objects. Here we introduce a combination of super-resolution microscopy and single-molecule data analysis to unveil the behavior of nanoparticles during their entry into mammalian cells. Two-color Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (STORM) addresses the size and positioning of nanoparticles inside cells and probes their interaction with the cellular machineries at nanoscale resolution. Moreover, we develop image analysis tools to extract quantitative information about internalized particles from STORM images. To demonstrate the potential of our methodology, we extract previously inaccessible information by the direct visualization of the nanoparticle uptake mechanism and the intracellular tracking of nanoparticulate model antigens by dendritic cells. Finally, a direct comparison between STORM, confocal microscopy, and electron microscopy is presented, showing that STORM can provide novel and complementary information on nanoparticle cellular uptake. Understanding the interaction between synthetic nanostructures and living cells is of crucial importance for the development of nanotechnology-based intracellular delivery systems. Fluorescence microscopy is one of the most widespread tools owing to its ability to image multiple colors in native conditions. However, due to the limited resolution, it is unsuitable to address individual diffraction-limited objects. Here we introduce a combination of super-resolution microscopy and single-molecule data analysis to unveil the behavior of nanoparticles during their entry into mammalian cells. Two-color Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (STORM) addresses the size and positioning of nanoparticles inside cells and probes their interaction with the cellular machineries at nanoscale resolution. Moreover, we develop image analysis tools to extract quantitative information about internalized particles from STORM images. To demonstrate the potential of our methodology, we extract previously inaccessible information by the direct visualization of the nanoparticle uptake mechanism and the intracellular tracking of nanoparticulate model antigens by dendritic cells. Finally, a direct comparison between STORM, confocal microscopy, and electron microscopy is presented, showing that STORM can provide novel and complementary information on nanoparticle cellular uptake.


Olivares, Andy L., González Ballester, Miguel A., Noailly, J., (2016). Virtual exploration of early stage atherosclerosis Bioinformatics 32, (24), 3798-3806

Motivation: Biological mechanisms contributing to atherogenesis are multiple and complex. The early stage of atherosclerosis (AS) is characterized by the accumulation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) droplets, leading to the creation of foam cells (FC). To address the difficulty to explore the dynamics of interactions that controls this process, this study aimed to develop a model of agents and infer on the most influential cell- and molecule-related parameters.Results: FC started to accumulate after six to eight months of simulated hypercholesterolemia. A sensitivity analysis revealed the strong influence of LDL oxidation rate on the risk of FC creation, which was exploited to model the antioxidant effect of statins. Combined with an empirical simulation of the drug ability to decrease the level of LDL, the virtual statins treatment led to reductions of oxidized LDL levels similar to reductions measured in vivo.Availability and Implementation: An Open source software was used to develop the agent-based model of early AS. Two different concentrations of LDL agents were imposed in the intima layer to simulate healthy and hypercholesterolemia groups of ‘virtual patients’. The interactions programmed between molecules and cells were based on experiments and models reported in the literature. A factorial sensitivity analysis explored the respective effects of the less documented model parameters as (i) agent migration speed, (ii) LDL oxidation rate and (iii) concentration of autoantibody agents. Finally, the response of the model to known perturbations was assessed by introducing statins agents, able to reduce the oxidation rate of LDL agents and the LDL boundary concentrations.


Álvarez, Zaida, Hyroššová, Petra, Perales, José Carlos, Alcántara, Soledad, (2016). Neuronal progenitor maintenance requires lactate metabolism and PEPCK-M-directed cataplerosis Cerebral Cortex 26, (3), 1046-1058

This study investigated the metabolic requirements for neuronal progenitor maintenance in vitro and in vivo by examining the metabolic adaptations that support neuronal progenitors and neural stem cells (NSCs) in their undifferentiated state. We demonstrate that neuronal progenitors are strictly dependent on lactate metabolism, while glucose induces their neuronal differentiation. Lactate signaling is not by itself capable of maintaining the progenitor phenotype. The consequences of lactate metabolism include increased mitochondrial and oxidative metabolism, with a strict reliance on cataplerosis through the mitochondrial phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK-M) pathway to support anabolic functions, such as the production of extracellular matrix. In vivo, lactate maintains/induces populations of postnatal neuronal progenitors/NSCs in a PEPCK-M-dependent manner. Taken together, our data demonstrate that, lactate alone or together with other physical/biochemical cues maintain NSCs/progenitors with a metabolic signature that is classically found in tissues with high anabolic capacity.


Vila, M., García, A., Girotti, A., Alonso, M., Rodríguez-Cabello, J. C., González-Vázquez, A., Planell, J. A., Engel, E., Buján, J., Garcíaa-Honduvilla, N., Vallet-Regí, M., (2016). 3D silicon doped hydroxyapatite scaffolds decorated with Elastin-like Recombinamers for bone regenerative medicine Acta Biomaterialia 45, 349-356

The current study reports on the manufacturing by rapid prototyping technique of three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds based on silicon substituted hydroxyapatite with Elastin-like Recombinamers (ELRs) functionalized surfaces. Silicon doped hydroxyapatite (Si-HA), with Ca10(PO4)5.7(SiO4)0.3(OH)1.7h0.3 nominal formula, was surface functionalized with two different types of polymers designed by genetic engineering: ELR-RGD that contain cell attachment specific sequences and ELR-SNA15/RGD with both hydroxyapatite and cells domains that interact with the inorganic phase and with the cells, respectively. These hybrid materials were subjected to in vitro assays in order to clarify if the ELRs coating improved the well-known biocompatible and bone regeneration properties of calcium phosphates materials. The in vitro tests showed that there was a total and homogeneous colonization of the 3D scaffolds by Bone marrow Mesenchymal Stromal Cells (BMSCs). In addition, the BMSCs were viable and able to proliferate and differentiate into osteoblasts. Statement of Significance Bone tissue engineering is an area of increasing interest because its main applications are directly related to the rising life expectancy of the population, which promotes higher rates of several bone pathologies, so innovative strategies are needed for bone tissue regeneration therapies. Here we use the rapid prototyping technology to allow moulding ceramic 3D scaffolds and we use different bio-polymers for the functionalization of their surfaces in order to enhance the biological response. Combining the ceramic material (silicon doped hydroxyapatite, Si-HA) and the Elastin like Recombinamers (ELRs) polymers with the presence of the integrin-mediate adhesion domain alone or in combination with SNA15 peptide that possess high affinity for hydroxyapatite, provided an improved Bone marrow Mesenchymal Stromal Cells (BMSCs) differentiation into osteoblastic linkage.

Keywords: Bone marrow Mesenchymal Stromal Cells (BMSCs), Bone repair, Elastin-like Recombinamers (ELRs), Rapid prototyped 3D scaffolds, Silicon doped hydroxyapatite (Si-HA), Tissue engineering


Zhao, M., Altankov, G., Grabiec, U., Bennett, M., Salmeron-Sanchez, M., Dehghani, F., Groth, T., (2016). Molecular composition of GAG-collagen I multilayers affects remodeling of terminal layers and osteogenic differentiation of adipose-derived stem cells Acta Biomaterialia 41, 86-99

The effect of molecular composition of multilayers, by pairing type I collagen (Col I) with either hyaluronic acid (HA) or chondroitin sulfate (CS) was studied regarding the osteogenic differentiation of adhering human adipose-derived stem cells (hADSCs). Polyelectrolyte multilayer (PEM) formation was based primarily on ion pairing and on additional intrinsic cross-linking through imine bond formation with Col I replacing native by oxidized HA (oHA) or CS (oCS). Significant amounts of Col I fibrils were found on both native and oxidized CS-based PEMs, resulting in higher water contact angles and surface potential under physiological condition, while much less organized Col I was detected in either HA-based multilayers, which were more hydrophilic and negatively charged. An important finding was that hADSCs remodeled Col I at the terminal layers of PEMs by mechanical reorganization and pericellular proteolytic degradation, being more pronounced on CS-based PEMs. This was in accordance with the higher quantity of Col I deposition in this system, accompanied by more cell spreading, focal adhesions (FA) formation and significant α2β1 integrin recruitment compared to HA-based PEMs. Both CS-based PEMs caused also an increased fibronectin (FN) secretion and cell growth. Furthermore, significant calcium phosphate deposition, enhanced ALP, Col I and Runx2 expression were observed in hADSCs on CS-based PEMs, particularly on oCS-containing one. Overall, multilayer composition can be used to direct cell-matrix interactions, and hence stem cell fates showing for the first time that PEMs made of biogenic polyelectrolytes undergo significant remodeling of terminal protein layers, which seems to enable cells to form a more adequate extracellular matrix-like environment. Statement of Significance: Natural polymer derived polyelectrolyte multilayers (PEMs) have been recently applied to adjust biomaterials to meet specific tissue demands. However, the effect of molecular composition of multilayers on both surface properties and cellular response, especially the fate of human adipose derived stem cells (hADSCs) upon osteogenic differentiation has not been studied extensively, yet. In addition, no studies exist that investigate a potential cell-dependent remodeling of PEMs made of extracellular matrix (ECM) components like collagens and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). Furthermore, there is no knowledge whether the ability of cells to remodel PEM components may provide an added value regarding cell growth and differentiation. Finally, it has not been explored yet, how intrinsic cross-linking of ECM derived polyelectrolytes that improve the stability of PEMs will affect the differentiation potential of hADSCs. The current work aims to address these questions and found that the type of GAG has a strong effect on properties of multilayers and osteogenic differentiation of hADSCs. Additionally, we also show for the first time that PEMs made of biogenic polyelectrolytes undergo significant remodeling of terminal layers as completely new finding, which allows cells to form an ECM-like environment supporting differentiation upon osteogenic lineage. The finding of this work may open new avenues of application of PEM systems made by layer by layer (LbL) technique in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Keywords: Collagen reorganization, Glycosaminoglycans, Layer-by-layer technique, Mesenchymal stem cells, Osteogenic differentiation


Oliveira, Hugo, Catros, Sylvain, Boiziau, Claudine, Siadous, Robin, Marti-Munoz, Joan, Bareille, Reine, Rey, Sylvie, Castano, Oscar, Planell, Josep, Amédée, Joëlle, Engel, Elisabeth, (2016). The proangiogenic potential of a novel calcium releasing biomaterial: Impact on cell recruitment Acta Biomaterialia 29, 435-445

Abstract In current bone tissue engineering strategies the achievement of sufficient angiogenesis during tissue regeneration is still a major limitation in order to attain full functionality. Several strategies have been described to tackle this problem, mainly by the use of angiogenic factors or endothelial progenitor cells. However, when facing a clinical scenario these approaches are inherently complex and present a high cost. As such, more cost effective alternatives are awaited. Here, we demonstrate the potential of electrospun poly(lactic acid) (PLA) fiber-based membranes, containing calcium phosphate ormoglass (CaP) particles, to elicit angiogenesis in vivo, in a subcutaneous model in mice. We show that the current approach elicited the local expression of angiogenic factors, associated to a chemotactic effect on macrophages, and sustained angiogenesis into the biomaterial. As both PLA and CaP are currently accepted for clinical application these off-the-shelf novel membranes have great potential for guided bone regeneration applications. Statement of significance In current bone tissue engineering approaches the achievement of sufficient angiogenesis, during tissue regeneration, is a major limitation in order to attain full tissue functionality. Recently, our group has found that calcium ions released by the degradation of calcium phosphate ormoglasses (CaP) are effective angiogenic promoters. Based on this, in this work we successfully produced hybrid fibrous mats with different contents of CaP nanoparticles and thus with different calcium ion release rates, using an ormoglass – poly(lactic acid) blend approach. We show that these matrices, upon implantation in a subcutaneous site, could elicit the local expression of angiogenic factors, associated to a chemotactic effect on macrophages, and sustained angiogenesis into the biomaterial, in a CaP dose dependent manner. This off-the-shelf cost effective approach presents great potential to translate to the clinics.

Keywords: Angiogenesis, Bone regeneration, Calcium phosphate ormoglass


Fraioli, R., Dashnyam, K., Kim, J. H., Perez, R. A., Kim, H. W., Gil, J., Ginebra, M. P., Manero, J. M., Mas-Moruno, C., (2016). Surface guidance of stem cell behavior: Chemically tailored co-presentation of integrin-binding peptides stimulates osteogenic differentiation in vitro and bone formation in vivo Acta Biomaterialia 43, 269-281

Surface modification stands out as a versatile technique to create instructive biomaterials that are able to actively direct stem cell fate. Chemical functionalization of titanium has been used in this work to stimulate the differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) into the osteoblastic lineage, by covalently anchoring a synthetic double-branched molecule (PTF) to the metal that allows a finely controlled presentation of peptidic motifs. In detail, the effect of the RGD adhesive peptide and its synergy motif PHSRN is studied, comparing a random distribution of the two peptides with the chemically-tailored disposition within the custom made synthetic platform, which mimics the interspacing between the motifs observed in fibronectin. Contact angle measurement and XPS analysis are used to prove the efficiency of functionalization. We demonstrate that, by rationally designing ligands, stem cell response can be efficiently guided towards the osteogenic phenotype: In vitro, PTF-functionalized surfaces support hMSCs adhesion, with higher cell area and formation of focal contacts, expression of the integrin receptor α5β1 and the osteogenic marker Runx2, and deposition a highly mineralized matrix, reaching values of mineralization comparable to fibronectin. Our strategy is also demonstrated to be efficient in promoting new bone growth in vivo in a rat calvarial defect. These results highlight the efficacy of chemical control over the presentation of bioactive peptides; such systems may be used to engineer bioactive surfaces with improved osseointegrative properties, or can be easily tuned to generate multi-functional coatings requiring a tailored disposition of the peptidic motifs. Statement of significance Organic coatings have been proposed as a solution to foster osseointegration of orthopedic implants. Among them, extracellular matrix-derived peptide motifs are an interesting biomimetic strategy to harness cell-surface interactions. Nonetheless, the combination of multiple peptide motifs in a controlled manner is essential to achieve receptor specificity and fully exploit the potentiality of synthetic peptides. Herein, we covalently graft to titanium a double branched molecule to guide stem cell fate in vitro and generate an osseoinductive titanium surface in vivo. Such synthetic ligand allows for the simultaneous presentation of two bioactive motifs, thus is ideal to test the effect of synergic sequences, such as RGD and PHSRN, and is a clear example of the versatility and feasibility of rationally designed biomolecules.

Keywords: hMSCs, Integrin-binding peptides, Osseointegration, RGD-PHSRN, Titanium


Vilches, S., Vergara, C., Nicolás, O., Mata, A., Del Río, J. A., Gavín, R., (2016). Domain-specific activation of death-associated intracellular signalling cascades by the cellular prion protein in neuroblastoma cells Molecular Neurobiology 53, (7), 4438–4448

The biological functions of the cellular prion protein remain poorly understood. In fact, numerous studies have aimed to determine specific functions for the different protein domains. Studies of cellular prion protein (PrPC) domains through in vivo expression of molecules carrying internal deletions in a mouse Prnp null background have provided helpful data on the implication of the protein in signalling cascades in affected neurons. Nevertheless, understanding of the mechanisms underlying the neurotoxicity induced by these PrPC deleted forms is far from complete. To better define the neurotoxic or neuroprotective potential of PrPC N-terminal domains, and to overcome the heterogeneity of results due to the lack of a standardized model, we used neuroblastoma cells to analyse the effects of overexpressing PrPC deleted forms. Results indicate that PrPC N-terminal deleted forms were properly processed through the secretory pathway. However, PrP

Keywords: Cellular prion protein, Neurotoxicity, Truncated prion protein


Urrios, A., Parra-Cabrera, C., Bhattacharjee, N., Gonzalez-Suarez, A. M., Rigat-Brugarolas, L. G., Nallapatti, U., Samitier, J., Deforest, C. A., Posas, F., Garcia-Cordero, J. L., Folch, A., (2016). 3D-printing of transparent bio-microfluidic devices in PEG-DA Lab on a Chip 16, (12), 2287-2294

The vast majority of microfluidic systems are molded in poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) by soft lithography due to the favorable properties of PDMS: biocompatible, elastomeric, transparent, gas-permeable, inexpensive, and copyright-free. However, PDMS molding involves tedious manual labor, which makes PDMS devices prone to assembly failures and difficult to disseminate to research and clinical settings. Furthermore, the fabrication procedures limit the 3D complexity of the devices to layered designs. Stereolithography (SL), a form of 3D-printing, has recently attracted attention as a way to customize the fabrication of biomedical devices due to its automated, assembly-free 3D fabrication, rapidly decreasing costs, and fast-improving resolution and throughput. However, existing SL resins are not biocompatible and patterning transparent resins at high resolution remains difficult. Here we report procedures for the preparation and patterning of a transparent resin based on low-MW poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (MW 250) (PEG-DA-250). The 3D-printed devices are highly transparent and cells can be cultured on PEG-DA-250 prints for several days. This biocompatible SL resin and printing process solves some of the main drawbacks of 3D-printed microfluidic devices: biocompatibility and transparency. In addition, it should also enable the production of non-microfluidic biomedical devices.


