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Monteil, Vanessa, Kwon, Hyesoo, Prado, Patricia, Hagelkrüys, Astrid, Wimmer, Reiner A., Stahl, Martin, Leopoldi, Alexandra, Garreta, Elena, Hurtado Del Pozo, Carmen, Prosper, Felipe, Romero, Juan Pablo, Wirnsberger, Gerald, Zhang, Haibo, Slutsky, Arthur S., Conder, Ryan, Montserrat, Nuria, Mirazimi, Ali, Penninger, Josef M., (2020). Inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 infections in engineered human tissues using clinical-grade soluble human ACE2 Cell 181, (4), 905-913.e7

We have previously provided the first genetic evidence that angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the critical receptor for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), and ACE2 protects the lung from injury, providing a molecular explanation for the severe lung failure and death due to SARS-CoV infections. ACE2 has now also been identified as a key receptor for SARS-CoV-2 infections, and it has been proposed that inhibiting this interaction might be used in treating patients with COVID-19. However, it is not known whether human recombinant soluble ACE2 (hrsACE2) blocks growth of SARS-CoV-2. Here, we show that clinical grade hrsACE2 reduced SARS-CoV-2 recovery from Vero cells by a factor of 1,000-5,000. An equivalent mouse rsACE2 had no effect. We also show that SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect engineered human blood vessel organoids and human kidney organoids, which can be inhibited by hrsACE2. These data demonstrate that hrsACE2 can significantly block early stages of SARS-CoV-2 infections.

Keywords: COVID-19, Angiotensin converting enzyme 2, Blood vessels, Human organoids, Kidney, Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Spike glycoproteins, Treatment

Guerrero, O., Verschure, P., (2020). Distributed adaptive control: An ideal cognitive architecture candidate for managing a robotic recycling plant Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 9th International Conference, Living Machines 2020 (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) , Springer International Publishing (Freiburg, Germany) 12413, 153-164

In the past decade, society has experienced notable growth in a variety of technological areas. However, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has not been embraced yet. Industry 4.0 imposes several challenges which include the necessity of new architectural models to tackle the uncertainty that open environments represent to cyber-physical systems (CPS). Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling plants stand for one of such open environments. Here, CPSs must work harmoniously in a changing environment, interacting with similar and not so similar CPSs, and adaptively collaborating with human workers. In this paper, we support the Distributed Adaptive Control (DAC) theory as a suitable Cognitive Architecture for managing a recycling plant. Specifically, a recursive implementation of DAC (between both single-agent and large-scale levels) is proposed to meet the expected demands of the European Project HR-Recycler. Additionally, with the aim of having a realistic benchmark for future implementations of the recursive DAC, a micro-recycling plant prototype is presented.

Keywords: Cognitive architecture, Distributed Adaptive Control, Recycling plant, Navigation, Motor control, Human-Robot Interaction

Freire, Ismael T., Urikh, D., Arsiwalla, X. D., Verschure, P., (2020). Machine morality: From harm-avoidance to human-robot cooperation Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 9th International Conference, Living Machines 2020 (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) , Springer International Publishing (Freiburg, Germany) 12413, 116-127

We present a new computational framework for modeling moral decision-making in artificial agents based on the notion of ‘Machine Morality as Cooperation’. This framework integrates recent advances from cross-disciplinary moral decision-making literature into a single architecture. We build upon previous work outlining cognitive elements that an artificial agent would need for exhibiting latent morality, and we extend it by providing a computational realization of the cognitive architecture of such an agent. Our work has implications for cognitive and social robotics. Recent studies in human neuroimaging have pointed to three different decision-making processes, Pavlovian, model-free and model-based, that are defined by distinct neural substrates in the brain. Here, we describe how computational models of these three cognitive processes can be implemented in a single cognitive architecture by using the distributed and hierarchical organization proposed by the DAC theoretical framework. Moreover, we propose that a pro-social drive to cooperate exists at the Pavlovian level that can also bias the rest of the decision system, thus extending current state-of-the-art descriptive models based on harm-aversion.

Keywords: Morality, Moral decision-making, Computational models, Cognitive architectures, Cognitive robotics, Human-robot interaction

Vouloutsi, V., Chesson, A., Blancas, M., Guerrero, O., Verschure, P., (2020). The use of social sensorimotor contingencies in humanoid robots Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 9th International Conference, Living Machines 2020 (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) , Springer International Publishing (Freiburg, Germany) 12413, 378-389

This pilot study investigates the role of social sensorimotor contingencies as exhibited from a humanoid robot to allow mutual understanding and social entrainment in a group social activity. The goal is to evaluate whether sensorimotor contingencies can lead to transparent and understandable interactions while we explore the dimension of personality. We propose the task of taking a selfie with a robot and a group of humans as the benchmark to evaluate the social sensorimotor contingencies displayed. We have constructed two models of interaction with an introverted and extroverted robot. We also seek to address the gap in research in context and personality of social sensorimotor contingencies in HRI and contribute to the field of personality in social robotics by determining what type of behaviour of the robot attracts certain personalities in humans in group settings. Although the sample size was small, and there were no significant differences between conditions, results suggest that the expression of sensorimotor contingencies can lead to successful coupling and interactions.

Keywords: Human-robot interaction, Personality, Social robots, Social sensorimotor contingencies

Vouloutsi, Vasiliki, Mura, Anna, Tauber, F., Speck, T., Prescott, T. J., Verschure, P., (2020). Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 9th International Conference, Living Machines 2020, Freiburg, Germany, July 28–30, 2020, Proceedings , Springer, Cham (Lausanne, Switzerland) 12413, 1-428

This book constitutes the proceedings of the )th International Conference on Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems, Living Machines 2020, held in Freiburg, Germany, in July 2020. Due to COVID-19 pandemic the conference was held virtually. The 32 full and 7 short papers presented in this volume were carefully reviewed and selected from 45 submissions. They deal with research on novel life-like technologies inspired by the scientific investigation of biological systems, biomimetics, and research that seeks to interface biological and artificial systems to create biohybrid systems.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence, Soft robotics, Biomimetics, Insect navigation, Synthetic nervous system, Computer vision, Bio-inspired materials, Visual homing, Locomotion+, Image processing, Intelligent robots, Human-robot interaction, Machine learning, Snake robot, Mobile robots, Robotic systems, Drosophila, Robots, Sensors, Signal processing

Valls-Margarit, M., Iglesias-García, O., Di Guglielmo, C., Sarlabous, L., Tadevosyan, K., Paoli, R., Comelles, J., Blanco-Almazán, D., Jiménez-Delgado, S., Castillo-Fernández, O., Samitier, J., Jané, R., Martínez, Elena, Raya, Á., (2019). Engineered macroscale cardiac constructs elicit human myocardial tissue-like functionality Stem Cell Reports 13, (1), 207-220

In vitro surrogate models of human cardiac tissue hold great promise in disease modeling, cardiotoxicity testing, and future applications in regenerative medicine. However, the generation of engineered human cardiac constructs with tissue-like functionality is currently thwarted by difficulties in achieving efficient maturation at the cellular and/or tissular level. Here, we report on the design and implementation of a platform for the production of engineered cardiac macrotissues from human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), which we term “CardioSlice.” PSC-derived cardiomyocytes, together with human fibroblasts, are seeded into large 3D porous scaffolds and cultured using a parallelized perfusion bioreactor with custom-made culture chambers. Continuous electrical stimulation for 2 weeks promotes cardiomyocyte alignment and synchronization, and the emergence of cardiac tissue-like properties. These include electrocardiogram-like signals that can be readily measured on the surface of CardioSlice constructs, and a response to proarrhythmic drugs that is predictive of their effect in human patients.

Keywords: Cardiac tissue engineering, CardioSlice, ECG-like signals, Electrical stimulation, Heart physiology, Human induced pluripotent stem cells, Perfusion bioreactor, Tissue-like properties

Vouloutsi, V., Grechuta, K., Verschure, P., (2019). Evaluation of the facial expressions of a humanoid robot Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 8th International Conference, Living Machines 2019 (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) , Springer International Publishing (Nara, Japan) 11556, 365-368

Facial expressions are salient social features that crucial in communication, and humans are capable of reading the messages faces convey and the emotions they display. Robots that interact with humans will need to employ similar communication channels for successful interactions. Here, we focus on the readability of the facial expressions of a humanoid robot. We conducted an online survey where participants evaluated emotional stimuli and assessed the robot’s expressions. Results suggest that the robot’s facial expressions are correctly recognised and the appraisal of the robots expressive elements are consistent with the literature.

