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Staff member

César Rodriguez-Emmenegger

Group Leader / ICREA Research Professor
+34 934021703 (21703)
crodriguezibecbarcelona.eu
CV Summary
César was born in Salto, Uruguay. After studying Chemical Engineering (2001-2006) in the Universidad de la República, Uruguay, he was awarded a research UNESCO-IUPAC internship (2006-2007) in the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry in Prague where he got hooked in the topic of polymers and biointerfaces. There he pursued his Ph.D. (2007-2012) working on optical biosensors and antifouling surfaces under the mentorship of Eduard Brynda and Aldo Bologna. Following a postdoctoral work (A. von Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship, 2012-2013), and research stays in Melville Laboratory in Cambridge (2009), University of Pennsylvania (2013, 2015), and Pasteur Institute in Lille (2015), César returned to Prague to start his independent group. In January 2016, his group joined DWI-Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials in Aachen and expanded the research to adaptive interfaces and synthetic cells. Currently, he is an ICREA Research Professor at the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia.
Staff member publications

Witzdam, L, Garay-Sarmiento, M, Gagliardi, M, Meurer, YL, Rutsch, Y, Englert, J, Philipsen, S, Janem, A, Alsheghri, R, Jakob, F, Molin, DGM, Schwaneberg, U, van den Akker, NMS, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, (2024). Brush-Like Coatings Provide a Cloak of Invisibility to Titanium Implants Macromolecular Bioscience 24, e2300434

Orthopedic implants such as knee and hip implants are one of the most important types of medical devices. Currently, the surface of the most advanced implants consists of titanium or titanium-alloys with high porosity at the bone-contacting surface leading to superior mechanical properties, excellent biocompatibility, and the capability of inducing osseointegration. However, the increased surface area of porous titanium provides a nidus for bacteria colonization leading to implant-related infections, one of the main reasons for implant failure. Here, two readily applicable titanium-coatings based on hydrophilic carboxybetaine polymers that turn the surface stealth thereby preventing bacterial adhesion and colonization are developed. These coatings are biocompatible, do not affect cell functionality, exhibit great antifouling properties, and do not cause additional inflammation during the healing process. In this way, the coatings can prevent implant-related infections, while at the same time being completely innocuous to its biological environment. Thus, these coating strategies are a promising route to enhance the biocompatibility of orthopedic implants and have a high potential for clinical use, while being easy to implement in the implant manufacturing process.© 2023 The Authors. Macromolecular Bioscience published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.

JTD Keywords: bacteria repellency, biocompatibility, blood-plasma, brushes, stealth coatings, surface, titanium implants, Antifouling surfaces, Bacteria repellency, Biocompatibility, Brushes, Polymer brushes, Stealth coatings, Titanium implants


Witzdam, L, Vosberg, B, Grosse-Berkenbusch, K, Stoppelkamp, S, Wendel, HP, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, (2024). Tackling the Root Cause of Surface-Induced Coagulation: Inhibition of FXII Activation to Mitigate Coagulation Propagation and Prevent Clotting Macromolecular Bioscience 24, e2300321

Factor XII (FXII) is a zymogen present in blood that tends to adsorb onto the surfaces of blood-contacting medical devices. Once adsorbed, it becomes activated, initiating a cascade of enzymatic reactions that lead to surface-induced coagulation. This process is characterized by multiple redundancies, making it extremely challenging to prevent clot formation and preserve the properties of the surface. In this study, a novel modulatory coating system based on C1-esterase inhibitor (C1INH) functionalized polymer brushes, which effectively regulates the activation of FXII is proposed. Using surface plasmon resonance it is demonstrated that this coating system effectively repels blood plasma proteins, including FXII, while exhibiting high activity against activated FXII and plasma kallikrein under physiological conditions. This unique property enables the modulation of FXII activation without interfering with the overall hemostasis process. Furthermore, through dynamic Chandler loop studies, it is shown that this coating significantly improves the hemocompatibility of polymeric surfaces commonly used in medical devices. By addressing the root cause of contact activation, the synergistic interplay between the antifouling polymer brushes and the modulatory C1INH is expected to lay the foundation to enhance the hemocompatibility of medical device surfaces.© 2023 The Authors. Macromolecular Bioscience published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.

