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Qamar, B., Solomon, M., Marin, A., Fuerst, T. R., Andrianov, A. K., Muro, S., (2021). Intracellular delivery of active proteins by polyphosphazene polymers Pharmaceutics 13, (2), 249

Achieving intracellular delivery of protein therapeutics within cells remains a significant challenge. Although custom formulations are available for some protein therapeutics, the development of non-toxic delivery systems that can incorporate a variety of active protein cargo and maintain their stability, is a topic of great relevance. This study utilized ionic polyphosphazenes (PZ) that can assemble into supramolecular complexes through non-covalent interactions with different types of protein cargo. We tested a PEGylated graft copolymer (PZ-PEG) and a pyrrolidone containing linear derivative (PZ-PYR) for their ability to intracellularly deliver FITC-avidin, a model protein. In endothelial cells, PZ-PYR/protein exhibited both faster internalization and higher uptake levels than PZ-PEG/protein, while in cancer cells both polymers achieved similar uptake levels over time, although the internalization rate was slower for PZ-PYR/protein. Uptake was mediated by endocytosis through multiple mechanisms, PZ-PEG/avidin colocalized more profusely with endo-lysosomes, and PZ-PYR/avidin achieved greater cytosolic delivery. Consequently, a PZ-PYR-delivered anti-F-actin antibody was able to bind to cytosolic actin filaments without needing cell permeabilization. Similarly, a cell-impermeable Bax-BH3 peptide known to induce apoptosis, decreased cell viability when complexed with PZ-PYR, demonstrating endo-lysosomal escape. These biodegradable PZs were non-toxic to cells and represent a promising platform for drug delivery of protein therapeutics.

Keywords: Cytosolic delivery, Cytotoxicity, Delivery of apoptotic peptides, Endosomal escape, Intracellular delivery of antibody, Intracellular protein delivery, Polyphosphazene polymers

Enshaei, H., Puiggalí-Jou, A., del Valle, L. J., Turon, P., Saperas, N., Alemán, C., (2021). Nanotheranostic interface based on antibiotic-loaded conducting polymer nanoparticles for real-time monitoring of bacterial growth inhibition Advanced Healthcare Materials

Conducting polymers have been increasingly used as biologically interfacing electrodes for biomedical applications due to their excellent and fast electrochemical response, reversible doping–dedoping characteristics, high stability, easy processability, and biocompatibility. These advantageous properties can be used for the rapid detection and eradication of infections associated to bacterial growth since these are a tremendous burden for individual patients as well as the global healthcare system. Herein, a smart nanotheranostic electroresponsive platform, which consists of chloramphenicol (CAM)-loaded in poly(3,4-ethylendioxythiophene) nanoparticles (PEDOT/CAM NPs) for concurrent release of the antibiotic and real-time monitoring of bacterial growth is presented. PEDOT/CAM NPs, with an antibiotic loading content of 11.9 ± 1.3% w/w, are proved to inhibit the growth of Escherichia coli and Streptococcus sanguinis due to the antibiotic release by cyclic voltammetry. Furthermore, in situ monitoring of bacterial activity is achieved through the electrochemical detection of β-nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, a redox active specie produced by the microbial metabolism that diffuse to the extracellular medium. According to these results, the proposed nanotheranostic platform has great potential for real-time monitoring of the response of bacteria to the released antibiotic, contributing to the evolution of the personalized medicine.

Keywords: Bacterial detection, Chloramphenicol, Conducting polymers, Drug release, Electrochemical sensors, Electrostimulated release, Polythiophene

Biosca, A., Cabanach, P., Abdulkarim, M., Gumbleton, M., Gómez-Canela, C., Ramírez, M., Bouzón-Arnáiz, I., Avalos-Padilla, Y., Borros, S., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2021). Zwitterionic self-assembled nanoparticles as carriers for Plasmodium targeting in malaria oral treatment Journal of Controlled Release 331, 364-375

The current decline in antimalarial drug efficacy due to the evolution of resistant Plasmodium strains calls for new strategies capable of improving the bioavailability of antimalarials, especially of those whose lipophilic character imparts them a low solubility in biological fluids. Here we have designed, synthesized and characterized amphiphilic zwitterionic block copolymers forming nanoparticles capable of penetrating the intestinal epithelium that can be used for oral administration. Poly(butyl methacrylate-co-morpholinoethyl sulfobetaine methacrylate) (PBMA-MESBMA)-based nanoparticles exhibited a specific targeting to Plasmodium falciparum-infected vs. parasite-free red blood cells (74.8%/0.8% respectively), which was maintained upon encapsulation of the lipophilic antimalarial drug curcumin (82.6%/0.3%). The in vitro efficacy of curcumin upon encapsulation was maintained relative to the free compound, with an IC50 around 5 μM. In vivo assays indicated a significantly increased curcumin concentration in the blood of mice one hour after being orally fed PBMA-MESBMA-curcumin in comparison to the administration of free drug (18.7 vs. 2.1 ng/ml, respectively). At longer times, however, plasma curcumin concentration equaled between free and encapsulated drug, which was reflected in similar in vivo antimalarial activities in Plasmodium yoelii yoelii-infected mice. Microscopic analysis in blood samples of fluorescently labeled PBMA-MESBMA revealed the presence of the polymer inside P. yoelii yoelii-parasitized erythrocytes one hour after oral administration to infected animals. © 2021 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords: Curcumin, Drug delivery, Malaria, PBMA-MESBMA, Plasmodium, Zwitterionic block copolymers

Morgese, G., de Waal, B. F. M., Varela-Aramburu, S., Palmans, A. R. A., Albertazzi, L., Meijer, E. W., (2020). Anchoring supramolecular polymers to human red blood cells by combining dynamic covalent and non-covalent chemistries Angewandte Chemie - International Edition 59, (39), 17229-17233

Understanding cell/material interactions is essential to design functional cell-responsive materials. While the scientific literature abounds with formulations of biomimetic materials, only a fraction of them focused on mechanisms of the molecular interactions between cells and material. To provide new knowledge on the strategies for materials/cell recognition and binding, supramolecular benzene-1,3,5-tricarboxamide copolymers bearing benzoxaborole moieties are anchored on the surface of human erythrocytes via benzoxaborole/sialic-acid binding. This interaction based on both dynamic covalent and non-covalent chemistries is visualized in real time by means of total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy. Exploiting this imaging method, we observe that the functional copolymers specifically interact with the cell surface. An optimal fiber affinity towards the cells as a function of benzoxaborole concentration demonstrates the crucial role of multivalency in these cell/material interactions.

Keywords: Boronic acid, Cell/material interactions, Multivalency, Red blood cells, Supramolecular polymers

Sola-Barrado, B., M. Leite, D., Scarpa, E., Duro-Castano, A., Battaglia, G., (2020). Combinatorial intracellular delivery screening of anticancer drugs Molecular Pharmaceutics 17, (12), 4709-4714

Conventional drug solubilization strategies limit the understanding of the full potential of poorly water-soluble drugs during drug screening. Here, we propose a screening approach in which poorly water-soluble drugs are entrapped in poly(2-(methacryloyloxyethyl phosphorylcholine)-poly(2-(diisopropylaminoethyl methacryate) (PMPC-PDPA) polymersomes (POs) to enhance drug solubility and facilitate intracellular delivery. By using a human pediatric glioma cell model, we demonstrated that PMPC-PDPA POs mediated intracellular delivery of cytotoxic and epigenetic drugs by receptor-mediated endocytosis. Additionally, when delivered in combination, drug-loaded PMPC-PDPA POs triggered both an enhanced drug efficacy and synergy compared to that of a conventional combinatorial screening. Hence, our comprehensive synergy analysis illustrates that our screening methodology, in which PMPC-PDPA POs are used for intracellular codelivery of drugs, allows us to identify potent synergistic profiles of anticancer drugs.

Keywords: Combination therapy, Drug screening, Drug solubilization, Intracellular drug delivery, Polymeric nanoparticles, Synergy analysis

Molina, B. G., Lopes-Rodrigues, M., Estrany, F., Michaux, C., Perpète, E. A., Armelin, E., Alemán, C., (2020). Free-standing flexible and biomimetic hybrid membranes for ions and ATP transport Journal of Membrane Science 601, 117931

The transport of metabolites across robust, flexible and free-standing biomimetic membranes made of three perforated poly (lactic acid) (pPLA) layers, separated by two anodically polymerized conducting layers of poly (3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene-co-3-dodecylthiophene), and functionalized on the external pPLA layers with a voltage dependent anion channel (VDAC) protein, has been demonstrated. The three pPLA layers offer robustness and flexibility to the bioactive platform and the possibility of obtaining conducing polymer layers by in situ anodic polymerization. The incorporation of dodecylthiophene units, which bear a 12 carbon atoms long linear alkyl chain, to the conducting layers allows mimicking the amphiphilic environment offered by lipids in cells, increasing 32% the efficiency of the functionalization. Electrochemical impedance measurements in NaCl and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) solutions prove that the integration of the VDAC porin inside the PLA perforations considerably increases the membrane conductivity and is crucial for the electrolyte diffusion. Such results open the door for the development of advanced sensing devices for a broad panel of biomedical applications.

Keywords: Conducting polymers, Membrane proteins, Membranes, Polylactic acid, Self-supported films

Hamouda, I., Labay, C., Ginebra, M. P., Nicol, E., Canal, C., (2020). Investigating the atmospheric pressure plasma jet modification of a photo-crosslinkable hydrogel Polymer 192, 122308

Atmospheric pressure plasma jets (APPJ) have great potential in wound healing, bacterial disinfection and in cancer therapy. Recent studies pointed out that hydrogels can be used as screens during APPJ treatment, or even be used as reservoirs for reactive oxygen and nitrogen species generated by APPJ in liquids. Thus, novel applications are emerging for hydrogels which deserve fundamental exploration of the possible modifications undergone by the polymers in solution due to the reactivity with plasmas. Here we investigate the possible modifications occurred by APPJ treatment of an amphiphilic poly(ethylene oxide)-based triblock copolymer (tPEO) photo-crosslinkable hydrogel. While APPJ treatments lead to a certain degradation of the self-assembly of the polymeric chains at low concentrations (<2 g/L), at the higher concentrations required to form a hydrogel (>2 g/L), the polymeric chains are unaffected by APPJ and the hydrogel forming ability is kept. APPJ treatments induced a pre-crosslinking of the network with an increase of the mechanical properties of the hydrogel. Overall, the small modifications induced allow thinking of polymer solutions with hydrogel forming ability a new platform for several applications related to plasma medicine, and thus, with potential in different therapies.