Katuri, J., Seo, K. D., Kim, D. S., Sánchez, S., (2016). Artificial micro-swimmers in simulated natural environments Lab on a Chip 16, (7), 1101-1105

Microswimmers, such as bacteria, are known to show different behaviours depending on their local environment. They identify spatial chemical gradients to find nutrient rich areas (chemotaxis) and interact with shear flows to accumulate in high shear regions. Recently, artificial microswimmers have been developed which mimic their natural counterparts in many ways. One of the exciting topics in this field is to study these artificial motors in several natural settings like the ones bacteria interact with. In this Focus article, we summarize recent observations of artificial swimmers in chemical gradients, shear flows and other interesting natural environments simulated in the lab using microfluidics and nanotechnology.


Vilela, Diana, Romeo, Agostino, Sánchez, Samuel, (2016). Flexible sensors for biomedical technology Lab on a Chip 16, (3), 402-408

Flexible sensing devices have gained a great deal of attention among the scientific community in recent years. The application of flexible sensors spans over several fields, including medicine, industrial automation, robotics, security, and human-machine interfacing. In particular, non-invasive health-monitoring devices are expected to play a key role in the improvement of patient life and in reducing costs associated with clinical and biomedical diagnostic procedures. Here, we focus on recent advances achieved in flexible devices applied on the human skin for biomedical and healthcare purposes.


Safdar, M., Janis, J., Sánchez, S., (2016). Microfluidic fuel cells for energy generation Lab on a Chip 16, (15), 2754-2758

Sustainable energy generation is of recent interest due to a growing energy demand across the globe and increasing environmental issues caused by conventional non-renewable means of power generation. In the context of microsystems, portable electronics and lab-on-a-chip based (bio)chemical sensors would essentially require fully integrated, reliable means of power generation. Microfluidic-based fuel cells can offer unique advantages compared to conventional fuel cells such as high surface area-to-volume ratio, ease of integration, cost effectiveness and portability. Here, we summarize recent developments which utilize the potential of microfluidic devices for energy generation.


Patino, T., Mestre, R., Sánchez, S., (2016). Miniaturized soft bio-hybrid robotics: a step forward into healthcare applications Lab on a Chip 16, (19), 3626-3630

Soft robotics is an emerging discipline that employs soft flexible materials such as fluids, gels and elastomers in order to enhance the use of robotics in healthcare applications. Compared to their rigid counterparts, soft robotic systems have flexible and rheological properties that are closely related to biological systems, thus allowing the development of adaptive and flexible interactions with complex dynamic environments. With new technologies arising in bioengineering, the integration of living cells into soft robotic systems offers the possibility of accomplishing multiple complex functions such as sensing and actuating upon external stimuli. These emerging bio-hybrid systems are showing promising outcomes and opening up new avenues in the field of soft robotics for applications in healthcare and other fields.


Caballero, D., Katuri, J., Samitier, J., Sánchez, S., (2016). Motion in microfluidic ratchets Lab on a Chip 16, (23), 4477-4481

The ubiquitous random motion of mesoscopic active particles, such as cells, can be “rectified” or directed by embedding the particles in systems containing local and periodic asymmetric cues. Incorporated on lab-on-a-chip devices, these microratchet-like structures can be used to self-propel fluids, transport particles, and direct cell motion in the absence of external power sources. In this Focus article we discuss recent advances in the use of ratchet-like geometries in microfluidics which could open new avenues in biomedicine for applications in diagnosis, cancer biology, and bioengineering.


Romeo, A., Leung, T. S., Sánchez, S., (2016). Smart biosensors for multiplexed and fully integrated point-of-care diagnostics Lab on a Chip 16, (11), 1957-1961

Point-of-care diagnostics (PoC) and personalised medicine are highly valuable for the improvement of world health. Smartphone PoC platforms which precisely diagnose diseases and track their development through the detection of several bioanalytes represent one of the newest and most exciting advancements towards mass-screening applications. Here we focus on recent advances in both multiplexed and smartphone integrated PoC sensors.


Guivernau, B., Bonet, J., Valls-Comamala, V., Bosch-Morató, M., Godoy, J. A., Inestrosa, N. C., Perálvarez-Marín, A., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Andreu, D., Oliva, B., Muñoz, F. J., (2016). Amyloid- Journal of Neuroscience 36, (46), 11693-11703

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the pathological aggregation of the amyloid-

Keywords: Alzheimer, Amyloid, Nitrotyrosination, NMDA Rc, Oligomers, Peroxynitrite


Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2016). Novel strategies for Plasmodium-targeted drug delivery Expert Opinion on Drug Delivery 13, (7), 919-922

Eguizabal, C., Herrera, L., De Oñate, L., Montserrat, N., Hajkova, P., Izpisua Belmonte, J. C., (2016). Characterization of the epigenetic changes during human gonadal primordial germ cells reprogramming Stem Cells 34, (9), 2418-2428

Abstract: Epigenetic reprogramming is a central process during mammalian germline development. Genome-wide DNA demethylation in primordial germ cells (PGCs) is a prerequisite for the erasure of epigenetic memory, preventing the transmission of epimutations to the next generation. Apart from DNA demethylation, germline reprogramming has been shown to entail reprogramming of histone marks and chromatin remodelling. Contrary to other animal models, there is limited information about the epigenetic dynamics during early germ cell development in humans. Here, we provide further characterization of the epigenetic configuration of the early human gonadal PGCs. We show that early gonadal human PGCs are DNA hypomethylated and their chromatin is characterized by low H3K9me2 and high H3K27me3 marks. Similarly to previous observations in mice, human gonadal PGCs undergo dynamic chromatin changes concomitant with the erasure of genomic imprints. Interestingly, and contrary to mouse early germ cells, expression of BLIMP1/PRDM1 persists in through all gestational stages in human gonadal PGCs and is associated with nuclear lysine-specific demethylase-1. Our work provides important additional information regarding the chromatin changes associated with human PGCs development between 6 and 13 weeks of gestation in male and female gonads.

Keywords: Epigenetic, Human primordial germ cells, Reprograming


Fonollosa, J., Fernández, L., Gutiérrez-Gálvez, A., Huerta, R., Marco, S., (2016). Calibration transfer and drift counteraction in chemical sensor arrays using Direct Standardization Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 236, 1044-1053

Inherent variability of chemical sensors makes it necessary to calibrate chemical detection systems individually. This shortcoming has traditionally limited usability of systems based on metal oxide gas sensor arrays and prevented mass-production for some applications. Here, aiming at exploring calibration transfer between chemical sensor arrays, we exposed five twin 8-sensor detection units to different concentration levels of ethanol, ethylene, carbon monoxide, or methane. First, we built calibration models using data acquired with a master unit. Second, to explore the transferability of the calibration models, we used Direct Standardization to map the signals of a slave unit to the space of the master unit in calibration. In particular, we evaluated the transferability of the calibration models to other detection units, and within the same unit measuring days apart. Our results show that signals acquired with one unit can be successfully mapped to the space of a reference unit. Hence, calibration models trained with a master unit can be extended to slave units using a reduced number of transfer samples, diminishing thereby calibration costs. Similarly, signals of a sensing unit can be transformed to match sensor behavior in the past to mitigate drift effects. Therefore, the proposed methodology can reduce calibration costs in mass-production and delay recalibrations due to sensor aging. Acquired dataset is made publicly available.

Keywords: Calibration transfer, Chemical sensors, Direct Standardization, Electronic nose, MOX sensors, Public dataset


Fernandez, L., Guney, S., Gutierrez-Galvez, A., Marco, S., (2016). Calibration transfer in temperature modulated gas sensor arrays Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 231, 276-284

Abstract Shifts in working temperature are an important issue that prevents the successful transfer of calibration models from one chemical instrument to another. This effect is of special relevance when working with gas sensor arrays modulated in temperature. In this paper, we study the use of multivariate techniques to transfer the calibration model from a temperature modulated gas sensor array to another when a global change of temperature occurs. To do so, we built 12 identical master sensor arrays composed of three different types of commercial Figaro sensors and acquired a dataset of sensor responses to three pure substances (ethanol, acetone and butanone) dosed at 7 concentrations. The master arrays are then shifted in temperature (from −50 to 50 °C, ΔT = 10 °C) and considered as slave arrays. Data correction is performed for an increasing number of transfer samples with 4 different calibration transfer techniques: Direct Standardization, Piece-wise Direct Standardization, Orthogonal Signal Correction and Generalized Least Squares Weighting. In order to evaluate the performance of the calibration transfer, we compare the Root Mean Square Error of Prediction (RMSEP) of master and slave arrays, for each instrument correction. Best results are obtained from Piece-wise Direct standardization, which exhibits the lower RMSEP values after correction for the smaller number of transfer samples.

Keywords: Calibration transfer, Gas sensor array, MOX, Temperature modulation


Gibert, Marta, Paytubi, Sonia, Beltrán, Sergi, Juárez, Antonio, Balsalobre, Carlos, Madrid, Cristina, (2016). Growth phase-dependent control of R27 conjugation is mediated by the interplay between the plasmid-encoded regulatory circuit TrhR/TrhY-HtdA and the cAMP regulon Environmental Microbiology 18, (12), 5277-5287

Plasmids of the incompatibility group HI1 (IncHI1) have been isolated from several Gram-negative pathogens and are associated with the spread of multidrug resistance. Their conjugation is tightly regulated and it is inhibited at temperatures higher than 30°C, indicating that conjugation occurs outside warm-blooded hosts. Using R27, the prototype of IncHI1 plasmids, we report that plasmid transfer efficiency in E. coli strongly depends on the physiological state of the donor cells. Conjugation frequency is high when cells are actively growing, dropping sharply when cells enter the stationary phase of growth. Accordingly, our transcriptomic assays show significant downregulation of numerous R27 genes during the stationary phase, including several tra (transfer) genes. Growth phase-dependent regulation of tra genes transcription is independent of H-NS, a silencer of horizontal gene transfer, and ppGpp and RpoS, regulators of the stationary phase, but highly dependent on the plasmid-encoded regulatory circuit TrhR/TrhY-HtdA. The metabolic sensor cAMP, whose synthesis is chromosomally encoded, is also involved in the growth phase regulation of R27 conjugation by modulating htdA expression. Our data suggest that the involvement of regulators encoded by both chromosome and plasmid are required for efficient physiological control of IncHI1 plasmid conjugation.


Beuwer, Michael A., Knopper, M. F., Albertazzi, Lorenzo, van der Zwaag, Daan, Ellenbroek, Wouter G., Meijer, E. W., Prins, Menno W. J., Zijlstra, Peter, (2016). Mechanical properties of single supramolecular polymers from correlative AFM and fluorescence microscopy Polymer Chemistry 7, (47), 7260-7268

We characterize the structure and mechanical properties of 1,3,5-benzenetricarboxamide (BTA) supramolecular polymers using correlative AFM and fluorescence imaging. AFM allows for nanoscale structural investigation but we found that statistical analysis is difficult because these structures are easily disrupted by the AFM tip. We therefore correlate AFM and fluorescence microscopy to couple nanoscale morphological information to far-field optical images. A fraction of the immobilized polymers are in a clustered or entangled state, which we identify based on diffraction limited fluorescence images. We find that clustered and entangled polymers exhibit a significantly longer persistence length that is broader distributed than single unentangled polymers. By comparison with numerical simulations we find significant heterogeneity in the persistence length of single unentangled polymers, which we attribute to polymer-substrate interactions and the presence of structural diversity within the polymer.


Lagunas, A., Sasso, B., Tesson, N., Cantos, C., Martinez, E., Samitier, J., (2016). Synthesis of a polymethyl(methacrylate)-polystyrene-based diblock copolymer containing biotin for selective protein nanopatterning Polymer Chemistry 7, 212-218

Protein patterning is of interest in high-throughput screening. Due to an increase in demand for further miniaturization of protein assays, block copolymers (BCPs) that can undergo large-area phase separation into nanometer-size domains have attracted great attention as substrates for protein nanopatterning. Here we report the synthesis of a polymethyl(methacrylate)-polystyrene-based diblock copolymer which, once spin-coated, is capable of self-segregating into cylindrical polystyrene (PS) domains. In this copolymer, the PS block was modified to introduce biotin below 10% molar in order to achieve molecular recognition of streptavidin. The PMMA matrix used to introduce poly(ethylene glycol) enabled us to obtain an antifouling environment that prevents unspecific protein adsorption outside the domains. The use of the biotin-streptavidin pair in this BCP makes it suitable for nanopatterning of other biotinylated proteins of interest for the purposes of cell biology, biosensors, and tissue engineering.


Noguera-Ortega, E., Rabanal, R. M., Secanella-Fandos, S., Torrents, E., Luquin, M., Julián, E., (2016). Gamma-irradiated mycobacteria enhance survival in bladder tumor bearing mice although less efficaciously than live mycobacteria Journal of Urology 195, (1), 198-205

Basas, J., Morer, A., Ratia, C., Martín, M.T., del Pozo, J.L., Gomis, X., Rojo-Molinero, E., Torrents, E., Almirante, B., Gavaldà, J., (2016). Efficacy of anidulafungin in the treatment of experimental Candida parapsolosis catheter infection Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 71, (10), 2895-2901

Objectives The effectiveness of anidulafungin versus liposomal amphotericin B (LAmB) for treating experimental Candida parapsilosis catheter-related infection by an antifungal-lock technique was assessed. Methods Two clinical strains of C. parapsilosis (CP12 and CP54) were studied. In vitro studies were used to determine the biofilm MICs (MBIC50 and MBIC90) by XTT reduction assay and LIVE/DEAD biofilm viability for anidulafungin and LAmB on 96-well microtitre polystyrene plates and silicone discs. An intravenous catheter was implanted in New Zealand white rabbits. Infection was induced by locking the catheter for 48 h with the inoculum. The 48 h antifungal-lock treatment groups included control, 3.3 mg/mL anidulafungin and 5.5 mg/mL LAmB. Results Anidulafungin showed better in vitro activity than LAmB against C. parapsilosis growing in biofilm on silicone discs. MBIC90 of LAmB: CP12, >1024 mg/L; CP54, >1024 mg/L. MBIC90 of anidulafungin: CP12, 1 mg/L; CP54, 1 mg/L (P ≤ 0.05). Moreover, only anidulafungin (1 mg/L) showed >90% non-viable cells in the LIVE/DEAD biofilm viability assay on silicone discs. No differences were observed between the in vitro susceptibility of anidulafungin or LAmB when 96-well plates were used. Anidulafungin achieved significant reductions relative to LAmB in log10 cfu recovered from the catheter tips for both strains (P ≤ 0.05). Only anidulafungin achieved negative catheter tip cultures (CP12 63%, CP54 73%, P ≤ 0.05). Conclusions Silicone discs may be a more reliable substrate for the study of in vitro biofilm susceptibility of C. parapsilosis. Anidulafungin-lock therapy showed the highest activity for experimental catheter-related infection with C. parapsilosis.


Garcia-Calero, Elena, Botella-Lopez, Arancha, Bahamonde, Olga, Perez-Balaguer, Ariadna, Martinez, Salvador, (2016). FoxP2 protein levels regulate cell morphology changes and migration patterns in the vertebrate developing telencephalon Brain Structure and Function 221, (6), 2905-2917

In the mammalian telencephalon, part of the progenitor cells transition from multipolar to bipolar morphology as they invade the mantle zone. This associates with changing patterns of radial migration. However, the molecules implicated in these morphology transitions are not well known. In the present work, we analyzed the function of FoxP2 protein in this process during telencephalic development in vertebrates. We analyzed the expression of FoxP2 protein and its relation with cell morphology and migratory patterns in mouse and chicken developing striatum. We observed FoxP2 protein expressed in a gradient from the subventricular zone to the mantle layer in mice embryos. In the FoxP2 low domain cells showed multipolar migration. In the striatal mantle layer where FoxP2 protein expression is higher, cells showed locomoting migration and bipolar morphology. In contrast, FoxP2 showed a high and homogenous expression pattern in chicken striatum, thus bipolar morphology predominated. Elevation of FoxP2 in the striatal subventricular zone by in utero electroporation promoted bipolar morphology and impaired multipolar radial migration. In mouse cerebral cortex we obtained similar results. FoxP2 promotes transition from multipolar to bipolar morphology by means of gradiental expression in mouse striatum and cortex. Together these results indicate a role of FoxP2 differential expression in cell morphology control of the vertebrate telencephalon.