Keywords: Emotion recognition, Facial expressions, Human-robot interaction

Martinez-Hernandez, Uriel, Vouloutsi, Vasiliki, Mura, Anna, Mangan, Michael, Asada, Minoru, Prescott, T. J., Verschure, P., (2019). Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 8th International Conference, Living Machines 2019, Nara, Japan, July 9–12, 2019, Proceedings , Springer, Cham (Lausanne, Switzerland) 11556, 1-384

This book constitutes the proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems, Living Machines 2019, held in Nara, Japan, in July 2019. The 26 full and 16 short papers presented in this volume were carefully reviewed and selected from 45 submissions. They deal with research on novel life-like technologies inspired by the scientific investigation of biological systems, biomimetics, and research that seeks to interface biological and artificial systems to create biohybrid systems.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence, Biomimetics, Computer architecture, Human robot interaction, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Humanoid robot, Image processing, Learning algorithms, Mobile robots, Multipurpose robots, Neural networks, Quadruped robots, Reinforcement learning, Robot learning, Robotics, Robots, Sensor, Sensors, Swarm robotics, User interfaces

Fischer, Tobias, Puigbò, Jordi-Ysard, Camilleri, Daniel, Nguyen, Phuong D. H., Moulin-Frier, Clément, Lallée, Stéphane, Metta, Giorgio, Prescott, Tony J., Demiris, Yiannis, Verschure, P., (2018). iCub-HRI: A software framework for complex human-robot interaction scenarios on the iCub humanoid robot Frontiers in Robotics and AI , 5, (22), Article 22

Generating complex, human-like behaviour in a humanoid robot like the iCub requires the integration of a wide range of open source components and a scalable cognitive architecture. Hence, we present the iCub-HRI library which provides convenience wrappers for components related to perception (object recognition, agent tracking, speech recognition, touch detection), object manipulation (basic and complex motor actions) and social interaction (speech synthesis, joint attention) exposed as a C++ library with bindings for Java (allowing to use iCub-HRI within Matlab) and Python. In addition to previously integrated components, the library allows for simple extension to new components and rapid prototyping by adapting to changes in interfaces between components. We also provide a set of modules which make use of the library, such as a high-level knowledge acquisition module and an action recognition module. The proposed architecture has been successfully employed for a complex human-robot interaction scenario involving the acquisition of language capabilities, execution of goal-oriented behaviour and expression of a verbal narrative of the robot's experience in the world. Accompanying this paper is a tutorial which allows a subset of this interaction to be reproduced. The architecture is aimed at researchers familiarising themselves with the iCub ecosystem, as well as expert users, and we expect the library to be widely used in the iCub community.

Keywords: Robotics, iCub Humanoid, YARP, Software architecture, C++, Python, Java, Human-robot interaction

Caddeo, Carla, Pucci, Laura, Gabriele, Morena, Carbone, Claudia, Fernàndez-Busquets, Xavier, Valenti, Donatella, Pons, Ramon, Vassallo, Antonio, Fadda, Anna Maria, Manconi, Maria, (2018). Stability, biocompatibility and antioxidant activity of PEG-modified liposomes containing resveratrol International Journal of Pharmaceutics 538, (1), 40-47

The present investigation reports the development of PEG-modified liposomes for the delivery of naturally occurring resveratrol. PEG-modified liposomes were prepared by direct sonication of the phospholipid aqueous dispersion, in the presence of two PEG-surfactants. Small, spherical, unilamellar vesicles were produced, as demonstrated by light scattering, cryo-TEM, and SAXS. The aging of the vesicles was assessed by using the Turbiscan® technology, and their physical stability was evaluated in vitro in simulated body fluids, results showing that the key features of the liposomes were preserved. The biocompatibility of the formulations was demonstrated in an ex vivo model of hemolysis in human erythrocytes. Further, the incorporation of resveratrol in PEG-modified liposomes did not affect its intrinsic antioxidant activity, as DPPH radical was almost completely inhibited, and the vesicles were also able to ensure an optimal protection against oxidative stress in an ex vivo human erythrocytes-based model. Therefore, the proposed PEG-modified liposomes, which were prepared by a simple and reliable method, represent an interesting approach to safely deliver resveratrol, ensuring the preservation of the carrier structural integrity in the biological fluids, and the antioxidant efficacy of the polyphenol to be exploited against oxidative stress associated with cancer.

Keywords: Resveratrol, Antioxidant, PEG-surfactants, PEG-modified liposomes, Human erythrocytes

Moulin-Frier, C., Fischer, T., Petit, M., Pointeau, G., Puigbo, J., Pattacini, U., Low, S. C., Camilleri, D., Nguyen, P., Hoffmann, M., Chang, H. J., Zambelli, M., Mealier, A., Damianou, A., Metta, G., Prescott, T. J., Demiris, Y., Dominey, P. F., Verschure, P. F. M. J., (2018). DAC-h3: A proactive robot cognitive architecture to acquire and express knowledge about the world and the self IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems 10, (4), 1005-1022

This paper introduces a cognitive architecture for a humanoid robot to engage in a proactive, mixed-initiative exploration and manipulation of its environment, where the initiative can originate from both the human and the robot. The framework, based on a biologically-grounded theory of the brain and mind, integrates a reactive interaction engine, a number of state-of-the art perceptual and motor learning algorithms, as well as planning abilities and an autobiographical memory. The architecture as a whole drives the robot behavior to solve the symbol grounding problem, acquire language capabilities, execute goal-oriented behavior, and express a verbal narrative of its own experience in the world. We validate our approach in human-robot interaction experiments with the iCub humanoid robot, showing that the proposed cognitive architecture can be applied in real time within a realistic scenario and that it can be used with naive users.

Keywords: Autobiographical Memory., Biology, Cognition, Cognitive Robotics, Computer architecture, Distributed Adaptive Control, Grounding, Human-Robot Interaction, Humanoid robots, Robot sensing systems, Symbol Grounding

Garreta, E., González, F., Montserrat, N., (2018). Studying kidney disease using tissue and genome engineering in human pluripotent stem cells Nephron 138, 48-59

Kidney morphogenesis and patterning have been extensively studied in animal models such as the mouse and zebrafish. These seminal studies have been key to define the molecular mechanisms underlying this complex multistep process. Based on this knowledge, the last 3 years have witnessed the development of a cohort of protocols allowing efficient differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) towards defined kidney progenitor populations using two-dimensional (2D) culture systems or through generating organoids. Kidney organoids are three-dimensional (3D) kidney-like tissues, which are able to partially recapitulate kidney structure and function in vitro. The current possibility to combine state-of-the art tissue engineering with clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated systems 9 (Cas9)-mediated genome engineering provides an unprecedented opportunity for studying kidney disease with hPSCs. Recently, hPSCs with genetic mutations introduced through CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome engineering have shown to produce kidney organoids able to recapitulate phenotypes of polycystic kidney disease and glomerulopathies. This mini review provides an overview of the most recent advances in differentiation of hPSCs into kidney lineages, and the latest implementation of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology in the organoid setting, as promising platforms to study human kidney development and disease.

Keywords: Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated systems 9, Disease modeling, Gene editing, Human pluripotent stem cells, Kidney genetics, Tissue engineering

Vouloutsi, Vasiliki, Verschure, P., (2018). Emotions and self-regulation Living Machines: A Handbook of Research in Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems (ed. Prescott, T. J., Lepora, Nathan, Verschure, P.), Oxford Scholarship (Oxford, UK) , 327-337

This chapter takes the view that emotions of living machines can be seen from the perspective of self-regulation and appraisal. We will first look at the pragmatic needs to endow machines with emotions and subsequently describe some of the historical background of the science of emotions and its different interpretations and links to affective neuroscience. Subsequently, we argue that emotions can be cast in terms of self-regulation where they provide for a descriptor of the state of the homeostatic processes that maintain the relationship between the agent and its internal and external environment. We augment the notion of homeostasis with that of allostasis which signifies a change from stability through a fixed equilibrium to stability through continuous change. The chapter shows how this view can be used to create complex living machines where emotions are anchored in the need fulfillment of the agent, in this case considering both utilitarian and epistemic needs.

Keywords: Emotion, Motivation, Needs, Appraisal, Self-regulation, Homeostasis, Allostasis, Human–robot interaction, James–Lange theory

Mohammadi, M. H., Obregón, R., Ahadian, S., Ramón-Azcón, J., Radisic, M., (2017). Engineered muscle tissues for disease modeling and drug screening applications Current Pharmaceutical Design , 23, (20), 2991-3004

Animal models have been the main resources for drug discovery and prediction of drugs’ pharmacokinetic responses in the body. However, noticeable drawbacks associated with animal models include high cost, low reproducibility, low physiological similarity to humans, and ethical problems. Engineered tissue models have recently emerged as an alternative or substitute for animal models in drug discovery and testing and disease modeling. In this review, we focus on skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle tissues by first describing their characterization and physiology. Major fabrication technologies (i.e., electrospinning, bioprinting, dielectrophoresis, textile technology, and microfluidics) to make functional muscle tissues are then described. Finally, currently used muscle tissue models in drug screening are reviewed and discussed.