Keywords: Atmospheric pressure plasma jet, Hydrogel, Photo-crosslinking, Polymer solution, Self-assembly

Brugada-Vilà , P., Cascante, A., Lázaro, M. Á., Castells-Sala, C., Fornaguera, C., Rovira-Rigau, M., Albertazzi, L., Borros, S., Fillat, C., (2020). Oligopeptide-modified poly(beta-amino ester)s-coated AdNuPARmE1A: Boosting the efficacy of intravenously administered therapeutic adenoviruses Theranostics 10, (6), 2744-2758

Oncolytic adenoviruses are used as agents for the treatment of cancer. However, their potential is limited due to the high seroprevalence of anti-adenovirus neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) within the population and the rapid liver sequestration when systemically administered. To overcome these challenges, we explored using nanoparticle formulation to boost the efficacy of systemic oncolytic adenovirus administration. Methods: Adenovirus were conjugated with PEGylated oligopeptide-modified poly(β-amino ester)s (OM-pBAEs). The resulting coated viral formulation was characterized in terms of surface charge, size, aggregation state and morphology and tested for anti-adenovirus nAbs evasion and activity in cancer cells. In vivo pharmacokinetics, biodistribution, tumor targeting, and immunogenicity studies were performed. The antitumor efficacy of the oncolytic adenovirus AdNuPARmE1A coated with OM-pBAEs (SAG101) in the presence of nAbs was evaluated in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) mouse models. Toxicity of the coated formulation was analyzed in vivo in immunocompetent mice. Results: OM-pBAEs conjugated to adenovirus and generated discrete nanoparticles with a neutral charge and an optimal size. The polymeric coating with the reporter AdGFPLuc (CPEG) showed enhanced transduction and evasion of antibody neutralization in vitro. Moreover, systemic intravenous administration of the formulation showed improved blood circulation and reduced liver sequestration, substantially avoiding activation of nAb production. OM-pBAEs coating of the oncolytic adenovirus AdNuPARmE1A (SAG101) improved its oncolytic activity in vitro and enhanced antitumor efficacy in PDAC mouse models. The coated formulation protected virions from neutralization by nAbs, as antitumor efficacy was preserved in their presence but was completely lost in mice that received the non-formulated AdNuPARmE1A. Finally, coated-AdNuPARmE1A showed reduced toxicity when high doses of the formulation were administered. Conclusions: The developed technology represents a promising improvement for future clinical cancer therapy using oncolytic adenoviruses.

Keywords: Oncolytic adenovirus, Pancreatic cancer, Poly(β-amino ester)s, Polymer-coated viral vectors, Systemic delivery

Moghimiardekani, A., Molina, B. G., Enshaei, H., del Valle, L. J., Pérez-Madrigal, M. M., Estrany, F., Alemán, C., (2020). Semi-interpenetrated hydrogels-microfibers electroactive assemblies for release and real-time monitoring of drugs Macromolecular Bioscience 20, (7), 2000074

Simultaneous drug release and monitoring using a single polymeric platform represents a significant advance in the utilization of biomaterials for therapeutic use. Tracking drug release by real-time electrochemical detection using the same platform is a simple way to guide the dosage of the drug, improve the desired therapeutic effect, and reduce the adverse side effects. The platform developed in this work takes advantage of the flexibility and loading capacity of hydrogels, the mechanical strength of microfibers, and the capacity of conducting polymers to detect the redox properties of drugs. The engineered platform is prepared by assembling two spin-coated layers of poly-γ-glutamic acid hydrogel, loaded with poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT) microparticles, and separated by a electrospun layer of poly-ε-caprolactone microfibers. Loaded PEDOT microparticles are used as reaction nuclei for the polymerization of poly(hydroxymethyl-3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PHMeDOT), that semi-interpenetrate the whole three layered system while forming a dense network of electrical conduction paths. After demonstrating its properties, the platform is loaded with levofloxacin and its release monitored externally by UV–vis spectroscopy and in situ by using the PHMeDOT network. In situ real-time electrochemical monitoring of the drug release from the engineered platform holds great promise for the development of multi-functional devices for advanced biomedical applications.

Keywords: Biosensors, Conducting polymers, Drug delivery, Poly-γ-glutamic acid, Poly-ε-caprolactone

Maiti, B., Abramov, A., Franco, L., Puiggalí, J., Enshaei, H., Alemán, C., Díaz, D. D., (2020). Thermoresponsive shape-memory hydrogel actuators made by phototriggered click chemistry Advanced Functional Materials 30, (24), 2001683

This article describes the design and synthesis of a new series of hydrogel membranes composed of trialkyne derivatives of glycerol ethoxylate and bisphenol A diazide (BA-diazide) or diazide-terminated PEG600 monomer via a Cu(I)-catalyzed photoclick reaction. The water-swollen hydrogel membranes display thermoresponsive actuation and their lower critical solution temperature (LCST) values are determined by differential scanning calorimetry. Glycerol ethoxylate moiety serves as the thermoresponsive component and hydrophilic part, while the azide-based component acts as the hydrophobic comonomer and most likely provides a critical hydrophobic/hydrophilic balance contributing also to the significant mechanical strength of the membranes. These hydrogels exhibit a reversible shape-memory effect in response to temperature through a defined phase transition. The swelling and deswelling behavior of the membranes are systematically examined. Due to the click nature of the reaction, easy availability of azide and alkyne functional-monomers, and the polymer architecture, the glass transition temperature (Tg) is easily controlled through monomer design and crosslink density by varying the feed ratio of different monomers. The mechanical properties of the membranes are studied by universal tensile testing measurements. Moreover, the hydrogels show the ability to absorb a dye and release it in a controlled manner by applying heat below and above the LCST.

Keywords: Hydrogels, Membranes, Photoclick, Polymers, Shape-memory, Thermoresponsive

Chen, Tianchi, Callan-Jones, Andrew, Fedorov, Eduard, Ravasio, Andrea, Brugués, Agustí, Ong, Hui Ting, Toyama, Yusuke, Low, Boon Chuan, Trepat, Xavier, Shemesh, Tom, Voituriez, Raphaël, Ladoux, Benoît, (2019). Large-scale curvature sensing by directional actin flow drives cellular migration mode switching Nature Physics 15, (4), 393-402

Cell migration over heterogeneous substrates during wound healing or morphogenetic processes leads to shape changes driven by different organizations of the actin cytoskeleton and by functional changes including lamellipodial protrusions and contractile actin cables. Cells distinguish between cell-sized positive and negative curvatures in their physical environment by forming protrusions at positive curvatures and actin cables at negative curvatures; however, the cellular mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we report that concave edges promote polarized actin structures with actin flow directed towards the cell edge, in contrast to well-documented retrograde flow at convex edges. Anterograde flow and contractility induce a tension anisotropy gradient. A polarized actin network is formed, accompanied by a local polymerization–depolymerization gradient, together with leading-edge contractile actin cables in the front. These cables extend onto non-adherent regions while still maintaining contact with the substrate through focal adhesions. The contraction and dynamic reorganization of this actin structure allows forward movements enabling cell migration over non-adherent regions on the substrate. These versatile functional structures may help cells sense and navigate their environment by adapting to external geometric and mechanical cues.

Keywords: Biopolymers in vivo, Cellular motility

Lakey, A., Ali, Z., Scott, S. M., Chebil, S., Korri-Youssoufi, H., Hunor, S., Ohlander, A., Kuphal, M., Samitier, J., (2019). Impedimetric array in polymer microfluidic cartridge for low cost point-of-care diagnostics Biosensors and Bioelectronics 129, 147-154

Deep Vein Thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (DVT/PE) is one of the most common causes of unexpected death for hospital in-patients. D-dimer is used as a biomarker within blood for the diagnosis of DVT/PE. We report a low-cost microfluidic device with a conveniently biofunctionalised interdigitated electrode (IDE) array and a portable impedimetric reader as a point-of-care (POC) device for the detection of D-dimer to aid diagnosis of DVT/PE. The IDE array elements, fabricated on a polyethylenenaphtalate (PEN) substrate, are biofunctionalised in situ after assembly of the microfluidic device by electropolymerisation of a copolymer of polypyrrole to which is immobilised a histidine tag anti-D-Dimer antibody. The most consistent copolymer films were produced using chronopotentiometry with an applied current of 5μA for a period of 50 s using a two-electrode system. The quality of the biofunctionalisation was monitored using optical microscopy, chronopotentiometry curves and impedimetric analysis. Measurement of clinical plasma sample with a D-dimer at concentration of 437 ng/mL with 15 biofunctionalised IDE array electrodes gave a ratiometric percentage of sample reading against the blank with an average value of 124 ± 15 at 95% confidence. We have demonstrated the concept of a low cost disposable microfluidic device with a receptor functionalised on the IDE array for impedimetric detection towards POC diagnostics. Changing the receptor on the IDE array would allow this approach to be used for the direct detection of a wide range of analytes in a low cost manner.

Keywords: Electropolymerisation, Impedimetric sensing, Interdigitated electrodes, Microfluidics, Point-of-care diagnostics

Molina, B. G., Cuesta, S., Besharatloo, H., Roa, J. J., Armelin, E., Alemán, C., (2019). Free-standing taradaic motors based on biocompatible nanoperforated poly(lactic acid) layers and electropolymerized poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 11, (32), 29427-29435

The electro-chemo-mechanical response of robust and flexible free-standing films made of three nanoperforated poly(lactic acid) (pPLA) layers separated by two anodically polymerized poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT) layers has been demonstrated. The mechanical and electrochemical properties of these films, which are provided by pPLA and PEDOT, respectively, have been studied by nanoindentation, cyclic voltammetry, and galvanostatic charge-discharge assays. The unprecedented combination of properties obtained for this system is appropriated for its utilization as a Faradaic motor, also named artificial muscle. Application of square potential waves has shown important bending movements in the films, which can be repeated for more than 500 cycles without damaging its mechanical integrity. Furthermore, the actuator is able to push a huge amount of mass, as it has been proved by increasing the mass of the passive pPLA up to 328% while keeping the mass of electroactive PEDOT unaltered.

