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Martí D, Martín-Martínez E, Torras J, Betran O, Turon P, Alemán C, (2022). In silico study of substrate chemistry effect on the tethering of engineered antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 detection: Amorphous silica vs gold Colloids And Surfaces B-Biointerfaces 213, 112400

The influence of the properties of different solid substrates on the tethering of two antibodies, IgG1-CR3022 and IgG1-S309, which were specifically engineered for the detection of SARS-CoV-2, has been examined at the molecular level using conventional and accelerated Molecular Dynamics (cMD and aMD, respectively). Two surfaces with very different properties and widely used in immunosensors for diagnosis, amorphous silica and the most stable facet of the face-centered cubic gold structure, have been considered. The effects of such surfaces on the structure and orientation of the immobilized antibodies have been determined by quantifying the tilt and hinge angles that describe the orientation and shape of the antibody, respectively, and the dihedrals that measure the relative position of the antibody arms with respect to the surface. Results show that the interactions with amorphous silica, which are mainly electrostatic due to the charged nature of the surface, help to preserve the orientation and structure of the antibodies, especially of the IgG1-CR3022, indicating that the primary sequence of those antibodies also plays some role. Instead, short-range van der Waals interactions with the inert gold surface cause a higher degree tilting and fraying of the antibodies with respect to amorphous silica. The interactions between the antibodies and the surface also affect the correlation among the different angles and dihedrals, which increases with their strength. Overall, results explain why amorphous silica substrates are frequently used to immobilize antibodies in immunosensors. © 2022 The Authors

Keywords: Amorphous silica, Antibodies, Antibody engineering, Antibody immobilization, Antibody structure, Article, Chemical detection, Computer model, Controlled study, Dihedral angle, Gold, In-silico, Molecular dynamics, Molecular levels, Nonhuman, Property, Sars, Sars-cov-2 immunosensor, Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, Silica, Silico studies, Silicon dioxide, Solid substrates, Structure analysis, Substrate chemistry, Substrates, Van der waals forces, Virus detection


Gawish R, Starkl P, Pimenov L, Hladik A, Lakovits K, Oberndorfer F, Cronin SJF, Ohradanova-Repic A, Wirnsberger G, Agerer B, Endler L, Capraz T, Perthold JW, Cikes D, Koglgruber R, Hagelkruys A, Montserrat N, Mirazimi A, Boon L, Stockinger H, Bergthaler A, Oostenbrink C, Penninger JM, Knapp S, (2022). ACE2 is the critical in vivo receptor for SARS-CoV-2 in a novel COVID-19 mouse model with TNF-and IFNy-driven immunopathology Elife 11, e74623

Despite tremendous progress in the understanding of COVID-19, mechanistic insight into immunological, disease-driving factors remains limited. We generated maVie16, a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV-2, by serial passaging of a human isolate. In silico modeling revealed how only three Spike mutations of maVie16 enhanced interaction with murine ACE2. maVie16 induced profound pathology in BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice, and the resulting mouse COVID-19 (mCOVID-19) replicated critical aspects of human disease, including early lymphopenia, pulmonary immune cell infiltration, pneumonia, and specific adaptive immunity. Inhibition of the proinflammatory cyto-kines IFN? and TNF substantially reduced immunopathology. Importantly, genetic ACE2-deficiency completely prevented mCOVID-19 development. Finally, inhalation therapy with recombinant ACE2 fully protected mice from mCOVID-19, revealing a novel and efficient treatment. Thus, we here present maVie16 as a new tool to model COVID-19 for the discovery of new therapies and show that disease severity is determined by cytokine-driven immunopathology and critically dependent on ACE2 in vivo. © Gawish et al.

Keywords: covid-19 mouse model, covid-19 therapy, cytokine storm, mavie16, mouse, program, recombinant soluble ace2, tmprss2, Adaptive immunity, Angiotensin converting enzyme 2, Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, Animal, Animal cell, Animal experiment, Animal model, Animal tissue, Animals, Apoptosis, Article, Bagg albino mouse, Breathing rate, Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, C57bl mouse, Cell composition, Cell infiltration, Controlled study, Coronavirus disease 2019, Coronavirus spike glycoprotein, Covid-19, Cytokeratin 18, Cytokine production, Dipeptidyl carboxypeptidase, Disease model, Disease models, animal, Disease severity, Drosophila-melanogaster, Enzyme linked immunosorbent assay, Expression vector, Flow cytometry, Gamma interferon, Gene editing, Gene expression, Gene mutation, Genetic engineering, Genetics, Glycosylation, High mobility group b1 protein, Histology, Histopathology, Immune response, Immunocompetent cell, Immunology, Immunopathology, Interferon-gamma, Interleukin 2, Metabolism, Mice, inbred balb c, Mice, inbred c57bl, Mouse-adapted sars-cov-2, Myeloperoxidase, Neuropilin 1, Nonhuman, Nucleocapsid protein, Pathogenicity, Peptidyl-dipeptidase a, Pyroptosis, Renin angiotensin aldosterone system, Rna extraction, Rna isolation, Sars-cov-2, Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, Spike glycoprotein, coronavirus, T lymphocyte activation, Trabecular meshwork, Tumor necrosis factor, Virology, Virus load, Virus replication, Virus transmission, Virus virulence


Macedo, MH, Barros, AS, Martinez, E, Barrias, CC, Sarmento, B, (2022). All layers matter: Innovative three-dimensional epithelium-stroma-endothelium intestinal model for reliable permeability outcomes Journal Of Controlled Release 341, 414-430

Drug development is an ever-growing field, increasingly requesting reliable in vitro tools to speed up early screening phases, reducing the need for animal experiments. In oral delivery, understanding the absorption pattern of a new drug in the small intestine is paramount. Classical two-dimensional (2D) in vitro models are generally too simplistic and do not accurately represent native tissues. The main goal of this work was to develop an advanced three-dimensional (3D) in vitro intestinal model to test absorption in a more reliable manner, by better mimicking the native environment. The 3D model is composed of a collagen-based stromal layer with embedded fibroblasts mimicking the intestinal lamina propria and providing support for the epithelium, composed of enterocytes and mucus-secreting cells. An endothelial layer, surrogating the absorptive capillary network, is also present. The cellular crosstalk between the different cells present in the model is unveiled, disclosing key players, namely those involved in the contraction of collagen by fibroblasts. The developed 3D model presents lower levels of P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and Multidrug Resistance Protein 2 (MRP2) efflux transporters, which are normally overexpressed in traditional Caco-2 models, and are paramount in the absorption of many compounds. This, allied with transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) values closer to physiological ranges, leads to improved and more reliable permeability outcomes, which are observed when comparing our results with in vivo data.

Keywords: 3d intestinal model, drug absorption, drug development, endothelium, hydrogel, 3d intestinal model, 3d modeling, 3d models, 3d-modeling, Alkaline-phosphatase, Animal experiments, Biopharmaceutics classification, Caco-2 cells, Cell culture, Collagen, Collagen gel, Drug absorption, Drug development, Endothelium, Fibroblasts, Glycoproteins, Hydrogel, In-vitro, Matrix metalloproteinases, Membrane-permeability, Paracellular transport, Permeability, Single-pass vs., Speed up


Beltrán G, Navajas D, García-Aznar JM, (2022). Mechanical modeling of lung alveoli: From macroscopic behaviour to cell mechano-sensing at microscopic level Journal Of The Mechanical Behavior Of Biomedical Materials 126, 105043

The mechanical signals sensed by the alveolar cells through the changes in the local matrix stiffness of the extracellular matrix (ECM) are determinant for regulating cellular functions. Therefore, the study of the mechanical response of lung tissue becomes a fundamental aspect in order to further understand the mechanosensing signals perceived by the cells in the alveoli. This study is focused on the development of a finite element (FE) model of a decellularized rat lung tissue strip, which reproduces accurately the mechanical behaviour observed in the experiments by means of a tensile test. For simulating the complex structure of the lung parenchyma, which consists of a heterogeneous and non-uniform network of thin-walled alveoli, a 3D model based on a Voronoi tessellation is developed. This Voronoi-based model is considered very suitable for recreating the geometry of cellular materials with randomly distributed polygons like in the lung tissue. The material model used in the mechanical simulations of the lung tissue was characterized experimentally by means of AFM tests in order to evaluate the lung tissue stiffness on the micro scale. Thus, in this study, the micro (AFM test) and the macro scale (tensile test) mechanical behaviour are linked through the mechanical simulation with the 3D FE model based on Voronoi tessellation. Finally, a micro-mechanical FE-based model is generated from the Voronoi diagram for studying the stiffness sensed by the alveolar cells in function of two independent factors: the stretch level of the lung tissue and the geometrical position of the cells on the extracellular matrix (ECM), distinguishing between pneumocyte type I and type II. We conclude that the position of the cells within the alveolus has a great influence on the local stiffness perceived by the cells. Alveolar cells located at the corners of the alveolus, mainly type II pneumocytes, perceive a much higher stiffness than those located in the flat areas of the alveoli, which correspond to type I pneumocytes. However, the high stiffness, due to the macroscopic lung tissue stretch, affects both cells in a very similar form, thus no significant differences between them have been observed. © 2021 The Authors

Keywords: Afm, Animal cell, Animal experiment, Animal model, Animal tissue, Article, Biological organs, Cell function, Cells, Computational geometry, Cytology, Extracellular matrices, Extracellular matrix, Geometry, High stiffness, Human, Lung alveolus cell type 1, Lung alveolus cell type 2, Lung parenchyma, Lung tissue, Male, Mechanical behavior, Mechanical modeling, Mechanical simulations, Mechanosensing, Model-based opc, Nonhuman, Physical model, Rat, Rigidity, Stiffness, Stiffness matrix, Tensile testing, Thin walled structures, Three dimensional finite element analysis, Tissue, Type ii, Voronoi tessellations