JTD Keywords: adsorption, binding, c1-esterase-inhibitor, coatings, contact activation, factor-xii, fxii activation, hemocompatibility, hemocompatible surface modification, heparin, polymer brushes, system, thrombosis, Adsorption, Anticoagulation, Antifouling agent, Article, Beta-fxiia, Biocompatibility, Blood, Blood clotting, Blood clotting factor 12, Blood clotting factor 12a, Blood clotting factor 12a inhibitor, Blood coagulation, C1-esterase-inhibitor, Cell activation, Chemical activation, Coagulation, Coating (procedure), Complement component c1s inhibitor, Complement system, Controlled study, Dendrimers, Enzyme immobilization, Enzymes, Erythrocyte, Esters, Factor xii, Factor xii activation, Factor xiia, Fibrin deposition, Functional polymers, Fxii activation, Haemocompatibility, Hemocompatibility, Hemocompatible surface modification, Hemostasis, Heparin, Human, Hydrogel, Medical devices, Metabolism, Plasma kallikrein, Plasma protein, Plastic coatings, Platelet count, Polymer, Polymer brushes, Polymerization, Polymers, Property, Root cause, Surface plasmon resonance, Surface property, Surface reactions, Surface-modification, Thrombocyte adhesion, Β-fxiia


Wagner, AM, Kostina, NY, Xiao, Q, Klein, ML, Percec, V, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, (2024). Glycan-Driven Formation of Raft-Like Domains with Hierarchical Periodic Nanoarrays on Dendrimersome Synthetic Cells Biomacromolecules 25, 366-378

The accurate spatial segregation into distinct phases within cell membranes coordinates vital biochemical processes and functionalities in living organisms. One of nature's strategies to localize reactivity is the formation of dynamic raft domains. Most raft models rely on liquid-ordered L-0 phases in a liquid-disordered L-d phase lacking correlation and remaining static, often necessitating external agents for phase separation. Here, we introduce a synthetic system of bicomponent glycodendrimersomes coassembled from Janus dendrimers and Janus glycodendrimers (JGDs), where lactose-lactose interactions exclusively drive lateral organization. This mechanism results in modulated phases across two length scales, yielding raft-like microdomains featuring nanoarrays at the nanoscale. By varying the density of lactose and molecular architecture of JGDs, the nanoarray type and size, shape, and spacing of the domains were controlled. Our findings offer insight into the potential primordial origins of rudimentary raft domains and highlight the crucial role of glycans within the glycocalyx.

JTD Keywords: Article, Artificial cells, Atomic force microscopy, Bicomponents, Bilayer, Bilayer membrane, Biochemical functionality, Biochemical process, Biological-membranes, Cell component, Cell membrane, Cellular parameters, Chemical interaction, Chemical structure, Chemistry, Cytology, Defined janus glycodendrimers, Dehydration, Dendrimer, Dendrimers, Dilution, Dimer, External agents, Fourier transform, Giant vesicles, Glycan, Glycans, Glycocalyx, Glycodendrimers, Janus dendrimer, Janus glycodendrimer, Lactose, Lateral organization, Lectin, Lipid rafts, Living organisms, Membrane damage, Membrane microdomain, Membrane microdomains, Membrane structure, Metabolism, Modulated phases, Molecule, Monomer, Nanoarrays, Oligosaccharide, Organization, Periodicity, Phase separation, Phase-separation, Phospholipids, Polysaccharide, Polysaccharides, Raft like domain, Relative humidity, Spatial segregation, Structure analysis, Sugars, Synthetic systems, Tetramer, Unclassified drug, Unilamellar vesicles, Water


Englert, J, Palà, M, Witzdam, L, Rayatdoost, F, Grottke, O, Lligadas, G, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, (2023). Green Solvent-Based Antifouling Polymer Brushes Demonstrate Excellent Hemocompatibility Langmuir 39, 18476-18485

Medical devices are crucial for patient care, yet even the best biomaterials lead to infections and unwanted activation of blood coagulation, potentially being life-threatening. While hydrophilic polymer brushes are the best coatings to mitigate these issues, their reliance on fossil raw materials underscores the urgency of bio-based alternatives. In this work, we introduce polymer brushes of a green solvent-based monomer, prohibiting protein adsorption, bacterial colonization, and blood clot formation at the same level as fossil-based polymer brushes. The polymer brushes are composed of N,N-dimethyl lactamide acrylate (DMLA), can be polymerized in a controlled manner, and show strong hydrophilicity as determined by thermodynamic analysis of the surface tension components. The contact of various challenging protein solutions results in repellency on the poly(DMLA) brushes. Furthermore, the poly(DMLA) brushes completely prevent the adhesion and colonization of Escherichia coli. Remarkably, upon blood contact, the poly(DMLA) brushes successfully prevent the formation of a fibrin network and leukocyte adhesion on the surface. While showcasing excellent antifouling properties similar to those of N-hydroxypropyl methacrylamide (HPMA) polymer brushes as one of the best antifouling coatings, the absence of hydroxyl groups prevents activation of the complement system in blood. We envision the polymer brushes to contribute to the future of hemocompatible coatings.

