Developing a new solution to treat atherosclerosis

We’ve all eaten rich meals or fatty foods and joked that we can feel our ‘arteries hardening’. However, the reality of atherosclerosis – when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up in the artery walls and form solid structures called plaques – is no joking matter. The consequences of this disorder can include stroke and coronary artery disease, the leading cause of death in many developed countries.

Now, a new scientific project involving IBEC and three other European research centres is set to offer a novel, minimally-invasive treatment for atherosclerosis patients, thanks to funding awarded by the European Commission.

Shedding light on misbehaving cells

Much like a kindergarten full of unruly toddlers, the cells that contribute to the body’s crucial processes can’t always be trusted to do what you want or expect them to do. Now IBEC researchers have made an important breakthrough that could contribute to the development of therapies for spinal and neural diseases:  they’ve figured out exactly what it is that makes certain cells misbehave in particular circumstances.

IBEC Picture Release: “The dance of the cells: a minuet or a mosh?”

This image, which features on the November cover of the high-impact journal Trends in Cell Biology, illustrates work by researchers from Barcelona’s Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), who collaborated with Harvard investigators earlier this year to come up with a brand new concept in biology, plithotaxis.

Researchers shed new light on predicting spinal disc degeneration

The misery of lower back pain is, unfortunately, all too familiar to many people. Now researchers have taken a big step towards understanding one of the most common and debilitating complaints in the industrialized world, with results that could help to predict the onset of disc degeneration.

Back pain is closely related to ageing of the discs in the spine, a process characterized by a series of changes in their structure and function, but until now the chain of events that converts normal disc ageing into degenerative disease has not been properly understood.

Identifying an essential interaction for epilepsy

Scientists at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) describe a major step towards the understanding of epilepsy in a paper published in Molecular Biology of the Cell.

In the study, the researchers shed new light on the importance of a neuronal protein known as PrPc, which performs a number of physiological functions in many neural processes. When mutated or misfolded, the pathogenic form of the protein, PrPsc, induces progressive conditions that affect the brain and nervous system, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and BSE, while in epilepsy it appears that the healthy protein plays a preventative role.

Plithotaxis: how crowds of cells find their way

First measurements of forces driving collective cell migration unveil new principle in biology

Processes like tissue regeneration and cancer metastasis rely on groups of cells moving long distances without losing their cohesiveness, but how they do this has remained unknown. Now researchers from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and Harvard University have solved the mystery and unveiled a brand new phenomenon in biology.

Opening new doors to combat bacterial infections

We may be several steps closer to understanding one of the major pathologies that affects sufferers of cystic fibrosis, thanks to Senior researcher Eduard Torrents of IBEC’s Microbial biotechnology and host-pathogen interaction group.

In a study published this week in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal Infection and Immunity, Eduard and his collaborator in Stockholm, Britt-Marie Sjöberg, looked at DNA synthesis in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterial infection that is a frequent complication in many people with cystic fibrosis, and a common cause of death in those patients.

Smelling by minispectrometer provides fast determination of wine origin

Wine fraud is a growing problem, with experts estimating that up to 10% of the wines offered to consumers in some European countries are of a lesser quality than the label claims.

It’s an issue that affects everyone from expert collectors to average consumers, and is such a concern in some countries that drastic measures have been taken: the Italian Carabinieri Corps, for instance, has educated 25 of their officers as sommeliers.

We’re made of glass, say scientists

People can be brittle, transparent, shattered, or have a heart of glass. Now these attributes seem all the more appropriate following a discovery by researchers that migrating cells in our bodies behave in a remarkably similar way to glass when it is heated and cooled.

In a study published in PNAS, researcher Xavier Trepat from Barcelona’s Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia and his collaborators have been looking at collective cell migration, which occurs in our tissue for good or bad: during embryonic development or wound healing, for example, but on the other hand in cancer invasion.

Electromechanics at the nanoscale

Flick a switch, turn a knob or pull a lever and you’re operating an electromechanical device, albeit a complex one. Now an IBEC researcher and his collaborators have broken new ground with a proven concept for the first such electronic component to operate using just a single-molecule electrical contact.

In a study published in Nature Nanotechnology, Ismael Díez Pérez, a researcher in IBEC’s Nanoprobes and Nanoswitches group, and Prof. Nongjian Tao from Arizona State University describe their success in attempting to find a way to simulate the same electromechanical effects achieved on conventional electronics but in a single-molecule device that allows the accurate mechanical control of the current flow.