Bar L, Perissinotto F, Redondo-Morata L, Giannotti MI, Goole J, Losada-Pérez P, (2022). Interactions of hydrophilic quantum dots with defect-free and defect containing supported lipid membranes Colloids And Surfaces B-Biointerfaces 210

Quantum dots (QDs) are semiconductor nanoparticles with unique optical and electronic properties, whose interest as potential nano-theranostic platforms for imaging and sensing is increasing. The design and use of QDs requires the understanding of cell-nanoparticle interactions at a microscopic and nanoscale level. Model systems such as supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) are useful, less complex platforms mimicking physico-chemical properties of cell membranes. In this work, we investigated the effect of topographical homogeneity of SLBs bearing different surface charge in the adsorption of hydrophilic QDs. Using quartz-crystal microbalance, a label-free surface sensitive technique, we show significant differences in the interactions of QDs onto homogeneous and inhomogeneous SLBs formed following different strategies. Within short time scales, QDs adsorb onto topographically homogeneous, defect-free SLBs is driven by electrostatic interactions, leading to no layer disruption. After prolonged QD exposure, the nanomechanical stability of the SLB decreases suggesting nanoparticle insertion. In the case of inhomogeneous, defect containing layers, QDs target preferentially membrane defects, driven by a subtle interplay of electrostatic and entropic effects, inducing local vesicle rupture and QD insertion at membrane edges. © 2021

Keywords: adsorption, atomic force microscopy, bilayer formation, gold nanoparticles, hydrophilic quantum dots, lipid membrane defects, model, nanomechanics, quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation, size, supported lipid bilayers, surfaces, Atomic force microscopy, Atomic-force-microscopy, Cytology, Defect-free, Electronic properties, Electrostatics, Hydrophilic quantum dot, Hydrophilic quantum dots, Hydrophilicity, Hydrophilics, Lipid bilayers, Lipid membrane defect, Lipid membrane defects, Lipid membranes, Lipids, Nanocrystals, Nanomechanics, Optical and electronic properties, Quartz, Quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation, Quartz crystal microbalances, Quartz-crystal microbalance, Semiconductor nanoparticles, Semiconductor quantum dots, Supported lipid bilayers


Garreta E, Nauryzgaliyeva Z, Marco A, Safi W, Montserrat N, (2022). Dissecting nephron morphogenesis using kidney organoids from human pluripotent stem cells Current Opinion In Genetics & Development 72, 22-29

During kidney development the emergence of complex multicellular shapes such as the nephron (the functional unit of the kidney) rely on spatiotemporally coordinated developmental programs. These involve gene regulatory networks, signaling pathways and mechanical forces, that work in concert to shape and form the nephron(s). The generation of kidney organoids from human pluripotent stem cells now represent an unprecedented experimental set up to study these processes. Here we discuss the potential applications of kidney organoids to advance our knowledge of how mechanical forces and cell fate specification spatiotemporally interact to orchestrate nephron patterning and morphogenesis in humans. Progress in innovative techniques for quantifying and perturbing these processes in a controlled manner will be crucial. A mechanistic understanding of the multicellular dynamic processes occurring during nephrogenesis will pave the way to unveil new mechanisms of human kidney disease. © 2021

Keywords: differentiation, dynamics, induction, lumen formation, models, mouse, organogenesis, reveals, tubules, Divergent features


Dulay, S, Rivas, L, Pla, L, Berdun, S, Eixarch, E, Gratacos, E, Illa, M, Mir, M, Samitier, J, (2021). Fetal ischemia monitoring with in vivo implanted electrochemical multiparametric microsensors Journal Of Biological Engineering 15, 28

Under intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), abnormal attainment of the nutrients and oxygen by the fetus restricts the normal evolution of the prenatal causing in many cases high morbidity being one of the top-ten causes of neonatal death. The current gold standards in hospitals to detect this relevant problem is the clinical observation by echography, cardiotocography and Doppler. These qualitative techniques are not conclusive and requires risky invasive fetal scalp blood testing and/or amniocentesis. We developed micro-implantable multiparametric electrochemical sensors for measuring ischemia in real time in fetal tissue and vascular. This implantable technology is designed to continuous monitoring for an early detection of ischemia to avoid potential fetal injury. Two miniaturized electrochemical sensors were developed based on oxygen and pH detection. The sensors were optimized in vitro under controlled concentration, to assess the selectivity and sensitivity required. The sensors were then validated in vivo in the ewe fetus model, by means of their insertion in the muscle leg and inside the iliac artery of the fetus. Ischemia was achieved by gradually obstructing the umbilical cord to regulate the amount of blood reaching the fetus. An important challenge in fetal monitoring is the detection of low levels of oxygen and pH changes under ischemic conditions, requiring high sensitivity sensors. Significant differences were observed in both; pH and pO(2) sensors under changes from normoxia to hypoxia states in the fetus tissue and vascular with both sensors. Herein, we demonstrate the feasibility of the developed sensors for future fetal monitoring in medical applications.

Keywords: electrochemical biosensor, implantable sensor, in vivo validation, ischemia detection, tissue and vascular monitoring, Animal experiment, Animal model, Animal tissue, Article, Blood-gases, Brain, Classification, Controlled study, Diagnosis, Doppler, Early diagnosis, Electrochemical analysis, Electrochemical biosensor, Ewe, Feasibility study, Female, Fetus, Fetus disease, Fetus monitoring, Gestational age, Hypoxemia, Iliac artery, Implantable sensor, In vivo validation, Intrauterine growth restriction, Intrauterine growth retardation, Ischemia detection, Leg muscle, Management, Nonhuman, Oxygen consumption, Ph, Ph and oxygen detection, Ph measurement, Process optimization, Sheep, Tissue and vascular monitoring, Umbilical-cord occlusion


Pérez-González, Carlos, Ceada, Gerardo, Matejcic, Marija, Trepat, Xavier, (2022). Digesting the mechanobiology of the intestinal epithelium Current Opinion In Genetics & Development 72, 82-90

The dizzying life of the homeostatic intestinal epithelium is governed by a complex interplay between fate, form, force and function. This interplay is beginning to be elucidated thanks to advances in intravital and ex vivo imaging, organoid culture, and biomechanical measurements. Recent discoveries have untangled the intricate organization of the forces that fold the monolayer into crypts and villi, compartmentalize cell types, direct cell migration, and regulate cell identity, proliferation and death. These findings revealed that the dynamic equilibrium of the healthy intestinal epithelium relies on its ability to precisely coordinate tractions and tensions in space and time. In this review, we discuss recent findings in intestinal mechanobiology, and highlight some of the many fascinating questions that remain to be addressed in this emerging field.Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.

Keywords: crypt fission, designer matrices, differentiation, growth, gut, migration, model, scaffold, tissue mechanics, Cell migration, Cell proliferation, Ex vivo study, Human tissue, Intestine epithelium, Monolayer culture, Organoid, Review, Stem-cell, Tension, Traction therapy


Amil, Adrián Fernández, Verschure, Paul F.M.J., (2021). Supercritical dynamics at the edge-of-chaos underlies optimal decision-making Journal Of Physics-Complexity 2,

Abstract Critical dynamics, characterized by scale-free neuronal avalanches, is thought to underlie optimal function in the sensory cortices by maximizing information transmission, capacity, and dynamic range. In contrast, deviations from criticality have not yet been considered to support any cognitive processes. Nonetheless, neocortical areas related to working memory and decision-making seem to rely on long-lasting periods of ignition-like persistent firing. Such firing patterns are reminiscent of supercritical states where runaway excitation dominates the circuit dynamics. In addition, a macroscopic gradient of the relative density of Somatostatin (SST+) and Parvalbumin (PV+) inhibitory interneurons throughout the cortical hierarchy has been suggested to determine the functional specialization of low- versus high-order cortex. These observations thus raise the question of whether persistent activity in high-order areas results from the intrinsic features of the neocortical circuitry. We used an attractor model of the canonical cortical circuit performing a perceptual decision-making task to address this question. Our model reproduces the known saddle-node bifurcation where persistent activity emerges, merely by increasing the SST+/PV+ ratio while keeping the input and recurrent excitation constant. The regime beyond such a phase transition renders the circuit increasingly sensitive to random fluctuations of the inputs -i.e., chaotic-, defining an optimal SST+/PV+ ratio around the edge-of-chaos. Further, we show that both the optimal SST+/PV+ ratio and the region of the phase transition decrease monotonically with increasing input noise. This suggests that cortical circuits regulate their intrinsic dynamics via inhibitory interneurons to attain optimal sensitivity in the face of varying uncertainty. Hence, on the one hand, we link the emergence of supercritical dynamics at the edge-of-chaos to the gradient of the SST+/PV+ ratio along the cortical hierarchy, and, on the other hand, explain the behavioral effects of the differential regulation of SST+ and PV+ interneurons by neuromodulators like acetylcholine in the presence of input uncertainty.

Keywords: attractor model, cortex, cortical networks, edge-of-chaos, model, nmda receptors, Attractor model, Cortical hierarchies, Decision making, Dynamics, Edge of chaos, Edge-of-chaos, High-order, Higher-order, Inhibitory interneurons, Neurons, Optimal decision making, Persistent activities, Persistent activity, Supercritical, Supercriticality


Garreta, E, Nauryzgaliyeva, Z, Montserrat, N, (2021). Human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived kidney organoids toward clinical implementations Curr Opin Biomed Eng 20,

The generation of kidney organoids from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) has represented a relevant scientific achievement in the organoid field. Importantly, hPSC-derived kidney organoids contain multiple nephron-like structures that exhibit some renal functional characteristics and have the capacity to respond to nephrotoxic agents. In this review, we first discuss how bioengineering approaches can help overcome current kidney organoid challenges. Next, we focus on recent works exploiting kidney organoids for drug screening and disease modeling applications. Finally, we provide a state of the art on current research toward the potential application of kidney organoids and renal cells derived from hPSCs for future renal replacement therapies.