Keywords: Cardiac muscle, Drug screening, Engineering muscle, Human pharmacological response, Physiological similarity, Skeletal muscle

Eguizabal, C., Herrera, L., De Oñate, L., Montserrat, N., Hajkova, P., Izpisua Belmonte, J. C., (2016). Characterization of the epigenetic changes during human gonadal primordial germ cells reprogramming Stem Cells , 34, (9), 2418-2428

Abstract: Epigenetic reprogramming is a central process during mammalian germline development. Genome-wide DNA demethylation in primordial germ cells (PGCs) is a prerequisite for the erasure of epigenetic memory, preventing the transmission of epimutations to the next generation. Apart from DNA demethylation, germline reprogramming has been shown to entail reprogramming of histone marks and chromatin remodelling. Contrary to other animal models, there is limited information about the epigenetic dynamics during early germ cell development in humans. Here, we provide further characterization of the epigenetic configuration of the early human gonadal PGCs. We show that early gonadal human PGCs are DNA hypomethylated and their chromatin is characterized by low H3K9me2 and high H3K27me3 marks. Similarly to previous observations in mice, human gonadal PGCs undergo dynamic chromatin changes concomitant with the erasure of genomic imprints. Interestingly, and contrary to mouse early germ cells, expression of BLIMP1/PRDM1 persists in through all gestational stages in human gonadal PGCs and is associated with nuclear lysine-specific demethylase-1. Our work provides important additional information regarding the chromatin changes associated with human PGCs development between 6 and 13 weeks of gestation in male and female gonads.

Keywords: Epigenetic, Human primordial germ cells, Reprograming

Przybyla, L., Lakins, J. N., Sunyer, R., Trepat, X., Weaver, V. M., (2016). Monitoring developmental force distributions in reconstituted embryonic epithelia Methods , 94, 101-113

The way cells are organized within a tissue dictates how they sense and respond to extracellular signals, as cues are received and interpreted based on expression and organization of receptors, downstream signaling proteins, and transcription factors. Part of this microenvironmental context is the result of forces acting on the cell, including forces from other cells or from the cellular substrate or basement membrane. However, measuring forces exerted on and by cells is difficult, particularly in an in vivo context, and interpreting how forces affect downstream cellular processes poses an even greater challenge. Here, we present a simple method for monitoring and analyzing forces generated from cell collectives. We demonstrate the ability to generate traction force data from human embryonic stem cells grown in large organized epithelial sheets to determine the magnitude and organization of cell-ECM and cell-cell forces within a self-renewing colony. We show that this method can be used to measure forces in a dynamic hESC system and demonstrate the ability to map intracolony protein localization to force organization.

Keywords: Epiblast, Human embryonic stem cells, Mechanotransduction, Monolayer stress microscopy, Self-organization, Traction force

González, F., (2016). CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in human pluripotent stem cells: Harnessing human genetics in a dish Developmental Dynamics , 245, (7), 788-806

Abstract: Because of their extraordinary differentiation potential, human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) can differentiate into virtually any cell type of the human body, providing a powerful platform not only for generating relevant cell types useful for cell replacement therapies, but also for modeling human development and disease. Expanding this potential, structures resembling human organs, termed organoids, have been recently obtained from hPSCs through tissue engineering. Organoids exhibit multiple cell types self-organizing into structures recapitulating in part the physiology and the cellular interactions observed in the organ in vivo, offering unprecedented opportunities for human disease modeling. To fulfill this promise, tissue engineering in hPSCs needs to be supported by robust and scalable genome editing technologies. With the advent of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology, manipulating the genome of hPSCs has now become an easy task, allowing modifying their genome with superior precision, speed, and throughput. Here we review current and potential applications of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology in hPSCs and how they contribute to establish hPSCs as a model of choice for studying human genetics.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9, Disease modeling, Human genetics, Human pluripotent stem cells, Tissue and genome engineering

Keremidarska, M., Gugutkov, D., Altankov, G., Krasteva, N., (2015). Impact of electrospun nanofibres orientation on mesenchymal stem cell adhesion and morphology Comptes Rendus de L'Academie Bulgare des Sciences , 68, (10), 1271-1276

Electrospun nanofibrous materials mimicking the architecture of native extracellular matrix (ECM) hold great promise as scaffolds in tissue engineering. In order to optimize the properties of nanofibrous scaffolds it is important to understand the impact of fibres’ organization on cell behaviour. Herein, we investigated the effect of nanofibres (NFs) alignment on human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hAD-MSCs) adhesion and morphology. Electrospun composite fibrinogen/poly-lactic acid (FNG/PLA) NF scaffolds with same composition and comparable fibre size were fabricated into randomly oriented and aligned configuration and stem cells adhesion was characterized by the meaning of overall cell morphology, actin cytoskeleton organization and expression of molecules, involved in the development of focal adhesion complexes. We found that hAD-MSCs altered their morphology, actin cytoskeleton and cell attachment in accordance with nanofibre orientation while cell spreading, focal adhesions and expression of β1 and αNintegrin receptors were not influenced significantly by fibre orientation. These results confirmed that fibre alignment of scaffold guide cellular arrangement and could be beneficial for stem differentiation and therefore for the successful scaffolds development if its contact guidance coincided with the cell shape and cytoskeletal tension.

Keywords: Electrospinning, Fibrinogen/polylactic acid hybrid nanofibres, Human adipose-derived stem cells

Mur, O., Frigola, M., Casals, A., (2015). Modelling daily actions through hand-based spatio-temporal features ICAR 2015 International Conference on Advanced Robotics , IEEE (Istanbul, Turkey) , 478-483

In this paper, we propose a new approach to domestic action recognition based on a set of features which describe the relation between poses and movements of both hands. These features represent a set of basic actions in a kitchen in terms of the mimics of the hand movements, without needing information of the objects present in the scene. They address specifically the intra-class dissimilarity problem, which occurs when the same action is performed in different ways. The goal is to create a generic methodology that enables a robotic assistant system to recognize actions related to daily life activities and then, be endowed with a proactive behavior. The proposed system uses depth and color data acquired from a Kinect-style sensor and a hand tracking system. We analyze the relevance of the proposed hand-based features using a state-space search approach. Finally, we show the effectiveness of our action recognition approach using our own dataset.

Keywords: Histograms, Joints, Robot sensing systems, Thumb, Tracking, Human activity recognition, Disable and elderly assistance

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

Cuervo, A., Dans, P. D., Carrascosa, J. L., Orozco, M., Gomila, G., Fumagalli, L., (2014). Direct measurement of the dielectric polarization properties of DNA Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111, (35), E3624-E3630

The electric polarizability of DNA, represented by the dielectric constant, is a key intrinsic property that modulates DNA interaction with effector proteins. Surprisingly, it has so far remained unknown owing to the lack of experimental tools able to access it. Here, we experimentally resolved it by detecting the ultraweak polarization forces of DNA inside single T7 bacteriophages particles using electrostatic force microscopy. In contrast to the common assumption of low-polarizable behavior like proteins (εr ~ 2–4), we found that the DNA dielectric constant is ~ 8, considerably higher than the value of ~ 3 found for capsid proteins. State-of-the-art molecular dynamic simulations confirm the experimental findings, which result in sensibly decreased DNA interaction free energy than normally predicted by Poisson–Boltzmann methods. Our findings reveal a property at the basis of DNA structure and functions that is needed for realistic theoretical descriptions, and illustrate the synergetic power of scanning probe microscopy and theoretical computation techniques.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Atomistic simulations, DNA packaging, DNA-ligand binding, Poisson-Boltzmann equation, capsid protein, DNA, double stranded DNA, amino acid composition, article, atomic force microscopy, bacteriophage, bacteriophage T7, dielectric constant, dipole, DNA binding, DNA packaging, DNA structure, electron microscopy, ligand binding, nonhuman, polarization, priority journal, protein analysis, protein DNA interaction, scanning probe microscopy, static electricity, virion, virus capsid, virus particle, atomic force microscopy, atomistic simulations, DNA packaging, DNA-ligand binding, Poisson-Boltzmann equation, Bacteriophage T7, Capsid, Cations, Dielectric Spectroscopy, DNA, DNA, Viral, DNA-Binding Proteins, Electrochemical Techniques, Ligands, Microscopy, Atomic Force, Models, Chemical, Nuclear Proteins