JTD Keywords: blood-plasma, coatings, contact, fossil, poly(2-methacryloyloxyethyl phosphorylcholine), protein adsorption, resistance, self-assembled monolayers, sulfobetaine, Surface-energy components


Englert, J, Witzdam, L, Söder, D, Garay-Sarmiento, M, Joseph, A, Wagner, AM, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, (2023). Synthetic Evolution of a Supramolecular Harpooning Mechanism to Immobilize Vesicles at Antifouling Interfaces Macromolecular Chemistry And Physics 224, 2300306

The immobilization of vesicles has been conceptualized as a method to functionalize biointerfaces. However, the preservation of their integrity post immobilization remains a considerable challenge. Interfacial interactions can cause vesicle rupture upon close surface contact and non-specific protein adsorption impairing surface functions. To date, immobilization of vesicles has relied solely on either entrapment or prior modification of vesicles, both of which require laborious preparation and limit their applications. This work develops a bioinspired strategy to pin vesicles without prior modification while preserving their intact shape. This work introduces antifouling diblock copolymers and ultrathin surface-attached hydrogels containing a brush-like interface consisting of a bottle brush copolymer of N-(2-hydroxypropyl) methacrylamide (HPMA) and N-(3-methacrylamidopropyl)-N,N-dimethyldodecan-1-aminiumiodide (C12+). The presence of positive charges generates an attractive force that pulls vesicles toward the surface. At the surface, the amphiphilic properties of the combs facilitate their insertion into the membrane, mimicking the harpooning mechanism observed in antimicrobial peptides. Importantly, the antifouling poly(HPMA) backdrop serves to safeguard the vesicles by preventing deformation and breakage. Using a combination of thermodynamic analysis, surface plasmon resonance, and confocal laser scanning microscopy, this work demonstrates the efficiency of this biomimetic system to capture vesicles while maintaining an antifouling interface necessary for bioapplications. This work presents a novel supramolecular approach that combines three key elements: long-range attraction, vesicle pinning, and short-range repulsion to attract and harpoon vesicles, while protecting them at the surface. This work envisions these coatings as universal and biocompatible platforms that can be used not only to study vesicle interactions, but also as tools for biomedical applications.image

JTD Keywords: Antifouling coatings, Coatings, Delivery, Extracellular vesicles, Fabrication, Hydrogel, Janus dendrimers, Lipid vesicles, Liposomes, Membrane insertion, Polymer brushes, Proteins, Surface-energy components, Ultrathin surface-attached hydrogels, Vesicle pinning


Joseph, A, Wagner, AM, Garay-Sarmiento, M, Aleksanyan, M, Haraszti, T, Söder, D, Georgiev, VN, Dimova, R, Percec, V, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, (2022). Zwitterionic Dendrimersomes: A Closer Xenobiotic Mimic of Cell Membranes Advanced Materials 34, e2206288

Building functional mimics of cell membranes is an important task toward the development of synthetic cells. So far, lipid and amphiphilic block copolymers are the most widely used amphiphiles with the bilayers by the former lacking stability while membranes by the latter are typically characterized by very slow dynamics. Herein, we introduce a new type of Janus dendrimer containing a zwitterionic phosphocholine hydrophilic headgroup (JDPC ) and a 3,5-substituted dihydrobenzoate-based hydrophobic dendron. JDPC self-assembles in water into zwitterionic dendrimersomes (z-DSs) that faithfully recapitulate the cell membrane in thickness, flexibility, and fluidity, while being resilient to harsh conditions and displaying faster pore closing dynamics in the event of membrane rupture. This enables the fabrication of hybrid DSs with components of natural membranes, including pore-forming peptides, structure-directing lipids, and glycans to create raft-like domains or onion vesicles. Moreover, z-DSs can be used to create active synthetic cells with life-like features that mimic vesicle fusion and motility as well as environmental sensing. Despite their fully synthetic nature, z-DSs are minimal cell mimics that can integrate and interact with living matter with the programmability to imitate life-like features and beyond. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: biological-membranes, bottom-up synthetic biology, chain, hybrid vesicles, hydroethidine, organization, polymersome, proteins, stability, synthetic cells, thickness, vesicle fusion, vesicle motility, vesicles, zwitterionic dendrimersomes, Biosensor, Biosensors, Bottom-up synthetic biology, Hybrid vesicles, Lipid-bilayers, Synthetic cells, Vesicle fusion, Vesicle motility, Zwitterionic dendrimersomes


Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, Zuilhof, H, (2022). Biointerfaces and Biopolymers Advanced Materials Interfaces 9,

Quandt, J, Garay-Sarmiento, M, Witzdam, L, Englert, J, Rutsch, Y, Stöcker, C, Obstals, F, Grottke, O, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, (2022). Interactive Hemocompatible Nanocoating to Prevent SurfaceInduced Coagulation in Medical Devices Advanced Materials Interfaces 9, 2201055

Riedelová, Z, Pereira, AD, Svoboda, J, Pop-Georgievski, O, Májek, P, Pecánková, K, Dycka, F, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, Riedel, T, (2022). The Relation Between Protein Adsorption and Hemocompatibility of Antifouling Polymer Brushes Macromolecular Bioscience 22, 2200247

Whenever an artificial surface comes into contact with blood, proteins are rapidly adsorbed onto its surface. This phenomenon, termed fouling, is then followed by a series of undesired reactions involving activation of complement or the coagulation cascade and adhesion of leukocytes and platelets leading to thrombus formation. Thus, considerable efforts are directed towards the preparation of fouling-resistant surfaces with the best possible hemocompatibility. Herein, a comprehensive hemocompatibility study after heparinized blood contact with seven polymer brushes prepared by surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerization is reported. The resistance to fouling is quantified and thrombus formation and deposition of blood cellular components on the coatings are analyzed. Moreover, identification of the remaining adsorbed proteins is performed via mass spectroscopy to elucidate their influence on the surface hemocompatibility. Compared with an unmodified glass surface, the grafting of polymer brushes minimizes the adhesion of platelets and leukocytes and prevents the thrombus formation. The fouling from undiluted blood plasma is reduced by up to 99%. Most of the identified proteins are connected with the initial events of foreign body reaction towards biomaterial (coagulation cascade proteins, complement component, and inflammatory proteins). In addition, several proteins that are not previously linked with blood-biomaterial interaction are presented and discussed.

JTD Keywords: antifouling surfaces, biosensor, blood-plasma, coagulation, coatings, compatibility, glycoprotein, hemocompatibility, identification, methacrylate), ms identification, polymer brushes, protein adsorption, surface-chemistry, Antifouling surfaces, High-density-lipoprotein, Protein adsorption


Pala, M, El Khannaji, H, Garay-Sarmiento, M, Ronda, JC, Cadiz, V, Galia, M, Percec, V, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, Lligadas, G, (2022). A green solvent-to-polymer upgrading approach to water-soluble LCST poly(N-substituted lactamide acrylate)s Green Chemistry 24, 8314-8323

We report a green solvent-to-polymer upgrading transformation of chemicals of the lactic acid portfolio into water-soluble lower critical solution temperature (LCST)-type acrylic polymers. Aqueous Cu(0)-mediated living radical polymerization (SET-LRP) was utilized for the rapid synthesis of N-substituted lactamide-type homo and random acrylic copolymers under mild conditions. A particularly unique aspect of this work is that the water-soluble monomers and the SET-LRP initiator used to produce the corresponding polymers were synthesized from biorenewable and non-toxic solvents, namely natural ethyl lactate and BASF's Agnique (R) AMD 3L (N,N-dimethyl lactamide, DML). The pre-disproportionation of Cu(I) Br in the presence of tris[2-(dimethylamino)ethyl]amine (Me6TREN) in water generated nascent Cu(0) and Cu(II) complexes that facilitated the fast polymerization of N-tetrahydrofurfuryl lactamide and N,N-dimethyl lactamide acrylate monomers (THFLA and DMLA, respectively) up to near-quantitative conversion with excellent control over molecular weight (5000 < M-n < 83 000) and dispersity (1.05 < D < 1.16). Interestingly, poly(THFLA) showed a degree of polymerization and concentration dependent LCST behavior, which can be fine-tuned (T-cp = 12-62 degrees C) through random copolymerization with the more hydrophilic DMLA monomer. Finally, covalent cross-linking of these polymers resulted in a new family of thermo-responsive hydrogels with excellent biocompatibility and tunable swelling and LCST transition. These illustrate the versatility of these neoteric green polymers in the preparation of smart and biocompatible soft materials.