Keywords: Radial migration, Bipolar morphology, Striatum, Cortex


Muñoz, L. M., Casals, A., (2016). Improving the performance of input interfaces through scaling and human motor models Human-Computer Interaction 31, (5), 385-419

The performance of interfaces is affected by human factors, which vary from one person to another, and by the inherent characteristics of the various devices involved. A set of techniques has been studied in order to improve the efficiency and efficacy of input interface devices. These techniques are based on the modification of the motor scaling factor, a transformation similar to the known Control-Display ratio (CD ratio). Operation time, the accuracy of the task and user workload are the indicators used in this work. By means of models based on the various human motor behaviors, the improvement of such indicators has been demonstrated. Using some common input interface devices, a number of experiments have been carried out to evaluate the presented methodology. The results show that the overall performance of input interfaces is significantly improved by applying such methodology.


Sachot, N., Castaño, O., Oliveira, H., Martí-Muñoz, J., Roguska, A., Amedee, J., Lewandowska, M., Planell, J. A., Engel, E., (2016). A novel hybrid nanofibrous strategy to target progenitor cells for cost-effective: In situ angiogenesis Journal of Materials Chemistry B 4, (43), 6967-6978

Although the impact of composites based on Ti-doped calcium phosphate glasses is low compared with that of bioglass, they have been already shown to possess great potential for bone tissue engineering. Composites made of polylactic acid (PLA) and a microparticle glass of 5TiO2-44.5CaO-44.5P2O5-6Na2O (G5) molar ratio have already demonstrated in situ osteo- and angiogenesis-triggering abilities. As many of the hybrid materials currently developed usually promote osteogenesis but still lack the ability to induce vascularization, a G5/PLA combination is a cost-effective option for obtaining new instructive scaffolds. In this study, nanostructured PLA-ORMOGLASS (organically modified glass) fibers were produced by electrospinning, in order to fabricate extra-cellular matrix (ECM)-like substrates that simultaneously promote bone formation and vascularization. Physical-chemical and surface characterization and tensile tests demonstrated that the obtained scaffolds exhibited homogeneous morphology, higher hydrophilicity and enhanced mechanical properties than pure PLA. In vitro assays with rat mesenchymal stem cells (rMSCs) and rat endothelial progenitor cells (rEPCs) also showed that rMSCs attached and proliferated on the materials influenced by the calcium content in the environment. In vivo assays showed that hybrid composite PLA-ORMOGLASS fibers were able to promote the formation of blood vessels. Thus, these novel fibers are a valid option for the design of functional materials for tissue engineering applications.


Stanton, Morgan M., Simmchen, Juliane, Ma, Xing, Miguel-López, Albert, Sánchez, Samuel, (2016). Biohybrid Janus motors driven by Escherichia coli Advanced Materials Interfaces 3, (2), 1500505

There has been a significant interest in the development of microswimmers for medical drug and cargo delivery, but the majority of current micromotors rely on toxic fuel sources and materials in their design making them irrelevant for biomedical applications. Bacteria represent an excellent motor alternative, as they are powered using their surrounding biological fluids. For a motile, biohybrid swimmer, Escherichia coli (E. coli) are integrated onto metal capped, polystyrene (PS) Janus particles. Fabrication of the biohybrid is rapid and simple for a microswimmer capable of magnetic guidance and ferrying an anticancer agent. Cell adhesion is regulated as E. coli adheres only to the particle's metal caps allowing the PS surface to be utilized for drug attachment, creating a multifunctional system. E. coli adhesion is investigated on multiple metal caps (Pt, Fe, Ti, or Au) and displays a strong preference to attach to Pt surfaces over other metals. Surface hydrophobicity and surface charge are examined to interpret the cell specific adhesion on the Janus particles. The dual capability of the biohybrid to have guided cell adhesion and localized drug attachment allows the swimmer to have multiple applications for biomedical microswimmers, future bacteria-interface systems, and micro-biorobots.

Keywords: Bacteria adhesion, Biohybrids, Escherichia coli, Janus particles, Microswimmers


Marques, J., Vilanova, Eduardo, Mourão, Paulo A. S., Fernàndez-Busquets, Xavier, (2016). Marine organism sulfated polysaccharides exhibiting significant antimalarial activity and inhibition of red blood cell invasion by Plasmodium Scientific Reports 6, 24368

The antimalarial activity of heparin, against which there are no resistances known, has not been therapeutically exploited due to its potent anticoagulating activity. Here, we have explored the antiplasmodial capacity of heparin-like sulfated polysaccharides from the sea cucumbers Ludwigothurea grisea and Isostichopus badionotus, from the red alga Botryocladia occidentalis, and from the marine sponge Desmapsamma anchorata. In vitro experiments demonstrated for most compounds significant inhibition of Plasmodium falciparum growth at low-anticoagulant concentrations. This activity was found to operate through inhibition of erythrocyte invasion by Plasmodium, likely mediated by a coating of the parasite similar to that observed for heparin. In vivo four-day suppressive tests showed that several of the sulfated polysaccharides improved the survival of Plasmodium yoelii-infected mice. In one animal treated with I. badionotus fucan parasitemia was reduced from 10.4% to undetectable levels, and Western blot analysis revealed the presence of antibodies against P. yoelii antigens in its plasma. The retarded invasion mediated by sulfated polysaccharides, and the ensuing prolonged exposure of Plasmodium to the immune system, can be explored for the design of new therapeutic approaches against malaria where heparin-related polysaccharides of low anticoagulating activity could play a dual role as drugs and as potentiators of immune responses.


Noguera-Ortega, E., Blanco-Cabra, N., Rabanal, R.M., Sanchez-Chardi, A., Roldán, M., Torrents, E., Luquin, M., Julián, E., (2016). Mycobacteria emulsified in olive oil-in-water trigger a robust immune response in bladder cancer treatment Scientific Reports 6, 27232

The hydrophobic composition of mycobacterial cell walls leads to the formation of clumps when attempting to resuspend mycobacteria in aqueous solutions. Such aggregation may interfere in the mycobacteria-host cells interaction and, consequently, influence their antitumor effect. To improve the immunotherapeutic activity of Mycobacterium brumae, we designed different emulsions and demonstrated their efficacy. The best formulation was initially selected based on homogeneity and stability. Both olive oil (OO)- and mineral oil-in-water emulsions better preserved the mycobacteria viability and provided higher disaggregation rates compared to the others. But, among both emulsions, the OO emulsion increased the mycobacteria capacity to induce cytokines’ production in bladder tumor cell cultures. The OO-mycobacteria emulsion properties: less hydrophobic, lower pH, more neutralized zeta potential, and increased affinity to fibronectin than non-emulsified mycobacteria, indicated favorable conditions for reaching the bladder epithelium in vivo. Finally, intravesical OO-M. brumae-treated mice showed a significantly higher systemic immune response, together with a trend toward increased tumor-bearing mouse survival rates compared to the rest of the treated mice. The physicochemical characteristics and the induction of a robust immune response in vitro and in vivo highlight the potential of the OO emulsion as a good delivery vehicle for the mycobacterial treatment of bladder cancer.


Ch'ng, Jun-Hong, Moll, Kirsten, Quintana, Maria del Pilar, Chan, Sherwin Chun Leung, Masters, Ellen, Moles, Ernest, Liu, Jianping, Eriksson, Anders B., Wahlgren, Mats, (2016). Rosette-disrupting effect of an anti-plasmodial compound for the potential treatment of plasmodium falciparum malaria complications Scientific Reports 6, 29317

The spread of artemisinin-resistant parasites could lead to higher incidence of patients with malaria complications. However, there are no current treatments that directly dislodge sequestered parasites from the microvasculature. We show that four common antiplasmodial drugs do not disperse rosettes (erythrocyte clusters formed by malaria parasites) and therefore develop a cell-based high-throughput assay to identify potential rosette-disrupting compounds. A pilot screen of 2693 compounds identified Malaria Box compound MMV006764 as a potential candidate. Although it reduced rosetting by a modest 20%, MMV006764 was validated to be similarly effective against both blood group O and A rosettes of three laboratory parasite lines. Coupled with its antiplasmodial activity and drug-likeness, MMV006764 represents the first small-molecule compound that disrupts rosetting and could potentially be used in a resource-limited setting to treat patients deteriorating rapidly from malaria complications. Such dual-action drugs that simultaneously restore microcirculation and reduce parasite load could significantly reduce malaria morbidity and mortality.


Prieto, A., Urcola, I., Blanco, J., Dahbi, G., Muniesa, M., Quiros, P., Falgenhauer, L., Chakraborty, T., Hüttener, M., Juarez, A., (2016). Tracking bacterial virulence: Global modulators as indicators Scientific Reports 6, 25973

The genomes of Gram-negative bacteria encode paralogues and/or orthologues of global modulators. The nucleoid-associated H-NS and Hha proteins are an example: several enterobacteria such as Escherichia coli or Salmonella harbor H-NS, Hha and their corresponding paralogues, StpA and YdgT proteins, respectively. Remarkably, the genome of the pathogenic enteroaggregative E. coli strain 042 encodes, in addition to the hha and ydgT genes, two additional hha paralogues, hha2 and hha3. We show in this report that there exists a strong correlation between the presence of these paralogues and the virulence phenotype of several E. coli strains. hha2 and hha3 predominate in some groups of intestinal pathogenic E. coli strains (enteroaggregative and Shiga toxin-producing isolates), as well as in the widely distributed extraintestinal ST131 isolates. Because of the relationship between the presence of hha2/hha3 and some virulence factors, we have been able to provide evidence for Hha2/Hha3 modulating the expression of the antigen 43 pathogenic determinants. We show that tracking global modulators or their paralogues/orthologues can be a new strategy to identify bacterial pathogenic clones and propose PCR amplification of hha2 and hha3 as a virulence indicator in environmental and clinical E. coli isolates.


Noori, M., Aragonès, A. C., Di Palma, G., Darwish, N., Bailey, S. W. D., Al-Galiby, Q., Grace, I., Amabilino, D. B., González-Campo, A., Díez-Pérez, I., Lambert, C. J., (2016). Tuning the electrical conductance of metalloporphyrin supramolecular wires Scientific Reports 6, 37352

In contrast with conventional single-molecule junctions, in which the current flows parallel to the long axis or plane of a molecule, we investigate the transport properties of M(II)-5,15-diphenylporphyrin (M-DPP) single-molecule junctions (M=Co, Ni, Cu, or Zn divalent metal ions), in which the current flows perpendicular to the plane of the porphyrin. Novel STM-based conductance measurements combined with quantum transport calculations demonstrate that current-perpendicular-to-the-plane (CPP) junctions have three-orders-of-magnitude higher electrical conductances than their current-in-plane (CIP) counterparts, ranging from 2.10-2 G0 for Ni-DPP up to 8.10-2 G0 for Zn-DPP. The metal ion in the center of the DPP skeletons is strongly coordinated with the nitrogens of the pyridyl coated electrodes, with a binding energy that is sensitive to the choice of metal ion. We find that the binding energies of Zn-DPP and Co-DPP are significantly higher than those of Ni-DPP and Cu-DPP. Therefore when combined with its higher conductance, we identify Zn-DPP as the favoured candidate for high-conductance CPP single-molecule devices.


Asadipour, N., Trepat, X., Muñoz, J. J., (2016). Porous-based rheological model for tissue fluidisation Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids 96, 535-549

It has been experimentally observed that cells exhibit a fluidisation process when subjected to a transient stretch, with an eventual recovery of the mechanical properties upon removal of the applied deformation. This fluidisation process is characterised by a decrease of the storage modulus and an increase of the phase angle. We propose a rheological model which is able to reproduce this combined mechanical response. The model is described in the context of continua and adapted to a cell-centred particle system that simulates cell–cell interactions. Mechanical equilibrium is coupled with two evolution laws: (i) one for the reference configuration, and (ii) another for the porosity or polymer density. The first law depends on the actual strain of the tissue, while the second assumes different remodelling rates during porosity increase and decrease. The theory is implemented on a particle based model and tested on a stretching experiment. The numerical results agree with the experimental measurements for different stretching magnitudes.

Keywords: Cell remodelling, Cell rheology, Fluidisation, Softening, Viscoelasticity


Wills, C. R., Malandrino, A., Van Rijsbergen, M., Lacroix, D., Ito, K., Noailly, J., (2016). Simulating the sensitivity of cell nutritive environment to composition changes within the intervertebral disc Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids 90, 108-123

Altered nutrition in the intervertebral disc affects cell viability and can generate catabolic cascades contributing to extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation. Such degradation is expected to affect couplings between disc mechanics and nutrition, contributing to accelerate degenerative processes. However, the relation of ECM changes to major biophysical events within the loaded disc remains unclear. A L4-L5 disc finite element model including the nucleus (NP), annulus (AF) and endplates was used and coupled to a transport-cell viability model. Solute concentrations and cell viability were evaluated along the mid-sagittal plane path. A design of experiment (DOE) was performed. DOE parameters corresponded to AF and NP biochemical tissue measurements in discs with different degeneration grades. Cell viability was not affected by any parameter combinations defined. Nonetheless, the initial water content was the parameter that affected the most the solute contents, especially glucose. Calculations showed that altered NP composition could negatively affect AF cell nutrition. Results suggested that AF and NP tissue degeneration are not critical to nutrition-related cell viability at early-stage of disc degeneration. However, small ECM degenerative changes may alter significantly disc nutrition under mechanical loads. Coupling disc mechano-transport simulations and enzyme expression studies could allow identifying spatiotemporal sequences related to tissue catabolism.

Keywords: Cell nutrition, Finite element analysis, Intervertebral disc degeneration, Multiphysics, Tissue composition


Campillo, N., Jorba, I., Schaedel, L., Casals, B., Gozal, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I., Navajas, D., (2016). A novel chip for cyclic stretch and intermittent hypoxia cell exposures mimicking obstructive sleep apnea Frontiers in Physiology 7, Article 319

Intermittent hypoxia (IH), a hallmark of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of OSA-associated morbidities, especially in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Oxidative stress and inflammation induced by IH are suggested as main contributors of end-organ dysfunction in OSA patients and animal models. Since the molecular mechanisms underlying these in vivo pathological responses remain poorly understood, implementation of experimental in vitro cell-based systems capable of inducing high-frequency IH would be highly desirable. Here, we describe the design, fabrication, and validation of a versatile chip for subjecting cultured cells to fast changes in gas partial pressure and to cyclic stretch. The chip is fabricated with polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and consists of a cylindrical well-covered by a thin membrane. Cells cultured on top of the membrane can be subjected to fast changes in oxygen concentration (equilibrium time ~6 s). Moreover, cells can be subjected to cyclic stretch at cardiac or respiratory frequencies independently or simultaneously. Rat bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) exposed to IH mimicking OSA and cyclic stretch at cardiac frequencies revealed that hypoxia-inducible factor 1a (HIF-1a) expression was increased in response to both stimuli. Thus, the chip provides a versatile tool for the study of cellular responses to cyclical hypoxia and stretch.