Keywords: Bioengineering, Converting enzyme-ii, Crispr/cas9 gene editing, Disease, Disease modeling, Extracellular-matrix, Generation, Human pluripotent stem cells, Kidney organoids, Kidney regeneration, Model, Mouse, Reveals, Scaffold, Transplantation


Grechuta, K, Costa, JD, Ballester, BR, Verschure, P, (2021). Challenging the Boundaries of the Physical Self: Distal Cues Impact Body Ownership Frontiers In Human Neuroscience 15,

The unique ability to identify one's own body and experience it as one's own is fundamental in goal-oriented behavior and survival. However, the mechanisms underlying the so-called body ownership are yet not fully understood. Evidence based on Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI) paradigms has demonstrated that body ownership is a product of reception and integration of self and externally generated multisensory information, feedforward and feedback processing of sensorimotor signals, and prior knowledge about the body. Crucially, however, these designs commonly involve the processing of proximal modalities while the contribution of distal sensory signals to the experience of ownership remains elusive. Here we propose that, like any robust percept, body ownership depends on the integration and prediction across all sensory modalities, including distal sensory signals pertaining to the environment. To test our hypothesis, we created an embodied goal-oriented Virtual Air Hockey Task, in which participants were to hit a virtual puck into a goal. In two conditions, we manipulated the congruency of distal multisensory cues (auditory and visual) while preserving proximal and action-driven signals entirely predictable. Compared to a fully congruent condition, our results revealed a significant decrease on three dimensions of ownership evaluation when distal signals were incongruent, including the subjective report as well as physiological and kinematic responses to an unexpected threat. Together, these findings support the notion that the way we represent our body is contingent upon all the sensory stimuli, including distal and action-independent signals. The present data extend the current framework of body ownership and may also find applications in rehabilitation scenarios.



Keywords: active perception, body ownership, distal sensory cues, embodied cognition, forward model, Active perception, Adult, Article, Body ownership, Brain, Cortex, Distal sensory cues, Embodied cognition, Feel, Female, Forward model, Hockey, Human, Human experiment, Integration, Male, Models, Neurons, Perception, Peripersonal space, Prediction, Rehabilitation, Rubber hand illusion, Sensory prediction error, Touch


Burgués, Javier, Esclapez, María Deseada, Doñate, Silvia, Marco, Santiago, (2021). RHINOS: A lightweight portable electronic nose for real-time odor quantification in wastewater treatment plants iScience 24,

Quantification of odor emissions in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) is key to minimize odor impact to surrounding communities. Odor measurements in WWTPs are usually performed via either expensive and discontinuous olfactometry hydrogen sulfide detectors or via fixed electronic noses. We propose a portable lightweight electronic nose specially designed for real-time odor monitoring in WWTPs using small drones. The so-called RHINOS e-nose allows odor measurements with high spatial resolution, and its accuracy is only slightly worse than that of dynamic olfactometry. The device has been calibrated using odor samples collected in a WWTP in Spain over a period of six months and validated in the same WWTP three weeks after calibration. The promising results obtained support the suitability of the proposed instrument to identify the odor sources having the highest emissions, which may give a useful indication to the plant managers as regards odor control and abatement.© 2021 The Author(s).

Keywords: biofiltration, calibration transfer, chemical sensor arrays, chemistry, drift compensation, engineering, environmental chemical engineering, h2s, model, oxide gas sensors, removal, sensor, system, Chemistry, Engineering, Environmental chemical engineering, Sensor, Sensor system, Variable selection methods


Duran, J, Hervera, A, Markussen, KH, Varea, O, Lopez-Soldado, I, Sun, RC, del Rio, JA, Gentry, MS, Guinovart, JJ, (2021). Astrocytic glycogen accumulation drives the pathophysiology of neurodegeneration in Lafora disease Brain 144, 2349-2360

The hallmark of Lafora disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disorder, is the accumulation of intracellular glycogen aggregates called Lafora bodies. Until recently, it was widely believed that brain Lafora bodies were present exclusively in neurons and thus that Lafora disease pathology derived from their accumulation in this cell population. However, recent evidence indicates that Lafora bodies are also present in astrocytes. To define the role of astrocytic Lafora bodies in Lafora disease pathology, we deleted glycogen synthase specifically from astrocytes in a mouse model of the disease (malin(KO)). Strikingly, blocking glycogen synthesis in astrocytes-thus impeding Lafora bodies accumulation in this cell type-prevented the increase in neurodegeneration markers, autophagy impairment, and metabolic changes characteristic of the malin(KO) model. Conversely, mice that over-accumulate glycogen in astrocytes showed an increase in these markers. These results unveil the deleterious consequences of the deregulation of glycogen metabolism in astrocytes and change the perspective that Lafora disease is caused solely by alterations in neurons.

Keywords: Bodies, Deficient mice, Epilepsy, Glycogen, Impairment, Lafora disease, Malin, Modulation, Mouse model, Neurodegeneration, Neuroinflammation, Neurons, Progressive myoclonus epilepsy, Seizure susceptibility, Synthase


Ojosnegros, S, Seriola, A, Godeau, AL, Veiga, A, (2021). Embryo implantation in the laboratory: an update on current techniques HUMAN REPRODUCTION UPDATE 27, 501-530

BACKGROUND: The embryo implantation process is crucial for the correct establishment and progress of pregnancy. During implantation, the blastocyst trophectoderm cells attach to the epithelium of the endometrium, triggering intense cell-to-cell crosstalk that leads to trophoblast outgrowth, invasion of the endometrial tissue, and formation of the placenta. However, this process, which is vital for embryo and foetal development in utero, is still elusive to experimentation because of its inaccessibility. Experimental implantation is cumbersome and impractical in adult animal models and is inconceivable in humans. OBJECTIVE AND RATIONALE: A number of custom experimental solutions have been proposed to recreate different stages of the implantation process in vitro, by combining a human embryo (or a human embryo surrogate) and endometrial cells (or a surrogate for the endometrial tissue). In vitro models allow rapid high-throughput interrogation of embryos and cells, and efficient screening of molecules, such as cytokines, drugs, or transcription factors, that control embryo implantation and the receptivity of the endometrium. However, the broad selection of available in vitro systems makes it complicated to decide which system best fits the needs of a specific experiment or scientific question. To orient the reader, this review will explore the experimental options proposed in the literature, and classify them into amenable categories based on the embryo/cell pairs employed. The goal is to give an overview of the tools available to study the complex process of human embryo implantation, and explain the differences between them, including the advantages and disadvantages of each system. SEARCH METHODS: We performed a comprehensive review of the literature to come up with different categories that mimic the different stages of embryo implantation in vitro, ranging from initial blastocyst apposition to later stages of trophoblast invasion or gastrulation. We will also review recent breakthrough advances on stem cells and organoids, assembling embryo-like structures and endometrial tissues. OUTCOMES: We highlight the most relevant systems and describe the most significant experiments. We focus on in vitro systems that have contributed to the study of human reproduction by discovering molecules that control implantation, including hormones, signalling molecules, transcription factors and cytokines. WIDER IMPLICATIONS: The momentum of this field is growing thanks to the use of stem cells to build embryo-like structures and endometrial tissues, and the use of bioengineering to extend the life of embryos in culture. We propose to merge bioengineering methods derived from the fields of stem cells and reproduction to develop new systems covering a wider window of the implantation process.

Keywords: in vitro models, blastocyst, blastocyst-like structures, early-pregnancy, endometrial cells, epidermal-growth-factor, gene-expression, implantation, in vitro models, in-vitro model, indian hedgehog, organoids, receptivity, self-organization, spheroids, trophoblast, trophoblast invasion, uterine receptivity, Blastocyst, Blastocyst-like structures, Early-pregnancy, Endometrial cells, Endometrial stromal cells, Epidermal-growth-factor, Gene-expression, Implantation, In vitro models, In-vitro model, Indian hedgehog, Organoids, Receptivity, Self-organization, Spheroids, Trophoblast, Trophoblast invasion, Uterine receptivity


Soblechero-Martín P, Albiasu-Arteta E, Anton-Martinez A, de la Puente-Ovejero L, Garcia-Jimenez I, González-Iglesias G, Larrañaga-Aiestaran I, López-Martínez A, Poyatos-García J, Ruiz-Del-Yerro E, Gonzalez F, Arechavala-Gomeza V, (2021). Duchenne muscular dystrophy cell culture models created by CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing and their application in drug screening Scientific Reports 11, 18188

Gene editing methods are an attractive therapeutic option for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and they have an immediate application in the generation of research models. To generate myoblast cultures that could be useful in in vitro drug screening, we have optimised a CRISPR/Cas9 gene edition protocol. We have successfully used it in wild type immortalised myoblasts to delete exon 52 of the dystrophin gene, modelling a common Duchenne muscular dystrophy mutation; and in patient’s immortalised cultures we have deleted an inhibitory microRNA target region of the utrophin UTR, leading to utrophin upregulation. We have characterised these cultures by demonstrating, respectively, inhibition of dystrophin expression and overexpression of utrophin, and evaluating the expression of myogenic factors (Myf5 and MyH3) and components of the dystrophin associated glycoprotein complex (α-sarcoglycan and β-dystroglycan). To demonstrate their use in the assessment of DMD treatments, we have performed exon skipping on the DMDΔ52-Model and have used the unedited DMD cultures/ DMD-UTRN-Model combo to assess utrophin overexpression after drug treatment. While the practical use of DMDΔ52-Model is limited to the validation to our gene editing protocol, DMD-UTRN-Model presents a possible therapeutic gene edition target as well as a useful positive control in the screening of utrophin overexpression drugs.