Keywords: Actuator, Artificial muscle, Conducting polymer, Nanoindentation

Puiggalí-Jou, A., del Valle, L. J., Alemán, C., (2019). Drug delivery systems based on intrinsically conducting polymers Journal of Controlled Release 309, 244-264

This work provides an overview of the up to date research related to intrinsically conducting polymers (ICPs) and their function as novel drug delivery systems (DDSs). Drugs administrated to patients do not always reach the targeted organ, which may affect other tissues leading to undesired side-effects. To overcome these problems, DDSs are under development. Nowadays, it is possible to target the administration and, most importantly, to achieve a controlled drug dosage upon external stimuli. Particularly, the attention of this work focuses on the drug release upon electrical stimuli employing ICPs. These are well-known organic polymers with outstanding electrical properties similar to metals but also retaining some advantageous characteristics normally related to polymers, like mechanical stability and easiness of processing. Depending on the redox state, ICPs can incorporate or release anionic or cationic molecules on-demand. Besides, the releasing rate can be finely tuned by the type of electrical stimulation applied. Another interesting feature is that ICPs are capable to sense redox molecules such as dopamine, serotonin or ascorbic acid among others. Therefore, future prospects go towards the design of materials where the releasing rate could be self-adjusted in response to changes in the surrounding environment. This recompilation of ideas and projects provides a critic outline of ICPs synthesis progress related to their use as DDSs. Definitely, ICPs are a very promising branch of DDSs where the dose can be finely tuned by the exertion of an external stimulus, hence optimizing the repercussions of the drug and diminishing its side effects.

Keywords: Controlled release, DDS, Drug delivery, Electrical stimuli, ICP, Intrinsically conducting polymers

Valenti, S., Diaz, A., Romanini, M., del Valle, L. J., Puiggalí, J., Tamarit, J. L., Macovez, R., (2019). Amorphous binary dispersions of chloramphenicol in enantiomeric pure and racemic poly-lactic acid: Morphology, molecular relaxations, and controlled drug release International Journal of Pharmaceutics 568, 118565

We characterize amorphous solid dispersions (ASDs) of the Chloramphenicol antibiotic in two biodegradable polylactic acid polymers, namely a commercial sample of enantiomeric pure PLLA and a home-synthesized PDLLA copolymer, investigating in particular the effect of polylactic acid in stabilizing the amorphous form of the drug and controlling its release (e.g. for antitumoral purposes). Broadband dielectric spectroscopy and differential scanning calorimetry are employed to study the homogeneity, glass transition temperature and relaxation dynamics of solvent-casted ASD membranes with different drug concentrations. We observe improved physical stability of the ASDs with respect to the pure drug, as well as a plasticizing effect of the antibiotic on the polymer, well described by the Gordon-Taylor equation. The release of the active pharmaceutical ingredient from the films in a simulated body fluid is studied by UV/vis spectroscopy at two different drug concentrations (5 and 20% in weight). The amount of released drug is found to be proportional to the square root of time, with proportionality constant that is almost the same in both dispersions, despite the fact that the relaxation time and thus the viscosity of the two samples differ by four orders of magnitude at body temperature. Since the drug release kinetics does not display a significant dependence on the drug content in the carrier, it may be expected to remain roughly constant during longer release times.

Keywords: Amorphous drug, Controlled liberation, Dielectric spectroscopy, Molecular mobility, Plasticizer, Polymer enantiomerism

Gouveia, Virgínia M., Rizzello, Loris, Nunes, Claudia, Poma, Alessandro, Ruiz-Perez, Lorena, Oliveira, António, Reis, Salette, Battaglia, Giuseppe, (2019). Macrophage targeting pH responsive polymersomes for glucocorticoid therapy Pharmaceutics 11, (11), 614

Glucocorticoid (GC) drugs are the cornerstone therapy used in the treatment of inflammatory diseases. Here, we report pH responsive poly(2-methacryloyloxyethyl phosphorylcholine)–poly(2-(diisopropylamino)ethyl methacrylate) (PMPC–PDPA) polymersomes as a suitable nanoscopic carrier to precisely and controllably deliver GCs within inflamed target cells. The in vitro cellular studies revealed that polymersomes ensure the stability, selectivity and bioavailability of the loaded drug within macrophages. At molecular level, we tested key inflammation-related markers, such as the nuclear factor-κB, tumour necrosis factor-α, interleukin-1β, and interleukin-6. With this, we demonstrated that pH responsive polymersomes are able to enhance the anti-inflammatory effect of loaded GC drug. Overall, we prove the potential of PMPC–PDPA polymersomes to efficiently promote the inflammation shutdown, while reducing the well-known therapeutic limitations in GC-based therapy.

Keywords: Inflammation, Macrophages, Glucocorticoid, Polymersomes

Saborío, M. G., Svelic, P., Casanovas, J., Ruano, G., Pérez-Madrigal, M. M., Franco, L., Torras, J., Estrany, F., Alemán, C., (2019). Hydrogels for flexible and compressible free standing cellulose supercapacitors European Polymer Journal 118, 347-357

Cellulose-based supercapacitors display important advantages in comparison with devices fabricated with other materials, regarding environmental friendliness, flexibility, cost and versatility. Recent progress in the field has been mainly focused on the utilization of cellulose fibres as: structural mechanical reinforcement of electrodes; precursors of electrically active carbon-based materials; or primary electrolytes that act as reservoirs of secondary electrolytes. In this work, a flexible, lightweight, robust, portable and manageable all-carboxymethyl cellulose symmetric supercapacitor has been obtained by assembling two electrodes based on carboxymethyl cellulose hydrogels to a solid electrolytic medium formulated with the same material. Hydrogels, which were made by cross-linking carboxymethyl cellulose paste with citric acid in water, rendered not only effective solid electrolytic media by simply loading NaCl but also electroactive electrodes. For the latter, conducting polymer microparticles, which were loaded into the hydrogel network during the physical cross-linking step, were appropriately connected through the in situ anodic polymerization of a similar conducting polymer in aqueous medium, thus creating conduction paths. The performance of the assembled supercapacitors has been proved by cyclic voltammetry, galvanostatic charge-discharge and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. This design opens a new window for the green and mass production of flexible cellulose-based supercapacitors.

Keywords: Conducting polymer, Energy storage, Flexible electrodes, In situ polymerization, Wearable electronics

Martí Coma-Cros, E., Biosca, A., Marques, J., Carol, L., Urbán, P., Berenguer, D., Riera, M. C., Delves, M., Sinden, R. E., Valle-Delgado, J. J., Spanos, L., Siden-Kiamos, I., Pérez, P., Paaijmans, K., Rottmann, M., Manfredi, A., Ferruti, P., Ranucci, E., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2018). Polyamidoamine nanoparticles for the oral administration of antimalarial drugs Pharmaceutics 10, (4), 225

Current strategies for the mass administration of antimalarial drugs demand oral formulations to target the asexual Plasmodium stages in the peripheral bloodstream, whereas recommendations for future interventions stress the importance of also targeting the transmission stages of the parasite as it passes between humans and mosquitoes. Orally administered polyamidoamine (PAA) nanoparticles conjugated to chloroquine reached the blood circulation and cured Plasmodium yoelii-infected mice, slightly improving the activity of the free drug and inducing in the animals immunity against malaria. Liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry analysis of affinity chromatography-purified PAA ligands suggested a high adhesiveness of PAAs to Plasmodium falciparum proteins, which might be the mechanism responsible for the preferential binding of PAAs to Plasmodium-infected erythrocytes vs. non-infected red blood cells. The weak antimalarial activity of some PAAs was found to operate through inhibition of parasite invasion, whereas the observed polymer intake by macrophages indicated a potential of PAAs for the treatment of certain coinfections such as Plasmodium and Leishmania. When fluorescein-labeled PAAs were fed to females of the malaria mosquito vectors Anopheles atroparvus and Anopheles gambiae, persistent fluorescence was observed in the midgut and in other insect’s tissues. These results present PAAs as a versatile platform for the encapsulation of orally administered antimalarial drugs and for direct administration of antimalarials to mosquitoes, targeting mosquito stages of Plasmodium.

Keywords: Anopheles, Antimalarial drugs, Malaria, Mosquitoes, Nanomedicine, Nanotechnology, Plasmodium, Polyamidoamines, Polymers, Targeted drug delivery

Khurana, Kanupriya, Müller, Frank, Jacobs, Karin, Faidt, Thomas, Neurohr, Jens-Uwe, Grandthyll, Samuel, Mücklich, Frank, Canal, Cristina, Pau Ginebra, Maria, (2018). Plasma polymerized bioceramics for drug delivery: Do surface changes alter biological behaviour? European Polymer Journal 107, 25-33

One of the treatments for recurrent or complicated osteomyelitis is by local antibiotherapy mediated by suitable bone grafts. β–Tricalcium Phosphate (β–TCP) bioceramic is a resorbable bone graft. Its microporosity allows for incorporation of drugs, but a too fast release is often obtained. Complex strategies have been explored to obtain controlled drug release. In this work, plasma polymerization of a biocompatible polymer was investigated on β-TCP. Polyethyleneglycol (PEG)-like polymer coatings of different thickness were deposited on microporous β-TCP loaded with antibiotics. A highly hydrophobic surface was obtained despite the hydrophilicity of the PEG-like layer produced, which was associated to the roughness of the β-TCP substrate. The bioceramics nevertheless retained their suitable biological behavior with regard to human osteoblast cells. The microbiological activity of the antibiotics was preserved, and the coatings reduced the total amount of drug released as a function of the increasing plasma treatment time.

Keywords: Plasma polymerization, β–Tricalcium phosphate, PEG-like polymer, Antibiotics, Drug release, Biocompatibility

Duro-Castano, Aroa, Nebot, Vicent J., Niño-Pariente, Amaya, Armiñán, Ana, Arroyo-Crespo, Juan J., Paul, Alison, Feiner-Gracia, Natalia, Albertazzi, Lorenzo, Vicent, María J., (2017). Capturing “extraordinary” soft-assembled charge-like polypeptides as a strategy for nanocarrier design Advanced Materials 29, (39), 1702888

The rational design of nanomedicines is a challenging task given the complex architectures required for the construction of nanosized carriers with embedded therapeutic properties and the complex interface of these materials with the biological environment. Herein, an unexpected charge-like attraction mechanism of self-assembly for star-shaped polyglutamates in nonsalty aqueous solutions is identified, which matches the ubiquitous “ordinary–extraordinary” phenomenon previously described by physicists. For the first time, a bottom-up methodology for the stabilization of these nanosized soft-assembled star-shaped polyglutamates is also described, enabling the translation of theoretical research into nanomaterials with applicability within the drug-delivery field. Covalent capture of these labile assemblies provides access to unprecedented architectures to be used as nanocarriers. The enhanced in vitro and in vivo properties of these novel nanoconstructs as drug-delivery systems highlight the potential of this approach for tumor-localized as well as lymphotropic delivery.