Keywords: Cell stretch, Hypoxia-inducible factor, Intermittent hypoxia, Lab-on-a-chip, Obstructive sleep apnea


Vilanova, Eduardo, Santos, Gustavo R. C., Aquino, Rafael S., Valle-Delgado, Juan J., Anselmetti, Dario, Fernàndez-Busquets, Xavier, Mourão, Paulo A. S., (2016). Carbohydrate-carbohydrate interactions mediated by sulfate esters and calcium provide the cell adhesion required for the emergence of early metazoans Journal of Biological Chemistry 291, (18), 9425-9437

Early metazoans had to evolve the first cell adhesion mechanism addressed to maintain a distinctive multicellular morphology. As the oldest extant animals, sponges are good candidates for possessing remnants of the molecules responsible for this crucial evolutionary innovation. Cell adhesion in sponges is mediated by the calcium-dependent multivalent self-interactions of sulfated polysaccharides components of extracellular membrane-bound proteoglycans, namely aggregation factors. Here, we used atomic force microscopy to demonstrate that the aggregation factor of the sponge Desmapsamma anchorata has a circular supramolecular structure and that it thus belongs to the spongican family. Its sulfated polysaccharide units, which were characterized via nuclear magnetic resonance analysis, consist preponderantly of a central backbone composed of 3-


Tassinari, E., Aznar, S., Urcola, I., Prieto, A., Hüttener, M., Juárez, A., (2016). The incC sequence is required for R27 plasmid stability Frontiers in Microbiology 7, (6), Article 629

IncHI plasmids account for multiple antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella and other enterobacterial genera. These plasmids are generally very stable in their bacterial hosts. R27 is the archetype of IncHI1 plasmids. A high percentage of the R27-encoded open reading frames (ORFs) (66.7%) do not show similarity to any known ORFs. We performed a deletion analysis of all non-essential R27 DNA sequences to search for hitherto non-identified plasmid functions that might be required for plasmid stability. We report the identification of a short DNA sequence (incC) that is essential for R27 stability. That region contains several repeats (incC repeats), belongs to one of the three-plasmid replicons (R27 FIA-like) and is targeted by the R27 E protein. Deletion of the incC sequence drastically reduces R27 stability both in Escherichia coli and in Salmonella, the effect being more pronounced in this latter species. Interfering with incC-E protein interaction must lead to a reduced IncHI1 plasmid stability, and may represent a new approach to combat antimicrobial resistance.

Keywords: Antimicrobial resistance, E protein, IncC, IncHI1 plasmids, Plasmid R27, Plasmid stability


Crespo, Anna, Pedraz, Lucas, Astola, Josep, Torrents, Eduard, (2016). Pseudomonas aeruginosa exhibits deficient biofilm formation in the absence of class II and III ribonucleotide reductases due to hindered anaerobic growth Frontiers in Microbiology 7, Article 688

Chronic lung infections by the ubiquitous and extremely adaptable opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa correlate with the formation of a biofilm, where bacteria grow in association with an extracellular matrix and display a wide range of changes in gene expression and metabolism. This leads to increased resistance to physical stress and antibiotic therapies, while enhancing cell-to-cell communication. Oxygen diffusion through the complex biofilm structure generates an oxygen concentration gradient, leading to the appearance of anaerobic microenvironments. Ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs) are a family of highly sophisticated enzymes responsible for the synthesis of the deoxyribonucleotides, and they constitute the only de novo pathway for the formation of the building blocks needed for DNA synthesis and repair. P. aeruginosa is one of the few bacteria encoding all three known RNR classes (Ia, II, and III). Class Ia RNRs are oxygen dependent, class II are oxygen independent, and class III are oxygen sensitive. A tight control of RNR activity is essential for anaerobic growth and therefore for biofilm development. In this work we explored the role of the different RNR classes in biofilm formation under aerobic and anaerobic initial conditions and using static and continuous-flow biofilm models. We demonstrated the importance of class II and III RNR for proper cell division in biofilm development and maturation. We also determined that these classes are transcriptionally induced during biofilm formation and under anaerobic conditions. The molecular mechanism of their anaerobic regulation was also studied, finding that the Anr/Dnr system is responsible for class II RNR induction. These data can be integrated with previous knowledge about biofilms in a model where these structures are understood as a set of layers determined by oxygen concentration and contain cells with different RNR expression profiles, bringing us a step closer to the understanding of this complex growth pattern, essential for P. aeruginosa chronic infections.

Keywords: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Ribonucleotide Reductases, Vitamin B 12, Anaerobic metabolism, Biofilm formation, DNA Synthesis, Oxygen diffusion, nrd genes.


Montserrat, N., Garreta, E., Izpisua Belmonte, J. C., (2016). Regenerative strategies for kidney engineering FEBS Journal 283, (18), 3303-3324

The kidney is the most important organ for water homeostasis and waste excretion. It performs several important physiological functions for homeostasis: it filters the metabolic waste out of circulation, regulates body fluid balances, and acts as an immune regulator and modulator of cardiovascular physiology. The development of in vitro renal disease models with pluripotent stem cells (both human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells) and the generation of robust protocols for in vitro derivation of renal-specific-like cells from patient induced pluripotent stem cells have just emerged. Here we review major findings in the field of kidney regeneration with a major focus on the development of stepwise protocols for kidney cell production from human pluripotent stem cells and the latest advances in kidney bioengineering (i.e. decellularized kidney scaffolds and bioprinting). The possibility of generating renal-like three-dimensional structures to be recellularized with renal-derived induced pluripotent stem cells may offer new avenues to develop functional kidney grafts on-demand.

Keywords: Induced pluripotent stem cells, Kidney disease, Kidney engineering, Pluripotent stem cells, Renal differentiation


Alencar, A. M., Ferraz, M. S. A., Park, C. Y., Millet, E., Trepat, X., Fredberg, J. J., Butler, J. P., (2016). Non-equilibrium cytoquake dynamics in cytoskeletal remodeling and stabilization Soft Matter 12, (41), 8506-8511

The cytoskeleton (CSK) is a tensed fiber framework that supports, shapes and stabilizes the cell. The CSK is in a constant state of remodeling, moreover, which is an active non-equilibrium thermodynamic process. We report here that cytoskeletal remodeling involves reconfigurations that are not only sudden but also are transmitted to great distances within the cell in a fashion reminiscent of quakes in the Earth's crust. Remarkably, these events in the cell conform both qualitatively and quantitatively to empirical laws typical of earthquakes, including hierarchical fault structures, cumulative energy distributions following the Gutenberg-Richter law, and rate of after-shocks following Omori's law. While it is well-established that remodeling and stabilization of the cytoskeleton are non-equilibrium process, these new unanticipated observations establish that these processes are also remarkably non-local and strongly cooperative.


Credi, C., De Marco, C., Molena, E., Pla Roca, M., Samitier, J., Marques, J., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Levi, M., Turri, S., (2016). Heparin micropatterning onto fouling-release perfluoropolyether-based polymers via photobiotin activation Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 146, 250-259

A simple method for constructing versatile ordered biotin/avidin arrays on UV-curable perfluoropolyethers (PFPEs) is presented. The goal is the realization of a versatile platform where any biotinylated biological ligands can be further linked to the underlying biotin/avidin array. To this end, microcontact arrayer and microcontact printing technologies were developed for photobiotin direct printing on PFPEs. As attested by fluorescence images, we demonstrate that this photoactive form of biotin is capable of grafting onto PFPEs surfaces during irradiation. Bioaffinity conjugation of the biotin/avidin system was subsequently exploited for further self-assembly avidin family proteins onto photobiotin arrays. The excellent fouling release PFPEs surface properties enable performing avidin assembly step simply by arrays incubation without PFPEs surface passivation or chemical modification to avoid unspecific biomolecule adsorption. Finally, as a proof of principle biotinylated heparin was successfully grafted onto photobiotin/avidin arrays.

Keywords: Antifouling, Heparin, Malaria, Microcontact arrayer, Microcontact printing, Micropatterning, Perfluoropolyether, Photobiotin, Polymers, Soft lithography


Sanmartí-Espinal, M., Galve, R., Iavicoli, P., Persuy, M. A., Pajot-Augy, E., Marco, M. P., Samitier, J., (2016). Immunochemical strategy for quantification of G-coupled olfactory receptor proteins on natural nanovesicles Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 139, 269-276

Cell membrane proteins are involved in a variety of biochemical pathways and therefore constitute important targets for therapy and development of new drugs. Bioanalytical platforms and binding assays using these membrane protein receptors for drug screening or diagnostic require the construction of well-characterized liposome and lipid bilayer arrays that act as support to prevent protein denaturation during biochip processing. Quantification of the protein receptors in the lipid membrane arrays is a key issue in order to produce reproducible and well-characterized chips. Herein, we report a novel immunochemical analytical approach for the quantification of membrane proteins (i.e., G-protein-coupled receptor, GPCR) in nanovesicles (NVs). The procedure allows direct determination of tagged receptors (i.e., c-myc tag) without any previous protein purification or extraction steps. The immunochemical method is based on a microplate ELISA format and quantifies this tag on proteins embedded in NVs with detectability in the picomolar range, using protein bioconjugates as reference standards. The applicability of the method is demonstrated through the quantification of the c-myc-olfactory receptor (OR, c-myc-OR1740) in the cell membrane NVs. The reported method opens the possibility to develop well-characterized drug-screening platforms based on G-coupled proteins embedded on membranes.

Keywords: Bioelectronic nose, Competitive ELISA, G-protein-coupled receptors quantification, Natural vesicles, Olfactory receptors, Transmembrane proteins


Nonaka, Paula N., Uriarte, Juan J., Campillo, Noelia, Oliveira, Vinicius R., Navajas, Daniel, Farré, Ramon, (2016). Lung bioengineering: physical stimuli and stem/progenitor cell biology interplay towards biofabricating a functional organ Respiratory Research 17, (1), 161

A current approach to obtain bioengineered lungs as a future alternative for transplantation is based on seeding stem cells on decellularized lung scaffolds. A fundamental question to be solved in this approach is how to drive stem cell differentiation onto the different lung cell phenotypes. Whereas the use of soluble factors as agents to modulate the fate of stem cells was established from an early stage of the research with this type of cells, it took longer to recognize that the physical microenvironment locally sensed by stem cells (e.g. substrate stiffness, 3D architecture, cyclic stretch, shear stress, air-liquid interface, oxygenation gradient) also contributes to their differentiation. The potential role played by physical stimuli would be particularly relevant in lung bioengineering since cells within the organ are physiologically subjected to two main stimuli required to facilitate efficient gas exchange: air ventilation and blood perfusion across the organ. The present review focuses on describing how the cell mechanical microenvironment can modulate stem cell differentiation and how these stimuli could be incorporated into lung bioreactors for optimizing organ bioengineering.


Przybyla, L., Lakins, J. N., Sunyer, R., Trepat, X., Weaver, V. M., (2016). Monitoring developmental force distributions in reconstituted embryonic epithelia Methods 94, 101-113

The way cells are organized within a tissue dictates how they sense and respond to extracellular signals, as cues are received and interpreted based on expression and organization of receptors, downstream signaling proteins, and transcription factors. Part of this microenvironmental context is the result of forces acting on the cell, including forces from other cells or from the cellular substrate or basement membrane. However, measuring forces exerted on and by cells is difficult, particularly in an in vivo context, and interpreting how forces affect downstream cellular processes poses an even greater challenge. Here, we present a simple method for monitoring and analyzing forces generated from cell collectives. We demonstrate the ability to generate traction force data from human embryonic stem cells grown in large organized epithelial sheets to determine the magnitude and organization of cell-ECM and cell-cell forces within a self-renewing colony. We show that this method can be used to measure forces in a dynamic hESC system and demonstrate the ability to map intracolony protein localization to force organization.

Keywords: Epiblast, Human embryonic stem cells, Mechanotransduction, Monolayer stress microscopy, Self-organization, Traction force


Meacci, G., Wolfenson, H., Liu, S., Stachowiak, M. R., Iskratsch, T., Mathur, A., Ghassemi, S., Gauthier, N., Tabdanov, E., Lohner, J., Gondarenko, A., Chander, A. C., Roca-Cusachs, P., O'Shaughnessy, B., Hone, J., Sheetz, M. P., (2016). α-Actinin links extracellular matrix rigidity-sensing contractile units with periodic cell-edge retractions Molecular Biology of the Cell 27, (22), 3471-3479

During spreading and migration, the leading edges of cells undergo periodic protrusion--retraction cycles. The functional purpose of these cycles is unclear. Here, using submicrometer polydimethylsiloxane pillars as substrates for cell spreading, we show that periodic edge retractions coincide with peak forces produced by local contractile units (CUs) that assemble and disassemble along the cell edge to test matrix rigidity. We find that, whereas actin rearward flow produces a relatively constant force inward, the peak of local contractile forces by CUs scales with rigidity. The cytoskeletal protein α-Actinin is shared between these two force-producing systems. It initially localizes to the CUs and subsequently moves inward with the actin flow. Knockdown of α-Actinin causes aberrant rigidity sensing, loss of CUs, loss of protrusion-retraction cycles, and, surprisingly, enables the cells to proliferate on soft matrices. We present a model based on these results in which local CUs drive rigidity sensing and adhesion formation.


Caddeo, C., Nacher, A., Vassallo, A., Armentano, M. F., Pons, R., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Carbone, C., Valenti, D., Fadda, A. M., Manconi, M., (2016). Effect of quercetin and resveratrol co-incorporated in liposomes against inflammatory/oxidative response associated with skin cancer International Journal of Pharmaceutics 513, (1-2), 153-163

The present investigation reports the development of liposomes for the co-delivery of naturally occurring polyphenols, namely quercetin and resveratrol. Small, spherical, uni/bilamellar vesicles were produced, as demonstrated by light scattering, cryo-TEM, SAXS. The incorporation of quercetin and resveratrol in liposomes did not affect their intrinsic antioxidant activity, as DPPH radical was almost completely inhibited. The cellular uptake of the polyphenols was higher when they were formulated in liposomes, and especially when co-loaded rather than as single agents, which resulted in a superior ability to scavenge ROS in fibroblasts. The in vivo efficacy of the polyphenols in liposomes was assessed in a mouse model of skin lesion. The topical administration of liposomes led to a remarkable amelioration of the tissue damage, with a significant reduction of oedema and leukocyte infiltration. Therefore, the proposed approach based on polyphenol vesicular formulation may be of value in the treatment of inflammation/oxidative stress associated with pre-cancerous/cancerous skin lesions.

Keywords: Antioxidant, Fibroblast, Liposome, Quercetin, Resveratrol, Skin lesion


Ansoleaga, B., Garcia-Esparcia, Paula, Llorens, Franc, Hernández-Ortega, Karina, Carmona Tech, Margarita, Antonio del Rio, José, Zerr, Inga, Ferrer, Isidro, (2016). Altered mitochondria, protein synthesis machinery, and purine metabolism are molecular contributors to the pathogenesis of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology 75, (8), 755-769

Neuron loss, synaptic decline, and spongiform change are the hallmarks of sporadic Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (sCJD), and may be related to deficiencies in mitochondria, energy metabolism, and protein synthesis. To investigate these relationships, we determined the expression levels of genes encoding subunits of the 5 protein complexes of the electron transport chain, proteins involved in energy metabolism, nucleolar and ribosomal proteins, and enzymes of purine metabolism in frontal cortex samples from 15 cases of sCJD MM1 and age-matched controls. We also assessed the protein expression levels of subunits of the respiratory chain, initiation and elongation translation factors of protein synthesis, and localization of selected mitochondrial components. We identified marked, generalized alterations of mRNA and protein expression of most subunits of all 5 mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes in sCJD cases. Expression of molecules involved in protein synthesis and purine metabolism were also altered in sCJD. These findings point to altered mRNA and protein expression of components of mitochondria, protein synthesis machinery, and purine metabolism as components of the pathogenesis of CJD.

Keywords: Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, Electron transport chain, Mitochondria, Oxidative phosphorylation, Protein synthesis, Purine.


Vila, O. F., Garrido, C., Cano, I., Guerra-Rebollo, M., Navarro, M., Meca-Cortés, O., Ma, S. P., Engel, E., Rubio, N., Blanco, J., (2016). Real-time bioluminescence imaging of cell distribution, growth, and differentiation in a three-dimensional scaffold under interstitial perfusion for tissue engineering Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods 22, (9), 864-872

Bioreactor systems allow safe and reproducible production of tissue constructs and functional analysis of cell behavior in biomaterials. However, current procedures for the analysis of tissue generated in biomaterials are destructive. We describe a transparent perfusion system that allows real-time bioluminescence imaging of luciferase expressing cells seeded in scaffolds for the study of cell-biomaterial interactions and bioreactor performance. A prototype provided with a poly(lactic) acid scaffold was used for "proof of principle" studies to monitor cell survival in the scaffold (up to 22 days). Moreover, using cells expressing a luciferase reporter under the control of inducible tissue-specific promoters, it was possible to monitor changes in gene expression resulting from hypoxic state and endothelial cell differentiation. This system should be useful in numerous tissue engineering applications, the optimization of bioreactor operation conditions, and the analysis of cell behavior in three-dimensional scaffolds.