Marques, J., Moles, E., Urbán, P., Prohens, R., Busquets, M. A., Sevrin, C., Grandfils, C., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2014). Application of heparin as a dual agent with antimalarial and liposome targeting activities toward Plasmodium-infected red blood cells Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine 10, (8), 1719-1728

Heparin had been demonstrated to have antimalarial activity and specific binding affinity for Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (pRBCs) vs. non-infected erythrocytes. Here we have explored if both properties could be joined into a drug delivery strategy where heparin would have a dual role as antimalarial and as a targeting element of drug-loaded nanoparticles. Confocal fluorescence and transmission electron microscopy data show that after 30. min of being added to living pRBCs fluorescein-labeled heparin colocalizes with the intracellular parasites. Heparin electrostatically adsorbed onto positively charged liposomes containing the cationic lipid 1,2-dioleoyl-3-trimethylammonium-propane and loaded with the antimalarial drug primaquine was capable of increasing three-fold the activity of encapsulated drug in Plasmodium falciparum cultures. At concentrations below those inducing anticoagulation of mouse blood in vivo, parasiticidal activity was found to be the additive result of the separate activities of free heparin as antimalarial and of liposome-bound heparin as targeting element for encapsulated primaquine. From the Clinical Editor: Malaria remains an enormous global public health concern. In this study, a novel functionalized heparin formulation used as drug delivery agent for primaquine was demonstrated to result in threefold increased drug activity in cell cultures, and in a murine model it was able to provide these benefits in concentrations below what would be required for anticoagulation. Further studies are needed determine if this approach is applicable in the human disease as well.

Keywords: Heparin, Liposomes, Malaria, Plasmodium, Targeted drug delivery, Heparin, Malaria, Plasmodium, Red blood cell, Targeted drug delivery, Liposomes, 1,2 dioleoyl 3 trimethylammoniopropane, fluorescein, heparin, liposome, nanoparticle, primaquine, adsorption, animal experiment, anticoagulation, antimalarial activity, Article, binding affinity, confocal microscopy, controlled study, drug targeting, encapsulation, erythrocyte, female, fluorescence microscopy, human, human cell, in vivo study, liposomal delivery, mouse, nonhuman, Plasmodium falciparum, transmission electron microscopy

Dalmases, M., Torres, M., Márquez-Kisinousky, L., Almendros, I., Planas, A. M., Embid, C., Martínez-Garcia, M. A., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Montserrat, J. M., (2014). Brain tissue hypoxia and oxidative stress induced by obstructive apneas is different in young and aged rats Sleep , 37, (7), 1249-1256

Study Objectives: To test the hypotheses that brain oxygen partial pressure (PtO2) in response to obstructive apneas changes with age and that it might lead to different levels of cerebral tissue oxidative stress. Design: Prospective controlled animal study. Setting: University laboratory. Participants: Sixty-four male Wistar rats: 32 young (3 mo old) and 32 aged (18 mo). Interventions: Protocol 1: Twenty-four animals were subjected to obstructive apneas (50 apneas/h, lasting 15 sec each) or to sham procedure for 50 min. Protocol 2: Forty rats were subjected to obstructive apneas or sham procedure for 4 h. Measurements and Results: Protocol 1: Real-time PtO2 measurements were performed using a fast-response oxygen microelectrode. During successive apneas cerebral cortex PtO2 presented a different pattern in the two age groups; there was a fast increase in young rats, whereas it remained without significant changes between the beginning and the end of the protocol in the aged group. Protocol 2: Brain oxidative stress assessed by lipid peroxidation increased after apneas in young rats (1.34 ± 0.17 nmol/mg of protein) compared to old ones (0.63 ± 0.03 nmol/mg), where a higher expression of antioxidant enzymes was observed. Conclusions: The results suggest that brain oxidative stress in aged rats is lower than in young rats in response to recurrent apneas, mimicking obstructive sleep apnea. This could be due to the different PtO2 response observed between age groups and the increased antioxidant expression in aged rats.

Keywords: Aging, Animal model, Obstructive apnea, Oxidative stress, Tissue oxygenation, antioxidant, glutathione disulfide, aged, animal experiment, animal model, animal tissue, apnea, arterial oxygen saturation, article, brain cortex, brain oxygen tension, brain tissue, controlled study, groups by age, hypoxia, lipid peroxidation, male, nonhuman, oxidative stress, pressure, priority journal, rat

Melo, E., Cárdenes, N., Garreta, E., Luque, T., Rojas, M., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2014). Inhomogeneity of local stiffness in the extracellular matrix scaffold of fibrotic mouse lungs Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials , 37, 186-195

Lung disease models are useful to study how cell engraftment, proliferation and differentiation are modulated in lung bioengineering. The aim of this work was to characterize the local stiffness of decellularized lungs in aged and fibrotic mice. Mice (2- and 24-month old; 14 of each) with lung fibrosis (N=20) and healthy controls (N=8) were euthanized after 11 days of intratracheal bleomycin (fibrosis) or saline (controls) infusion. The lungs were excised, decellularized by a conventional detergent-based (sodium-dodecyl sulfate) procedure and slices of the acellular lungs were prepared to measure the local stiffness by means of atomic force microscopy. The local stiffness of the different sites in acellular fibrotic lungs was very inhomogeneous within the lung and increased according to the degree of the structural fibrotic lesion. Local stiffness of the acellular lungs did not show statistically significant differences caused by age. The group of mice most affected by fibrosis exhibited local stiffness that were ~2-fold higher than in the control mice: from 27.2±1.64 to 64.8±7.1. kPa in the alveolar septa, from 56.6±4.6 to 99.9±11.7. kPa in the visceral pleura, from 41.1±8.0 to 105.2±13.6. kPa in the tunica adventitia, and from 79.3±7.2 to 146.6±28.8. kPa in the tunica intima. Since acellular lungs from mice with bleomycin-induced fibrosis present considerable micromechanical inhomogeneity, this model can be a useful tool to better investigate how different degrees of extracellular matrix lesion modulate cell fate in the process of organ bioengineering from decellularized lungs.

Keywords: Ageing, Atomic force microscopy, Decellularization, Lung fibrosis, Tissue engineering, Atomic force microscopy, Biological organs, Peptides, Sodium dodecyl sulfate, Sodium sulfate, Tissue engineering, Ageing, Decellularization, Extracellular matrices, Healthy controls, Inhomogeneities, Lung fibrosis, Micro-mechanical, Statistically significant difference, Mammals, bleomycin, adventitia, animal experiment, animal model, article, atomic force microscopy, bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis, cell fate, controlled study, extracellular matrix, female, intima, lung alveolus, lung fibrosis, lung mechanics, mechanical probe, microenvironment, mouse, nonhuman, pleura, priority journal, rigidity, tissue engineering

Uriarte, J. J., Nonaka, P. N., Campillo, N., Palma, R. K., Melo, E., de Oliveira, L. V. F., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2014). Mechanical properties of acellular mouse lungs after sterilization by gamma irradiation Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials , 40, 168-177

Lung bioengineering using decellularized organ scaffolds is a potential alternative for lung transplantation. Clinical application will require donor scaffold sterilization. As gamma-irradiation is a conventional method for sterilizing tissue preparations for clinical application, the aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of lung scaffold sterilization by gamma irradiation on the mechanical properties of the acellular lung when subjected to the artificial ventilation maneuvers typical within bioreactors. Twenty-six mouse lungs were decellularized by a sodium dodecyl sulfate detergent protocol. Eight lungs were used as controls and 18 of them were submitted to a 31kGy gamma irradiation sterilization process (9 kept frozen in dry ice and 9 at room temperature). Mechanical properties of acellular lungs were measured before and after irradiation. Lung resistance (RL) and elastance (EL) were computed by linear regression fitting of recorded signals during mechanical ventilation (tracheal pressure, flow and volume). Static (Est) and dynamic (Edyn) elastances were obtained by the end-inspiratory occlusion method. After irradiation lungs presented higher values of resistance and elastance than before irradiation: RL increased by 41.1% (room temperature irradiation) and 32.8% (frozen irradiation) and EL increased by 41.8% (room temperature irradiation) and 31.8% (frozen irradiation). Similar increases were induced by irradiation in Est and Edyn. Scanning electron microscopy showed slight structural changes after irradiation, particularly those kept frozen. Sterilization by gamma irradiation at a conventional dose to ensure sterilization modifies acellular lung mechanics, with potential implications for lung bioengineering.

