Staff member


Jordi Comelles Pujadas

Senior Postdoctoral Researcher
Biomimetic Systems for Cell Engineering
jcomelles@ibecbarcelona.eu
+34 934 020 543
Staff member publications

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

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

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


Comelles, J., Caballero, D., Voituriez, ., Hortigüela, V., Wollrab, V., Godeau, A. L., Samitier, J., Martínez, E., Riveline, D., (2014). Cells as active particles in asymmetric potentials: Motility under external gradients Biophysical Journal 107, (7), 1513-1522

Cell migration is a crucial event during development and in disease. Mechanical constraints and chemical gradients can contribute to the establishment of cell direction, but their respective roles remain poorly understood. Using a microfabricated topographical ratchet, we show that the nucleus dictates the direction of cell movement through mechanical guidance by its environment. We demonstrate that this direction can be tuned by combining the topographical ratchet with a biochemical gradient of fibronectin adhesion. We report competition and cooperation between the two external cues. We also quantitatively compare the measurements associated with the trajectory of a model that treats cells as fluctuating particles trapped in a periodic asymmetric potential. We show that the cell nucleus contributes to the strength of the trap, whereas cell protrusions guided by the adhesive gradients add a constant tunable bias to the direction of cell motion.


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

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


Lagunas, Anna , Comelles, Jordi, Martínez, Elena, Prats-Alfonso, Elisabet , Acosta, Gerardo A., Albericio, Fernando , Samitier, Josep , (2012). Cell adhesion and focal contact formation on linear RGD molecular gradients: study of non-linear concentration dependence effects Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine 8, (4), 432-439

Cell adhesion onto bioengineered surfaces is affected by a number of variables, including the former substrate derivatization process. In this investigation, we studied the correlation between cell adhesion and cell–adhesive ligand surface concentration and organization due to substrate modification. For this purpose, Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) gradient surfaces were created on poly(methyl methacrylate) substrates by continuous hydrolysis and were then grafted with biotin-PEG-RGD molecules. Cell culture showed that adhesion behavior changes in a nonlinear way in the narrow range of RGD surface densities assayed (2.8 to 4.4 pmol/cm2), with a threshold value of 4.0 pmol/cm2 for successful cell attachment and spreading. This nonlinear dependence may be explained by nonhomogeneous RGD surface distribution at the nanometre scale, conditioned by the stochastic nature of the hydrolysis process. Atomic force microscopy analysis of the gradient surface showed an evolution of surface morphology compatible with this hypothesis.

Keywords: RGD gradient, Cell adhesion, Poly(methyl methacrylate), Hydrolysis, Biotin-streptavidin


Tort, N., Salvador, J. P., Avino, A., Eritja, R., Comelles, J., Martinez, E., Samitier, J., Marco, M. P., (2012). Synthesis of steroid-oligonucleotide conjugates for a DNA site-encoded SPR immunosensor Bioconjugate Chemistry 23, (11), 2183-2191

The excellent self-assembling properties of DNA and the excellent specificity of the antibodies to detect analytes of small molecular weight under competitive conditions have been combined in this study. Three oligonucleotide sequences (N(1)up, N(2)up, and N(3)up) have been covalently attached to three steroidal haptens (8, hG, and 13) of three anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), stanozolol (ST), tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), and boldenone (B), respectively. The synthesis of steroid oligonucleotide conjugates has been performed by the reaction of oligonucleotides carrying amino groups with carboxyl acid derivatives of steroidal haptens. Due to the chemical nature of the steroid derivatives, two methods for coupling the haptens and the ssDNA have been studied: a solid-phase coupling strategy and a solution-phase coupling strategy. Specific antibodies against ST, THG, and B have been used in this study to asses the possibility of using the self-assembling properties of the DNA to prepare biofunctional SPR gold chips based on the immobilization of haptens, by hybridization with the complementary oligonucleotide strands possessing SH groups previously immobilized. The capture of the steroid oligonucleotide conjugates and subsequent binding of the specific antibodies can be monitored on the sensogram due to variations produced on the refractive index on top of the gold chip. The resulting steroid oligonucleotide conjugates retain the hybridization and specific binding properties of oligonucleotides and haptens as demonstrated by thermal denaturation experiments and surface plasmon resonance (SPR).

Keywords: Directed protein immobilization, Plasmon resonance biosensor, Self-assembled monolayers, Label-free, Serum samples, Assay, Immunoassays, Antibodies, Progress, Binding


Comelles, J., Hortigüela, V., Samitier, J., Martinez, E., (2012). Versatile gradients of covalently bound proteins on microstructured substrates Langmuir 28, (38), 13688-13697

In this work, we propose an easy method to produce highly tunable gradients of covalently bound proteins on topographically modified poly(methyl methacrylate). We used a rnicrofluidic approach to obtain linear gradients with high slope (0.5 pmol.cm(-2).mm(-1)), relevant at the single-cell level. These protein gradients were characterized using fluorescence microscopy and surface plasmon resonance. Both experimental results and theoretical modeling on the protein gradients generated have proved them to be highly reproducible, stable up to 7 days, and easily tunable. This method enables formation of versatile cell culture platforms combining both complex biochemical and physical cues in an attempt to approach in vitro cell culture methods to in vivo cellular microenvironments.