Lozano, M., Fiz, J. A., Jané, R., (2016). Automatic differentiation of normal and continuous adventitious respiratory sounds using ensemble empirical mode decomposition and instantaneous frequency IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics 20, (2), 486-497

Differentiating normal from adventitious respiratory sounds (RS) is a major challenge in the diagnosis of pulmonary diseases. Particularly, continuous adventitious sounds (CAS) are of clinical interest because they reflect the severity of certain diseases. This study presents a new classifier that automatically distinguishes normal sounds from CAS. It is based on the multi-scale analysis of instantaneous frequency (IF) and envelope (IE) calculated after ensemble empirical mode decomposition (EEMD). These techniques have two major advantages over previous techniques: high temporal resolution is achieved by calculating IF-IE and a priori knowledge of signal characteristics is not required for EEMD. The classifier is based on the fact that the IF dispersion of RS signals markedly decreases when CAS appear in respiratory cycles. Therefore, CAS were detected by using a moving window to calculate the dispersion of IF sequences. The study dataset contained 1494 RS segments extracted from 870 inspiratory cycles recorded from 30 patients with asthma. All cycles and their RS segments were previously classified as containing normal sounds or CAS by a highly experienced physician to obtain a gold standard classification. A support vector machine classifier was trained and tested using an iterative procedure in which the dataset was randomly divided into training (65%) and testing (35%) sets inside a loop. The SVM classifier was also tested on 4592 simulated CAS cycles. High total accuracy was obtained with both recorded (94.6% ± 0.3%) and simulated (92.8% ± 3.6%) signals. We conclude that the proposed method is promising for RS analysis and classification.

Keywords: Diseases, Dispersion, Empirical mode decomposition, Feature extraction, Informatics, Support vector machines


Estrada, L., Torres, A., Sarlabous, L., Jané, R., (2016). Improvement in neural respiratory drive estimation from diaphragm electromyographic signals using fixed sample entropy IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics 20, (2), 476-485

Diaphragm electromyography is a valuable technique for the recording of electrical activity of the diaphragm. The analysis of diaphragm electromyographic (EMGdi) signal amplitude is an alternative approach for the quantification of neural respiratory drive (NRD). The EMGdi signal is, however, corrupted by electrocardiographic (ECG) activity, and this presence of cardiac activity can make the EMGdi interpretation more difficult. Traditionally, the EMGdi amplitude has been estimated using the average rectified value (ARV) and the root mean square (RMS). In this work, surface EMGdi signals were analyzed using the fixed sample entropy (fSampEn) algorithm, and compared to traditional ARV and RMS methods. The fSampEn is calculated using a tolerance value fixed and independent of the standard deviation of the analysis window. Thus, this method quantifies the amplitude of the complex components of stochastic signals (such as EMGdi), and being less affected by changes in amplitude due to less complex components (such as ECG). The proposed method was tested in synthetic and recorded EMGdi signals. fSampEn was less sensitive to the effect of cardiac activity on EMGdi signals with different levels of NRD than ARV and RMS amplitude parameters. The mean and standard deviation of the Pearson’s correlation values between inspiratory mouth pressure (an indirect measure of the respiratory muscle activity) and fSampEn, ARV and RMS parameters, estimated in the recorded EMGdi signal at tidal volume (without inspiratory load), were 0.38???0.12, 0.27???0.11 and 0.11???0.13, respectively. Whereas at 33 cmH2O (maximum inspiratory load) were 0.83???0.02, 0.76???0.07 and 0.61???0.19, respectively. Our findings suggest that the proposed method may improve the evaluation of NRD.

Keywords: Electromyography, diaphragm muscle, neural respiratory drive


Tahirbegi, I.B., Pardo, W.A., Alvira, M., Mir, M., Samitier, J., (2016). Amyloid A Nanotechnology 27, (46), 465102

The accumulation of iron oxides - mainly magnetite - with amyloid peptide is a key process in the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the mechanism for biogeneration of magnetite inside the brain of someone with AD is still unclear. The iron-storing protein ferritin has been identified as the main magnetite-storing molecule. However, accumulations of magnetite in AD are not correlated with an increase in ferritin, leaving this question unresolved. Here we demonstrate the key role of amyloid peptide Aβ 42, one of the main hallmarks of AD, in the generation of magnetite nanoparticles in the absence of ferritin. The capacity of amyloid peptide to bind and concentrate iron hydroxides, the basis for the formation of magnetite, benefits the spontaneous synthesis of these nanoparticles, even under unfavorable conditions for their formation. Using scanning and transmission electron microscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy and magnetic force microscopy we characterized the capacity of amyloid peptide Aβ 42 to promote magnetite formation.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease (AD), amyloid peptide Ab42, magnetite nanoparticle, metallobiomolecule, iron oxide, neurodegenerative brain diseases


Van Der Hofstadt, M., Fabregas, R., Biagi, M.C., Fumagalli, L., Gomila, G., (2016). Nanoscale dielectric microscopy of non-planar samples by lift-mode electrostatic force microscopy Nanotechnology 27, (40), 405706

Lift-mode electrostatic force microscopy (EFM) is one of the most convenient imaging modes to study the local dielectric properties of non-planar samples. Here we present the quantitative analysis of this imaging mode. We introduce a method to quantify and subtract the topographic crosstalk from the lift-mode EFM images, and a 3D numerical approach that allows for extracting the local dielectric constant with nanoscale spatial resolution free from topographic artifacts. We demonstrate this procedure by measuring the dielectric properties of micropatterned SiO 2 pillars and of single bacteria cells, thus illustrating the wide applicability of our approach from materials science to biology.


Valle-Delgado, J. J., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2016). Rapid diagnostic tests for malaria: Past, present and future Future Microbiology 11, (11), 1379-1382

A. R. Dalton, J., Lans, I., Rovira, X., Malhaire, F., Gómez-Santacana, X., Pittolo, S., Gorostiza, P., Llebaria, A., Goudet, C., Pin, J-P., Giraldo, J., (2016). Shining light on an mGlu5 photoswitchable NAM: A theoretical perspective Current Neuropharmacology 14, (5), 441-454

Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) are important drug targets because of their involvement in several neurological diseases. Among mGluRs, mGlu5 is a particularly high-profile target because its positive or negative allosteric modulation can potentially treat schizophrenia or anxiety and chronic pain, respectively. Here, we computationally and experimentally probe the functional binding of a novel photoswitchable mGlu5 NAM, termed alloswitch-1, which loses its NAM functionality under violet light. We show alloswitch-1 binds deep in the allosteric pocket in a similar fashion to mavoglurant, the co-crystallized NAM in the mGlu5 transmembrane domain crystal structure. Alloswitch-1, like NAM 2-Methyl-6-(phenylethynyl)pyridine (MPEP), is significantly affected by P655M mutation deep in the allosteric pocket, eradicating its functionality. In MD simulations, we show alloswitch-1 and MPEP stabilize the co-crystallized water molecule located at the bottom of the allosteric site that is seemingly characteristic of the inactive receptor state. Furthermore, both NAMs form H-bonds with S809 on helix 7, which may constitute an important stabilizing interaction for NAM-induced mGlu5 inactivation. Alloswitch-1, through isomerization of its amide group from trans to cis is able to form an additional interaction with N747 on helix 5. This may be an important interaction for amide-containing mGlu5 NAMs, helping to stabilize their binding in a potentially unusual cis-amide state. Simulated conformational switching of alloswitch-1 in silico suggests photoisomerization of its azo group from trans to cis may be possible within the allosteric pocket. However, photoexcited alloswitch-1 binds in an unstable fashion, breaking H-bonds with the protein and destabilizing the co-crystallized water molecule. This suggests photoswitching may have destabilizing effects on mGlu5 binding and functionality.

Keywords: Allosteric modulation, Docking, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Molecular dynamics, Mutation, Protein structure, Transmembrane domain


Farré, R., Navajas, D., (2016). Forced oscillation: A poorly exploited tool for simply assessing respiratory function in children Respirology 21, (6), 982-983

Forget, J., Awaja, F., Gugutkov, D., Gustavsson, J., Gallego Ferrer, G., Coelho-Sampaio, T., Hochman-Mendez, C., Salmeron-Sánchez, M., Altankov, G., (2016). Differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells toward quality cartilage using fibrinogen-based nanofibers Macromolecular Bioscience 16, (9), 1348-1359

Mimicking the complex intricacies of the extra cellular matrix including 3D configurations and aligned fibrous structures were traditionally perused for producing cartilage tissue from stem cells. This study shows that human adipose derived mesenchymal stem cells (hADMSCs) establishes significant chondrogenic differentiation and may generate quality cartilage when cultured on 2D and randomly oriented fibrinogen/poly-lactic acid nanofibers compared to 3D sandwich-like environments. The adhering cells show well-developed focal adhesion complexes and actin cytoskeleton arrangements confirming the proper cellular interaction with either random or aligned nanofibers. However, quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis for Collagen 2 and Collagen 10 genes expression confirms favorable chondrogenic response of hADMSCs on random nanofibers and shows substantially higher efficacy of their differentiation in 2D configuration versus 3D constructs. These findings introduce a new direction for cartilage tissue engineering through providing a simple platform for the routine generation of transplantable stem cells derived articular cartilage replacement that might improve joint function.

Keywords: Cartilage, Chondrogenic response, Collagen, FBG/PLA nanofibers, Mesenchymal stem cells


Valero, C., Navarro, B., Navajas, D., García-Aznar, J. M., (2016). Finite element simulation for the mechanical characterization of soft biological materials by atomic force microscopy Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials 62, 222-235

The characterization of the mechanical properties of soft materials has been traditionally performed through uniaxial tensile tests. Nevertheless, this method cannot be applied to certain extremely soft materials, such as biological tissues or cells that cannot be properly subjected to these tests. Alternative non-destructive tests have been designed in recent years to determine the mechanical properties of soft biological tissues. One of these techniques is based on the use of atomic force microscopy (AFM) to perform nanoindentation tests. In this work, we investigated the mechanical response of soft biological materials to nanoindentation with spherical indenters using finite element simulations. We studied the responses of three different material constitutive laws (elastic, isotropic hyperelastic and anisotropic hyperelastic) under the same process and analyzed the differences thereof. Whereas linear elastic and isotropic hyperelastic materials can be studied using an axisymmetric simplification, anisotropic hyperelastic materials require three-dimensional analyses. Moreover, we established the limiting sample size required to determine the mechanical properties of soft materials while avoiding boundary effects. Finally, we compared the results obtained by simulation with an estimate obtained from Hertz theory. Hertz theory does not distinguish between the different material constitutive laws, and thus, we proposed corrections to improve the quantitative measurement of specific material properties by nanoindentation experiments.

Keywords: AFM, Cell mechanics, FEM, Nanoindentation, Soft-tissue


Lozano, Manuel, Fiz, J. A., Jané, Raimon, (2016). Performance evaluation of the Hilbert–Huang transform for respiratory sound analysis and its application to continuous adventitious sound characterization Signal Processing 120, 99-116

Abstract The use of the Hilbert–Huang transform in the analysis of biomedical signals has increased during the past few years, but its use for respiratory sound (RS) analysis is still limited. The technique includes two steps: empirical mode decomposition (EMD) and instantaneous frequency (IF) estimation. Although the mode mixing (MM) problem of EMD has been widely discussed, this technique continues to be used in many RS analysis algorithms. In this study, we analyzed the MM effect in RS signals recorded from 30 asthmatic patients, and studied the performance of ensemble EMD (EEMD) and noise-assisted multivariate EMD (NA-MEMD) as means for preventing this effect. We propose quantitative parameters for measuring the size, reduction of MM, and residual noise level of each method. These parameters showed that EEMD is a good solution for MM, thus outperforming NA-MEMD. After testing different IF estimators, we propose Kay׳s method to calculate an EEMD-Kay-based Hilbert spectrum that offers high energy concentrations and high time and high frequency resolutions. We also propose an algorithm for the automatic characterization of continuous adventitious sounds (CAS). The tests performed showed that the proposed EEMD-Kay-based Hilbert spectrum makes it possible to determine CAS more precisely than other conventional time-frequency techniques.

Keywords: Hilbert–Huang transform, Ensemble empirical mode decomposition, Instantaneous frequency, Respiratory sounds, Continuous adventitious sounds


Tomas-Roig, J., Piscitelli, F., Gil, V., del Río, J. A., Moore, T. P., Agbemenyah, H., Salinas-Riester, G., Pommerenke, C., Lorenzen, S., Beißbarth, T., Hoyer-Fender, S., Di Marzo, V., Havemann-Reinecke, U., (2016). Social defeat leads to changes in the endocannabinoid system: An overexpression of calreticulin and motor impairment in mice Behavioural Brain Research 303, 34-43

Prolonged and sustained stimulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis have adverse effects on numerous brain regions, including the cerebellum. Motor coordination and motor learning are essential for animal and require the regulation of cerebellar neurons. The G-protein-coupled cannabinoid CB1 receptor coordinates synaptic transmission throughout the CNS and is of highest abundance in the cerebellum. Accordingly, the aim of this study was to investigate the long-lasting effects of chronic psychosocial stress on motor coordination and motor learning, CB1 receptor expression, endogenous cannabinoid ligands and gene expression in the cerebellum. After chronic psychosocial stress, motor coordination and motor learning were impaired as indicated the righting reflex and the rota-rod. The amount of the endocannabinoid 2-AG increased while CB1 mRNA and protein expression were downregulated after chronic stress. Transcriptome analysis revealed 319 genes differentially expressed by chronic psychosocial stress in the cerebellum; mainly involved in synaptic transmission, transmission of nerve impulse, and cell-cell signaling. Calreticulin was validated as a stress candidate gene. The present study provides evidence that chronic stress activates calreticulin and might be one of the pathological mechanisms underlying the motor coordination and motor learning dysfunctions seen in social defeat mice.

Keywords: Psychosocial stress, Cerebellum, Calreticulin, Endocannabinoid system, Behavior, RNA seq.


Silva, N., Muñoz, C., Diaz-Marcos, J., Samitier, J., Yutronic, N., Kogan, M. J., Jara, P., (2016). In situ visualization of the local photothermal effect produced on Nanoscale Research Letters 11, 180

Evidence of guest migration in α-cyclodextrin-octylamine (α-CD-OA) inclusion compound (IC) generated via plasmonic heating of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) has been studied. In this report, we demonstrate local effects generated by laser-mediated irradiation of a sample of AuNPs covered with inclusion compounds on surface-derivatized glass under liquid conditions by atomic force microscopy (AFM). Functionalized AuNPs on the glass and covered by the ICs were monitored by recording images by AFM during 5 h of irradiation, and images showed that after irradiation, a drastic decrease in the height of the AuNPs occurred. The absorption spectrum of the irradiated sample showed a hypsochromic shift from 542 to 536 nm, evidence suggesting that much of the population of nanoparticles lost all of the parts of the overlay of ICs due to the plasmonic heat generated by the irradiation. Mass spectrometry matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) performed on a sample containing a collection of drops obtained from the surface of the functionalized glass provided evidence that the irradiation lead to disintegration of the ICs and therefore exit of the octylamine molecule (the guest) from the cyclodextrin cavity (the matrix).

Keywords: Cyclodextrin inclusion compound, Gold nanoparticles, Guest migration, Plasmonic heating


Uriarte, J. J., Meirelles, T., Del Blanco, D. G., Nonaka, P. N., Campillo, N., Sarri, E., Navajas, D., Egea, G., Farré, R., (2016). Early impairment of lung mechanics in a murine model of marfan syndrome PLoS ONE 11, (3), e0152124

Early morbidity and mortality in patients with Marfan syndrome (MFS) -a connective tissue disease caused by mutations in fibrillin-1 gene- are mainly caused by aorta aneurysm and rupture. However, the increase in the life expectancy of MFS patients recently achieved by reparatory surgery promotes clinical manifestations in other organs. Although some studies have reported respiratory alterations in MFS, our knowledge of how this connective tissue disease modifies lung mechanics is scarce. Hence, we assessed whether the stiffness of the whole lung and of its extracellular matrix (ECM) is affected in a well-characterized MFS mouse model (FBN1C1039G/+). The stiffness of the whole lung and of its ECM were measured by conventional mechanical ventilation and atomic force microscopy, respectively. We studied 5-week and 9-month old mice, whose ages are representative of early and late stages of the disease. At both ages, the lungs of MFS mice were significantly more compliant than in wild type (WT) mice. By contrast, no significant differences were found in local lung ECM stiffness. Moreover, histopathological lung evaluation showed a clear emphysematous- like pattern in MFS mice since alveolar space enlargement was significantly increased compared with WT mice. These data suggest that the mechanism explaining the increased lung compliance in MFS is not a direct consequence of reduced ECM stiffness, but an emphysema-like alteration in the 3D structural organization of the lung. Since lung alterations in MFS are almost fully manifested at an early age, it is suggested that respiratory monitoring could provide early biomarkers for diagnosis and/or follow-up of patients with the Marfan syndrome.