JTD Keywords: Acid, Ethyl lactate, Living radical polymerization, Monomers, Pnipam, Reductive amination, Ruthenium nanoparticles, Set-lrp, Single, Thermoresponsive polymers


Wagner, AM, Eto, H, Joseph, A, Kohyama, S, Haraszti, T, Zamora, RA, Vorobii, M, Giannotti, MI, Schwille, P, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, (2022). Dendrimersome Synthetic Cells Harbor Cell Division Machinery of Bacteria Advanced Materials 34, 2202364

The integration of active cell machinery with synthetic building blocks is the bridge toward developing synthetic cells with biological functions and beyond. Self-replication is one of the most important tasks of living systems, and various complex machineries exist to execute it. In Escherichia coli, a contractile division ring is positioned to mid-cell by concentration oscillations of self-organizing proteins (MinCDE), where it severs membrane and cell wall. So far, the reconstitution of any cell division machinery has exclusively been tied to liposomes. Here, the reconstitution of a rudimentary bacterial divisome in fully synthetic bicomponent dendrimersomes is shown. By tuning the membrane composition, the interaction of biological machinery with synthetic membranes can be tailored to reproduce its dynamic behavior. This constitutes an important breakthrough in the assembly of synthetic cells with biological elements, as tuning of membrane-divisome interactions is the key to engineering emergent biological behavior from the bottom-up.

JTD Keywords: bacterial cell division, bottom-up synthetic biology, dendrimersomes, dynamic min patterns, ftsz assembly, Bacterial cell division, Bottom-up synthetic biology, Dendrimersomes, Dynamic min patterns, Dynamics, Ftsz assembly, Ftsz filaments, Mind, Organization, Pole oscillation, Polymersome membranes, Proteins, Rapid pole, Synthetic cells, Vesicles


Yang, BQ, Wang, YX, Vorobii, M, Sauter, E, Koenig, M, Kumar, R, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, Hirtz, M, (2022). Evaluation of Dibenzocyclooctyne and Bicyclononyne Click Reaction on Azido-Functionalized Antifouling Polymer Brushes via Microspotting Advanced Materials Interfaces 9, 2102325

Wagner, Anna M., Quandt, Jonas, Söder, Dominik, Garay-Sarmiento, Manuela, Joseph, Anton, Petrovskii, Vladislav S., Witzdam, Lena, Hammoor, Thomas, Steitz, Philipp, Haraszti, Tamás, Potemkin, Igor I., Kostina, Nina Yu., Herrmann, Andreas, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, Cesar, (2022). Ionic Combisomes: A New Class of Biomimetic Vesicles to Fuse with Life Advanced Science 9, e2200617-2200617

The construction of biomembranes that faithfully capture the properties and dynamic functions of cell membranes remains a challenge in the development of synthetic cells and their application. Here a new concept for synthetic cell membranes based on the self-assembly of amphiphilic comb polymers into vesicles, termed ionic combisomes (i-combisomes) is introduced. These combs consist of a polyzwitterionic backbone to which hydrophobic tails are linked by electrostatic interactions. Using a range of microscopies and molecular simulations, the self-assembly of a library of combs in water is screened. It is discovered that the hydrophobic tails form the membrane's core and force the backbone into a rod conformation with nematic-like ordering confined to the interface with water. This particular organization resulted in membranes that combine the stability of classic polymersomes with the biomimetic thickness, flexibility, and lateral mobility of liposomes. Such unparalleled matching of biophysical properties and the ability to locally reconfigure the molecular topology of its constituents enable the harboring of functional components of natural membranes and fusion with living bacteria to “hijack” their periphery. This provides an almost inexhaustible palette to design the chemical and biological makeup of the i-combisomes membrane resulting in a powerful platform for fundamental studies and technological applications.

JTD Keywords: amphiphilic comb polymers, bottom-up synthetic biology, hybrid vesicles, polyelectrolyte-surfactant complexes, polymersomes, synthetic biomembranes, Vesicle fusion