Keywords: Charge-like, Drug delivery, Polymer therapeutics, Polypeptides, Self-assembly

Agusil, Juan Pablo, Torras, Núria, Duch, Marta, Esteve, Jaume, Pérez-García, Lluïsa, Samitier, Josep, Plaza, José A., (2017). Highly anisotropic suspended planar-array chips with multidimensional sub-micrometric biomolecular patterns Advanced Functional Materials 27, 1605912

Suspended planar-array (SPA) chips embody millions of individual miniaturized arrays to work in extremely small volumes. Here, the basis of a robust methodology for the fabrication of SPA silicon chips with on-demand physical and chemical anisotropies is demonstrated. Specifically, physical traits are defined during the fabrication process with special focus on the aspect ratio, branching, faceting, and size gradient of the final chips. Additionally, the chemical attributes augment the functionality of the chips with the inclusion of complete coverage or patterns of selected biomolecules on the surface of the chips with contact printing techniques, offering an extremely high versatility, not only with the choice of the pattern shape and distribution but also in the choice of biomolecular inks to pattern. This approach increases the miniaturization of printed arrays in 3D structures by two orders of magnitude compared to those previously demonstrated. Finally, functional micrometric and sub-micrometric patterned features are demonstrated with an antibody binding assay with the recognition of the printed spots with labeled antibodies from solution. The selective addition of physical and chemical attributes on the suspended chips represents the basis for future biomedical assays performed within extremely small volumes.

Keywords: Microcontact printing, Microparticles, Molecular multiplexing, Polymer pen lithography, Silicon chip technology

Bianchi, M. V., Awaja, F., Altankov, G., (2017). Dynamic adhesive environment alters the differentiation potential of young and ageing mesenchymal stem cells Materials Science and Engineering: C 78, 467-474

Engineering dynamic stem cell niche-like environment offers opportunity to obtain better control of the fate of stem cells. We identified, for the first time, that periodic changes in the adhesive environment of human adipose derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADSCs) alters dramatically their asymmetric division but not their ability for symmetric renewal. Hereby, we used smart thermo-responsive polymer (PNIPAM) to create a dynamic adhesive environment for ADSCs by applying periodic temperature cycles to perturb adsorbed adhesive proteins to substratum interaction. Cumulative population doubling time (CPDT) curves showed insignificant decline in the symmetric cell growth studied for up to 13th passages accompanied with small changes in the overall cell morphology and moderately declined fibronectin (FN) matrix deposition probably as a functional consequence of ADSCs ageing. However, a substantial alteration in the differentiation potential of ADSCs from both early and late passages (3rd and 14th, respectively) was found when the cells were switched to osteogenic differentiation conditions. This behavior was evidenced by the significantly altered alkaline phosphatase activity and Ca deposition (Alizarin red) assayed at 3, 14 and 21 day in comparison to the control samples of regular TC polystyrene processed under same temperature settings.

Keywords: Cell ageing, Dynamic adhesive environment, Extracellular matrix, Mesenchymal stem cells, PNIPAM, Stem cell niche, Symmetric and asymmetric cell growth, Thermo-cycling, Thermo-responsive polymer

Beun, L. H., Albertazzi, L., Van Der Zwaag, D., De Vries, R., Cohen Stuart, M. A., (2016). Unidirectional living growth of self-assembled protein nanofibrils revealed by super-resolution microscopy ACS Nano 10, (5), 4973-4980

Protein-based nanofibrils are emerging as a promising class of materials that provide unique properties for applications such as biomedical and food engineering. Here, we use atomic force microscopy and stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy imaging to elucidate the growth dynamics, exchange kinetics, and polymerization mechanism for fibrils composed of a de novo designed recombinant triblock protein polymer. This macromolecule features a silk-inspired self-assembling central block composed of GAGAGAGH repeats, which are known to fold into a β roll with turns at each histidine and, once folded, to stack, forming a long, ribbon-like structure. We find several properties that allow the growth of patterned protein nanofibrils: the self-assembly takes place on only one side of the growing fibrils by the essentially irreversible addition of protein polymer subunits, and these fibril ends remain reactive indefinitely in the absence of monomer ("living ends"). Exploiting these characteristics, we can grow stable diblock protein nanofibrils by the sequential addition of differently labeled proteins. We establish control over the block length ratio by simply varying monomer feed conditions. Our results demonstrate the use of engineered protein polymers in creating precisely patterned protein nanofibrils and open perspectives for the hierarchical self-assembly of functional biomaterials.

Keywords: Nanofibrils, Protein polymers, Self-assembly, STORM microscopy

Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2016). Novel strategies for Plasmodium-targeted drug delivery Expert Opinion on Drug Delivery , 13, (7), 919-922

Fernanda, Andrade, Pedro, Fonte, Ana, Costa, Cassilda Cunha, Reis, Rute, Nunes, Andreia, Almeida, Domingos, Ferreira, Mireia, Oliva, Bruno, Sarmento, (2016). Pharmacological and toxicological assessment of innovative self-assembled polymeric micelles as powders for insulin pulmonary delivery Nanomedicine 11, (17), 2305-2317

Aim: Explore the use of polymeric micelles in the development of powders intended for pulmonary delivery of biopharmaceuticals, using insulin as a model protein. Materials & methods: Formulations were assessed in vitro for aerosolization properties and in vivo for efficacy and safety using a streptozotocin-induced diabetic rat model. Results: Powders presented good aerosolization properties like fine particle fraction superior to 40% and a mass median aerodynamic diameter inferior of 6 μm. Endotracheally instilled powders have shown a faster onset of action than subcutaneous administration of insulin at a dose of 10 IU/kg, with pharmacological availabilities up to 32.5% of those achieved by subcutaneous route. Additionally, micelles improved the hypoglycemic effect of insulin. Bronchoalveolar lavage screening for toxicity markers (e.g., lactate dehydrogenase, cytokines) revealed no signs of lung inflammation and cytotoxicity 14 days postadministration. Conclusion: Developed powders showed promising safety and efficacy characteristics for the systemic delivery of insulin by pulmonary administration.

Keywords: Fine particle fraction, Inhalation, Insulin, In vivo, Pharmacological availability, Polymeric micelles, Pulmonary toxicity

Credi, C., De Marco, C., Molena, E., Pla Roca, M., Samitier, J., Marques, J., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Levi, M., Turri, S., (2016). Heparin micropatterning onto fouling-release perfluoropolyether-based polymers via photobiotin activation Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 146, 250-259

A simple method for constructing versatile ordered biotin/avidin arrays on UV-curable perfluoropolyethers (PFPEs) is presented. The goal is the realization of a versatile platform where any biotinylated biological ligands can be further linked to the underlying biotin/avidin array. To this end, microcontact arrayer and microcontact printing technologies were developed for photobiotin direct printing on PFPEs. As attested by fluorescence images, we demonstrate that this photoactive form of biotin is capable of grafting onto PFPEs surfaces during irradiation. Bioaffinity conjugation of the biotin/avidin system was subsequently exploited for further self-assembly avidin family proteins onto photobiotin arrays. The excellent fouling release PFPEs surface properties enable performing avidin assembly step simply by arrays incubation without PFPEs surface passivation or chemical modification to avoid unspecific biomolecule adsorption. Finally, as a proof of principle biotinylated heparin was successfully grafted onto photobiotin/avidin arrays.

Keywords: Antifouling, Heparin, Malaria, Microcontact arrayer, Microcontact printing, Micropatterning, Perfluoropolyether, Photobiotin, Polymers, Soft lithography

Andrade, F., Neves, J. D., Gener, P., Schwartz, S., Ferreira, D., Oliva, M., Sarmento, B., (2015). Biological assessment of self-assembled polymeric micelles for pulmonary administration of insulin Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine 11, (7), 1621-1631

Pulmonary delivery of drugs for both local and systemic action has gained new attention over the last decades. In this work, different amphiphilic polymers (Soluplus®, Pluronic® F68, Pluronic® F108 and Pluronic® F127) were used to produce lyophilized formulations for inhalation of insulin. Development of stimuli-responsive, namely glucose-sensitive, formulations was also attempted with the addition of phenylboronic acid (PBA). Despite influencing the in vitro release of insulin from micelles, PBA did not confer glucose-sensitive properties to formulations. Lyophilized powders with aerodynamic diameter (<. 6. μm) compatible with good deposition in the lungs did not present significant in vitro toxicity for respiratory cell lines. Additionally, some formulations, in particular Pluronic® F127-based formulations, enhanced the permeation of insulin through pulmonary epithelial models and underwent minimal internalization by macrophages in vitro. Overall, formulations based on polymeric micelles presenting promising characteristics were developed for the delivery of insulin by inhalation. From the Clinical Editor: The ability to deliver other systemic drugs via inhalation has received renewed interests in the clinical setting. This is especially true for drugs which usually require injections for delivery, like insulin. In this article, the authors investigated their previously developed amphiphilic polymers for inhalation of insulin in an in vitro model. The results should provide basis for future in vivo studies.

Keywords: Cytotoxicity, Inhalation, Permeability, Phagocytosis, Polymeric micelles, Protein delivery

Andrade, F., Fonte, P., Oliva, M., Videira, M., Ferreira, D., Sarmento, B., (2015). Solid state formulations composed by amphiphilic polymers for delivery of proteins: Characterization and stability International Journal of Pharmaceutics 486, (1-2), 195-206

Abstract Nanocomposite powders composed by polymeric micelles as vehicles for delivery proteins were developed in this work, using insulin as model protein. Results showed that size and polydispersity of micelles were dependent on the amphiphilic polymer used, being all lower than 300 nm, while all the formulations displayed spherical shape and surface charge close to neutrality. Percentages of association efficiency and loading capacity up to 94.15 ± 3.92 and 8.56 ± 0.36, respectively, were obtained. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) measurements confirmed that insulin was partially present at the hydrophilic shell of the micelles. Lyophilization did not significantly change the physical characteristics of micelles, further providing easily dispersion when in contact to aqueous medium. The native-like conformation of insulin was maintained at high percentages (around 80%) after lyophilization as indicated by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and far-UV circular dichroism (CD). Moreover, Raman spectroscopy did not evidenced significant interactions among the formulation components. The formulations shown to be physically stable upon storage up to 6 months both at room-temperature (20 C) and fridge (4 C), with only a slight loss (maximum of 15%) of the secondary structure of the protein. Among the polymers tested, Pluronic® F127 produced the carrier formulations more promising for delivery of proteins.