Keywords: Cell-migration, Microfluidic channel, Surface, Streptavidin, Molecules, Topography, Mechanisms, Generation, Responses, Guidance


Comelles, J., Estevez, M., Martinez, E., Samitier, J., (2010). The role of surface energy of technical polymers in serum protein adsorption and MG-63 cells adhesion Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology Biology and Medicine 6, (1), 44-51

Polymeric materials are widely used as supports for cell culturing in medical implants and as scaffolds for tissue regeneration. However, novel applications in the biosensor field require materials to be compatible with cell growth and at the same time be suitable for technological processing. Technological polymers are key materials in the fabrication of disposable parts and other sensing elements. As such, it is essential to characterize the surface properties of technological polymers, especially after processing and sterilization. It is also important to understand how technological polymers affect cell behavior when in contact with polymer materials. Therefore, the aim of this research was to study how surface energy and surface roughness affect the biocompatibility of three polymeric materials widely used in research and industry: poly (methyl methacrylate), polystyrene, and poly(dimethylsiloxane). Glass was used as the control material. From the Clinical Editor: Polymeric materials are widely used as supports for cell culturing in medical implants and as scaffolds for tissue regeneration. The aim of this research is to study how surface energy and surface roughness affect the biocompatibility of three polymeric materials widely used in research and industry: poly(methylmethacrylate) (PMMA), polystyrene (PS), and poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS).

Keywords: Thin-films, Poly(methyl methacrylate), Osteoblast adhesion, Electron-microscopy, Fibronectin, Polystyrene, Oly(dimethylsiloxane), Biocompatibility, Hydroxyapatite, Behavior


Lagunas, A., Comelles, J., Martinez, E., Samitier, J., (2010). Universal chemical gradient platforms using poly(methyl methacrylate) based on the biotin streptavidin interaction for biological applications Langmuir 26, (17), 14154-14161

This article describes a simple method for the construction of a universal surface chemical gradient platform based on the biotin streptavidin model. In this approach, surface chemical gradients were prepared in poly(methyl methacrylate) (PM MA), a biocompatible polymer, by a controlled hydrolysis procedure. The physicochemical properties of the resulting modified surfaces were extensively characterized. Chemical analysis carried out via time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToRSIMS) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) showed the formation of a smooth, highly controllable carboxylic acid gradient of increasing concentration along the sample surface. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) and contact angle (CA) results indicate that, in contrast with most of the chemical gradient methods published in the literature, the chemical modification of the polymer surface barely affects its physical properties. The introduction of carboxylic acid functionality along the surface was then used for biomolecule anchoring. For this purpose, the surface was activated and derivatized first with biotin and finally with streptavidin (SA V) in a directed orientation fashion. The SAV gradient was qualitatively assessed by fluorescence microscopy analysis and quantified by surface plasmon resonance (SPR) in order to establish a quantitative relationship between SAV surface densities and the surface location. The usefulness of the fabrication method described for biological applications was tested by immobilizing biotinylated bradykinin onto the SAV gradient. This proof-of-concept application shows the effectiveness of the concentration range of the gradient because the effects of bradykinin on cell morphology were observed to increase gradually with increasing drug concentrations. The intrinsic characteristics of the fabricated gradient platform (absence of physicochemical modifications other than those due to the biomolecules included) allow us to attribute cell behavior unequivocally to the biomolecule surface density changes.

Keywords: Wettability gradient, Polyethylene surface, Combinatorial, Immobilization, Biomaterials, Fabrication, Deposition, Bradykinin, Monolayers, Discharge


Martinez, E., Lagunas, A., Mills, C. A., Rodriguez-Segui, S., Estevez, M., Oberhansl, S., Comelles, J., Samitier, J., (2009). Stem cell differentiation by functionalized micro- and nanostructured surfaces Nanomedicine 4, (1), 65-82

New fabrication technologies and, in particular, new nanotechnologies have provided biomaterial and biomedical scientists with enormous possibilities when designing customized supports and scaffolds with controlled nanoscale topography and chemistry. The main issue now is how to effectively design these components and choose the appropriate combination of structure and chemistry to tailor towards applications as challenging and complex as stem cell differentiation. Occasionally, an incomplete knowledge of the fundamentals of biological differentiation process has hampered this issue. However, the recent technological advances in creating controlled cellular microenvironments can be seen as a powerful tool for furthering fundamental biology studies. This article reviews the main strategies followed to achieve solutions to this challenge, particularly emphasizing the working hypothesis followed by the authors to elucidate the mechanisms behind the observed effects of structured surfaces on cell behavior.

Keywords: Cell pattering, Differentiation, Microcontact printing, Micropatterning, Microstructure, Nanoimprinting, Nanostructure, Stem cells


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