Keywords: Gamma irradiation, Lung bioengineering, Lung decellularization, Organ scaffold, Pulmonary mechanics, Decellularization, Gamma irradiation, Mouse lung, Pulmonary mechanics, dodecyl sulfate sodium, animal tissue, Article, artificial ventilation, bioengineering, bioreactor, compliance (physical), controlled study, freezing, gamma irradiation, lung, lung mechanics, lung resistance, male, mouse, nonhuman, room temperature, scanning electron microscopy, tissue scaffold, trachea pressure

Martinez, Dani, Teixidó, Mercè, Font, Davinia, Moreno, Javier, Tresanchez, Marcel, Marco, Santiago, Palacín, Jordi, (2014). Ambient intelligence application based on environmental measurements performed with an assistant mobile robot Sensors 14, (4), 6045-6055

This paper proposes the use of an autonomous assistant mobile robot in order to monitor the environmental conditions of a large indoor area and develop an ambient intelligence application. The mobile robot uses single high performance embedded sensors in order to collect and geo-reference environmental information such as ambient temperature, air velocity and orientation and gas concentration. The data collected with the assistant mobile robot is analyzed in order to detect unusual measurements or discrepancies and develop focused corrective ambient actions. This paper shows an example of the measurements performed in a research facility which have enabled the detection and location of an uncomfortable temperature profile inside an office of the research facility. The ambient intelligent application has been developed by performing some localized ambient measurements that have been analyzed in order to propose some ambient actuations to correct the uncomfortable temperature profile.

Keywords: Ambient intelligence, Human thermal comfort, Robotic exploration

Nonaka, P. N., Uriarte, J. J., Campillo, N., Melo, E., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Oliveira, L. V. F., (2014). Mechanical properties of mouse lungs along organ decellularization by sodium dodecyl sulfate Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology , 200, 1-5

Lung decellularization is based on the use of physical, chemical, or enzymatic methods to break down the integrity of the cells followed by a treatment to extract the cellular material from the lung scaffold. The aim of this study was to characterize the mechanical changes throughout the different steps of lung decellularization process. Four lungs from mice (C57BL/6) were decellularized by using a conventional protocol based on sodium dodecyl sulfate. Lungs resistance (RL) and elastance (EL) were measured along decellularization steps and were computed by linear regression fitting of tracheal pressure, flow, and volume during mechanical ventilation. Transients differences found were more distinct in an intermediate step after the lungs were rinsed with deionized water and treated with 1% SDS, whereupon the percentage of variation reached approximately 80% for resistance values and 30% for elastance values. In conclusion, although a variation in extracellular matrix stiffness was observed during the decellularization process, this variation can be considered negligible overall because the resistance and elastance returned to basal values at the final decellularization step.

Keywords: Lung bioengineering, Lung decellularization, Organ scaffold, dodecyl sulfate sodium, animal tissue, article, artificial ventilation, compliance (physical), controlled study, enzyme chemistry, extracellular matrix, female, flow, lung, lung decellularization, lung pressure, lung resistance, mouse, nonhuman, positive end expiratory pressure, priority journal, rigidity, tissue engineering, trachea pressure

Vinagre, M., Aranda, J., Casals, A., (2014). An interactive robotic system for human assistance in domestic environments Computers Helping People with Special Needs (ed. Miesenberger, K., Fels, D., Archambault, D., Pe, Zagler), Springer International Publishing 8548, 152-155

This work introduces an interactive robotic system for assistance, conceived to tackle some of the challenges that domestic environments impose. The system is organized into a network of heterogeneous components that share both physical and logical functions to perform complex tasks. It consists of several robots for object manipulation, an advanced vision system that supplies in-formation about objects in the scene and human activity, and a spatial augmented reality interface that constitutes a comfortable means for interacting with the system. A first analysis based on users' experiences confirms the importance of having a friendly user interface. The inclusion of context awareness from visual perception enriches this interface allowing the robotic system to become a flexible and proactive assistant.

Keywords: Accessibility, Activity Recognition, Ambient Intelligence, Human-Robot Interaction, Robot Assistance, Augmented reality, Complex networks, Computer vision, User interfaces, Accessibility, Activity recognition, Ambient intelligence, Domestic environments, Heterogeneous component, Interactive robotics, Robot assistance, Spatial augmented realities, Human assistance, Robotics

Sánchez-Danes, A., Benzoni, P., Memo, M., Dell'Era, P., Raya, A., Consiglio, A., (2013). Induced pluripotent stem cell-based studies of Parkinson's disease: Challenges and promises CNS and Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets , 12, (8), 1114-1127

A critical step in the development of effective therapeutics to treat Parkinson's disease (PD) is the identification of molecular pathogenic mechanisms underlying this chronically progressive neurodegenerative disease. However, while animal models have provided valuable information about the molecular basis of PD, the lack of faithful cellular and animal models that recapitulate human pathophysiology is delaying the development of new therapeutics. The reprogramming of somatic cells to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) using delivery of defined combinations of transcription factors is a groundbreaking discovery that opens great opportunities for modeling human diseases, including PD, since iPSC can be generated from patients and differentiated into disease-relevant cell types, which would capture the patients' genetic complexity. Furthermore, human iPSC-derived neuronal models offer unprecedented access to early stages of the disease, allowing the investigation of the events that initiate the pathologic process in PD. Recently, human iPSC-derived neurons from patients with familial and sporadic PD have been generated and importantly they recapitulate some PD-related cell phenotypes, including abnormal α-synuclein accumulation in vitro, and alterations in the autophagy machinery. This review highlights the current PD iPSC-based models and discusses the potential future research directions of this field.

Keywords: Human cellular model, Induced pluripotent stem cells, Neurodegenerative disease, Parkinson's disease

Peñuelas, O., Melo, E., Sánchez, C., Sánchez, I., Quinn, K., Ferruelo, A., Pérez-Vizcaíno, F., Esteban, A., Navajas, D., Nin, N., Lorente, J. A., Farré, R., (2013). Antioxidant effect of human adult adipose-derived stromal stem cells in alveolar epithelial cells undergoing stretch Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology , 188, (1), 1-8

Introduction: Alveolar epithelial cells undergo stretching during mechanical ventilation. Stretch can modify the oxidative balance in the alveolar epithelium. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the antioxidant role of human adult adipose tissue-derived stromal cells (hADSCs) when human alveolar epithelial cells were subjected to injurious cyclic overstretching. Methods: A549 cells were subjected to biaxial stretch (0-15% change in surface area for 24. h, 0.2. Hz) with and without hADSCs. At the end of the experiments, oxidative stress was measured as superoxide generation using positive nuclear dihydroethidium (DHE) staining, superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in cell lysates, 8-isoprostane concentrations in supernatant, and 3-nitrotyrosine by indirect immunofluorescence in fixed cells. Results: Cyclically stretching of AECs induced a significant decrease in SOD activity, and an increase in 8-isoprostane concentrations, DHE staining and 3-nitrotyrosine staining compared with non-stretched cells. Treatment with hADSCs significantly attenuated stretch-induced changes in SOD activity, 8-isoprostane concentrations, DHE and 3-nitrotyrosine staining. Conclusion: These data suggest that hADSCs have an anti-oxidative effect in human alveolar epithelial cells undergoing cyclic stretch.

Keywords: Acute lung injury, Cyclic stretch, Human adipose-derived stromal stem cells, Oxidative stress

Bianconi, E., Piovesan, A., Facchin, F., Beraudi, A., Casadei, R., Frabetti, F., Vitale, L., Pelleri, M. C., Tassani, S., Piva, F., Perez-Amodio, S., Strippoli, P., Canaider, S., (2013). An estimation of the number of cells in the human body Annals of Human Biology , 40, (6), 463-471

Background: All living organisms are made of individual and identifiable cells, whose number, together with their size and type, ultimately defines the structure and functions of an organism. While the total cell number of lower organisms is often known, it has not yet been defined in higher organisms. In particular, the reported total cell number of a human being ranges between 1012 and 1016 and it is widely mentioned without a proper reference. Aim: To study and discuss the theoretical issue of the total number of cells that compose the standard human adult organism. Subjects and methods: A systematic calculation of the total cell number of the whole human body and of the single organs was carried out using bibliographical and/or mathematical approaches. Results: A current estimation of human total cell number calculated for a variety of organs and cell types is presented. These partial data correspond to a total number of 3.72×1013. Conclusions: Knowing the total cell number of the human body as well as of individual organs is important from a cultural, biological, medical and comparative modelling point of view. The presented cell count could be a starting point for a common effort to complete the total calculation.