Keywords: Amphiphilic polymers, Insulin, Lyophilization, Polymeric micelles, Stability

Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2014). Toy kit against malaria: Magic bullets, LEGO, Trojan horses and Russian dolls Therapeutic Delivery , 5, (10), 1049-1052

Movellan, J., Urbán, P., Moles, E., de la Fuente, J. M., Sierra, T., Serrano, J. L., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2014). Amphiphilic dendritic derivatives as nanocarriers for the targeted delivery of antimalarial drugs Biomaterials 35, (27), 7940-7950

It can be foreseen that in a future scenario of malaria eradication, a varied armamentarium will be required, including strategies for the targeted administration of antimalarial compounds. The development of nanovectors capable of encapsulating drugs and of delivering them to Plasmodium-infected cells with high specificity and efficacy and at an affordable cost is of particular interest. With this objective, dendritic derivatives based on 2,2-bis(hydroxymethyl)propionic acid (bis-MPA) and Pluronic® polymers have been herein explored. Four different dendritic derivatives have been tested for their capacity to encapsulate the antimalarial drugs chloroquine (CQ) and primaquine (PQ), their specific targeting to Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (pRBCs), and their antimalarial activity in vitro against the human pathogen Plasmodium falciparum and in vivo against the rodent malaria species Plasmodium yoelii. The results obtained have allowed the identification of two dendritic derivatives exhibiting specific targeting to pRBCs vs. non-infected RBCs, which reduce the in vitro IC50 of CQ and PQ by ca. 3- and 4-fold down to 4.0 nm and 1.1 μm, respectively. This work on the application of dendritic derivatives to antimalarial targeted drug delivery opens the way for the use of this new type of chemicals in future malaria eradication programs.

Keywords: Antimalarial targeted drug delivery, Dendrimers, Malaria, Nanomedicine, Plasmodium, Polymeric nanoparticles

Urbán, P., Valle-Delgado, J. J., Mauro, N., Marques, J., Manfredi, A., Rottmann, M., Ranucci, E., Ferruti, P., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2014). Use of poly(amidoamine) drug conjugates for the delivery of antimalarials to Plasmodium Journal of Controlled Release 177, (1), 84-95

Current malaria therapeutics demands strategies able to selectively deliver drugs to Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (pRBCs) in order to limit the appearance of parasite resistance. Here, the poly(amidoamines) AGMA1 and ISA23 have been explored for the delivery of antimalarial drugs to pRBCs. AGMA1 has antimalarial activity per se as shown by its inhibition of the in vitrogrowth of Plasmodium falciparum, with an IC50 of 13.7 μM. Fluorescence-assisted cell sorting data and confocal fluorescence microscopy and transmission electron microscopy images indicate that both polymers exhibit preferential binding to and internalization into pRBCs versus RBCs, and subcellular targeting to the parasite itself in widely diverging species such as P. falciparum and Plasmodium yoelii, infecting humans and mice, respectively. AGMA1 and ISA23 polymers with hydrodynamic radii around 7 nm show a high loading capacity for the antimalarial drugs primaquine and chloroquine, with the final conjugate containing from 14.2% to 32.9% (w/w) active principle. Intraperitoneal administration of 0.8 mg/kg chloroquine as either AGMA1 or ISA23 salts cured P. yoelii–infected mice, whereas control animals treated with twice as much free drug did not survive. These polymers combining into a single chemical structure drug carrying capacity, low unspecific toxicity, high biodegradability and selective internalization into pRBCs, but not in healthy erythrocytes for human and rodent malarias, may be regarded as promising candidates deserving to enter the antimalarial therapeutic arena.

Keywords: Malaria, Nanomedicine, Plasmodium, Polyamidoamines, Polymer-drug carriers, Targeted drug delivery

Urbán, P., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2014). Nanomedicine against malaria Current Medicinal Chemistry , 21, (5), 605-629

Malaria is arguably one of the main medical concerns worldwide because of the numbers of people affected, the severity of the disease and the complexity of the life cycle of its causative agent, the protist Plasmodium sp. The clinical, social and economic burden of malaria has led for the last 100 years to several waves of serious efforts to reach its control and eventual eradication, without success to this day. With the advent of nanoscience, renewed hopes have appeared of finally obtaining the long sought-after magic bullet against malaria in the form of a nanovector for the targeted delivery of antimalarial drugs exclusively to Plasmodium-infected cells. Different types of encapsulating structure, targeting molecule, and antimalarial compound will be discussed for the assembly of Trojan horse nanocapsules capable of targeting with complete specificity diseased cells and of delivering inside them their antimalarial cargo with the objective of eliminating the parasite with a single dose. Nanotechnology can also be applied to the discovery of new antimalarials through single-molecule manipulation approaches for the identification of novel drugs targeting essential molecular components of the parasite. Finally, methods for the diagnosis of malaria can benefit from nanotools applied to the design of microfluidic-based devices for the accurate identification of the parasite's strain, its precise infective load, and the relative content of the different stages of its life cycle, whose knowledge is essential for the administration of adequate therapies. The benefits and drawbacks of these nanosystems will be considered in different possible scenarios, including cost-related issues that might be hampering the development of nanotechnology-based medicines against malaria with the dubious argument that they are too expensive to be used in developing areas.

Keywords: Dendrimers, Liposomes, Malaria diagnosis, Nanobiosensors, Nanoparticles, Plasmodium, Polymers, Targeted drug delivery

Mir, M., Lugo, R., Tahirbegi, I. B., Samitier, J., (2014). Miniaturizable ion-selective arrays based on highly stable polymer membranes for biomedical applications Sensors 14, (7), 11844-11854

Poly(vinylchloride) (PVC) is the most common polymer matrix used in the fabrication of ion-selective electrodes (ISEs). However, the surfaces of PVC-based sensors have been reported to show membrane instability. In an attempt to overcome this limitation, here we developed two alternative methods for the preparation of highly stable and robust ion-selective sensors. These platforms are based on the selective electropolymerization of poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT), where the sulfur atoms contained in the polymer covalently interact with the gold electrode, also permitting controlled selective attachment on a miniaturized electrode in an array format. This platform sensor was improved with the crosslinking of the membrane compounds with poly(ethyleneglycol) diglycidyl ether (PEG), thus also increasing the biocompatibility of the sensor. The resulting ISE membranes showed faster signal stabilization of the sensor response compared with that of the PVC matrix and also better reproducibility and stability, thus making these platforms highly suitable candidates for the manufacture of robust implantable sensors.

Keywords: Biomedicine, Electrochemistry, Endoscope, Implantable device, Ion-selective electrode (ISE) sensor, Ischemia, pH detection, Biocompatibility, Chemical sensors, Electrochemistry, Electrodes, Electropolymerization, Endoscopy, Functional polymers, Implants (surgical), Ion selective electrodes, Medical applications, Polyvinyl chlorides, Stabilization, Biomedical applications, Biomedicine, Implantable devices, Ion selective sensors, Ischemia, Membrane instability, pH detection, Poly(3 ,4 ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT), Ion selective membranes

Sachot, N., Engel, E., Castaño, O., (2014). Hybrid organic-inorganic scaffolding biomaterials for regenerative therapies Current Organic Chemistry , 18, (18), 2299-2314

The introduction of hybrid materials in regenerative medicine has solved some problems related to the mechanical and bioactive properties of biomaterials. Calcium phosphates and their derivatives have provided the basis for inorganic components, thanks to their good bioactivity, especially in bone regeneration. When mixed with biodegradable polymers, the result is a synergic association that mimics the composition of many tissues of the human body and, additionally, exhibits suitable mechanical properties. Together with the development of nanotechnology and new synthesis methods, hybrids offer a promising option for the development of a third or fourth generation of smart biomaterials and scaffolds to guide the regeneration of natural tissues, with an optimum efficiency/cost ratio. Their potential bioactivity, as well as other valuable features of hybrids, open promising new pathways for their use in bone regeneration and other tissue repair therapies. This review provides a comprehensive overview of the different hybrid organic-inorganic scaffolding biomaterials developed so far for regenerative therapies, especially in bone. It also looks at the potential for research into hybrid materials for other, softer tissues, which is still at an initial stage, but with very promising results.

Keywords: Biodegradable polymer, Hybrid materials, Nanoparticles, Ormoglass

Torrent-Burgués, J., Cea, P., Giner, I., Guaus, E., (2014). Characterization of Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett films of an octasubstituted zinc phthalocyanine Thin Solid Films , 556, 485-494

In this work we report the fabrication of Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) films of a substituted ZnPc (octakis(oxyoctyl)phthalocyanine of zinc), and their characterization by means of several techniques. These characterization techniques include surface pressure (π-A) and surface potential (ΔV-A) isotherms as well as UV-vis Reflection spectroscopy and Brewster Angle Microscopy (BAM) for the films at the air-water interface together with UV-vis absorption and IR spectroscopies and Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) for the LB films. The π-A and ΔV-A isotherms and BAM images indicate a phase transition at a surface pressure of ca. 9 mN/m and a multilayer formation at surface pressures around 19-20 mN/m; at a surface pressure around 27 mN/m a disordered collapse of the film occurs. In addition, AFM images of LB films at π = 10 mN/m and π = 20 mN/m show a monomolecular and a multilayered film, respectively. The comparison of the UV-vis spectrum of ZnPc in solution, the reflection spectra of the Langmuir films and UV-vis spectra of LB films reveals a significant reduction in the Q band intensity for the films, indicative of an organization of ZnPc in the Langmuir and LB films versus the random distribution in solution. The UV-vis Reflection spectra are also consistent with multilayer formation at surface pressures around 19-20 mN/m. The relative intensities of the IR spectrum bands change from the KBr pellet to the LB film which is also attributable to orientation effects in the film. Cyclic voltammetric experiments of LB films incorporating the ZnPc derivative show peaks that can be correlated with redox processes occurring in the phthalocyanine ring. A small but significant influence of the surface pressure and the number of deposited layers in the electrochemical behaviour is observed. The electrochemical response of cast films exhibits some differences with respect to that of LB films which have been attributed to their different molecular organizations.