Isetta, V., Montserrat, J. M., Santano, R., Wimms, A. J., Ramanan, D., Woehrle, H., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2016). Novel approach to simulate sleep apnea patients for evaluating positive pressure therapy devices PLoS ONE 11, (3), e0151530

Bench testing is a useful method to characterize the response of different automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) devices under well-controlled conditions. However, previous models did not consider the diversity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients' characteristics and phenotypes. The objective of this proof-of-concept study was to design a new bench test for realistically simulating an OSA patient's night, and to implement a one-night example of a typical female phenotype for comparing responses to several currently-available APAP devices. We developed a novel approach aimed at replicating a typical night of sleep which includes different disturbed breathing events, disease severities, sleep/wake phases, body postures and respiratory artefacts. The simulated female OSA patient example that we implemented included periods of wake, light sleep and deep sleep with positional changes and was connected to ten different APAP devices. Flow and pressure readings were recorded; each device was tested twice. The new approach for simulating female OSA patients effectively combined a wide variety of disturbed breathing patterns to mimic the response of a predefined patient type. There were marked differences in response between devices; only three were able to overcome flow limitation to normalize breathing, and only five devices were associated with a residual apnea-hypopnea index of <5/h. In conclusion, bench tests can be designed to simulate specific patient characteristics, and typical stages of sleep, body position, and wake. Each APAP device behaved differently when exposed to this controlled model of a female OSA patient, and should lead to further understanding of OSA treatment.


Páez-Avilés, C., Juanola-Feliu, E., Punter-Villagrasa, J., Del Moral Zamora, B., Homs-Corbera, A., Colomer-Farrarons, J., Miribel-Català , P. L., Samitier, J., (2016). Combined dielectrophoresis and impedance systems for bacteria analysis in microfluidic on-chip platforms Sensors 16, (9), 1514

Bacteria concentration and detection is time-consuming in regular microbiology procedures aimed to facilitate the detection and analysis of these cells at very low concentrations. Traditional methods are effective but often require several days to complete. This scenario results in low bioanalytical and diagnostic methodologies with associated increased costs and complexity. In recent years, the exploitation of the intrinsic electrical properties of cells has emerged as an appealing alternative approach for concentrating and detecting bacteria. The combination of dielectrophoresis (DEP) and impedance analysis (IA) in microfluidic on-chip platforms could be key to develop rapid, accurate, portable, simple-to-use and cost-effective microfluidic devices with a promising impact in medicine, public health, agricultural, food control and environmental areas. The present document reviews recent DEP and IA combined approaches and the latest relevant improvements focusing on bacteria concentration and detection, including selectivity, sensitivity, detection time, and conductivity variation enhancements. Furthermore, this review analyses future trends and challenges which need to be addressed in order to successfully commercialize these platforms resulting in an adequate social return of public-funded investments.

Keywords: Bacteria, Dielectrophoresis, Impedance, Microfluidics, On-chip


Botaya, L., Coromina, X., Samitier, J., Puig-Vidal, M., Otero, J., (2016). Visualized multiprobe electrical impedance measurements with STM tips using shear force feedback control Sensors 16, (6), 757

Here we devise a multiprobe electrical measurement system based on quartz tuning forks (QTFs) and metallic tips capable of having full 3D control over the position of the probes. The system is based on the use of bent tungsten tips that are placed in mechanical contact (glue-free solution) with a QTF sensor. Shear forces acting in the probe are measured to control the tip-sample distance in the Z direction. Moreover, the tilting of the tip allows the visualization of the experiment under the optical microscope, allowing the coordination of the probes in X and Y directions. Meanwhile, the metallic tips are connected to a current-voltage amplifier circuit to measure the currents and thus the impedance of the studied samples. We discuss here the different aspects that must be addressed when conducting these multiprobe experiments, such as the amplitude of oscillation, shear force distance control, and wire tilting. Different results obtained in the measurement of calibration samples and microparticles are presented. They demonstrate the feasibility of the system to measure the impedance of the samples with a full 3D control on the position of the nanotips.

Keywords: Impedance measurement, Multiprobe SPM, Quartz tuning forks, Scanning probe microscopy, Scanning tunneling microscope (STM) tip


da Palma, R. K., Nonaka, P. N., Campillo, N., Uriarte, J. J., Urbano, J. J., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Oliveira, L. V. F., (2016). Behavior of vascular resistance undergoing various pressure insufflation and perfusion on decellularized lungs Journal of Biomechanics 49, (7), 1230-1232

Bioengineering of functional lung tissue by using whole lung scaffolds has been proposed as a potential alternative for patients awaiting lung transplant. Previous studies have demonstrated that vascular resistance (Rv) could be altered to optimize the process of obtaining suitable lung scaffolds. Therefore, this work was aimed at determining how lung inflation (tracheal pressure) and perfusion (pulmonary arterial pressure) affect vascular resistance. This study was carried out using the lungs excised from 5 healthy male Sprague-Dawley rats. The trachea was cannulated and connected to a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device to provide a tracheal pressure ranging from 0 to 15cmH2O. The pulmonary artery was cannulated and connected to a controlled perfusion system with continuous pressure (gravimetric level) ranging from 5 to 30cmH2O. Effective Rv was calculated by ratio of pulmonary artery pressure (P PA) by pulmonary artery flow (V'PA). Rv in the decellularized lungs scaffolds decreased at increasing V' PA, stabilizing at a pulmonary arterial pressure greater than 20cmH2O. On the other hand, CPAP had no influence on vascular resistance in the lung scaffolds after being subjected to pulmonary artery pressure of 5cmH2O. In conclusion, compared to positive airway pressure, arterial lung pressure markedly influences the mechanics of vascular resistance in decellularized lungs.

Keywords: Decellularized lung, Scaffolds, Vascular resistance


Labay, C., Buxadera-Palomero, J., Avilés, M., Canal, C., Ginebra, M. P., (2016). Modulation of release kinetics by plasma polymerization of ampicillin-loaded Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics 49, (30), 304004

Beta-tricalcium phosphate (


Carrera, I., Gelber, P. E., Chary, G., González-Ballester, M. A., Monllau, J. C., Noailly, J., (2016). Fixation of a split fracture of the lateral tibial plateau with a locking screw plate instead of cannulated screws would allow early weight bearing: a computational exploration International Orthopaedics 40, (10), 2163-2169

Purpose: To assess, with finite element (FE) calculations, whether immediate weight bearing would be possible after surgical stabilization either with cannulated screws or with a locking plate in a split fracture of the lateral tibial plateau (LTP). Methods: A split fracture of the LTP was recreated in a FE model of a human tibia. A three-dimensional FE model geometry of a human femur-tibia system was obtained from the VAKHUM project database, and was built from CT images from a subject with normal bone morphologies and normal alignment. The mesh of the tibia was reconverted into a geometry of NURBS surfaces. A split fracture of the lateral tibial plateau was reproduced by using geometrical data from patient radiographs. A locking screw plate (LP) and a cannulated screw (CS) systems were modelled to virtually reduce the fracture and 80 kg static body-weight was simulated. Results: While the simulated body-weight led to clinically acceptable interfragmentary motion, possible traumatic bone shear stresses were predicted nearby the cannulated screws. With a maximum estimation of about 1.7 MPa maximum bone shear stresses, the Polyax system might ensure more reasonable safety margins. Conclusions: Split fractures of the LTP fixed either with locking screw plate or cannulated screws showed no clinically relevant IFM in a FE model. The locking screw plate showed higher mechanical stability than cannulated screw fixation. The locking screw plate might also allow full or at least partial weight bearing under static posture at time zero.

Keywords: Bone fixation, Finite element, Fracture fixation, Interfragmentary motion, Tibial plateau fractures, Weight bearing


del Río, J. A., Gavín, R., (2016). Functions of the cellular prion protein, the end of Moore's law, and Ockham's razor theory Prion 10, (1), 25-40

Since its discovery the cellular prion protein (encoded by the Prnp gene) has been associated with a large number of functions. The proposed functions rank from basic cellular processes such as cell cycle and survival to neural functions such as behavior and neuroprotection, following a pattern similar to that of Moore's law for electronics. In addition, particular interest is increasing in the participation of Prnp in neurodegeneration. However, in recent years a redefinition of these functions has begun, since examples of previously attributed functions were increasingly re-associated with other proteins. Most of these functions are linked to so-called “Prnp-flanking genes” that are close to the genomic locus of Prnp and which are present in the genome of some Prnp mouse models. In addition, their role in neuroprotection against convulsive insults has been confirmed in recent studies. Lastly, in recent years a large number of models indicating the participation of different domains of the protein in apoptosis have been uncovered. However, after more than 10 years of molecular dissection our view is that the simplest mechanistic model in PrPC-mediated cell death should be considered, as Ockham's razor theory suggested.

Keywords: Neurodegeneration, Prion, PrP


Requena, J. R., Kristensson, K., Korth, C., Zurzolo, C., Simmons, M., Aguilar-Calvo, P., Aguzzi, A., Andreoletti, O., Benestad, S. L., Böhm, R., Brown, K., Calgua, B., del Río, J. A., Espinosa, J. C., Girones, R., Godsave, S., Hoelzle, L. E., Knittler, M. R., Kuhn, F., Legname, G., Laeven, P., Mabbott, N., Mitrova, E., Müller-Schiffmann, A., Nuvolone, M., Peters, P. J., Raeber, A., Roth, K., Schmitz, M., Schroeder, B., Sonati, T., Stitz, L., Taraboulos, A., Torres, J. M., Yan, Z. X., Zerr, I., (2016). The Priority position paper: Protecting Europe's food chain from prions Prion 10, (3), 165-181

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) created a global European crisis in the 1980s and 90s, with very serious health and economic implications. Classical BSE now appears to be under control, to a great extent as a result of a global research effort that identified the sources of prions in meat and bone meal (MBM) and developed new animal-testing tools that guided policy. Priority (www.prionpriority.eu) was a European Union (EU) Framework Program 7 (FP7)-funded project through which 21 European research institutions and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) joined efforts between 2009 and 2014, to conduct coordinated basic and applied research on prions and prion diseases. At the end of the project, the Priority consortium drafted a position paper (www.prionpriority.eu/Priority position paper) with its main conclusions. In the present opinion paper, we summarize these conclusions. With respect to the issue of re-introducing ruminant protein into the feed-chain, our opinion is that sustaining an absolute ban on feeding ruminant protein to ruminants is essential. In particular, the spread and impact of non-classical forms of scrapie and BSE in ruminants is not fully understood and the risks cannot be estimated. Atypical prion agents will probably continue to represent the dominant form of prion diseases in the near future in Europe. Atypical L-type BSE has clear zoonotic potential, as demonstrated in experimental models. Similarly, there are now data indicating that the atypical scrapie agent can cross various species barriers. More epidemiological data from large cohorts are necessary to reach any conclusion on the impact of its transmissibility on public health. Re-evaluations of safety precautions may become necessary depending on the outcome of these studies. Intensified searching for molecular determinants of the species barrier is recommended, since this barrier is key for important policy areas and risk assessment. Understanding the structural basis for strains and the basis for adaptation of a strain to a new host will require continued fundamental research, also needed to understand mechanisms of prion transmission, replication and how they cause nervous system dysfunction and death. Early detection of prion infection, ideally at a preclinical stage, also remains crucial for development of effective treatment strategies.

Keywords: Atypical BSE, Atypical scrapie, BSE, CJD, Prion, Scrapie


Huerta, R., Mosqueiro, T., Fonollosa, J., Rulkov, N.F., Rodríguez-Lujan, I., (2016). Online decorrelation of humidity and temperature in chemical sensors for continuous monitoring Chemometrics and Intelligent Laboratory Systems 157, 169-176

A method for online decorrelation of chemical sensor signals from the effects of environmental humidity and temperature variations is proposed. The goal is to improve the accuracy of electronic nose measurements for continuous monitoring by processing data from simultaneous readings of environmental humidity and temperature. The electronic nose setup built for this study included eight metal-oxide sensors, temperature and humidity sensors with a wireless communication link to external computer. This wireless electronic nose was used to monitor the air for two years in the residence of one of the authors and it collected data continuously during 537 days with a sampling rate of 1 sample per second. To estimate the effects of variations in air humidity and temperature on the chemical sensors' signals, we used a standard energy band model for an n-type metal-oxide (MOX) gas sensor. The main assumption of the model is that variations in sensor conductivity can be expressed as a nonlinear function of changes in the semiconductor energy bands in the presence of external humidity and temperature variations. Fitting this model to the collected data, we confirmed that the most statistically significant factors are humidity changes and correlated changes of temperature and humidity. This simple model achieves excellent accuracy with a coefficient of determination R2 close to 1. To show how the humidity–temperature correction model works for gas discrimination, we constructed a model for online discrimination among banana, wine and baseline response. This shows that pattern recognition algorithms improve performance and reliability by including the filtered signal of the chemical sensors.

Keywords: Electronic nose, Chemical sensors, Humidity, Temperature, Decorrelation, Wireless e-nose, MOX sensors, Energy band model, Home monitoring


Blanchard, R., Morin, C., Malandrino, A., Vella, A., Sant, Z., Hellmich, C., (2016). Patient-specific fracture risk assessment of vertebrae: A multiscale approach coupling X-ray physics and continuum micromechanics International Journal for Numerical Methods in Biomedical Engineering 32, (9), e02760

Summary: While in clinical settings, bone mineral density measured by computed tomography (CT) remains the key indicator for bone fracture risk, there is an ongoing quest for more engineering mechanics-based approaches for safety analyses of the skeleton. This calls for determination of suitable material properties from respective CT data, where the traditional approach consists of regression analyses between attenuation-related grey values and mechanical properties. We here present a physics-oriented approach, considering that elasticity and strength of bone tissue originate from the material microstructure and the mechanical properties of its elementary components. Firstly, we reconstruct the linear relation between the clinically accessible grey values making up a CT, and the X-ray attenuation coefficients quantifying the intensity losses from which the image is actually reconstructed. Therefore, we combine X-ray attenuation averaging at different length scales and over different tissues, with recently identified 'universal' composition characteristics of the latter. This gives access to both the normally non-disclosed X-ray energy employed in the CT-device and to in vivo patient-specific and location-specific bone composition variables, such as voxel-specific mass density, as well as collagen and mineral contents. The latter feed an experimentally validated multiscale elastoplastic model based on the hierarchical organization of bone. Corresponding elasticity maps across the organ enter a finite element simulation of a typical load case, and the resulting stress states are increased in a proportional fashion, so as to check the safety against ultimate material failure. In the young patient investigated, even normal physiological loading is probable to already imply plastic events associated with the hydrated mineral crystals in the bone ultrastructure, while the safety factor against failure is still as high as five.

Keywords: Bone, Bone mass density, Continuum micromechanics, Elastoplasticity, Spine, Strength, X-ray physics


Pla-Roca, M., Altay, G., Giralt, X., Casals, A., Samitier, J., (2016). Design and development of a microarray processing station (MPS) for automated miniaturized immunoassays Biomedical Microdevices 18, (4)

Here we describe the design and evaluation of a fluidic device for the automatic processing of microarrays, called microarray processing station or MPS. The microarray processing station once installed on a commercial microarrayer allows automating the washing, and drying steps, which are often performed manually. The substrate where the assay occurs remains on place during the microarray printing, incubation and processing steps, therefore the addressing of nL volumes of the distinct immunoassay reagents such as capture and detection antibodies and samples can be performed on the same coordinate of the substrate with a perfect alignment without requiring any additional mechanical or optical re-alignment methods. This allows the performance of independent immunoassays in a single microarray spot.

