Staff member

Maria Guix Noguera

Staff member publications

Fraire JC, Guix M, Hortelao AC, Ruiz-González N, Bakenecker AC, Ramezani P, Hinnekens C, Sauvage F, De Smedt SC, Braeckmans K, Sánchez S, (2023). Light-Triggered Mechanical Disruption of Extracellular Barriers by Swarms of Enzyme-Powered Nanomotors for Enhanced Delivery Acs Nano 17, 7180-7193

Targeted drug delivery depends on the ability of nanocarriers to reach the target site, which requires the penetration of different biological barriers. Penetration is usually low and slow because of passive diffusion and steric hindrance. Nanomotors (NMs) have been suggested as the next generation of nanocarriers in drug delivery due to their autonomous motion and associated mixing hydrodynamics, especially when acting collectively as a swarm. Here, we explore the concept of enzyme-powered NMs designed as such that they can exert disruptive mechanical forces upon laser irradiation. The urease-powered motion and swarm behavior improve translational movement compared to passive diffusion of state-of-the-art nanocarriers, while optically triggered vapor nanobubbles can destroy biological barriers and reduce steric hindrance. We show that these motors, named Swarm 1, collectively displace through a microchannel blocked with type 1 collagen protein fibers (barrier model), accumulate onto the fibers, and disrupt them completely upon laser irradiation. We evaluate the disruption of the microenvironment induced by these NMs (Swarm 1) by quantifying the efficiency by which a second type of fluorescent NMs (Swarm 2) can move through the cleared microchannel and be taken up by HeLa cells at the other side of the channel. Experiments showed that the delivery efficiency of Swarm 2 NMs in a clean path was increased 12-fold in the presence of urea as fuel compared to when no fuel was added. When the path was blocked with the collagen fibers, delivery efficiency dropped considerably and only depicted a 10-fold enhancement after pretreatment of the collagen-filled channel with Swarm 1 NMs and laser irradiation. The synergistic effect of active motion (chemically propelled) and mechanical disruption (light-triggered nanobubbles) of a biological barrier represents a clear advantage for the improvement of therapies which currently fail due to inadequate passage of drug delivery carriers through biological barriers.

JTD Keywords: drug delivery, enzyme catalysis, nanoparticles, swarming, vapor nanobubbles, Drug delivery, Enzyme catalysis, Nanomotors, Nanoparticles, Swarming, Vapor nanobubbles

Vilela, Diana, Guix, Maria, Parmar, Jemish, Blanco‐Blanes, Àngel, Sánchez, Samuel, (2022). Micromotor‐in‐Sponge Platform for Multicycle Large‐Volume Degradation of Organic Pollutants Small 18, 2107619

The presence of organic pollutants in the environment is a global threat to human health and ecosystems due to their bioaccumulation and long-term persistence. Hereby a micromotor-in-sponge concept is presented that aims not only at pollutant removal, but towards an efficient in situ degradation by exploiting the synergy between the sponge hydrophobic nature and the rapid pollutant degradation promoted by the cobalt-ferrite (CFO) micromotors embedded at the sponge's core. Such a platform allows the use of extremely low fuel concentration (0.13% H2 O2 ), as well as its reusability and easy recovery. Moreover, the authors demonstrate an efficient multicycle pollutant degradation and treatment of large volumes (1 L in 15 min) by using multiple sponges. Such a fast degradation process is due to the CFO bubble-propulsion motion mechanism, which induces both an enhanced fluid mixing within the sponge and an outward flow that allows a rapid fluid exchange. Also, the magnetic control of the system is demonstrated, guiding the sponge position during the degradation process. The micromotor-in-sponge configuration can be extrapolated to other catalytic micromotors, establishing an alternative platform for an easier implementation and recovery of micromotors in real environmental applications.© 2022 Wiley-VCH GmbH.

JTD Keywords: effective removal, fabrication, microbots, microjets, organic pollutants, propelled micromotors, self-propelled micromotors, sponges, water treatment, Oil-water separation, Organic pollutants, Water treatment

Mestre R, García N, Patiño T, Guix M, Fuentes J, Valerio-Santiago M, Almiñana N, Sánchez S, (2021). 3D-bioengineered model of human skeletal muscle tissue with phenotypic features of aging for drug testing purposes Biofabrication 13,

Three-dimensional engineering of skeletal muscle is becoming increasingly relevant for tissue engineering, disease modeling and bio-hybrid robotics, where flexible, versatile and multidisciplinary approaches for the evaluation of tissue differentiation, functionality and force measurement are required. This works presents a 3D-printed platform of bioengineered human skeletal muscle which can efficiently model the three-dimensional structure of native tissue, while providing information about force generation and contraction profiles. Proper differentiation and maturation of myocytes is demonstrated by the expression of key myo-proteins using immunocytochemistry and analyzed by confocal microscopy, and the functionality assessed via electrical stimulation and analysis of contraction kinetics. To validate the flexibility of this platform for complex tissue modeling, the bioengineered muscle is treated with tumor necrosis factor α to mimic the conditions of aging, which is supported by morphological and functional changes. Moreover, as a proof of concept, the effects of Argireline® Amplified peptide, a cosmetic ingredient that causes muscle relaxation, are evaluated in both healthy and aged tissue models. Therefore, the results demonstrate that this 3D-bioengineered human muscle platform could be used to assess morphological and functional changes in the aging process of muscular tissue with potential applications in biomedicine, cosmetics and bio-hybrid robotics.