Keywords: expression, in-vitro, mouse model, muscle, mutations, phenotype, quantification, sarcolemma, therapy, Utrophin up-regulation


Demirel B, Moulin-Frier C, Arsiwalla XD, Verschure PFMJ, Sánchez-Fibla M, (2021). Distinguishing Self, Other, and Autonomy From Visual Feedback: A Combined Correlation and Acceleration Transfer Analysis Frontiers In Human Neuroscience 15,

In cognitive science, Theory of Mind (ToM) is the mental faculty of assessing intentions and beliefs of others and requires, in part, to distinguish incoming sensorimotor (SM) signals and, accordingly, attribute these to either the self-model, the model of the other, or one pertaining to the external world, including inanimate objects. To gain an understanding of this mechanism, we perform a computational analysis of SM interactions in a dual-arm robotic setup. Our main contribution is that, under the common fate principle, a correlation analysis of the velocities of visual pivots is shown to be sufficient to characterize the self (including proximo-distal arm-joint dependencies) and to assess motor to sensory influences, and the other by computing clusters in the correlation dependency graph. A correlational analysis, however, is not sufficient to assess the non-symmetric/directed dependencies required to infer autonomy, the ability of entities to move by themselves. We subsequently validate 3 measures that can potentially quantify a metric for autonomy: Granger causality (GC), transfer entropy (TE), as well as a novel “Acceleration Transfer” (AT) measure, which is an instantaneous measure that computes the estimated instantaneous transfer of acceleration between visual features, from which one can compute a directed SM graph. Subsequently, autonomy is characterized by the sink nodes in this directed graph. This study results show that although TE can capture the directional dependencies, a rectified subtraction operation denoted, in this study, as AT is both sufficient and computationally cheaper.

Keywords: agency, attention, autonomy, cognitive development, computational cognition, developmental psychology, sensorimotor learning, Agency, Attention, Autonomy, Cognitive development, Computational cognition, Developmental psychology, Model, Sensorimotor learning, Theory of mind


Freire R, Fernandez L, Mallafré-Muro C, Martín-Gómez A, Madrid-Gambin F, Oliveira L, Pardo A, Arce L, Marco S, (2021). Full workflows for the analysis of gas chromatography—ion mobility spectrometry in foodomics: Application to the analysis of iberian ham aroma SENSORS 21, 6156

Gas chromatography—ion mobility spectrometry (GC-IMS) allows the fast, reliable, and inexpensive chemical composition analysis of volatile mixtures. This sensing technology has been successfully employed in food science to determine food origin, freshness and preventing alimentary fraud. However, GC-IMS data is highly dimensional, complex, and suffers from strong non-linearities, baseline problems, misalignments, peak overlaps, long peak tails, etc., all of which must be corrected to properly extract the relevant features from samples. In this work, a pipeline for signal pre-processing, followed by four different approaches for feature extraction in GC-IMS data, is presented. More precisely, these approaches consist of extracting data features from: (1) the total area of the reactant ion peak chromatogram (RIC); (2) the full RIC response; (3) the unfolded sample matrix; and (4) the ion peak volumes. The resulting pipelines for data processing were applied to a dataset consisting of two different quality class Iberian ham samples, based on their feeding regime. The ability to infer chemical information from samples was tested by comparing the classification results obtained from partial least-squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) and the samples’ variable importance for projection (VIP) scores. The choice of a feature extraction strategy is a trade-off between the amount of chemical information that is preserved, and the computational effort required to generate the data models.

Keywords: authenticity, classification, electronic-nose, feature extraction, food analysis, gc-ims, headspace, least-squares, models, pld-da, pre-processing, quality, sensory analysis, wine, Feature extraction, Food analysis, Gc-ims, Hs-gc-ims, Pld-da, Pre-processing


Llenas M, Paoli R, Feiner-Gracia N, Albertazzi L, Samitier J, Caballero D, (2021). Versatile vessel-on-a-chip platform for studying key features of blood vascular tumors Bioengineering (Basel) 8,

Tumor vessel-on-a-chip systems have attracted the interest of the cancer research community due to their ability to accurately recapitulate the multiple dynamic events of the metastatic cascade. Vessel-on-a-chip microfluidic platforms have been less utilized for investigating the distinctive features and functional heterogeneities of tumor-derived vascular networks. In particular, vascular tumors are characterized by the massive formation of thrombi and severe bleeding, a rare and life-threatening situation for which there are yet no clear therapeutic guidelines. This is mainly due to the lack of technological platforms capable of reproducing these characteristic traits of the pathology in a simple and well-controlled manner. Herein, we report the fabrication of a versatile tumor vessel-on-a-chip platform to reproduce, investigate, and characterize the massive formation of thrombi and hemorrhage on-chip in a fast and easy manner. Despite its simplicity, this method offers multiple advantages to recapitulate the pathophysiological events of vascular tumors, and therefore, may find useful applications in the field of vascular-related diseases, while at the same time being an alternative to more complex approaches. © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Keywords: in vitro model, microfluidics, organ-on-chip, vascular tumor, vessel, In vitro model, Microfluidics, Organ-on-chip, Vascular tumor, Vessel


Blanco-Cabra N, López-Martínez MJ, Arévalo-Jaimes BV, Martin-Gómez MT, Samitier J, Torrents E, (2021). A new BiofilmChip device for testing biofilm formation and antibiotic susceptibility Npj Biofilms And Microbiomes 7,

Currently, three major circumstances threaten the management of bacterial infections: increasing antimicrobial resistance, expansion of chronic biofilm-associated infections, and lack of an appropriate approach to treat them. To date, the development of accelerated drug susceptibility testing of biofilms and of new antibiofouling systems has not been achieved despite the availability of different methodologies. There is a need for easy-to-use methods of testing the antibiotic susceptibility of bacteria that form biofilms and for screening new possible antibiofilm strategies. Herein, we present a microfluidic platform with an integrated interdigitated sensor (BiofilmChip). This new device allows an irreversible and homogeneous attachment of bacterial cells of clinical origin, even directly from clinical specimens, and the biofilms grown can be monitored by confocal microscopy or electrical impedance spectroscopy. The device proved to be suitable to study polymicrobial communities, as well as to measure the effect of antimicrobials on biofilms without introducing disturbances due to manipulation, thus better mimicking real-life clinical situations. Our results demonstrate that BiofilmChip is a straightforward tool for antimicrobial biofilm susceptibility testing that could be easily implemented in routine clinical laboratories.

Keywords: cells, model, resistance, shear, technology, In-vitro


Villasante A, Robinson ST, Cohen AR, Lock R, Guo XE, Vunjak-Novakovic G, (2021). Human Serum Enhances Biomimicry of Engineered Tissue Models of Bone and Cancer Frontiers In Bioengineering And Biotechnology 9,

For decades, fetal bovine serum (FBS) has been used routinely for culturing many cell types, based on its empirically demonstrated effects on cell growth, and the lack of suitable non-xenogeneic alternatives. The FBS-based culture media do not represent the human physiological conditions, and can compromise biomimicry of preclinical models. To recapitulate in vitro the features of human bone and bone cancer, we investigated the effects of human serum and human platelet lysate on modeling osteogenesis, osteoclastogenesis, and bone cancer in two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) settings. For monitoring tumor growth within tissue-engineered bone in a non-destructive fashion, we generated cancer cell lines expressing and secreting luciferase. Culture media containing human serum enhanced osteogenesis and osteoclasts differentiation, and provided a more realistic in vitro mimic of human cancer cell proliferation. When human serum was used for building 3D engineered bone, the tissue recapitulated bone homeostasis and response to bisphosphonates observed in native bone. We found disparities in cell behavior and drug responses between the metastatic and primary cancer cells cultured in the bone niche, with the effectiveness of bisphosphonates observed only in metastatic models. Overall, these data support the utility of human serum for bioengineering of bone and bone cancers.

Keywords: 3d cancer models, 3rs, alpha tnf-alpha, culture, cypridina luciferase, ewings-sarcoma, ewing’s sarcoma, human platelet lysate, human serum, human tumor, in-vitro, osteogenic differentiation, stem-cells, zoledronic acid, 3d cancer models, 3rs, Cypridina luciferase, Ewing's sarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, Fetal bovine serum, Human serum


Jurado, M, Castano, O, Zorzano, A, (2021). Stochastic modulation evidences a transitory EGF-Ras-ERK MAPK activity induced by PRMT5 COMPUTERS IN BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE 133,

The extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway involves a three-step cascade of kinases that transduce signals and promote processes such as cell growth, development, and apoptosis. An aberrant response of this pathway is related to the proliferation of cell diseases and tumors. By using simulation modeling, we document that the protein arginine methyltransferase 5 (PRMT5) modulates the MAPK pathway and thus avoids an aberrant behavior. PRMT5 methylates the Raf kinase, reducing its catalytic activity and thereby, reducing the activation of ERK in time and amplitude. Two minimal computational models of the epidermal growth factor (EGF)-Ras-ERK MAPK pathway influenced by PRMT5 were proposed: a first model in which PRMT5 is activated by EGF and a second one in which PRMT5 is stimulated by the cascade response. The reported results show that PRMT5 reduces the time duration and the expression of the activated ERK in both cases, but only in the first model PRMT5 limits the EGF range that generates an ERK activation. Based on our data, we propose the protein PRMT5 as a regulatory factor to develop strategies to fight against an excessive activity of the MAPK pathway, which could be of use in chronic diseases and cancer.