Keywords: Atomic Force Microscopy, Electrochemistry, Langmuir-Blodgett, Multilayers, Optical spectroscopy techniques, Zinc phthalocyanine, Atomic force microscopy, Electrochemistry, Interfaces (materials), Isotherms, Multilayers, Nitrogen compounds, Optical multilayers, Organic polymers, Zinc compounds, Brewster angle microscopy, Characterization techniques, Electrochemical behaviour, Langmuir and langmuir-blodgett films, Langmuir-blodgett, Optical spectroscopy techniques, UV-Vis Reflection Spectroscopy, Zinc phthalocyanines, Langmuir Blodgett films

Ziyatdinov, A., Diaz, E. Fernández, Chaudry, A., Marco, S., Persaud, K., Perera, A., (2013). A software tool for large-scale synthetic experiments based on polymeric sensor arrays Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 177, 596-604

This manuscript introduces a software tool that allows for the design of synthetic experiments in machine olfaction. The proposed software package includes both, a virtual sensor array that reproduces the diversity and response of a polymer array and tools for data generation. The synthetic array of sensors allows for the generation of chemosensor data with a variety of characteristics: unlimited number of sensors, support of multicomponent gas mixtures and full parametric control of the noise in the system. The artificial sensor array is inspired from a reference database of seventeen polymeric sensors with concentration profiles for three analytes. The main features in the sensor data, like sensitivity, diversity, drift and sensor noise, are captured by a set of models under simplified assumptions. The generator of sensor signals can be used in applications related to test and benchmarking of signal processing methods, neuromorphic simulations in machine olfaction and educational tools. The software is implemented in R language and can be freely accessed.

Keywords: Gas Sensor Array, Conducting Polymers, Electronic Nose, Sensor Simulation, Synthetic Dataset, Benchmark, Educational Tool

Marco, S., Gutiérrez-Gálvez, A., Lansner, A., Martinez, D., Rospars, J. P., Beccherelli, R., Perera, A., Pearce, T., Vershure, P., Persaud, K., (2013). Biologically inspired large scale chemical sensor arrays and embedded data processing Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering Smart Sensors, Actuators, and MEMS VI , SPIE Digital Library (Grenoble, France) 8763, 1-15

Biological olfaction outperforms chemical instrumentation in specificity, response time, detection limit, coding capacity, time stability, robustness, size, power consumption, and portability. This biological function provides outstanding performance due, to a large extent, to the unique architecture of the olfactory pathway, which combines a high degree of redundancy, an efficient combinatorial coding along with unmatched chemical information processing mechanisms. The last decade has witnessed important advances in the understanding of the computational primitives underlying the functioning of the olfactory system. EU Funded Project NEUROCHEM (Bio-ICT-FET- 216916) has developed novel computing paradigms and biologically motivated artefacts for chemical sensing taking inspiration from the biological olfactory pathway. To demonstrate this approach, a biomimetic demonstrator has been built featuring a large scale sensor array (65K elements) in conducting polymer technology mimicking the olfactory receptor neuron layer, and abstracted biomimetic algorithms have been implemented in an embedded system that interfaces the chemical sensors. The embedded system integrates computational models of the main anatomic building blocks in the olfactory pathway: The olfactory bulb, and olfactory cortex in vertebrates (alternatively, antennal lobe and mushroom bodies in the insect). For implementation in the embedded processor an abstraction phase has been carried out in which their processing capabilities are captured by algorithmic solutions. Finally, the algorithmic models are tested with an odour robot with navigation capabilities in mixed chemical plumes.

Keywords: Antennal lobes, Artificial olfaction, Computational neuroscience, Olfactory bulbs, Plume tracking, Abstracting, Actuators, Algorithms, Biomimetic processes, Chemical sensors, Conducting polymers, Data processing, Flavors, Odors, Robots, Smart sensors, Embedded systems

Tejeda-Montes, E., Smith, K. H., Poch, M., López-Bosque, M. J., Martín, L., Alonso, M., Engel, E., Mata, Alvaro., (2012). Engineering membrane scaffolds with both physical and biomolecular signaling Acta Biomaterialia 8, (3), 998-1009

We report on the combination of a top-down and bottom-up approach to develop thin bioactive membrane scaffolds based on functional elastin-like polymers (ELPs). Our strategy combines ELP cross-linking and assembly, and a variety of standard and novel micro/nanofabrication techniques to create self-supporting membranes down to ∼500 nm thick that incorporate both physical and biomolecular signals, which can be easily tailored for a specific application. In this study we used an ELP that included the cell-binding motif arginine-glycine-aspartic acid-serine (RGDS). Furthermore, fabrication processes were developed to create membranes that exhibited topographical patterns with features down to 200 nm in lateral dimensions and up to 10 μm in height on either one or both sides, uniform and well-defined pores, or multiple ELP layers. A variety of processing parameters were tested in order to optimize membrane fabrication, including ELP and cross-linker concentration, temperature, reaction time and ambient humidity. Membrane micro/nanopatterning, swelling and stiffness were characterized by atomic force microscopy, nanoindentation tests and scanning electron microscopy. Upon immersion in phosphate-buffered saline and an increase in temperature from 25 to 40°C, membranes exhibited a significant increase in surface stiffness, with the reduced Young's modulus increasing with temperature. Finally, rat mesenchymal stem cells were cultured on thin RGDS-containing membranes, which allowed cell adhesion, qualitatively enhanced spreading compared to membranes without RGDS epitopes and permitted proliferation. Furthermore, cell morphology was drastically affected by topographical patterns on the surface of the membranes.

Keywords: Elastin-like polymers, Membranes, Nanotechnology, Scaffolds, Tissue engineering

Pegueroles, M., Tonda-Turo, C., Planell, J. A., Gil, F. J., Aparicio, C., (2012). Adsorption of fibronectin, fibrinogen, and albumin on TiO2: Time-resolved kinetics, structural changes, and competition study Biointerphases , 7, (48), 13

An understanding of protein adsorption process is crucial for designing biomaterial surfaces. In this work, with the use of a quartz-crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring, we researched the following: (a) the kinetics of adsorption on TiO2 surfaces of three extensively described proteins that are relevant for metallic implant integration [i.e., albumin (BSA), fibrinogen (Fbg), and fibronectin (Fn)]; and (b) the competition of those proteins for adsorbing on TiO2 in a two-step experiment consisted of sequentially exposing the surfaces to different monoprotein solutions. Each protein showed a different process of adsorption and properties of the adlayer-calculated using the Voigt model. The competition experiments showed that BSA displaced larger proteins such as Fn and Fbg when BSA was introduced as the second protein in the system, whereas the larger proteins laid on top of BSA forming an adsorbed protein bi-layer when those were introduced secondly in the system.

Keywords: QCM, Human plasma fibronectin, Induced conformational-changes, Von-willebrand-factor, BSA, Protein adsortion, Polymer surfaces, Solid-surfaces, Viscoelastic properties, Globular-proteins

Azevedo, S., Diéguez, L., Carvalho, P., Carneiro, J. O., Teixeira, V., Martínez, Elena, Samitier, J., (2012). Deposition of ITO thin films onto PMMA substrates for waveguide based biosensing devices Journal of Nano Research , 17, 75-83

Biosensors' research filed has clearly been changing towards the production of multifunctional and innovative design concepts to address the needs related with sensitivity and selectivity of the devices. More recently, waveguide biosensors, that do not require any label procedure to detect biomolecules adsorbed on its surface, have been pointed out as one of the most promising technologies for the production of biosensing devices with enhanced performance. Moreover the combination of optical and electrochemical measurements through the integration of transparent and conducting oxides in the multilayer structures can greatly enhance the biosensors' sensitivity. Furthermore, the integration of polymeric substrates may bring powerful advantages in comparison with silicon based ones. The biosensors will have a lower production costs being possible to disposable them after use ("one use sensor chip"). This research work represents a preliminary study about the influence of substrate temperature on the overall properties of ITO thin films deposited by DC magnetron sputtering onto 0,5 mm thick PMMA sheets.

Keywords: ITO thin films, PMMA sheets, Waveguide biosensing devices, Biosensing devices, Conducting oxides, Dc magnetron sputtering, Electrochemical measurements, Enhanced performance, Innovative design, ITO thin films, Multilayer structures, Overall properties, PMMA sheets, Polymeric substrate, Production cost, Sensor chips, Silicon-based, Substrate temperature, Biosensors, Deposition, Design, Film preparation, Optical multilayers, Thin films, Vapor deposition, Waveguides, Substrates

Serra, T., Navarro, M., Planell, J. A., (2012). Fabrication and characterization of biodegradable composite scaffolds for tissue engineering Innovative Developments in Virtual and Physical Prototyping 5th International Conference on Advanced Research and Rapid Prototyping (ed. Margarida, T., Ferreira, D.), Taylor & Francis (Leiria, Portugal) VR@P, 67-72

In this study, polylactic acid (PLA) and polyethylene glycol (PEG) were combined with soluble CaP glass particles and processed by rapid prototyping to obtain fully biodegradable structures for Tissue Engineering applications. The obtained 3D biodegradable structures were characterized in terms of their architecture and mechanical properties. The scaffold morphology, internal micro-architecture and mechanical properties were evaluated using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) and mechanical testing, respectively. Well defined structures with pore size of 350-400μm (in the axial view), struts width of approximately 70-80μm, and a porosity ranging between 60-65% were obtained. The combination RP and PLA/PEG/CaP glass turned into promising fully degradable, mechanically stable, bioactive and biocompatible composite scaffolds for TE.

Keywords: Axial view, Biodegradable composites, Composite scaffolds, Glass particles, Mechanically stable, Micro architectures, Micro computed tomography (micro-CT), Poly lactic acid, Scaffold morphology, Tissue engineering applications, Well-defined structures, Bioactive glass, Mechanical properties, Mechanical testing, Polyethylene glycols, Polymer blends, Rapid prototyping, Scaffolds (biology), Scanning electron microscopy, Computerized tomography

Castaño, O., Eltohamy, M., Kim, H. W., (2012). Electrospinning technology in tissue regeneration Nanotechnology in Regenerative Medicine - Methods and Protocols (Methods in Molecular Biology) (ed. Navarro, M., Planell, J. A.), Springer (New York, USA) 811, 127-140

Electrospinning is one of the most versatile and effective tools to produce nanostructured fibers in the biomedical science fields. The nanofibrous structure with diameters from tens to hundreds of nanometers largely mimics the native extracellular matrix (ECM) of many tissues. Thus far, a range of compositions including polymers and ceramics and their composites/hybrids have been successfully applied for generating electrospun nanofibers. Different processing tools in electrospinning set-ups and assemblies are currently developed to tune the morphology and properties of nanofibers. Herein, we demonstrate the electrospinning process and the electrospun biomaterials for specific use in tissue regeneration with some examples, involving different material combinations and fiber morphologies.