Keywords: Automation, Customization, High-throughput screening, Immunoassays, Microarrays


Paoli, R., Samitier, J., (2016). Mimicking the kidney: A key role in organ-on-chip development Micromachines 7, (7), 126

Pharmaceutical drug screening and research into diseases call for significant improvement in the effectiveness of current in vitro models. Better models would reduce the likelihood of costly failures at later drug development stages, while limiting or possibly even avoiding the use of animal models. In this regard, promising advances have recently been made by the so-called "organ-on-chip" (OOC) technology. By combining cell culture with microfluidics, biomedical researchers have started to develop microengineered models of the functional units of human organs. With the capacity to mimic physiological microenvironments and vascular perfusion, OOC devices allow the reproduction of tissue- and organ-level functions. When considering drug testing, nephrotoxicity is a major cause of attrition during pre-clinical, clinical, and post-approval stages. Renal toxicity accounts for 19% of total dropouts during phase III drug evaluation-more than half the drugs abandoned because of safety concerns. Mimicking the functional unit of the kidney, namely the nephron, is therefore a crucial objective. Here we provide an extensive review of the studies focused on the development of a nephron-on-chip device.

Keywords: Disease model, Drug discovery, Kidney, Nephron-on-chip, Organ-on-chip


Vélez, E. J., Lutfi, E., Azizi, S., Montserrat, N., Riera-Codina, M., Capilla, E., Navarro, I., Gutiérrez, J., (2016). Contribution of in vitro myocytes studies to understanding fish muscle physiology Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part - B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 199, 67-73

Research on the regulation of fish muscle physiology and growth was addressed originally by classical in vivo approaches; however, systemic interactions resulted in many questions that could be better considered through in vitro myocyte studies. The first paper published by our group in this field was with Tom Moon on brown trout cardiomyocytes, where the insulin and IGF-I receptors were characterized and the down-regulatory effects of an excess of peptides demonstrated. We followed the research on cultured skeletal muscle cells through the collaboration with INRA focused on the characterization of IGF-I receptors and its signaling pathways through in vitro development. Later on, we showed the important metabolic role of IGFs, although these studies were only the first stage of a prolific area of work that has offered a useful tool to advance in our knowledge of the endocrine and nutritional regulation of fish growth and metabolism. Obviously, the findings obtained in vitro serve the purpose to propose the scenario that will need confirmation in vivo, but this technique has made possible many different, easy, fast and better controlled studies. In this review, we have summarized the main advances that the use of cultured muscle cells has permitted, focusing mainly in the role of IGFs regulating fish metabolism and growth. Although many articles have already appeared using this model system in salmonids, gilthead sea bream or zebrafish, it is reasonable to expect new studies with cultured cells using innovative approaches that will help to understand fish physiology and its regulation.

Keywords: Amino acids, IGFs, In vitro cultures, Insulin, Insulin and IGF-I receptors, Myogenesis, Myogenic factors, TOR


Martínez, D., Moreno, J., Tresanchez, M., Clotet, E., Jiménez-Soto, J.M., Magrans, R., Pardo, A., Marco, S., Palacín, J., (2016). Measuring gas concentration and wind intensity in a turbulent wind tunnel with a mobile robot Journal of Sensors 2016, Article ID 7184980

This paper presents the measurement of gas concentration and wind intensity performed with a mobile robot in a custom turbulent wind tunnel designed for experimentation with customizable wind and gas leak sources. This paper presents the representation in different information layers of the measurements obtained in the turbulent wind tunnel under different controlled environmental conditions in order to describe the plume of the gas and wind intensities inside the experimentation chamber. The information layers have been generated from the measurements gathered by individual onboard gas and wind sensors carried out by an autonomous mobile robot. On the one hand, the assumption was that the size and cost of these specialized sensors do not allow the creation of a net of sensors or other measurement alternatives based on the simultaneous use of several sensors, and on the other hand, the assumption is that the information layers created will have application on the development and test of automatic gas source location procedures based on reactive or nonreactive algorithms.


Ramón Valencia, J. L., García-Sánchez, A., Roca-Dorda, J., Giraldo, B. F., (2016). Análisis de la señal ECG en pacientes con enfermedad de Párkinson CASEIB Proceedings XXXIV Congreso Anual de la Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (CASEIB 2016) , Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (Valencia, Spain) , 552-555

La enfermedad del Párkinson es un tipo de trastorno del movimiento, causado por la degeneración de las células dopaminérgicas. La variabilidad del ritmo cardíaco en estos pacientes se puede ver alterada como consecuencia de la actividad motora. El estudio de esta variabilidad puede ayudar en el diagnóstico y análisis de la evolución de la enfermedad en estos pacientes. En este estudio se propone el análisis de parámetros extraídos de la señal electrocardiográfica en pacientes enfermos de Párkinson, con el propósito de obtener índices que puedan ser indicadores de esta enfermedad. Se propone un protocolo para registrar la señal ECG considerando 4 actividades diferentes. Se registraron 19 pacientes y 16 sujetos sanos. Las señales fueron analizadas en el dominio temporal considerando los intervalos RR de la señal ECG, y en el dominio frecuencial, considerando las bandas de muy baja (VLF: 0-0.05 Hz), baja (LF: 0.05-0.15 Hz) y alta (HF: 0.15-0.4 Hz) frecuencia, respectivamente. De acuerdo con los resultados obtenidos, el índice de la actividad simpática presentó diferencias estadísticamente significativas al comparar pacientes versus sanos, durante las 4 actividades desarrolladas. El intervalo RR también es un indicador de la variación de la actividad cardíaca en los pacientes, especialmente al compararlos en el estado basal. Índices que relacionen parámetros temporales y frecuenciales podrían ser un claro indicador de la actividad cardiovascular de los pacientes enfermos de Párkinson.


Arcentales, A., Rivera, P., Caminal, P., Voss, A., Bayés-Genís, A., Giraldo, B. F., (2016). Analysis of blood pressure signal in patients with different ventricular ejection fraction using linear and non-linear methods Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 38th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Orlando, USA) , 2700-2703

Changes in the left ventricle function produce alternans in the hemodynamic and electric behavior of the cardiovascular system. A total of 49 cardiomyopathy patients have been studied based on the blood pressure signal (BP), and were classified according to the left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) in low risk (LR: LVEF>35%, 17 patients) and high risk (HR: LVEF≤35, 32 patients) groups. We propose to characterize these patients using a linear and a nonlinear methods, based on the spectral estimation and the recurrence plot, respectively. From BP signal, we extracted each systolic time interval (STI), upward systolic slope (BPsl), and the difference between systolic and diastolic BP, defined as pulse pressure (PP). After, the best subset of parameters were obtained through the sequential feature selection (SFS) method. According to the results, the best classification was obtained using a combination of linear and nonlinear features from STI and PP parameters. For STI, the best combination was obtained considering the frequency peak and the diagonal structures of RP, with an area under the curve (AUC) of 79%. The same results were obtained when comparing PP values. Consequently, the use of combined linear and nonlinear parameters could improve the risk stratification of cardiomyopathy patients.

Keywords: Feature extraction, Blood pressure, Heart rate, Estimation, Data mining, Covariance matrices, Hospitals


Rodriguez, J., Voss, A., Caminal, P., Bayés-Genís, A., Giraldo, B. F., (2016). Caracterización de pacientes con diferentes niveles de riesgo cardiovascular mediante diagramas de Poincaré CASEIB Proceedings XXXIV Congreso Anual de la Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (CASEIB 2016) , Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (Valencia, Spain) , 396-399

En este trabajo se propone caracterizar la dinámica no-lineal de los sistemas cardíaco, vascular y respiratorio a partir de los diagramas de Poincaré. Se han analizado 46 pacientes con cardiomiopatía isquémica (ICM) o dilatada (DCM), y 35 sujetos sanos. De acuerdo con su fracción de eyección ventricular izquierda (LVEF), los pacientes también fueron clasificados en un grupo de alto riesgo (HR: LVEF ≤ 35%, 30 pacientes) y otro de bajo riesgo (LR: LVEF > 35%, 16 pacientes). A partir de las señales electrocardiográfica, de flujo respiratorio y de presión sanguínea se han obtenido los datos relacionados con el tiempo entre latidos cardíacos (RR), entre valores máximos de presión sistólica (SBP), y la duración del ciclo respiratorio (TTot). Estas series temporales han sido representadas mediante los diagramas de Poincaré, y caracterizadas teniendo en cuenta su desviación a largo plazo (SD1) y su cambio instantáneo (SD2). De acuerdo con los resultados obtenidos, los parámetros de las series cardíaca y de presión sanguínea, relacionados con las diagonales longitudinales y transversales del diagrama de Poincaré, son los que mejor diferencian entre pacientes con HR vs LR. Para la clasificación de pacientes isquémicos vs dilatados, los mejores parámetros se obtuvieron a partir de las series respiratorias y están relacionados con las distancias de la desviación estándar a la línea de identidad. Los cambios en estas relaciones representan una mayor aceleración en la dinámica respiratoria de los pacientes con cardiomiopatía isquémica.


Aviles, A. I., Alsaleh, S., Montseny, E., Sobrevilla, P., Casals, A., (2016). A Deep-Neuro-Fuzzy approach for estimating the interaction forces in Robotic surgery FUZZ-IEEE IEEE International Conference on Fuzzy Systems , IEEE (Vancouver, Canada ) , 1113-1119

Fuzzy theory was motivated by the need to create human-like solutions that allow representing vagueness and uncertainty that exist in the real-world. These capabilities have been recently further enhanced by deep learning since it allows converting complex relation between data into knowledge. In this paper, we present a novel Deep-Neuro-Fuzzy strategy for unsupervised estimation of the interaction forces in Robotic Assisted Minimally Invasive scenarios. In our approach, the capability of Neuro-Fuzzy systems for handling visual uncertainty, as well as the inherent imprecision of real physical problems, is reinforced by the advantages provided by Deep Learning methods. Experiments conducted in a realistic setting have demonstrated the superior performance of the proposed approach over existing alternatives. More precisely, our method increased the accuracy of the force estimation and compared favorably to existing state of the art approaches, offering a percentage of improvement that ranges from about 35% to 85%.

Keywords: Estimation, Force, Machine learning, Robots, Three-dimensional displays, Uncertainty, Visualization


Ràfols-de-Urquía, M., Estévez-Piorno, J., Torres, A., Estrada, L., Jané, R., (2016). Evaluación de un dispositivo inalámbrico para el registro de la actividad electromiográfica del músculo diafragma CASEIB Proceedings XXXIV Congreso Anual de la Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (CASEIB 2016) , Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (Valencia, Spain) , 244-247

La evaluación clínica y deportiva requiere el desarrollo de sistemas de adquisición de señales biomédicas de alta calidad. Sin embargo, estos sistemas implican una gran limitación: los datos deben ser registrados en laboratorios. En los últimos años se han desarrollado dispositivos inalámbricos multimodales que pueden poner fin a estos problemas. En este proyecto se han evaluado señales electromiográficas de los músculos respiratorios, en especial del diafragma (EMGdi), obtenidas a partir de un dispositivo inalámbrico. De forma simultánea se han adquirido las mismas señales con un sistema estándar de adquisición de señales biomédicas, para realizar un estudio comparativo de parámetros e información fisiológica extraída de dichas señales. Las señales han sido registradas en 9 sujetos sanos que siguieron un protocolo respiratorio. Estas señales han sido filtradas y procesadas usando técnicas basadas en el dominio frecuencial y temporal. El ritmo cardíaco ha sido estimado tanto a partir de la medida directa del registro ECG, como indirectamente a partir de las señales electromiografícas respiratorias, mientras que el ritmo respiratorio y la fuerza del músculo han sido estimados a partir de la amplitud de las señales EMGdi durante la contracción respiratoria. Los resultados obtenidos de los datos registrados por sistemas inalámbricos son muy similares a los obtenidos mediante sistemas convencionales con cables, demostrando ser una alternativa que permite adquisiciones y estudios fuera de los laboratorios en situaciones mucho más reales.


Estévez-Piorno, J., Ràfols-de-Urquía, M., Torres, A., Estrada, L., Jané, R., (2016). Evaluación del registro y transmisión de señales electromiográficas mediante un dispostivo inalámbrico CASEIB Proceedings XXXIV Congreso Anual de la Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (CASEIB 2016) , Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (Valencia, Spain) , 556-559

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a highly prevalent chronic disease, especially in elderly and obese population. Despite constituting a huge health and economic problem, most patients remain undiagnosed due to limitations in current strategies. Therefore, it is essential to find cost-effective diagnostic alternatives. One of these novel approaches is the analysis of acoustic snoring signals. Snoring is an early symptom of OSA which carries pathophysiological information of high diagnostic value. For this reason, the main objective of this work is to study the characteristics of single snores of different types, from healthy and OSA subjects. To do that, we analyzed snoring signals from previous databases and developed an experimental protocol to record simulated OSA-related sounds and characterize the response of two commercial tracheal microphones. Automatic programs for filtering, downsampling, event detection and time-frequency analysis were built in MATLAB. We found that time-frequency maps and spectral parameters (central, mean and peak frequency and energy in the 100-500 Hz band) allow distinguishing regular snores of healthy subjects from non-regular snores and snores of OSA subjects. Regarding the two commercial microphones, we found that one of them was a suitable snoring sensor, while the other had a too restricted frequency response. Future work shall include a higher number of episodes and subjects, but our study has contributed to show how important the differences between regular and non-regular snores can be for OSA diagnosis, and how much clinically relevant information can be extracted from time-frequency maps and spectral parameters of single snores.


Estrada, L., Torres, A., Sarlabous, L., Jané, R., (2016). Evaluating respiratory muscle activity using a wireless sensor platform Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 38th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Orlando, USA) , 5769-5772

Wireless sensors are an emerging technology that allows to assist physicians in the monitoring of patients health status. This approach can be used for the non-invasive recording of the electrical respiratory muscle activity of the diaphragm (EMGdi). In this work, we acquired the EMGdi signal of a healthy subject performing an inspiratory load test. To this end, the EMGdi activity was captured from a single channel of electromyography using a wireless platform which was compared with the EMGdi and the inspiratory mouth pressure (Pmouth) recorded with a conventional lab equipment. From the EMGdi signal we were able to evaluate the neural respiratory drive, a biomarker used for assessing the respiratory muscle function. In addition, we evaluated the breathing movement and the cardiac activity, estimating two cardio-respiratory parameters: the respiratory rate and the heart rate. The correlation between the two EMGdi signals and the Pmouth improved with increasing the respiratory load (Pearson's correlation coefficient ranges from 0.33 to 0.85). The neural respiratory drive estimated from both EMGdi signals showed a positive trend with an increase of the inspiratory load and being higher in the conventional EMGdi recording. The respiratory rate comparison between measurements revealed similar values of around 16 breaths per minute. The heart rate comparison showed a root mean error of less than 0.2 beats per minute which increased when incrementing the inspiratory load. In summary, this preliminary work explores the use of wireless devices to record the muscle respiratory activity to derive several physiological parameters. Its use can be an alternative to conventional measuring systems with the advantage of being portable, lightweight, flexible and operating at low energy. This technology can be attractive for medical staff and may have a positive impact in the way healthcare is being delivered.

Keywords: Biomedical monitoring, Electrodes, Medical services, Monitoring, Muscles, Wireless communication, Wireless sensor networks


Argerich, S., Herrera, S., Benito, S., Giraldo, J., (2016). Evaluation of periodic breathing in respiratory flow signal of elderly patients using SVM and linear discriminant analysis Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 38th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Orlando, USA) , 4276-4279

Aging population is a major concern that is reflected in the increase of chronic diseases. Heart Failure (HF) is one of the most common chronic diseases of elderly people that is punctuated with acute episodes, which result in hospitalization. The periodic modulation of the amplitude of the breathing pattern is proved to be one of the multiple symptoms of an acute episode, and thus, the features extracted from its characterization contribute in the improvement of the first diagnosis of the clinical practice. The main objective of this study is to evaluate if the features extracted from the breathing pattern along with common clinical variables are reliable enough to detect Periodic Breathing (PB). A dataset of 44 elderly patients containing clinical information and a short record of electrocardiogram and respiratory flow signal was used to train two machine learning classification methods: Support Vector Machine (SVM) and Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA). All the available clinical parameters within the dataset along with the parameters characterizing the respiratory pattern were used to classify the observations into two groups. SVM classification was optimized and performed using a = -8 and C = 10.04 giving an accuracy of 88.2 % sensitivity of 90 % and specificity of 85.7 % Similar results were achieved with LDA classifying with an accuracy of 82.4 %, a sensitivity of 81.8% and specificity of 83.3 % PB has been accurately detected using both classifiers.