JTD Keywords: 3d bioprinting, bio-actuator, drug testing, human skeletal muscle, muscle ageing, platform, tnf-alpha, 3d bioprinting, Bio-actuator, Drug testing, Human skeletal muscle, Muscle ageing, Necrosis-factor-alpha

Palacios LS, Tchoumakov S, Guix M, Pagonabarraga I, Sánchez S, G Grushin A, (2021). Guided accumulation of active particles by topological design of a second-order skin effect Nature Communications 12, 4691

Collective guidance of out-of-equilibrium systems without using external fields is a challenge of paramount importance in active matter, ranging from bacterial colonies to swarms of self-propelled particles. Designing strategies to guide active matter and exploiting enhanced diffusion associated to its motion will provide insights for application from sensing, drug delivery to water remediation. However, achieving directed motion without breaking detailed balance, for example by asymmetric topographical patterning, is challenging. Here we engineer a two-dimensional periodic topographical design with detailed balance in its unit cell where we observe spontaneous particle edge guidance and corner accumulation of self-propelled particles. This emergent behaviour is guaranteed by a second-order non-Hermitian skin effect, a topologically robust non-equilibrium phenomenon, that we use to dynamically break detailed balance. Our stochastic circuit model predicts, without fitting parameters, how guidance and accumulation can be controlled and enhanced by design: a device guides particles more efficiently if the topological invariant characterizing it is non-zero. Our work establishes a fruitful bridge between active and topological matter, and our design principles offer a blueprint to design devices that display spontaneous, robust and predictable guided motion and accumulation, guaranteed by out-of-equilibrium topology.


Guix M, Mestre R, Patiño T, de Corato M, Fuentes J, Zarpellon G, Sánchez S, (2021). Biohybrid soft robots with self-stimulating skeletons Science Robotics 6, abe7577

Bioinspired hybrid soft robots that combine living and synthetic components are an emerging field in the development of advanced actuators and other robotic platforms (i.e., swimmers, crawlers, and walkers). The integration of biological components offers unique characteristics that artificial materials cannot precisely replicate, such as adaptability and response to external stimuli. Here, we present a skeletal muscle–based swimming biobot with a three-dimensional (3D)–printed serpentine spring skeleton that provides mechanical integrity and self-stimulation during the cell maturation process. The restoring force inherent to the spring system allows a dynamic skeleton compliance upon spontaneous muscle contraction, leading to a cyclic mechanical stimulation process that improves the muscle force output without external stimuli. Optimization of the 3D-printed skeletons is carried out by studying the geometrical stiffnesses of different designs via finite element analysis. Upon electrical actuation of the muscle tissue, two types of motion mechanisms are experimentally observed: directional swimming when the biobot is at the liquid-air interface and coasting motion when it is near the bottom surface. The integrated compliant skeleton provides both the mechanical self-stimulation and the required asymmetry for directional motion, displaying its maximum velocity at 5 hertz (800 micrometers per second, 3 body lengths per second). This skeletal muscle–based biohybrid swimmer attains speeds comparable with those of cardiac-based biohybrid robots and outperforms other muscle-based swimmers. The integration of serpentine-like structures in hybrid robotic systems allows self-stimulation processes that could lead to higher force outputs in current and future biomimetic robotic platforms. Copyright © 2021 The Authors, some rights reserved;

JTD Keywords: actuators, design, fabrication, mechanics, mems, myotubes, platform, tissue, 3d printers, Agricultural robots, Biological components, Biomimetic processes, Electrical actuation, Geometrical stiffness, Intelligent robots, Liquefied gases, Liquid-air interface, Mechanical integrity, Mechanical stimulation, Muscle, Muscle contractions, Phase interfaces, Robotics, Serpentine, Springs (components), Threedimensional (3-d)

Hortelao AC, Simó C, Guix M, Guallar-Garrido S, Julián E, Vilela D, Rejc L, Ramos-Cabrer P, Cossío U, Gómez-Vallejo V, Patiño T, Llop J, Sánchez S, (2021). Swarming behavior and in vivo monitoring of enzymatic nanomotors within the bladder Science Robotics 6, abd2823

Enzyme-powered nanomotors are an exciting technology for biomedical applications due to their ability to navigate within biological environments using endogenous fuels. However, limited studies into their collective behavior and demonstrations of tracking enzyme nanomotors in vivo have hindered progress toward their clinical translation. Here, we report the swarming behavior of urease-powered nanomotors and its tracking using positron emission tomography (PET), both in vitro and in vivo. For that, mesoporous silica nanoparticles containing urease enzymes and gold nanoparticles were used as nanomotors. To image them, nanomotors were radiolabeled with either I on gold nanoparticles or F-labeled prosthetic group to urease. In vitro experiments showed enhanced fluid mixing and collective migration of nanomotors, demonstrating higher capability to swim across complex paths inside microfabricated phantoms, compared with inactive nanomotors. In vivo intravenous administration in mice confirmed their biocompatibility at the administered dose and the suitability of PET to quantitatively track nanomotors in vivo. Furthermore, nanomotors were administered directly into the bladder of mice by intravesical injection. When injected with the fuel, urea, a homogeneous distribution was observed even after the entrance of fresh urine. By contrast, control experiments using nonmotile nanomotors (i.e., without fuel or without urease) resulted in sustained phase separation, indicating that the nanomotors’ self-propulsion promotes convection and mixing in living reservoirs. Active collective dynamics, together with the medical imaging tracking, constitute a key milestone and a step forward in the field of biomedical nanorobotics, paving the way toward their use in theranostic applications. 124 18

JTD Keywords: cell, reversal, silica nanoparticles, size, step, transport, Propelled micromotors