Keywords: Ceramic, Composites, Electrospinning, Nanofi bers, Nanostructured fi bers, Polymer, Tissue regeneration

Miranda Coelho, Nuno, Gonzalez-Garcia, Cristina, Salmeron-Sanchez, Manuel, Altankov, George, (2011). Arrangement of type IV collagen and laminin on substrates with controlled density of -OH groups Tissue Engineering Part A , 17, (17-18), 2245-2257

Collagen IV (Col IV) and laminin (Lam) are the main structural components of the basement membrane where they form two overlapping polymeric networks. We studied the adsorption pattern of these proteins on five model surfaces with tailored density of -OH groups obtained by copolymerization of different ratios ethyl acrylate (EA) and hydroxyl EA (HEA): X(OH) = 0, X(OH) = 0.3, X(OH) = 0.5, X(OH) = 0.7, and X(OH) = 1 (where X refers the ratio of HEA). Atomic force microscopy revealed substratum-specific adsorption patterns of Col IV and Lam, ranging from single molecules deposition on more hydrophilic substrata to the formation of complex networks on hydrophobic ones. Human umbilical endothelial cells were used to study the biological performance of adsorbed proteins, following the overall cell morphology, the quantities for cell adhesion and spreading, and the development of focal adhesion complexes and actin cytoskeleton. Surprisingly, two optima in the cellular interaction were observed-one on the most hydrophilic X(OH) = 1 and other on the relatively hydrophobic X(OH) = 0.3 substrate-valid for both Col IV and Lam. When the proteins were adsorbed consecutively, a hydrophobic shift to X(OH) = 0 substratum was obtained. Collectively, these data suggest that varying with the density of -OH groups one can tailor the conformation and the functional activity of adsorbed basement membrane proteins.

Keywords: Atomic-force microscopy, Fibronectin adsorption, Basement-membranes, Polymer surfaces, Cell-adhesion, Biomaterials, Wettability, Fibrinogen

Hristova, K., Pecheva, E., Pramatarova, L., Altankov, G., (2011). Improved interaction of osteoblast-like cells with apatite-nanodiamond coatings depends on fibronectin Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine , 22, (8), 1891-1900

New apatite (AP)/nanodiamond (ND) coating has been developed to improve physical and biological properties of stainless steel (SS) versus single AP coating. Homogeneously electrodeposited AP-ND layer demonstrates increased mechanical strength, interlayer cohesion and ductility. In the absence of serum, osteoblast-like MG63 cells attach well but poorly spread on both AP and AP-ND substrata. Pre-adsorption with serum or fibronectin (FN) improves the cellular interaction-an effect that is better pronounced on the AP-ND coating. In single protein adsorption study fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled FN (FITC-FN) shows enhanced deposition on the AP-ND layer consistent with the significantly improved cell adhesion, spreading and focal adhesions formation (in comparison to SS and AP), particularly at low FN adsorption concentrations (1 mu g/ml). Higher FN concentrations (20 mu g/ml) abolish this difference suggesting that the promoted cellular interaction of serum (where FN is low) is caused by the greater affinity for FN. Moreover, it is found that MG63 cells tend to rearrange both adsorbed and secreted FN on the AP-ND layer suggesting facilitated FN matrix formation.

Keywords: Extracellular-matrix, Protein adsorption, Integrins, Adhesion, Biomaterials, Surfaces, Polymerization, Composite, Implants, Titanium

Michiardi, A., Helary, G., Nguyen, P. C. T., Gamble, L. J., Anagnostou, F., Castner, D. G., Migonney, V., (2010). Bioactive polymer grafting onto titanium alloy surfaces Acta Biomaterialia 6, (2), 667-675

Bioactive polymers bearing sulfonate (styrene sodium sulfonate, NaSS) and carboxylate (methylacrylic acid, MA) groups were grafted onto Ti6Al4V alloy surfaces by a two-step procedure. The Ti alloy surfaces were first chemically oxidized in a piranha solution and then directly subjected to radical polymerization at 70 °C in the absence of oxygen. The grafted surfaces were characterized by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) and the toluidine blue colorimetric method. Toluidine blue results showed 1-5 μg cm-2 of polymer was grafted onto the oxidized Ti surfaces. Grafting resulted in a decrease in the XPS Ti and O signals from the underlying Ti substrate and a corresponding increase in the XPS C and S signals from the polymer layer. The ToF-SIMS intensities of the S- and SO- ions correlated linearly with the XPS atomic percent S concentrations and the ToF-SIMS intensity of the TiO3H2- ion correlated linearly with the XPS atomic per cent Ti concentration. Thus, the ToF-SIMS S-, SO- and TiO3H2- intensities can be used to quantify the composition and amount of grafted polymer. ToF-SIMS also detected ions that were more characteristic of the polymer molecular structure (C6H4SO3- and C8H7SO3- from NaSS, C4H5O2- from MA), but the intensity of these peaks depended on the polymer thickness and composition. An in vitro cell culture test was carried out with human osteoblast-like cells to assess the influence of the grafted polymers on cell response. Cell adhesion after 30 min of incubation showed significant differences between the grafted and ungrafted surfaces. The NaSS grafted surfaces showed the highest degree of cell adhesion while the MA-NaSS grafted surfaces showed the lowest degree of cell adhesion. After 4 weeks in vivo in rabbit femoral bones, bone was observed to be in direct contact with all implants. The percentage of mineralized tissue around the implants was similar for NaSS grafted and non-grafted implants (59% and 57%). The MA-NaSS grafted implant exhibited a lower amount of mineralized tissue (47%).

Keywords: Bioactive polymers, Osteointegration, Titanium alloy, ToF-SIMS, XPS

Toromanov, Georgi, González-García, Cristina, Altankov, George, Salmerón-Sánchez, Manuel, (2010). Vitronectin activity on polymer substrates with controlled -OH density Polymer 51, (11), 2329-2336

Vitronectin (VN) adsorption on a family of model substrates consisting of copolymers of ethyl acrylate and hydroxyl ethylacrylate in different ratios (to obtain a controlled surface density of -OH groups) was investigated by Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). It is shown that the fraction of the substrate covered by the protein depends strongly on the amount of hydroxyl groups in the sample and it monotonically decreases as the -OH density increases. Isolated globular-like VN molecules are observed on the surfaces with the higher OH density. As the fraction of hydroxyl groups decreases, aggregates of 3-5 VN molecules are observed on the sample. Overall cell morphology, focal adhesion formation and actin cytoskeleton development are investigated to assess the biological activity of the adsorbed VN on the different surfaces. Dermal fibroblast cells show excellent material interaction on the more hydrophobic samples (OH contents lower than 0.5), which reveals enhanced VN activity on this family of substrates as compared with other extracellular matrix proteins (e.g., fibronectin and fibrinogen).

Keywords: Copolymers, Vitronectin, AFM, Self-assembled monolayers, Cell-adhesion, Thermal transitions, Protein adsorption, Surfaces, Fibronectin, Biomaterials, Attachment, Fibrinogen

Fumagalli, L., Gramse, G., Esteban-Ferrer, D., Edwards, M. A., Gomila, G., (2010). Quantifying the dielectric constant of thick insulators using electrostatic force microscopy Applied Physics Letters , 96, (18), 183107

Quantitative measurement of the low-frequency dielectric constants of thick insulators at the nanoscale is demonstrated utilizing ac electrostatic force microscopy combined with finite-element calculations based on a truncated cone with hemispherical apex probe geometry. The method is validated on muscovite mica, borosilicate glass, poly(ethylene naphthalate), and poly(methyl methacrylate). The dielectric constants obtained are essentially given by a nanometric volume located at the dielectric-air interface below the tip, independently of the substrate thickness, provided this is on the hundred micrometer-length scale, or larger.

Keywords: Borosilicate glasses, Finite element analysis, Insulating thin films, Mica, Nanostructured materials, Permittivity, Polymers, Scanning probe microscopy

Illa, X., Rodriguez-Trujillo, R., Ordeig, O., De Malsche, W., Homs-Corbera, A., Gardeniers, H., Desmet, G., Kutter, J. P., Samitier, J., Romano-Rodríguez, A., (2010). Simultaneous impedance and fluorescence detection of proteins in a cyclo olefin polymer chip containing a column with an ordered pillar array with integrated gold microelectrodes MicroTAS 2010 14th International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences , UoG (Gorningen, The Netherlands) 2, 1280-1282

In this work, we report the detection of proteins by means of simultaneous fluorescence and impedance measurements in a cyclo olefin polymer (COP) chip containing an ordered pillar array column, used for reversed-phase liquid chromatography, with integrated microband gold electrodes at the end of the channel.

Keywords: Cyclo olefin polymer, Gold microelectrodes, Impedance, Pillar array, Protein detection

Gugutkov, Dencho, Gonzalez-Garcia, Cristina, Rodriguez Hernandez, Jose Carlos, Altankov, George, Salmeron-Sanchez, Manuel, (2009). Biological activity of the substrate-induced fibronectin network: insight into the third dimension through electrospun fibers Langmuir 25, (18), 10893-10900

Fibronectin (FN) fibrillogenesis is a cell-mediated process involving integrin activation that results in conformational changes of FN molecules and the organization of actin cytoskeleton. A similar process can be induced by some chemistries in the absence of cells, e.g., poly(ethyl acrylate) (PEA), which enhance FN-FN interactions leading to the formation of a biologically active network. Atomic force microscopy images of single FN molecules, at the early stages of adsorption on plane PEA, allow one to rationalize the process. Further, the role of the spatial organization of the FN network on the cellular response is investigated through its adsorption on electrospun fibers. Randomly oriented and aligned PEA fibers were prepared to mimic the three-dimensional organization of the extracellular matrix. The formation of the FN network on the PEA fibers but not on the supporting coverglass was confirmed. Fibroblasts aligned with oriented fibers, displayed extended morphology, developed linearly organized focal adhesion complexes, and matured actin filaments. Conversely, on random PEA fibers, cells acquired polygonal morphology with altered actin cytoskeleton but well-developed focal adhesions. Late FN matrix formation was also influenced: spatially organized FN matrix fibrils along the oriented PEA fibers and an altered arrangement on random ones.

