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.

MySpine: a virtual spine for a real problem

EU-funded project aims to improve treatment and prognosis of spinal diseases

Lower back pain is not only miserable and debilitating for the 25% of the population who suffer from it at some point during their lives, but it also has a detrimental effect on society and the economy. The problem costs the EU €7000 per inhabitant per year, and is one of the major causes of long-term absences from work.

Beating the regeneration blockers

IBEC researchers shed light on inhibitory molecules in neuroregeneration

It’s known that the development of neuronal diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease is connected with the levels of myelin – an insulating substance around nerve fibres – in the body, although the actual causes of these conditions remain unknown.

PNAS paper for IBEC researchers

Maria Garcia-Parajo’s group has the first major paper to appear after the summer break with their 31 August publication in PNAS of ‘Direct mapping of nanoscale compositional connectivity on intact cell membranes’.

In their research into the cell membrane, where preorganised components give rise to strategic advantages for protein function and signaling, Maria and her Single Molecule Bionanophotonics team have been looking at lipid rafts – free-floating membrane regions of proteins and lipids – and have now demonstrated their cholesterol-mediated selective connectivity at the nanoscale.

Discovery of a New Function of the Prion Protein Improves our Understanding of Epilepsy

Cellular prion protein (PrPc) plays an essential role in maintaining neurotransmitter homeostasis in the central nervous system. This discovery has been made possible by the observation that both a deficiency and an excess of the protein have a considerable effect on this homeostasis.

Surprisingly, in both cases, the central nervous excitability threshold is altered to such an extent that an epileptic seizure may result. Thanks to this discovery, we now have more tools at our disposal that can help us to deepen our basic understanding of epilepsy.

Discovery of a Novel Cell Adhesion Mechanism

In a process essential to the immune system’s response to infection, dendritic cells responsible for identifying pathogens communicate with the T-cells that destroy the infectious agents.

To achieve this, the dendritic cells must be correctly activated and migrate to the lymph nodes where they must adhere firmly to T-cells.

Novel Evolutionary Theory for the Explosion of Life

The Cambrian Explosion is widely regarded as one of the most relevant episodes in the history of life on Earth, when the vast majority of animal phyla first appear in the fossil record.

However, the causes of its origin have been object of debate for decades and the question of what was the trigger for the single cell microorganisms Precambrian Age (500 Mio. Years ago) to assemble and organize into multicellular organisms (Metazoans) has remained unanswered until now.