Keywords: cancer, cell response modulation, computational model, egf-ras-erk signaling route, mapk pathway, methylation, Arginine methyltransferase 5, Cancer, Cell response modulation, Colorectal-cancer, Computational model, Egf-ras-erk signaling route, Epidermal-growth-factor, Factor receptor, Histone h3, Kinase cascade, Mapk pathway, Methylation, Negative-feedback, Pc12 cells, Prmt5, Protein, Signal-transduction


López-Canosa A, Perez-Amodio S, Yanac-Huertas E, Ordoño J, Rodriguez-Trujillo R, Samitier J, Castaño O, Engel E, (2021). A microphysiological system combining electrospun fibers and electrical stimulation for the maturation of highly anisotropic cardiac tissue Biofabrication 13

The creation of cardiac tissue models for preclinical testing is still a non-solved problem in drug discovery, due to the limitations related to thein vitroreplication of cardiac tissue complexity. Among these limitations, the difficulty of mimicking the functional properties of the myocardium due to the immaturity of the used cells hampers the obtention of reliable results that could be translated into human patients.In vivomodels are the current gold standard to test new treatments, although it is widely acknowledged that the used animals are unable to fully recapitulate human physiology, which often leads to failures during clinical trials. In the present work, we present a microfluidic platform that aims to provide a range of signaling cues to immature cardiac cells to drive them towards an adult phenotype. The device combines topographical electrospun nanofibers with electrical stimulation in a microfabricated system. We validated our platform using a co-culture of neonatal mouse cardiomyocytes and cardiac fibroblasts, showing that it allows us to control the degree of anisotropy of the cardiac tissue inside the microdevice in a cost-effective way. Moreover, a 3D computational model of the electrical field was created and validated to demonstrate that our platform is able to closely match the distribution obtained with the gold standard (planar electrode technology) using inexpensive rod-shaped biocompatible stainless-steel electrodes. The functionality of the electrical stimulation was shown to induce a higher expression of the tight junction protein Cx-43, as well as the upregulation of several key genes involved in conductive and structural cardiac properties. These results validate our platform as a powerful tool for the tissue engineering community due to its low cost, high imaging compatibility, versatility, and high-throughput configuration capabilities.

Keywords: bioreactor, cardiac tissue engineering, cardiomyocytes, electrospinning, fabrication, fibroblasts, heart-on-a-chip, heart-tissue, in vitro models, myocardium, orientation, platform, scaffolds, Cardiac tissue engineering, Electrospinning, Field stimulation, Heart-on-a-chip, In vitro models, Microphysiological system


Freire IT, Urikh D, Arsiwalla XD, Verschure PFMJ, (2021). Machine morality: From harm-avoidance to human-robot cooperation Lecture Notes In Computer Science 12413 LNAI, 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: Cognitive architectures, Cognitive robotics, Computational models, Human-robot interaction, Moral decision-making, Morality


Amil AF, Puigbò JY, Verschure PFMJ, (2021). Cholinergic control of chaos and evidence sensitivity in a neocortical model of perceptual decision-making Lecture Notes In Computer Science 12413 LNAI, 92-96

Perceptual decision-making in the brain is commonly modeled as a competition among tuned cortical populations receiving stimulation according to their perceptual evidence. However, the contribution of evidence on the decisionmaking process changes through time. In this regard, the mechanisms controlling the sensitivity to perceptual evidence remain unknown. Here we explore this issue by using a biologically constrained model of the neocortex performing a dualchoice perceptual discrimination task.We combine mutual and globalGABAergic inhibition, which are differentially regulated by acetylcholine (ACh), a neuromodulator linked to enhanced stimulus discriminability. We find that, while mutual inhibition determines the phase-space separation between two stable attractors representing each stimulus, global inhibition controls the formation of a chaotic attractor in-between the two, effectively protecting the weakest stimulus. Hence, under low ACh levels, where global inhibition dominates, the decision-making process is chaotic and less determined by the difference between perceptual evidences. On the contrary, under high ACh levels, where mutual inhibition dominates, the network becomes very sensitive to small differences between stimuli. Our results are in line with the putative role of ACh in enhanced stimulus discriminability and suggest that ACh levels control the sensitivity to sensory inputs by regulating the amount of chaos.

Keywords: Acetylcholine, Chaos, Cortical model, Decision-making


Di Muzio M, Millan-Solsona R, Dols-Perez A, Borrell JH, Fumagalli L, Gomila G, (2021). Dielectric properties and lamellarity of single liposomes measured by in-liquid scanning dielectric microscopy JOURNAL OF NANOBIOTECHNOLOGY 19,

Liposomes are widely used as drug delivery carriers and as cell model systems. Here, we measure the dielectric properties of individual liposomes adsorbed on a metal electrode by in-liquid scanning dielectric microscopy in force detection mode. From the measurements the lamellarity of the liposomes, the separation between the lamellae and the specific capacitance of the lipid bilayer can be obtained. As application we considered the case of non-extruded DOPC liposomes with radii in the range ~ 100–800 nm. Uni-, bi- and tri-lamellar liposomes have been identified, with the largest population corresponding to bi-lamellar liposomes. The interlamellar separation in the bi-lamellar liposomes is found to be below ~ 10 nm in most instances. The specific capacitance of the DOPC lipid bilayer is found to be ~ 0.75 µF/cm2 in excellent agreement with the value determined on solid supported planar lipid bilayers. The lamellarity of the DOPC liposomes shows the usual correlation with the liposome's size. No correlation is found, instead, with the shape of the adsorbed liposomes. The proposed approach offers a powerful label-free and non-invasive method to determine the lamellarity and dielectric properties of single liposomes. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Keywords: constant, force, lamellarity, liposomes, membrane capacitance, model, nanoscale, scanning dielectric microscopy, Lamellarity, Liposomes, Membrane capacitance, Nanoscale, Polarization properties, Scanning dielectric microscopy


Torp N, Israelsen M, Madsen B, Lutz P, Jansen C, Strassburg C, Mortensen C, Knudsen AW, Sorensen GL, Holmskov U, Schlosser A, Thiele M, Trebicka J, Krag A, (2021). Level of MFAP4 in ascites independently predicts 1-year transplant-free survival in patients with cirrhosis Jhep Rep 3, 100287

Background & Aims: Prognostic models of cirrhosis underestimate disease severity for patients with cirrhosis and ascites. Microfibrillar-associated protein 4 (MFAP4) is an extracellular matrix protein linked to hepatic neoangiogenesis and fibrogenesis. We investigated ascites MFAP4 as a predictor of transplant-free survival in patients with cirrhosis and ascites. Methods: A dual-centre observational study of patients with cirrhosis and ascites recruited consecutively in relation to a paracentesis was carried out. Patients were followed up for 1 year, until death or liver transplantation (LTx). Ascites MFAP4 was tested with the model for end-stage liver disease (MELD-Na), CLIF Consortium Acute Decompensation (CLIF-C AD), and Child-Pugh score in Cox regression models. Results: Ninety-three patients requiring paracentesis were included. Median ascites MFAP4 was 29.7 U/L [22.3–41.3], and MELD-Na was 19 [16–23]. A low MELD-Na score (<20) was observed in 49 patients (53%). During follow-up, 20 patients died (22%), and 6 received LTx (6%). High ascites MFAP4 (>29.7 U/L) was associated with 1-year transplant-free survival (p = 0.002). In Cox regression, ascites MFAP4 and MELD-Na independently predicted 1-year transplant-free survival (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.97, p = 0.03, and HR = 1.08, p = 0.01, respectively). Ascites MFAP4 and CLIF-C AD also predicted survival independently (HR = 0.96, p = 0.02, and HR = 1.05, p = 0.03, respectively), whereas only ascites MFAP4 did, controlling for the Child-Pugh score (HR = 0.97, p = 0.03, and HR = 1.18, p = 0.16, respectively). For patients with MELD-Na <20, ascites MFAP4 but not ascites protein predicted 1-year transplant-free survival (HR 0.91, p = 0.02, and HR = 0.94, p = 0.17, respectively). Conclusions: Ascites MFAP4 predicts 1-year transplant-free survival in patients with cirrhosis and ascites. In patients with low MELD-Na scores, ascites MFAP4, but not total ascites protein, significantly predicted 1-year transplant-free survival. Lay summary: Patients with cirrhosis who have fluid in the abdomen, ascites, are at an increased risk of death and in need for liver transplantation. Our study identified patients with ascites and a poor prognosis by measuring microfibrillar associated protein 4 (MFAP4), a protein present in the abdominal fluid. Patients with low levels of the MFAP4 protein are at particularly increased risk of death or liver transplantation, suggesting that clinical care should be intensified in this group of patients. © 2021 The Authors

Keywords: biomarker, clif-c ad, clif consortium acute decompensation, cps, child-pugh score, crp, c-reactive protein, ct, computed tomography, decompensated, ecm, extracellular matrix, fibrosis, fluid protein, gfr, glomerular filtration rate, hr, hazard ratio, inr, internationalised normal ratio, liver disease, liver-cirrhosis, ltx, liver transplantation, markers, meld-na, model for end-stage liver disease, mfap4, microfibrillar associated protein 4, mortality, nash, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, natural-history, prognosis, risk-factors, sbp, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, scores, stage, Biomarker, Decompensated, Egfr, estimated gfr, Fibrosis, Liver disease, Mortality, Prognosis, Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis


González-Piñero M, Páez-Avilés C, Juanola-Feliu E, Samitier J, (2021). Cross-fertilization of knowledge and technologies in collaborative research projects Journal Of Knowledge Management 25, 34-59

Purpose: This paper aims to explore how the cross-fertilization of knowledge and technologies in EU-funded research projects, including serious games and gamification, is influenced by the following variables: multidisciplinarity, knowledge base and organizations (number and diversity). The interrelation of actors and projects form a network of innovation. The largest contribution to cross-fertilization comes from the multidisciplinary nature of projects and the previous knowledge and technology of actors. The analysis draws on the understanding of how consortia perform as an innovation network, what their outcomes are and what capabilities are needed to reap value. Design/methodology/approach: All the research projects including serious games and/or gamification, funded by the EU-Horizon 2020 work programme, have been analyzed to test the hypotheses in this paper. The study sample covers the period between 2014 and 2016 (June), selecting the 87 research projects that comprised 519 organizations as coordinators and participants, and 597 observations – because more organizations participate in more than one project. The data were complemented by documentary and external database analysis. Findings: To create cross-fertilization of knowledge and technologies, the following emphasis should be placed on projects: partners concern various disciplines; partners have an extensive knowledge base for generating novel combinations and added-value technologies; there is a diverse typology of partners with unique knowledge and skills; and there is a limited number of organizations not too closely connected to provide cross-fertilization. Research limitations/implications: First, the database sample covers a period of 30 months. The authors’ attention was focused on this period because H2020 prioritized for the first time the serious games and gamification with two specific calls (ICT-21–14 and ICT-24–16) and, second, for the explosion of projects including these technologies in the past years (Adkins, 2017). These facts can be understood as a way to push the research to higher technology readiness levels (TRLs) and introducing the end-user in the co-creation and co-development along the value chain. Second, an additional limitation makes reference to the European focus of the projects, missing strong regional initiatives not identified and studied. Originality/value: This paper has attempted to explore and define theoretically and empirically the characteristics found in the cross-fertilization of collaborative research projects, emphasizing which variables, and how, need to be stimulated to benefit more multidisciplinary consortia and accelerate the process of innovation. © 2021, Manel González-Piñero, Cristina Páez-Avilés, Esteve Juanola-Feliu and Josep Samitier.