Keywords: AFM, Cell-adhesion, Dependent conformations, Hydrophobic surfaces, Extracellular-matrix, Bound fibronectin, Polymer surfaces, Integrin binding, Biocompatibility, Adsorption

Kirchhof, K., Hristova, K., Krasteva, N., Altankov, G., Groth, T., (2009). Multilayer coatings on biomaterials for control of MG-63 osteoblast adhesion and growth Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine , 20, (4), 897-907

Here, the layer-by-layer technique (LbL) was used to modify glass as model biomaterial with multilayers of chitosan and heparin to control the interaction with MG-63 osteoblast-like cells. Different pH values during multilayer formation were applied to control their physico-chemical properties. In the absence of adhesive proteins like plasma fibronectin (pFN) both plain layers were rather cytophobic. Hence, the preadsorption of pFN was used to enhance cell adhesion which was strongly dependent on pH. Comparing the adhesion promoting effects of pFN with an engineered repeat of the FN III fragment and collagen I which both lack a heparin binding domain it was found that multilayers could bind pFN specifically because only this protein was capable of promoting cell adhesion. Multilayer surfaces that inhibited MG-63 adhesion did also cause a decreased cell growth in the presence of serum, while an enhanced adhesion of cells was connected to an improved cell growth.

Keywords: Cell-adhesion, Polyelectrolyte multilayers, Substratum chemistry, Surface-properties, Fibroblast-growth, Fibronectin, Polymers, Chitosan, Polysaccharides, Wettability

Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., (2009). Polymers for bone repair Bone repair biomaterials (ed. Planell, J. A., Lacroix, D., Best, S., Merolli, A.), Woodhead (Cambridge, UK) , 3-24

A fundamental aspect of the rapidly expanding medical care sector, bone repair continues to benefit from emerging technological developments. This text provides researchers and students with a comprehensive review of the materials science and engineering principles behind these developments. The first part reviews the fundamentals of bone repair and regeneration. Further chapters discuss the science and properties of biomaterials used in bone repair, including both metals and biocomposites. Final chapters analyze device considerations such as implant lifetime and failure, and discuss potential applications, as well as the ethical issues that continually confront researchers and clinicians.

Keywords: Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), Acrylic polymers as bone cement, Biodegradable polymers

Benetti, E., Navarro, M., Zapotoczny, S., Vancso, G. J., (2009). Stimuli-Responsive Polymer Brushes Surface Design: Applications in Bioscience and Nanotechnology (ed. Förch, R. , Schönherr, H. , Jenkins, A.T.A), Wiley-VCH GmbH & Co. KGaA (Weinheim, Germany) , 125-144

Navarro, M., Benetti, E. M., Zapotoczny, S., Planell, J. A., Vancso, G. J., (2008). Buried, covalently attached RGD peptide motifs in poly(methacrylic acid) brush layers: The effect of brush structure on cell adhesion Langmuir 24, (19), 10996-11002

Iniferter-mediated surface-initiated photopolymerization was used to graft poly(methacrylic acid) (PMAA) brush layers obtained from surface-attached iniferters in self-assembled monolayers to a gold surface. The tethered chains were subsequently functionalized with the cell-adhesive arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD) motif. The modified brushes were extended by reinitiating the polymerization to obtain an additional layer of PMAA, thereby burying the peptide-functionalized segments inside the brush structure. Contact angle measurements and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy were employed to characterize the wettability and the chemical properties of these platforms. Time of flight secondary ion mass spectroscopy (TOF-SIMS) measurements were performed to monitor the chemical composition of the polymer layer as a function of the distance to the gold surface and obtain information concerning the depth of the RGD motifs inside the brush structure. The brush thickness was evaluated as a function of the polymerization (i.e.. UV-irradiation) time with atomic force microscopy (AFM) and ellipsometry. Cell adhesion tests employing human osteoblasts were performed on substrates with the RGD peptides exposed at the surface as well as covered by a PMAA top brush layer. Immunofluorescence studies demonstrated a variation of the cell morphology as a function of the position of the peptide units along the grafted chains.

Keywords: Ion mass-spectrometry, Transfer radical polymerization, Asymmetric diblock copolymers, Arg-gly-asp, Swelling behaviour, Endothelial-cells, Thin-films, fibronectin, Surfaces, SIMS

Banos, R. C., Pons, J. I., Madrid, C., Juarez, A., (2008). A global modulatory role for the Yersinia enterocolitica H-NS protein Microbiology , 154, (5), 1281-1289

The H-NS protein plays a significant role in the modulation of gene expression in Gram-negative bacteria. Whereas isolation and characterization of hns mutants in Escherichia coli, Salmonella and Shigella represented critical steps to gain insight into the modulatory role of H-NS, it has hitherto not been possible to isolate hns mutants in Yersinia. The hns mutation is considered to be deleterious in this genus. To study the modulatory role of H-NS in Yersinia we circumvented hns lethality by expressing in Y. enterocolitica a truncated H-NS protein known to exhibit anti-H-NS activity in E. coli (H-NST(EPEC)). Y. enterocolitica cells expressing H-NST(EPEC) showed an altered growth rate and several differences in the protein expression pattern, including the ProV protein, which is modulated by H-NS in other enteric bacteria. To further confirm that H-NST(EPEC) expression in Yersinia can be used to demonstrate H-NS-dependent regulation in this genus, we used this approach to show that H-NS modulates expression of the YmoA protein.

Keywords: Bacterial Proteins/biosynthesis/genetics/ physiology, DNA-Binding Proteins/biosynthesis/genetics/ physiology, Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional, Gene Expression Profiling, Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial, Genes, Essential, Proteome/analysis, RNA, Bacterial/biosynthesis, RNA, Messenger/biosynthesis, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, Sequence Deletion, Yersinia enterocolitica/chemistry/genetics/growth & development/ physiology

Fernandez, Javier G., Mills, C. A., Martinez, E., Lopez-Bosque, M. J., Sisquella, X., Errachid, A., Samitier, J., (2008). Micro- and nanostructuring of freestanding, biodegradable, thin sheets of chitosan via soft lithography Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A , 85A, (1), 242-247

A technique for imparting micro- and nano-structured topography into the surface of freestanding thin sheets of chitosan is described. Both micro- and nanometric surface structures have been produced using soft lithography. The soft lithography method, based on solvent evaporation, has allowed structures similar to 60 nm tall and similar to 500 X 500 nm(2) to be produced on freestanding similar to 0.5 mm thick sheets of the polymer when cured at 293 K, and structures similar to 400 nm tall and 5 X 5 mu m(2) to be produced when cured at 283 K. Nonstructured chitosan thin sheets (similar to 200 mu m thick) show excellent optical transmission properties in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The structured sheets can be used for applications where optical microscopic analysis is required, such as cell interaction experiments and tissue engineering.

Keywords: Chitin/chitosan, Microstructure, Nanotopography, Polymerization, Soft lithography

Mills, C. A., Fernandez, Javier G., Errachid, A., Samitier, J., (2008). The use of high glass temperature polymers in the production of transparent, structured surfaces using nanoimprint lithography Microelectronic Engineering , 85, (9), 1897-1901

Polymers with high glass transition temperatures, fluorinated ethylene propylene copolymer (FEP) and poly(ethylene naphthalate) (PEN), have been used in imprint lithography as a protective support layer and as a secondary mould, to imprint superficial structures into a polymer with a lower glass transition temperature, namely poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA). As a support layer, FEP replaces fragile silicon based supports for the production of freestanding, structured sheets of PMMA, useful, for example, in biomedical applications where transmittance optical microscopy is required. Secondary PEN moulds, produced by imprinting using silicon-based primary moulds, have been used to transfer sub-micrometer tall structures to a freestanding PMMA sheet. Similarly, hole structures, with different dimensions, have been embossed in both sides of a PMMA sheet simultaneously.

Keywords: Polymer engineering, Embossing, Nanoimprint lithography, Biomedical applications

Charles-Harris, M., Koch, M. A., Navarro, M., Lacroix, D., Engel, E., Planell, J. A., (2008). A PLA/calcium phosphate degradable composite material for bone tissue engineering: an in vitro study Journal of Materials Science-Materials in Medicine , 19, (4), 1503-1513

Biodegradable polymers reinforced with an inorganic phase such as calcium phosphate glasses may be a promising approach to fulfil the challenging requirements presented by 3D porous scaffolds for tissue engineering. Scaffolds' success depends mainly on their biological behaviour. This work is aimed to the in vitro study of polylactic acid (PLA)/CaP glass 3D porous constructs for bone regeneration. The scaffolds were elaborated using two different techniques, namely solvent-casting and phase-separation. The effect of scaffolds' micro and macrostructure on the biological response of these scaffolds was assayed. Cell proliferation, differentiation and morphology within the scaffolds were studied. Furthermore, polymer/glass scaffolds were seeded under dynamic conditions in a custom-made perfusion bioreactor. Results indicate that the final architecture of the solvent-cast or phase separated scaffolds have a significant effect on cells' behaviour. Solvent-cast scaffolds seem to be the best candidates for bone tissue engineering. Besides, dynamic seeding yielded a higher seeding efficiency in comparison with the static method.

Keywords: Biocompatible Materials/ chemistry, Bone and Bones/ metabolism, Calcium Phosphates/ chemistry, Cell Differentiation, Cell Proliferation, Humans, Lactic Acid/ chemistry, Microscopy, Confocal, Microscopy, Electron, Scanning, Osteoblasts/metabolism, Permeability, Polymers/ chemistry, Porosity, Solvents/chemistry, Tissue Engineering/ methods

Koch, M. A., Engel, E., Planell, J. A., Lacroix, D., (2008). Cell seeding and characterisation of PLA/glass composite scaffolds for bone tissue engineering Journal of Biomechanics 16th Congress, European Society of Biomechanics , Elsevier (Lucerne, Switzerland) 41, (Supplement 1), S162

In this study polymer-glass composite scaffolds were characterized by permeability and porosity, two important properties for the use in perfusion bioreactors. These scaffolds were seeded with osteoblast-like cells to assess the efficiency of the used bioreactor. The used PLA/glass composite scaffolds are adequate for the perfusion culture. The high porosity and pore interconnectivity allow an even cell distribution and incorporation of a high cell number. For optimisation of the perfusion bioreactor system, further research has to be dedicated to the cell seeding and culture.

Keywords: Biomedical materials, Bioreactors, Bone, Cellular biophysics, Composite materials, Orthopaedics, Permeability, Polymers, Porosity, Porous materials, Tissue engineering

Mills, C. A., Pla, M., Martin, C., Lee, M., Kuphal, M., Sisquella, X., Martinez, E., Errachid, A., Samitier, J., (2007). Structured thin organic active layers and their use in electrochemical biosensors Measurement & Control , 40, (3), 88-91