Keywords: Cell size, Human cell number, Organ, Theoretical issue, Total cell count

Caballero, D., Martinez, E., Bausells, J., Errachid, A., Samitier, J., (2012). Impedimetric immunosensor for human serum albumin detection on a direct aldehyde-functionalized silicon nitride surface Analytica Chimica Acta 720, 43-48

In this work we report the fabrication and characterization of a label-free impedimetric immunosensor based on a silicon nitride (Si 3N 4) surface for the specific detection of human serum albumin (HSA) proteins. Silicon nitride provides several advantages compared with other materials commonly used, such as gold, and in particular in solid-state physics for electronic-based biosensors. However, few Si 3N 4-based biosensors have been developed; the lack of an efficient and direct protocol for the integration of biological elements with silicon-based substrates is still one of its the main drawbacks. Here, we use a direct functionalization method for the direct covalent binding of monoclonal anti-HSA antibodies on an aldehyde-functionalized Si-p/SiO 2/Si 3N 4 structure. This methodology, in contrast with most of the protocols reported in literature, requires less chemical reagents, it is less time-consuming and it does not need any chemical activation. The detection capability of the immunosensor was tested by performing non-faradaic electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) measurements for the specific detection of HSA proteins. Protein concentrations within the linear range of 10 -13-10 -7M were detected, showing a sensitivity of 0.128ΩμM -1 and a limit of detection of 10 -14M. The specificity of the sensor was also addressed by studying the interferences with a similar protein, bovine serum albumin. The results obtained show that the antibodies were efficiently immobilized and the proteins detected specifically, thus, establishing the basis and the potential applicability of the developed silicon nitride-based immunosensor for the detection of proteins in real and more complex samples.

Keywords: Aldehyde, Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, Human serum albumin, Immunosensor, Silicon nitride, Bovine serum albumins, Chemical reagents, Complex samples, Covalent binding, Detection capability, Electrochemical impedance, Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy measurements, Functionalizations, Human serum albumins, Impedimetric immunosensors, Label free, Limit of detection, Linear range, Protein concentrations, Silicon-based, Specific detection, Aldehydes

Malandrino, A., Fritsch, A., Lahayne, O., Kropik, K., Redl, H., Noailly, J., Lacroix, D., Hellmich, C., (2012). Anisotropic tissue elasticity in human lumbar vertebra, by means of a coupled ultrasound-micromechanics approach Materials Letters , 78, 154-158

The extremely fine structure of vertebral cortex challenges reliable determination of the tissue's anisotropic elasticity, which is important for the spine's load carrying patterns often causing pain in patients. As a potential remedy, we here propose a combined experimental (ultrasonic) and modeling (micromechanics) approach. Longitudinal acoustic waves are sent in longitudinal (superior-inferior, axial) as well as transverse (circumferential) direction through millimeter-sized samples containing this vertebral cortex, and corresponding wave velocities agree very well with recently identified 'universal' compositional and acoustic characteristics (J Theor Biol 287:115, 2011), which are valid for a large data base comprising different bones from different species and different organs. This provides evidence that the 'universal' organization patterns inherent to all the bone tissues of the aforementioned data base also hold for vertebral bone. Consequently, an experimentally validated model covering the mechanical effects of this organization patterns (J Theor Biol 244:597, 2007, J Theor Biol 260:230, 2009) gives access to the complete elasticity tensor of human lumbar vertebral bone tissue, as a valuable input for structural analyses aiming at patient-specific fracture risk assessment, e.g. based on the Finite Element Method.

Keywords: Human vertebra, Micromechanics, Tissue elasticity, Ultrasonics

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

Hernansanz, A., Zerbato, D., Gasperotti, L., Scandola, M., Casals, A., Fiorini, P., (2012). Assessment of virtual fixtures for the development of basic skills in robotic surgery International Journal of Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery CARS 2012 Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery , Springer (Pisa, Italy) 7 (Supplement 1) - Surgical Modelling, Simulation and Education, S186-S188

Teleoperation, by adequately adapting computer interfaces, can benefit from the knowledge on human factors and psychomotor models in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency in the execution of a task. While scaling is one of the performances frequently used in teleoperation tasks that require high precision, such as surgery, this article presents a scaling method that considers the system dynamics as well. The proposed dynamic scaling factor depends on the apparent position and velocity of the robot and targets. Such scaling improves the performance of teleoperation interfaces, thereby reducing user's workload.

Keywords: Human-robot interaction, Throughput, Scaling functions, Motor control performance

Muñoz, L. M., Casals, A., (2012). Dynamic scaling interface for assisted teleoperation IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) , IEEE (Minnesota, USA) , 4288-4293

Teleoperation, by adequately adapting computer interfaces, can benefit from the knowledge on human factors and psychomotor models in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency in the execution of a task. While scaling is one of the performances frequently used in teleoperation tasks that require high precision, such as surgery, this article presents a scaling method that considers the system dynamics as well. The proposed dynamic scaling factor depends on the apparent position and velocity of the robot and targets. Such scaling improves the performance of teleoperation interfaces, thereby reducing user's workload.

Keywords: Human-robot interaction, Motor control performance, Scaling functions, Throughput

Malandrino, Andrea, Noailly, Jerome, Lacroix, Damien, (2011). The effect of sustained compression on oxygen metabolic transport in the intervertebral disc decreases with degenerative changes PLoS Computational Biology Plos Computational Biology , 7, (8), 1-12

Intervertebral disc metabolic transport is essential to the functional spine and provides the cells with the nutrients necessary to tissue maintenance. Disc degenerative changes alter the tissue mechanics, but interactions between mechanical loading and disc transport are still an open issue. A poromechanical finite element model of the human disc was coupled with oxygen and lactate transport models. Deformations and fluid flow were linked to transport predictions by including strain-dependent diffusion and advection. The two solute transport models were also coupled to account for cell metabolism. With this approach, the relevance of metabolic and mechano-transport couplings were assessed in the healthy disc under loading-recovery daily compression. Disc height, cell density and material degenerative changes were parametrically simulated to study their influence on the calculated solute concentrations. The effects of load frequency and amplitude were also studied in the healthy disc by considering short periods of cyclic compression. Results indicate that external loads influence the oxygen and lactate regional distributions within the disc when large volume changes modify diffusion distances and diffusivities, especially when healthy disc properties are simulated. Advection was negligible under both sustained and cyclic compression. Simulating degeneration, mechanical changes inhibited the mechanical effect on transport while disc height, fluid content, nucleus pressure and overall cell density reductions affected significantly transport predictions. For the healthy disc, nutrient concentration patterns depended mostly on the time of sustained compression and recovery. The relevant effect of cell density on the metabolic transport indicates the disturbance of cell number as a possible onset for disc degeneration via alteration of the metabolic balance. Results also suggest that healthy disc properties have a positive effect of loading on metabolic transport. Such relation, relevant to the maintenance of the tissue functional composition, would therefore link disc function with disc nutrition.

Keywords: Bovine nucleus pulposus, Human anulus fibrosus, Finite-element, Fluid-flow, Hydraulic permeability, Confined compression, Coupled diffusion, Solute transport, Water-content, Lumbar spine

Krishnan, Ramaswamy, Klumpers, Darinka D., Park, Chan Y., Rajendran, Kavitha, Trepat, Xavier, van Bezu, Jan, van Hinsbergh, Victor W. M., Carman, Christopher V., Brain, Joseph D., Fredberg, Jeffrey J., Butler, James P., van Nieuw Amerongen, Geerten P., (2011). Substrate stiffening promotes endothelial monolayer disruption through enhanced physical forces American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology , 300, (1), C146-C154

A hallmark of many, sometimes life-threatening, inflammatory diseases and disorders is vascular leakage. The extent and severity of vascular leakage is broadly mediated by the integrity of the endothelial cell (EC) monolayer, which is in turn governed by three major interactions: cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, soluble mediators, and biomechanical forces. A potentially critical but essentially uninvestigated component mediating these interactions is the stiffness of the substrate to which the endothelial monolayer is adherent. Accordingly, we investigated the extent to which substrate stiffening influences endothelial monolayer disruption and the role of cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, soluble mediators, and physical forces in that process. Traction force microscopy showed that forces between cell and cell and between cell and substrate were greater on stiffer substrates. On stiffer substrates, these forces were substantially enhanced by a hyperpermeability stimulus (thrombin, 1 U/ml), and gaps formed between cells. On softer substrates, by contrast, these forces were increased far less by thrombin, and gaps did not form between cells. This stiffness-dependent force enhancement was associated with increased Rho kinase activity, whereas inhibition of Rho kinase attenuated baseline forces and lessened thrombin-induced inter-EC gap formation. Our findings demonstrate a central role of physical forces in EC gap formation and highlight a novel physiological mechanism. Integrity of the endothelial monolayer is governed by its physical microenvironment, which in normal circumstances is compliant but during pathology becomes stiffer.