Keywords: absorptive-capacity, business model, cross-fertilization of knowledge, diversity, front-end, impact, innovation systems, knowledge management, management research, science, social networks, team, technology, Cross-fertilization of knowledge, Innovation, Knowledge management, Management research, Research-and-development, Technology


Santos-Pata D, Amil AF, Raikov IG, Rennó-Costa C, Mura A, Soltesz I, Verschure PFMJ, (2021). Epistemic Autonomy: Self-supervised Learning in the Mammalian Hippocampus Trends In Cognitive Sciences 25, 582-595

Biological cognition is based on the ability to autonomously acquire knowledge, or epistemic autonomy. Such self-supervision is largely absent in artificial neural networks (ANN) because they depend on externally set learning criteria. Yet training ANN using error backpropagation has created the current revolution in artificial intelligence, raising the question of whether the epistemic autonomy displayed in biological cognition can be achieved with error backpropagation-based learning. We present evidence suggesting that the entorhinal–hippocampal complex combines epistemic autonomy with error backpropagation. Specifically, we propose that the hippocampus minimizes the error between its input and output signals through a modulatory counter-current inhibitory network. We further discuss the computational emulation of this principle and analyze it in the context of autonomous cognitive systems. © 2021 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords: computational model, dentate gyrus, error backpropagation, granule cells, grid cells, hippocampus, inhibition, input, neural-networks, neurons, transformation, Artificial intelligence, Artificial neural network, Back propagation, Backpropagation, Brain, Cognitive systems, Counter current, Error back-propagation, Error backpropagation, Errors, Expressing interneurons, Hippocampal complex, Hippocampus, Human experiment, Input and outputs, Learning, Mammal, Mammalian hippocampus, Mammals, Neural networks, Nonhuman, Review, Self-supervised learning


Watt, AC, Cejas, P, DeCristo, MJ, Metzger, O, Lam, EYN, Qiu, XT, BrinJones, H, Kesten, N, Coulson, R, Font-Tello, A, Lim, K, Vadhi, R, Daniels, VW, Montero, J, Taing, L, Meyer, CA, Gilan, O, Bell, CC, Korthauer, KD, Giambartolomei, C, Pasaniuc, B, Seo, JH, Freedman, ML, Ma, CT, Ellis, MJ, Krop, I, Winer, E, Letai, A, Brown, M, Dawson, MA, Long, HW, Zhao, JJ, Goel, S, (2021). CDK4/6 inhibition reprograms the breast cancer enhancer landscape by stimulating AP-1 transcriptional activity Nature Cancer 2, 34-+

Goel and colleagues show that CDK4/6 inhibition induces global chromatin changes mediated by AP-1 factors, which mediate key biological and clinical effects in breast cancer. Pharmacologic inhibitors of cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6 (CDK4/6) were designed to induce cancer cell cycle arrest. Recent studies have suggested that these agents also exert other effects, influencing cancer cell immunogenicity, apoptotic responses and differentiation. Using cell-based and mouse models of breast cancer together with clinical specimens, we show that CDK4/6 inhibitors induce remodeling of cancer cell chromatin characterized by widespread enhancer activation, and that this explains many of these effects. The newly activated enhancers include classical super-enhancers that drive luminal differentiation and apoptotic evasion, as well as a set of enhancers overlying endogenous retroviral elements that are enriched for proximity to interferon-driven genes. Mechanistically, CDK4/6 inhibition increases the level of several activator protein-1 transcription factor proteins, which are in turn implicated in the activity of many of the new enhancers. Our findings offer insights into CDK4/6 pathway biology and should inform the future development of CDK4/6 inhibitors.

Keywords: Abemaciclib, Androgen receptor, Animal experiment, Animal model, Animal tissue, Apoptosis, Article, Breast cancer, C-jun, Cancer cell, Carcinoembryonic antigen related cell adhesion molecule 1, Caspase 3, Cell cycle arrest, Cells, Chromatin, Chromatin immunoprecipitation, Controlled study, Cyclin dependent kinase 4, Cyclin dependent kinase 6, Dna damage, Epidermal growth factor receptor 2, Estrogen receptor, Female, Flow cytometry, Fulvestrant, Hla drb1 antigen, Human, Human cell, Immunoblotting, Immunogenicity, Immunoprecipitation, Interferon, Luciferase assay, Mcf-7 cell line, Mda-mb-231 cell line, Microarray analysis, Morphogenesis, Mouse, Nonhuman, Palbociclib, Protein, Protein expression, Rb, Resistance, Rna polymerase ii, Rna sequence, Selective-inhibition, Senescence, Short tandem repeat, Signal transduction, Tamoxifen, Transcription elongation, Transcription factor, Transcription factor ap 1, Transcriptome, Tumor biopsy, Tumor differentiation, Tumor spheroid, Tumor xenograft, Vinculin, Whole exome sequencing


Blaya, D, Pose, E, Coll, M, Lozano, JJ, Graupera, I, Schierwagen, R, Jansen, C, Castro, P, Fernandez, S, Sidorova, J, Vasa-Nicotera, M, Sola, E, Caballeria, J, Trebicka, J, Gines, P, Sancho-Bru, P, (2021). Profiling circulating microRNAs in patients with cirrhosis and acute-on-chronic liver failure Jhep Rep 3, 100233

Background & Aims: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) circulate in several body fluids and can be useful biomarkers. The aim of this study was to identify blood-circulating miRNAs associated with cirrhosis progression and acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF). Methods: Using high-throughput screening of 754 miRNAs, serum samples from 45 patients with compensated cirrhosis, decompensated cirrhosis, or ACLF were compared with those from healthy individuals (n = 15). miRNA levels were correlated with clinical parameters, organ failure, and disease progression and outcome. Dysregulated miRNAs were evaluated in portal and hepatic vein samples (n = 33), liver tissues (n = 17), and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) (n = 16). Results: miRNA screening analysis revealed that circulating miRNAs are dysregulated in cirrhosis progression, with 51 miRNAs being differentially expressed among all groups of patients. Unsupervised clustering and principal component analysis indicated that the main differences in miRNA expression occurred at decompensation, showing similar levels in patients with decompensated cirrhosis and those with ACLF. Of 43 selected miRNAs examined for differences among groups, 10 were differentially expressed according to disease progression. Moreover, 20 circulating miRNAs were correlated with model for end-stage liver disease and Child-Pugh scores. Notably, 11 dysregulated miRNAs were associated with kidney or liver failure, encephalopathy, bacterial infection, and poor outcomes. The most severely dysregulated miRNAs (i.e. miR-146a5p, miR-26a-5p, and miR-191-5p) were further evaluated in portal and hepatic vein blood and liver tissue, but showed no differences. However, PBMCs from patients with cirrhosis showed significant downregulation of miR-26 and miR-146a, suggesting a extrahepatic origin of some circulating miRNAs. Conclusions: This study is a repository of circulating miRNA data following cirrhosis progression and ACLF. Circulating miRNAs were profoundly dysregulated during the progression of chronic liver disease, were associated with failure of several organs and could have prognostic utility. Lay summary: Circulating miRNAs are small molecules in the blood that can be used to identify or predict a clinical condition. Our study aimed to identify miRNAs for use as biomarkers in patients with cirrhosis or acute-on-chronic liver failure. Several miRNAs were found to be dysregulated during the progression of disease, and some were also related to organ failure and disease-related outcomes. (C) 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL).

Keywords: aclf, acute-on-chronic liver failure, alt, alanine aminotransferase, ast, aspartate aminotransferase, biomarkers, chronic liver disease, cxcl10, c-x-c motif chemokine ligand 10, ef clif, european foundation for the study of chronic liver failure, foxo, forkhead box o, inr, international normalised ratio, ldh, lactate dehydrogenase, liver decompensation, mapk, mitogen-activated protein kinase, meld, model for end-stage liver disease, nash, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, non-coding rnas, pbmcs, peripheral blood mononuclear cells, pca, principal component analysis, tgf, transforming growth factor, tips, transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt, Biomarkers, Chronic liver disease, Expression, Liver decompensation, Markers, Mir-146a, Non-coding rnas, Qpcr, quantitative pcr


Cendra MdM, Torrents E, (2021). Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms and their partners in crime BIOTECHNOLOGY ADVANCES 49,

Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms and the capacity of the bacterium to coexist and interact with a broad range of microorganisms have a substantial clinical impact. This review focuses on the main traits of P. aeruginosa biofilms, such as the structural composition and regulatory networks involved, placing particular emphasis on the clinical challenges they represent in terms of antimicrobial susceptibility and biofilm infection clearance. Furthermore, the ability of P. aeruginosa to grow together with other microorganisms is a significant pathogenic attribute with clinical relevance; hence, the main microbial interactions of Pseudomonas are especially highlighted and detailed throughout this review. This article also explores the infections caused by single and polymicrobial biofilms of P. aeruginosa and the current models used to recreate them under laboratory conditions. Finally, the antimicrobial and antibiofilm strategies developed against P. aeruginosa mono and multispecies biofilms are detailed at the end of this review.