Keywords: Support vector machines, Feature extraction, Training, Senior citizens, Standards, Training data, Hospitals


Julian, S., Callicó, F., Giraldo, B. F., Juanola, A., López, D., Rodiera, J., (2016). Segmentación del nodo vesical a partir del plano transversal de imágenes ecográficas de la región suprapúbica CASEIB Proceedings XXXIV Congreso Anual de la Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (CASEIB 2016) , Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (Valencia, Spain) , 278-281

La retención urinaria después de una cirugía anestésica puede provocar sobre-distensión vesical, impidiendo al paciente miccionar de forma voluntaria. La cateterización es el método más utilizado para solucionar este problema. El método es aplicado cuando el volumen vesical es superior a 300 ml. En este trabajo propone un método para la binarización y segmentación del nodo vesical a partir de una imagen ecográfica de la región suprapúbica transversal. Se han analizado 180 imágenes (80 de entrenamiento y 100 de validación), segmentadas utilizando el método de nivel de gris. Las imágenes fueron caracterizadas a partir de las líneas vertical, horizontal y las dos diagonales. Los valores obtenidos fueron comparados con los medidos con el ecógrafo, con un 72% de acierto. Se ha propuesto un método radial para el cierre de aperturas lateral e interior. Ajustados el brillo y la profundidad de la imagen, y el control morfológico se obtuvo hasta un 83% de correcta segmentación del área vesical en el grupo validación de la muestra. Estos resultados son la base para el cálculo del volumen de orina en vejiga y la decisión de cateterizar un paciente con retención urinaria.


Solà-Soler, J., Giraldo, B. F., Fiz, J. A., Jané, R., (2016). Study of phase estimation methods to analyse cardiorespiratory synchronization in OSA patients Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 38th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Orlando, USA) , 4280-4283

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder highly prevalent in the general population. Cardiorespiratory Phase Synchronization (CRPS) is a form of non-linear interaction between respiratory and cardiovascular systems that was found to be reduced in severe OSA patients. The Hilbert Transform (HT) method was the recommended choice for estimating the respiratory phase in CRPS studies. But we have noticed that HT provides a phase that is aligned to the transition between the exhalation and the inhalation parts of different breathing cycles, instead of being aligned to the breathing onsets. In this work we proposed a Realigned HT phase estimation method (RHT) and we compared it to the conventional HT and to the Linear Phase (LP) approximation for estimating CRPS in a database of 28 patients with different OSA severity levels. RHT provided similar synchronization percentages (%Sync) as HT, and it enhanced the significant differences in %Sync between mild and severe OSA patients. %Sync showed the highest negative correlation with the Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) when using RHT (rAHI=-0.692, p<;0.001), which only had an 10% extra computational cost. On the other hand, LP method significantly overestimated %Sync especially in the more severe patients, because it was unable to track the phase non-linearities that can be observed during sleep disordered breathing. Therefore, the newly proposed RHT can be the preferred alternative over the conventional HT or the LP approximation for estimating CRPS in OSA patients.

Keywords: Correlation, Databases, Electrocardiography, Phase estimation, Sleep apnea, Synchronization, Transforms


Castillo, Y., Blanco, D., Cámara, M.A., Jané, R., (2016). Study of time-frequency characteristics of single snores: extracting new information for sleep apnea diagnosis CASEIB Proceedings XXXIV Congreso Anual de la Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (CASEIB 2016) , Sociedad Española de Ingeniería Biomédica (Valencia, Spain) , 105-108

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a highly prevalent chronic disease, especially in elderly and obese population. Despite constituting a huge health and economic problem, most patients remain undiagnosed due to limitations in current strategies. Therefore, it is essential to find cost-effective diagnostic alternatives. One of these novel approaches is the analysis of acoustic snoring signals. Snoring is an early symptom of OSA which carries pathophysiological information of high diagnostic value. For this reason, the main objective of this work is to study the characteristics of single snores of different types, from healthy and OSA subjects. To do that, we analyzed snoring signals from previous databases and developed an experimental protocol to record simulated OSA-related sounds and characterize the response of two commercial tracheal microphones. Automatic programs for filtering, downsampling, event detection and time-frequency analysis were built in MATLAB. We found that time-frequency maps and spectral parameters (central, mean and peak frequency and energy in the 100-500 Hz band) allow distinguishing regular snores of healthy subjects from non-regular snores and snores of OSA subjects. Regarding the two commercial microphones, we found that one of them was a suitable snoring sensor, while the other had a too restricted frequency response. Future work shall include a higher number of episodes and subjects, but our study has contributed to show how important the differences between regular and non-regular snores can be for OSA diagnosis, and how much clinically relevant information can be extracted from time-frequency maps and spectral parameters of single snores.


Estrada, L., Torres, A., Garcia-Casado, J., Sarlabous, L., Prats-Boluda, G., Jané, R., (2016). Time-frequency representations of the sternocleidomastoid muscle electromyographic signal recorded with concentric ring electrodes Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 38th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Orlando, USA) , 3785-3788

The use of non-invasive methods for the study of respiratory muscle signals can provide clinical information for the evaluation of the respiratory muscle function. The aim of this study was to evaluate time-frequency characteristics of the electrical activity of the sternocleidomastoid muscle recorded superficially by means of concentric ring electrodes (CREs) in a bipolar configuration. The CREs enhance the spatial resolution, attenuate interferences, as the cardiac activity, and also simplify the orientation problem associated to the electrode location. Five healthy subjects underwent a respiratory load test in which an inspiratory load was imposed during the inspiratory phase. During the test, the electromyographic signal of the sternocleidomastoid muscle (EMGsc) and the inspiratory mouth pressure (Pmouth) were acquired. Time-frequency characteristics of the EMGsc signal were analyzed by means of eight time-frequency representations (TFRs): the spectrogram (SPEC), the Morlet scalogram (SCAL), the Wigner-Ville distribution (WVD), the Choi-Williams distribution (CHWD), two generalized exponential distributions (GED1 and GED2), the Born-Jordan distribution (BJD) and the Cone-Kernel distribution (CKD). The instantaneous central frequency of the EMGsc showed an increasing behavior during the inspiratory cycle and with the increase of the inspiratory load. The bilinear TFRs (WVD, CHWD, GEDs and BJD) were less sensitive to cardiac activity interference than classical TFRs (SPEC and SCAL). The GED2 was the TFR that shown the best results for the characterization of the instantaneous central frequency of the EMGsc.

Keywords: Electrodes, Interference, Kernel, Mouth, Muscles, Spectrogram, Time-frequency analysis


Baelo, Aida, Julián, Esther, Torrents, Eduard, (2016). Methyl-hydroxylamine specifically inhibits ribonucleotide reductase activity in pathogenic bacteria New Biotechnology Biotech Annual Congress (BAC 2015) , Elsevier (Salamanca, Spain) 33, (3), 417

Infectious diseases constitute a tenacious and major public-health problem all over the world; the emergence and increasing prevalence of multi-drug resistant bacteria demand the discovery of new therapeutic approaches. Bacterial DNA synthesis opens new horizons in the discovery of new antibacterial targets due to remarkable differences to the eukaryotic system. During the course of an infection, a great number of bacteria need to multiply inside the body and, for that, active DNA synthesis with a balanced supply of deoxyribonucleotides (dNTPs) is required. RiboNucleotide Reductase (RNR) is the key enzyme that provides the nucleotide precursors for DNA replication and repair. This enzyme is a suitable target candidate for bacterial growth inhibition. In this work we have firstly identified the radical scavenger methyl-hydroxylamine (M-HA) as an efficacious antimicrobial agent that inhibits gram-negative and gram-positive pathogenic bacteria, targeting the RNR enzyme. Later, we have focused our work studying the ability of M-HA to inhibit the intracellular growth of Mycobacteria in macrophages, and the formation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms.


Pedraz, Lucas, Crespo, Anna, Torrents, Eduard, (2016). A single transcription factor behind all bacterial dNTP synthesis revealed as a novel antimicrobial target New Biotechnology Biotech Annual Congress (BAC 2015) , Elsevier (Salamanca, Spain) 33, (3), 410

Nowadays, the fear of infectious diseases is again increasing. Antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains are appearing worldwide, and so there is an urgent need to develop new antimicrobial drugs. Ribonucleotide Reductases (RNRs) are essential enzymes that catalyse the reduction of ribonucleotides (NTPs) to their corresponding deoxyribonucleotides (dNTPs), thereby forming the building blocks for DNA synthesis and repair. A drug able to inhibit bacterial Ribonucleotide Reductase activity would completely inhibit bacterial growth. Behind bacterial Ribonucleotide Reductase activity there is a complex regulon; although eukaryotic cells codify only for one RNR enzyme, bacteria can use three different RNR classes, granting them a huge adaptability. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a major human opportunistic pathogen, causing severe lung chronic infections in cystic fibrosis and COPD patients. It codifies for all three RNR classes, in a complex regulon necessary for its adaptability and virulence. The main focus of this work is a transcription factor, called NrdR, which is present in almost all bacterial species, and completely absent in eukaryotic organisms. This factor acts as a central regulator of all RNR enzymes in bacteria, hence being behind all dNTP synthesis. We have studied how NrdR regulates RNR activity in P. aeruginosa, being able to this point to propose a first model of the NrdR regulon, and being a step closer to new antimicrobial therapies.


Ferrer, I., Llorens, F., Frau-Mendez, L., Fernandez-Vega, I., Thune, K., del Río, J. A., Schmizt, M., Ansoleaga, B., Gotzmann, N., Cramm, M., Zerr, I., Zarranz, Juan José, (2016). EfiIdentification of new molecular alterations in Fatal Familial Insomnia Prion PRION 2016 , Taylor & Francis (Tokyo, Japan) 10, (Supplement), P-092

Fatal familial insomnia (FFI) is an autosomal dominant prion disease caused by a D178N mutation in PRNP in combination with methionine at codon 129 in the mutated allele of the same gene. The present study analyzes pathological and molecular features in 7 FFI cases carrying the mutation D178N and M homozygous at the codon 129 of PRNP. Severe neuronal loss and marked astrocytic gliosis was observed in every case in the mediodorsal and anterior nuclei of the thalamus whereas the entorhinal cortex (EC) was variably affected. Spongiform degeneration was only observed in the EC. Synaptic and fine granular PrPSc immunoreactivity was found in the EC but not in thalamus. Microglia was barely increased in the mediodorsal thalamus, but mRNA expression of IL6, IL10RA, CSF3R and TLR7 was found in the thalamus in FFI. PrPC levels were significantly decreased in the thalamus, EC and cerebellum in FFI compared with controls. However, increased expression of the non-glycosylated band of about 19 kDa was observed in the thalamus when using PrP antibodies mapping to the central region of the PrP comprising the


Julián, E., Rabanal, R. M., Secanella-Fandos, S., Torrents, E., Luquin, M., Noguera-Ortega, E., (2016). Eficacia de micobacterias Gamma-irradiadas en el tratamiento de cancer vesical no-músculo invasivo Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiología Clínica XX Congreso de la Sociedad Española de Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiología Clínica (SEIMC) , Elsevier (Barcelona, Spain) 34, (SE1), 229

Las micobacterias son las únicas bacterias utilizadas en el tratamiento del cáncer. Concretamente Mycobacterium bovis BCG se instila intravesicalmente en pacientes de cáncer vesical no-músculo invasivo, tras la resección del tumor, con el fin de evitar recidivas. A pesar de su eficacia, BCG presenta numerosos efectos adversos, entre ellos casos de infección por BCG. En nuestro laboratorio hemos desarrollado dos estrategias para evitar el riesgo de infección. Por un lado, hemos mostrado la capacidad antitumoral in vitro de BCG muerta mediante gamma-irradiación. Por otro lado, hemos demostrado la capacidad antitumoral de Mycobacterium brumae viva, tanto en modelos in vitro como en el modelo animal de la enfermedad. Aun así, se desconoce el potencial antitumoral de estas micobacterias irradiadas in vivo, y si su eficacia es comparable. El objetivo fue evaluar la capacidad antitumoral de BCG y M. brumae gamma-irradiadas en el modelo murino de cáncer vesical.


Torrents, E., Baelo, Aida, Levato, R., Julián, E., Crespo, Anna, Astola, Josep, Gavaldà, J., Engel, E., Mateos-Timoneda, M.A., (2016). Mejora en la administración antibiotic para el tratamiento de infecciones en forma de biofilm con el uso de nanopartículas que disgregan la matriz extracellular Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiología Clínica XX Congreso de la Sociedad Española de Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiología Clínica (SEIMC) , Elsevier (Barcelona, Spain) 34, (SE1), 31

Las infecciones causadas por bacterias formadoras de biopelículas o biofilms son una amenaza importante para los pacientes hospitalizados y suponen la principal causa de infecciones crónicas, como las producidas en la enfermedad pulmonar obstructiva crónica (EPOC) y la fibrosis quística. Existe una necesidad urgente de desarrollar nuevos antibióticos o nuevos enfoques terapéuticos que permitan el tratamiento de este tipo de infecciones ya que los antibióticos convencionales no logran eliminar las bacterias que están formando biofilms


Coelho, N. M., Llopis-Hernández, V., Salmerón-Sánchez, M., Altankov, G., (2016). Dynamic reorganization and enzymatic remodeling of type IV collagen at cell–biomaterial interface Advances in Protein Chemistry and Structural Biology (ed. Christo, Z. Christov), Academic Press (San Diego, USA) 105, 81-104

Abstract Vascular basement membrane remodeling involves assembly and degradation of its main constituents, type IV collagen (Col IV) and laminin, which is critical during development, angiogenesis, and tissue repair. Remodeling can also occur at cell–biomaterials interface altering significantly the biocompatibility of implants. Here we describe the fate of adsorbed Col IV in contact with endothelial cells adhering on positively charged NH2 or hydrophobic CH3 substrata, both based on self-assembly monolayers (SAMs) and studied alone or mixed in different proportions. AFM studies revealed distinct pattern of adsorbed Col IV, varying from single molecular deposition on pure NH2 to network-like assembly on mixed SAMs, turning to big globular aggregates on bare CH3. Human umbilical endothelial cells (HUVECs) interact better with Col IV adsorbed as single molecules on NH2 surface and readily rearrange it in fibril-like pattern that coincide with secreted fibronectin fibrils. The cells show flattened morphology and well-developed focal adhesion complexes that are rich on phosphorylated FAK while expressing markedly low pericellular proteolytic activity. Conversely, on hydrophobic CH3 substrata HUVECs showed abrogated spreading and FAK phosphorylation, combined with less reorganization of the aggregated Col IV and significantly increased proteolytic activity. The later involves both MMP-2 and MMP-9, as measured by zymography and FITC-Col IV release. The mixed SAMs support intermediate remodeling activity. Taken together these results show that chemical functionalization combined with Col IV preadsorption provides a tool for guiding the endothelial cells behavior and pericellular proteolytic activity, events that strongly affect the fate of cardiovascular implants.

Keywords: Type IV collagen, Adsorption, Remodeling, Pericellular proteolysis, Reorganization, Substratum chemistry, CH3 and NH2 groups, Self-assembly monolayers


Lagunas, A., Caballero, D., Samitier, J., (2016). Influence of controlled micro- and nanoengineered environments on stem cell Advanced Surfaces for Stem Cell Research (ed. Tiwari, A., Garipcan, B., Uzun, L.), Wiley (San Francisco, USA) , 85-140

The book outlines first the importance of Extra Cellular Matrix (ECM), which is a natural surface for most of cells. In the following chapters the influence of biological, chemical, mechanical, and physical properties of surfaces in micro and nano-scale on stem cell behavior are discussed including the mechanotransduction. Biomimetic and bioinspired approaches are highlighted for developing microenvironment of several tissues, and surface engineering applications are discussed in tissue engineering, regenerative medicine and different type of biomaterials in various chapters of the book. This book brings together innovative methodologies and strategies adopted in the research and development of Advanced Surfaces in Stem Cell Research. Well-known worldwide researchers deliberate subjects including: Extracellular matrix proteins for stem cell fate The superficial mechanical and physical properties of matrix microenvironment as stem cell fate regulator Effects of mechanotransduction on stem cell behavior Modulation of stem cells behavior through bioactive surfaces Influence of controlled micro and nanoengineered surfaces on stem cell fate Nanostructured polymeric surfaces for stem cells Laser surface modification techniques and stem cells applications Plasma polymer deposition: a versatile tool for stem cell research Application of bioreactor concept and modeling techniques in bone regeneration and augmentation treatments Substrates and surfaces for control of pluripotent stem cell fate and function


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