Keywords: Contraction, Human umbilical vein endothelial cells, Permeability, Traction force, Cell-cell contact, Cell-substrate contact, Substrate stiffness, Rho kinase, Vascular endothelial cadherin, Thrombin

Aranda, J., Vinagre, M., Marti n, E. X., Casamitjana, M., Casals, A., (2010). Friendly human-machine interaction in an adapted robotized kitchen Computers Helping People with Special Needs 12th International Conference, ICCHP 2010 (ed. Miesenberger, K., Klaus, J., Zagler, W., Karshmer, A.), Springer (Vienna, Austria) 1, 312-319

The concept and design of a friendly human-machine interaction system for an adapted robotized kitchen is presented. The kitchen is conceived in a modular way in order to be adaptable to a great diversity in level and type of assistance needs. An interaction manager has been developed which assist the user to control the system actions dynamically according to the given orders and the present state of the environment. Real time enhanced perception of the scenario is achieved by means of a 3D computer vision system. The main goal of the present project is to provide this kitchen with the necessary intelligent behavior to be able to actuate efficiently by interpreting the users' will.

Keywords: Human computer interaction, Intelligent robots, Robot vision

Casals, A., (2010). Human – Robot cooperation techniques in surgery ICINCO 2010 7th International conference on Informatics in Control, Automation and Robotics , Springer (Madeira, Portugal) , 1-4

The growth of robotics in the surgical field is consequence of the progress in all its related areas, as: perception, instrumentation, actuators, materials, computers, and so. However, the lack of intelligence of current robots makes teleoperation an essential means for robotizing the Operating Room (OR), helping in the improvement of surgical procedures and making the best of the human-robot couple, as it already happens in other robotic application fields. The assistance a teleoperated system can provide is the result of the control strategies that can combine the high performance of computers with the surgeon knowledge, expertise and will. In this lecture, an overview of teleoperation techniques and operating modes suitable in the OR is presented, considering different cooperation levels. A special emphasis will be put on the selection of the most adequate interfaces currently available, able to operate in such quite special environments.

Keywords: Medical Robotics, Human Robot Interaction, Human Machine Interfaces, Surgical Robots

Andonovski, B., Ponsa, P., Casals, A., (2010). Towards the development of a haptics guideline in human-robot systems 3rd International Conference on Human System Interactions (HSI) 3rd International Conference on Human System Interactions (HSI) (ed. Pardela, T.), IEEE (Rzeszow, Poland) , 380-387

The main goal of this work is to propose a haptics guideline in human-robot systems focused on the relationship between the human and robot task, the use of a physical interface and the object to manipulate. With this aim, this guideline presents two main parts: a set of heuristic indicators and a qualitative evaluation. In order to assess its ergonomic validation, an application over a well known haptics interface is presented. The final goal of this work is the study of possible applications in regular laboratory conditions in order to improve the design and use of human-robot haptic interfaces in telerobotics applications.

Keywords: Haptic interface design, Human-robot interaction, Surgical applications, Teleoperation

Fernandez, Javier G., Mills, C. A., Samitier, J., (2009). Complex microstructured 3D surfaces using chitosan biopolymer Small 5, (5), 614-620

A technique for producing micrometer-scale structures over large, nonplanar chitosan surfaces is described. The technique makes use of the rheological characteristics (deformability) of the chitosan to create freestanding, three-dimensional scaffolds with controlled shapes, incorporating defined microtopography. The results of an investigation into the technical limits of molding different combinations of shapes and microtopographies are presented, highlighting the versatility of the technique when used irrespectively with inorganic or delicate organic moulds. The final, replicated scaffolds presented here are patterned with arrays of one-micrometer-tall microstructures over large areas. Structural integrity is characterized by the measurement of structural degradation. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells cultured on a tubular scaffold show that early cell growth is conditioned by the microtopography and indicate possible uses for the structures in biomedical applications. For those applications requiring improved chemical and mechanical resistance, the structures can be replicated in poly(dimethyl siloxane).

Keywords: Biocompatible Materials/ chemistry, Cell Adhesion, Cell Culture Techniques/ methods, Cell Proliferation, Cells, Cultured, Chitosan/ chemistry, Crystallization/methods, Endothelial Cells/ cytology/ physiology, Humans, Materials Testing, Nanostructures/ chemistry/ ultrastructure, Nanotechnology/methods, Particle Size, Surface Properties, Tissue Engineering/methods

Caballero, D., Samitier, J., Bausells, J., Errachid, A., (2009). Direct patterning of anti-human serum albumin antibodies on aldehyde-terminated silicon nitride surfaces for HSA protein detection Small 5, (13), 1531-1534

Silicon nitride surfaces are modified with a triethoxysilane aldehyde self-assembled monolayer for the direct immobilization of monoclonal antibodies and the detection of human serum albumin proteins, without any activation requirements. Surface modification and the specific recognition interaction between the HSA protein and its associated antibody are studied by fluorescence microscopy and atomic force microscopy.

Keywords: Aldehyde, Human serum albumin, Immunosensors, Microcontact printing, Silicon nitride

Munoz, L. M., Casals, A., (2009). Improving the human-robot interface through adaptive multispace transformation IEEE Transactions on Robotics , 25, (5), 1208-1213

Teleoperation is essential for applications in which, despite the availability of a precise geometrical definition of the working area, a task cannot be explicitly programmed. This paper describes a method of assisted teleoperation that improves the execution of such tasks in terms of ergonomics, precision, and reduction of execution time. The relationships between the operating spaces corresponding to the human-robot interface triangle are analyzed. The proposed teleoperation aid is based on applying adaptive transformations between these spaces.

Keywords: Human factors, Human-robot interaction, Teleoperation

Casals, A., Frigola, M., Amat, J., (2009). Robotics, a valuable tool in surgery Revista Iberoamericana de Automatica e Informatica Industrial , 6, (1), 5-19

Continuous advances on diagnostic techniques based on medical images, as well as the incorporation of new techniques in surgical instruments are progressively changing the new surgical procedures. Also, new minimally invasive techniques, which are currently highly consolidated, have produced significant advances, both from the technological and from the surgical treatment perspectives. The limitations that the manual realization of surgical interventions implies, in what refers to precision and accessibility, can be tackled with the help of robotics. In the same way, sensor based robot control techniques are opening new possibilities for the introduction of more improvements in these procedures, either relying on teleoperation, in which the surgeon and the robot establish their best synergy to get the optimal results, or by means of the automation of some specific actions or tasks. In this article the effect of robotics in the evolution of surgical techniques is described. Starting with a review of the robotics application fields, the article continues analyzing the methods and technologies involved in the process of robotizing surgical procedures, as well as the surgeon-robot interaction systems.

Keywords: Robotics, Medical Applications, Teleoperation, Biomedical Systems, Computer Aided Surgery, Human-Machine Interaction

Engel, E., Michiardi, A., Navarro, M., Lacroix, D., Planell, J. A., (2008). Nanotechnology in regenerative medicine: the materials side Trends in Biotechnology , 26, (1), 39-47

Regenerative medicine is an emerging multidisciplinary field that aims to restore, maintain or enhance tissues and hence organ functions. Regeneration of tissues can be achieved by the combination of living cells, which will provide biological functionality, and materials, which act as scaffolds to support cell proliferation. Mammalian cells behave in vivo in response to the biological signals they receive from the surrounding environment, which is structured by nanometre-scaled components. Therefore, materials used in repairing the human body have to reproduce the correct signals that guide the cells towards a desirable behaviour. Nanotechnology is not only an excellent tool to produce material structures that mimic the biological ones but also holds the promise of providing efficient delivery systems. The application of nanotechnology to regenerative medicine is a wide issue and this short review will only focus on aspects of nanotechnology relevant to biomaterials science. Specifically, the fabrication of materials, such as nanoparticles and scaffolds for tissue engineering, and the nanopatterning of surfaces aimed at eliciting specific biological responses from the host tissue will be addressed.

Keywords: Animals, Biocompatible Materials/ metabolism, Humans, Nanoparticles, Nanotechnology/ methods, Regenerative Medicine/ methods, Tissue Scaffolds

Engel, E., Del Valle, S., Aparicio, C., Altankov, G., Asin, L., Planell, J. A., Ginebra, M. P., (2008). Discerning the role of topography and ion exchange in cell response of bioactive tissue engineering scaffolds Tissue Engineering Part A , 14, (8), 1341-1351

Surface topography is known to have an influence on osteoblast activity. However, in the case of bioactive materials, topographical changes can affect also ion exchange properties. This makes the problem more complex, since it is often difficult to separate the strictly topographical effects from the effects of ionic fluctuations in the medium. The scope of this paper is to analyze the simultaneous effect of topography and topography-mediated ion exchange on the initial cellular behavior of osteoblastic-like cells cultured on bioactive tissue engineering substrates. Two apatitic substrates with identical chemical composition but different micro/nanostructural features were obtained by low-temperature setting of a calcium phosphate cement. MG63 osteoblastic-like cells were cultured either in direct contact with the substrates or with their extracts. A strong and permanent decrease of calcium concentration in the culture medium, dependent on substrate topography, was detected. A major effect of the substrate microstructure on cell proliferation was observed, explained in part by the topography-mediated ion exchange, but not specifically by the ionic Ca(2+) fluctuations. Cell differentiation was strongly enhanced when cells were cultured on the finer substrate. This effect was not explained by the chemical modification of the medium, but rather suggested a strictly topographical effect.