Keywords: aeruginosa models, antibiotic-resistance, antimicrobials, bacterial biofilms, biofilms, c-di-gmp, chronic infections, enterococcus-faecalis, extracellular dna, in-vitro, lectin pa-iil, p, p. aeruginosa models, polymicrobial, polymicrobial interactions, staphylococcus-aureus, Antimicrobials, Biofilms, Chronic infections, P. aeruginosa models, Polymicrobial, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Urinary-tract-infection


López-Ortiz M, Zamora RA, Antinori ME, Remesh V, Hu C, Croce R, Van Hulst NF, Gorostiza P, (2021). Fast Photo-Chrono-Amperometry of Photosynthetic Complexes for Biosensors and Electron Transport Studies ACS Sensors 6, 581-587

© 2021 American Chemical Society. Photosynthetic reactions in plants, algae, and cyanobacteria are driven by photosystem I and photosystem II complexes, which specifically reduce or oxidize partner redox biomolecules. Photosynthetic complexes can also bind synthetic organic molecules, which inhibit their photoactivity and can be used both to study the electron transport chain and as herbicides and algicides. Thus, their development, characterization, and sensing bears fundamental and applied interest. Substantial efforts have been devoted to developing photosensors based on photosystem II to detect compounds that bind to the plastoquinone sites of this complex. In comparison, photosystem I based sensors have received less attention and could be used to identify novel substances displaying phytotoxic effects, including those obtained from natural product extracts. We have developed a robust procedure to functionalize gold electrodes with photo- and redox-active photosystem I complexes based on transparent gold and a thiolate self-assembled monolayer, and we have obtained reproducible electrochemical photoresponses. Chronoamperometric recordings have allowed us to measure photocurrents in the presence of the viologen derivative paraquat at concentrations below 100 nM under lock-in operation and a sensor dynamic range spanning six orders of magnitude up to 100 mM. We have modeled their time course to identify the main electrochemical processes and limiting steps in the electron transport chain. Our results allow us to isolate the contributions from photosystem I and the redox mediator, and evaluate photocurrent features (spectral and power dependence, fast transient kinetics) that could be used as a sensing signal to detect other inhibitors and modulators of photosystem I activity.

Keywords: biosensor, herbicide, kinetic model, paraquat, photo-chrono-amperometry, photosystem i, self-assembled monolayer, transparent gold microelectrode, Biosensor, Herbicide, Kinetic model, Paraquat, Photo-chrono-amperometry, Photosystem i, Self-assembled monolayer, Transparent gold microelectrode


Romero D, Jane R, (2021). Global and Transient Effects of Intermittent Hypoxia on Heart Rate Variability Markers: Evaluation using an Obstructive Sleep Apnea Model IEEE Access 9, 19043-19052

CCBY Intermittent hypoxia (IH) produces autonomic dysfunction that promotes the development of arrhythmia and hypertension in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This paper investigated different heart rate variability (HRV) indices in the context of IH using a rat model for OSA. Linear and non-linear HRV parameters were assessed from ultra-short (15-s segments) and short-term (5 min) analyses of heartbeat time-series. Transient changes observed from pre-apnea segments to hypoxia episodes were evaluated, besides the relative and global impact of IH, as a function of its severity. Results showed an overall increase in ultra-short HRV markers as immediate response to hypoxia: standard deviation of normal RR intervals, SDNN=1.2 ms (IQR: 1.1-2.1) vs 1.4 ms (IQR: 1.2-2.2), p=0.015; root mean square of the successive differences, RMSSD=1.7 ms (IQR: 1.5-2.2) vs 1.9 ms (IQR: 1.6-2.4), p=0.031. The power in the very low frequency (VLF) band also showed a significant increase: 0.09 ms2 (IQR: 0.05-0.20) vs 0.16 ms2 (IQR: 0.12-0.23), p=0.016, probably associated with the potentiation of the carotid body chemo-sensory response to hypoxia. Moreover, a clear link between severity of IH and short-term HRV measures was found in VLF and LF power, besides their progressive increase seen throughout the experiment after each apnea sequence. However, only those markers quantifying fragmentation levels in RR series were significantly affected when the experiment ended, as compared to baseline measures: percentage of inflection points, PIP=49% (IQR: 45-51) vs 53% (IQR: 47-53), p=0.031; percentage of short (≥3 RR intervals) accelerated/decelerated segments, PSS=75% (IQR: 51-81) vs 87% (IQR: 51-90), p=0.046. These findings suggest a significant deterioration of cardiac rhythm with a more erratic behavior beyond the normal sinus arrhythmia, that may lead to a future cardiac condition.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, atmospheric modeling, electrocardiography, heart rate variability, hypoxia rat model, intermittent hypoxia, obstructive apneas, protocols, radio access technologies, Artificial intelligence, Atmospheric modeling, Electrocardiography, Heart rate variability, Hypoxia rat model, Intermittent hypoxia, Obstructive apneas, Protocols, Radio access technologies, Rats


Maleeva G, Nin-Hill A, Rustler K, Petukhova E, Ponomareva D, Mukhametova E, Gomila AM, Wutz D, Alfonso-Prieto M, König B, Gorostiza P, Bregestovski P, (2021). Subunit-specific photocontrol of glycine receptors by azobenzene-nitrazepam photoswitcher ENEURO 8, 1-17

© 2021 Maleeva et al. Photopharmacology is a unique approach that through a combination of photochemistry methods and advanced life science techniques allows the study and control of specific biological processes, ranging from intracellular pathways to brain circuits. Recently, a first photochromic channel blocker of anion-selective GABAA receptors, the azobenzene-nitrazepam-based photochromic compound (Azo-NZ1), has been described. In the present study, using patch-clamp technique in heterologous system and in mice brain slices, site-directed mutagenesis and molecular modeling we provide evidence of the interaction of Azo-NZ1 with glycine receptors (GlyRs) and determine the molecular basis of this interaction. Glycinergic synaptic neurotransmission determines an important inhibitory drive in the vertebrate nervous system and plays a crucial role in the control of neuronal circuits in the spinal cord and brain stem. GlyRs are involved in locomotion, pain sensation, breathing, and auditory function, as well as in the development of such disorders as hyperekplexia, epilepsy, and autism. Here, we demonstrate that Azo-NZ1 blocks in a UV-dependent manner the activity of a2 GlyRs (GlyR2), while being barely active on a1 GlyRs (GlyR1). The site of Azo-NZ1 action is in the chloride-selective pore of GlyR at the 2’ position of transmembrane helix 2 and amino acids forming this site determine the difference in Azo-NZ1 blocking activity between GlyR2 and GlyR1. This subunit-specific modulation is also shown on motoneurons of brainstem slices from neonatal mice that switch during development from expressing “fetal” GlyR2 to “adult” GlyR1 receptors.

Keywords: brain slices, glycine receptors, hypoglossal motoneurons, molecular modelling, patch-clamp, photopharmacology, Brain slices, Glycine receptors, Hypoglossal motoneurons, Molecular modelling, Patch-clamp, Photopharmacology


Tornín J, Villasante A, Solé-Martí X, Ginebra MP, Canal C, (2021). Osteosarcoma tissue-engineered model challenges oxidative stress therapy revealing promoted cancer stem cell properties FREE RADICAL BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE 164, 107-118

© 2020 The Author(s) The use of oxidative stress generated by Cold Atmospheric Plasma (CAP) in oncology is being recently studied as a novel potential anti-cancer therapy. However, the beneficial effects of CAP for treating osteosarcoma have mostly been demonstrated in 2-dimensional cultures of cells, which do not mimic the complexity of the 3-dimensional (3D) bone microenvironment. In order to evaluate the effects of CAP in a relevant context of the human disease, we developed a 3D tissue-engineered model of osteosarcoma using a bone-like scaffold made of collagen type I and hydroxyapatite nanoparticles. Human osteosarcoma cells cultured within the scaffold showed a high capacity to infiltrate and proliferate and to exhibit osteomimicry in vitro. As expected, we observed significantly different functional behaviors between monolayer and 3D cultures when treated with Cold Plasma-Activated Ringer's Solution (PAR). Our data reveal that the 3D environment not only protects cells from PAR-induced lethality by scavenging and diminishing the amount of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species generated by CAP, but also favours the stemness phenotype of osteosarcoma cells. This is the first study that demonstrates the negative effect of PAR on cancer stem-like cell subpopulations in a 3D biomimetic model of cancer. These findings will allow to suitably re-focus research on plasma-based therapies in future.

Keywords: 3d tumor model, cancer stem-like cells, cold atmospheric plasma, osteosarcoma, oxidative stress, plasma activated liquids, reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, 3d tumor model, Cancer stem-like cells, Cold atmospheric plasma, Osteosarcoma, Oxidative stress, Plasma activated liquids, Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species


Feiner-Gracia N, Glinkowska Mares A, Buzhor M, Rodriguez-Trujillo R, Samitier Marti J, Amir RJ, Pujals S, Albertazzi L, (2021). Real-Time Ratiometric Imaging of Micelles Assembly State in a Microfluidic Cancer-on-a-Chip Acs Applied Bio Materials 4, 669-681

© 2020 American Chemical Society. The performance of supramolecular nanocarriers as drug delivery systems depends on their stability in the complex and dynamic biological media. After administration, nanocarriers are challenged by physiological barriers such as shear stress and proteins present in blood, endothelial wall, extracellular matrix, and eventually cancer cell membrane. While early disassembly will result in a premature drug release, extreme stability of the nanocarriers can lead to poor drug release and low efficiency. Therefore, comprehensive understanding of the stability and assembly state of supramolecular carriers in each stage of delivery is the key factor for the rational design of these systems. One of the main challenges is that current 2D in vitro models do not provide exhaustive information, as they fail to recapitulate the 3D tumor microenvironment. This deficiency in the 2D model complexity is the main reason for the differences observed in vivo when testing the performance of supramolecular nanocarriers. Herein, we present a real-time monitoring study of self-assembled micelles stability and extravasation, combining spectral confocal microscopy and a microfluidic cancer-on-a-chip. The combination of advanced imaging and a reliable 3D model allows tracking of micelle disassembly by following the spectral properties of the amphiphiles in space and time during the crucial steps of drug delivery. The spectrally active micelles were introduced under flow and their position and conformation continuously followed by spectral imaging during the crossing of barriers, revealing the interplay between carrier structure, micellar stability, and extravasation. Integrating the ability of the micelles to change their fluorescent properties when disassembled, spectral confocal imaging and 3D microfluidic tumor blood vessel-on-a-chip resulted in the establishment of a robust testing platform suitable for real-time imaging and evaluation of supramolecular drug delivery carrier's stability.