Keywords: Alkaline Phosphatase/metabolism, Bone Cements/pharmacology, Calcium/metabolism, Calcium Phosphates/pharmacology, Cell Adhesion/drug effects, Cell Differentiation/drug effects, Cell Proliferation/drug effects, Cell Shape/drug effects, Cells, Cultured, Culture Media, Durapatite/pharmacology, Humans, Interferometry, Ion Exchange, Materials Testing, Osteoblasts/ cytology/drug effects/enzymology/ultrastructure, Phosphorus/metabolism, Powders, Tissue Engineering, Tissue Scaffolds

Gavara, N., Roca-Cusachs, P., Sunyer, R., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2008). Mapping cell-matrix stresses during stretch reveals inelastic reorganization of the cytoskeleton Biophysical Journal , 95, (1), 464-471

The mechanical properties of the living cell are intimately related to cell signaling biology through cytoskeletal tension. The tension borne by the cytoskeleton (CSK) is in part generated internally by the actomyosin machinery and externally by stretch. Here we studied how cytoskeletal tension is modified during stretch and the tensional changes undergone by the sites of cell-matrix interaction. To this end we developed a novel technique to map cell-matrix stresses during application of stretch. We found that cell-matrix stresses increased with imposition of stretch but dropped below baseline levels on stretch release. Inhibition of the actomyosin machinery resulted in a larger relative increase in CSK tension with stretch and in a smaller drop in tension after stretch release. Cell-matrix stress maps showed that the loci of cell adhesion initially bearing greater stress also exhibited larger drops in traction forces after stretch removal. Our results suggest that stretch partially disrupts the actin-myosin apparatus and the cytoskeletal structures that support the largest CSK tension. These findings indicate that cells use the mechanical energy injected by stretch to rapidly reorganize their structure and redistribute tension.

Keywords: Cell Line, Computer Simulation, Cytoskeleton/ physiology, Elasticity, Epithelial Cells/ physiology, Extracellular Matrix/ physiology, Humans, Mechanotransduction, Cellular/ physiology, Models, Biological, Stress, Mechanical

Roca-Cusachs, P., Alcaraz, J., Sunyer, R., Samitier, J., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2008). Micropatterning of single endothelial cell shape reveals a tight coupling between nuclear volume in G1 and proliferation Biophysical Journal , 94, (12), 4984-4995

Shape-dependent local differentials in cell proliferation are considered to be a major driving mechanism of structuring processes in vivo, such as embryogenesis, wound healing, and angiogenesis. However, the specific biophysical signaling by which changes in cell shape contribute to cell cycle regulation remains poorly understood. Here, we describe our study of the roles of nuclear volume and cytoskeletal mechanics in mediating shape control of proliferation in single endothelial cells. Micropatterned adhesive islands were used to independently control cell spreading and elongation. We show that, irrespective of elongation, nuclear volume and apparent chromatin decondensation of cells in G1 systematically increased with cell spreading and highly correlated with DNA synthesis (percent of cells in the S phase). In contrast, cell elongation dramatically affected the organization of the actin cytoskeleton, markedly reduced both cytoskeletal stiffness (measured dorsally with atomic force microscopy) and contractility (measured ventrally with traction microscopy), and increased mechanical anisotropy, without affecting either DNA synthesis or nuclear volume. Our results reveal that the nuclear volume in G1 is predictive of the proliferative status of single endothelial cells within a population, whereas cell stiffness and contractility are not. These findings show that the effects of cell mechanics in shape control of proliferation are far more complex than a linear or straightforward relationship. Our data are consistent with a mechanism by which spreading of cells in G1 partially enhances proliferation by inducing nuclear swelling and decreasing chromatin condensation, thereby rendering DNA more accessible to the replication machinery.

Keywords: Cell Line, Cell Nucleus/ physiology, Cell Proliferation, Cell Size, Computer Simulation, Endothelial Cells/ cytology/ physiology, G1 Phase/ physiology, Humans, Mechanotransduction, Cellular/ physiology, Models, Biological, Statistics as Topic

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

Gustavsson, J., Altankov, G., Errachid, A., Samitier, J., Planell, J. A., Engel, E., (2008). Surface modifications of silicon nitride for cellular biosensor applications Journal of Materials Science-Materials in Medicine , 19, (4), 1839-1850

Thin films of silicon nitride (Si3N4) can be used in several kinds of micro-sized biosensors as a material to monitor fine environmental changes related to the process of bone formation in vitro. We found however that Si3N4 does not provide optimal conditions for osseointegration as osteoblast-like MG-63 cells tend to detach from the surface when cultured over confluence. Therefore Si3N4 was modified with self-assembled monolayers bearing functional end groups of primary amine (NH2) and carboxyl (COOH) respectively. Both these modifications enhanced the interaction with confluent cell layers and thus improve osseointegration over Si3N4. Furthermore it was observed that the NH2 functionality increased the adsorption of fibronectin (FN), promoted cell proliferation, but delayed the differentiation. We also studied the fate of pre-adsorbed and secreted FN from cells to learn more about the impact of above functionalities for the development of provisional extracellular matrix on materials interface. Taken together our data supports that Si3N4 has low tissue integration but good cellular biocompatibility and thus is appropriate in cellular biosensor applications such as the ion-sensitive field effect transistor (ISFET). COOH and NH2 chemistries generally improve the interfacial tissue interaction with the sensor and they are therefore suitable substrates for monitoring cellular growth or matrix deposition using electrical impedance spectroscopy.

Keywords: Adsorption, Amines/chemistry, Biocompatible Materials/ chemistry, Biosensing Techniques, Cell Differentiation, Cell Line, Cell Proliferation, Electric Impedance, Extracellular Matrix/metabolism, Fibronectins/chemistry, Humans, Materials Testing, Osteoblasts/ cytology, Silicon Compounds/ chemistry, Surface Properties

Diez, Pablo F., Laciar, Eric, Mut, Vicente, Avila, Enrique, Torres, Abel, (2008). A comparative study of the performance of different spectral estimation methods for classification of mental tasks IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Conference Proceedings 30th Annual International Conference of the Ieee Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (ed. IEEE), IEEE (Vancouver, Canada) 1-8, 1155-1158

In this paper we compare three different spectral estimation techniques for the classification of mental tasks. These techniques are the standard periodogram, the Welch periodogram and the Burg method, applied to electroencephalographic (EEG) signals. For each one of these methods we compute two parameters: the mean power and the root mean square (RMS), in various frequency bands. The classification of the mental tasks was conducted with a linear discriminate analysis. The Welch periodogram and the Burg method performed better than the standard periodogram. The use of the RMS allows better classification accuracy than the obtained with the power of EEG signals.

Keywords: Adult, Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, Cognition, Electroencephalography, Female, Humans, Male, Pattern Recognition, Automated, Reproducibility of Results, Sensitivity and Specificity, Task Performance and Analysis, User-Computer Interface

Orini, Michele, Giraldo, Beatriz F., Bailon, Raquel, Vallverdu, Montserrat, Mainardi, Luca, Benito, Salvador, Diaz, Ivan, Caminal, Pere, (2008). Time-frequency analysis of cardiac and respiratory parameters for the prediction of ventilator weaning IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Conference Proceedings 30th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (ed. IEEE), IEEE (Vancouver, Canada) 1-8, 2793-2796

Mechanical ventilators are used to provide life support in patients with respiratory failure. Assessing autonomic control during the ventilator weaning provides information about physiopathological imbalances. Autonomic parameters can be derived and used to predict success in discontinuing from the mechanical support. Time-frequency analysis is used to derive cardiac and respiratory parameters, as well as their evolution in time, during ventilator weaning in 130 patients. Statistically significant differences have been observed in autonomic parameters between patients who are considered ready for spontaneous breathing and patients who are not. A classification based on respiratory frequency, heart rate and heart rate variability spectral components has been proposed and has been able to correctly classify more than 80% of the cases.

Keywords: Automatic Data Processing, Databases, Factual, Electrocardiography, Humans, Models, Statistical, Respiration, Respiration, Artificial, Respiratory Insufficiency, Respiratory Mechanics, Respiratory Muscles, Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted, Time Factors, Ventilator Weaning, Ventilators, Mechanical, Work of Breathing