Keywords: cancer-on-a-chip, complex, delivery, endothelial-cells, in-vitro, microfluidic, model, nanoparticle, penetration, shear-stress, stability, supramolecular, Cancer-on-a-chip, Cell-culture, Micelle, Microfluidic, Nanoparticle, Stability, Supramolecular


Blanco-Fernandez B, Gaspar VM, Engel E, Mano JF, (2021). Proteinaceous Hydrogels for Bioengineering Advanced 3D Tumor Models Advanced Science 8,

© 2020 The Authors. Advanced Science published by Wiley-VCH GmbH The establishment of tumor microenvironment using biomimetic in vitro models that recapitulate key tumor hallmarks including the tumor supporting extracellular matrix (ECM) is in high demand for accelerating the discovery and preclinical validation of more effective anticancer therapeutics. To date, ECM-mimetic hydrogels have been widely explored for 3D in vitro disease modeling owing to their bioactive properties that can be further adapted to the biochemical and biophysical properties of native tumors. Gathering on this momentum, herein the current landscape of intrinsically bioactive protein and peptide hydrogels that have been employed for 3D tumor modeling are discussed. Initially, the importance of recreating such microenvironment and the main considerations for generating ECM-mimetic 3D hydrogel in vitro tumor models are showcased. A comprehensive discussion focusing protein, peptide, or hybrid ECM-mimetic platforms employed for modeling cancer cells/stroma cross-talk and for the preclinical evaluation of candidate anticancer therapies is also provided. Further development of tumor-tunable, proteinaceous or peptide 3D microtesting platforms with microenvironment-specific biophysical and biomolecular cues will contribute to better mimic the in vivo scenario, and improve the predictability of preclinical screening of generalized or personalized therapeutics.

Keywords: 3d in vitro models, cancers, hydrogels, peptides, 3d in vitro models, Cancers, Hydrogels, Peptides, Proteins


Moya-Andérico L, Vukomanovic M, Cendra MdM, Segura-Feliu M, Gil V, del Río JA, Torrents E, (2021). Utility of Galleria mellonella larvae for evaluating nanoparticle toxicology Chemosphere 266

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd The use of nanoparticles in consumer products is currently on the rise, so it is important to have reliable methods to predict any associated toxicity effects. Traditional in vitro assays fail to mimic true physiological responses of living organisms against nanoparticles whereas murine in vivo models are costly and ethically controversial. For these reasons, this study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of Galleria mellonella as an alternative, non-rodent in vivo model for examining nanoparticle toxicity. Silver, selenium, and functionalized gold nanoparticles were synthesized, and their toxicity was assessed in G. mellonella larvae. The degree of acute toxicity effects caused by each type of NP was efficiently detected by an array of indicators within the larvae: LD50 calculation, hemocyte proliferation, NP distribution, behavioral changes, and histological alterations. G. mellonella larvae are proposed as a nanotoxicological model that can be used as a bridge between in vitro and in vivo murine assays in order to obtain better predictions of NP toxicity.

Keywords: cellular uptake, cytotoxicity, galleria mellonella, gold nanoparticles, hemocytes, nanoparticles, nanotoxicity, non-rodent in vivo model, non-rodent in vivo model, oxidative stress, selenium-compounds, silica nanoparticles, silver nanoparticles, toxicity, toxicity screening, vitro, Galleria mellonella, Hemocytes, In-vivo model, Nanoparticles, Nanotoxicity, Non-rodent in vivo model, Toxicity screening


Garreta, Elena, Kamm, Roger D., Chuva de Sousa Lopes, Susana M., Lancaster, Madeline A., Weiss, Ron, Trepat, Xavier, Hyun, Insoo, Montserrat, Nuria, (2021). Rethinking organoid technology through bioengineering NATURE MATERIALS 20, 145-155

In recent years considerable progress has been made in the development of faithful procedures for the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). An important step in this direction has also been the derivation of organoids. This technology generally relies on traditional three-dimensional culture techniques that exploit cell-autonomous self-organization responses of hPSCs with minimal control over the external inputs supplied to the system. The convergence of stem cell biology and bioengineering offers the possibility to provide these stimuli in a controlled fashion, resulting in the development of naturally inspired approaches to overcome major limitations of this nascent technology. Based on the current developments, we emphasize the achievements and ongoing challenges of bringing together hPSC organoid differentiation, bioengineering and ethics. This Review underlines the need for providing engineering solutions to gain control of self-organization and functionality of hPSC-derived organoids. We expect that this knowledge will guide the community to generate higher-grade hPSC-derived organoids for further applications in developmental biology, drug screening, disease modelling and personalized medicine. This Review provides an overview of bioengineering technologies that can be harnessed to facilitate the culture, self-organization and functionality of human pluripotent stem cell-derived organoids.

Keywords: Differentiation, Embryonic-tissues, Extracellular-matrix, In-vitro, Kidney organoids, Model, Neural-tube, Pluripotent stem-cells, Reconstitution, Self-organization


Wiers RW, Verschure P, (2021). Curing the broken brain model of addiction: Neurorehabilitation from a systems perspective Addictive Behaviors 112,

© 2020 The Author(s) The dominant biomedical perspective on addictions has been that they are chronic brain diseases. While we acknowledge that the brains of people with addictions differ from those without, we argue that the “broken brain” model of addiction has important limitations. We propose that a systems-level perspective more effectively captures the integrated architecture of the embodied and situated human mind and brain in relation to the development of addictions. This more dynamic conceptualization places addiction in the broader context of the addicted brain that drives behavior, where the addicted brain is the substrate of the addicted mind, that in turn is situated in a physical and socio-cultural environment. From this perspective, neurorehabilitation should shift from a “broken-brain” to a systems theoretical framework, which includes high-level concepts related to the physical and social environment, motivation, self-image, and the meaning of alternative activities, which in turn will dynamically influence subsequent brain adaptations. We call this integrated approach system-oriented neurorehabilitation. We illustrate our proposal by showing the link between addiction and the architecture of the embodied brain, including a systems-level perspective on classical conditioning, which has been successfully translated into neurorehabilitation. Central to this example is the notion that the human brain makes predictions on future states as well as expected (or counterfactual) errors, in the context of its goals. We advocate system-oriented neurorehabilitation of addiction where the patients' goals are central in targeted, personalized assessment and intervention.

Keywords: addiction, brain disease model, neurorehabilitation, Addiction, Brain disease model, Neurorehabilitation, Systems approach


Mateu-Sanz, M., Tornín, J., Brulin, B., Khlyustova, A., Ginebra, M. P., Layrolle, P., Canal, C., (2020). Cold plasma-treated ringer's saline: A weapon to target osteosarcoma Cancers 12, (1), 227

Osteosarcoma (OS) is the main primary bone cancer, presenting poor prognosis and difficult treatment. An innovative therapy may be found in cold plasmas, which show anti-cancer effects related to the generation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species in liquids. In vitro models are based on the effects of plasma-treated culture media on cell cultures. However, effects of plasma-activated saline solutions with clinical application have not yet been explored in OS. The aim of this study is to obtain mechanistic insights on the action of plasma-activated Ringer’s saline (PAR) for OS therapy in cell and organotypic cultures. To that aim, cold atmospheric plasma jets were used to obtain PAR, which produced cytotoxic effects in human OS cells (SaOS-2, MG-63, and U2-OS), related to the increasing concentration of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species generated. Proof of selectivity was found in the sustained viability of hBM-MSCs with the same treatments. Organotypic cultures of murine OS confirmed the time-dependent cytotoxicity observed in 2D. Histological analysis showed a decrease in proliferating cells (lower Ki-67 expression). It is shown that the selectivity of PAR is highly dependent on the concentrations of reactive species, being the differential intracellular reactive oxygen species increase and DNA damage between OS cells and hBM-MSCs key mediators for cell apoptosis.

Keywords: Bone cancer, Cold atmospheric plasma, Organotypic model, Osteosarcoma, Plasma-activated liquid, Reactive species, Ringer's saline


Monferrer, E., Sanegre, S., Martínn-Vañó, S., GarcÃía-Lizarribar, A., Burgos-Panadero, R., López-Carrasco, A., Navarro, S., Samitier, J., Noguera, R., (2020). Digital image analysis applied to tumor cell proliferation, aggressiveness, and migration-related protein synthesis in neuroblastoma 3d models International Journal of Molecular Sciences 21, (22), 8676

Patient-derived cancer 3D models are a promising tool that will revolutionize personalized cancer therapy but that require previous knowledge of optimal cell growth conditions and the most advantageous parameters to evaluate biomimetic relevance and monitor therapy efficacy. This study aims to establish general guidelines on 3D model characterization phenomena, focusing on neuroblastoma. We generated gelatin-based scaffolds with different stiffness and performed SK-N-BE(2) and SH-SY5Y aggressive neuroblastoma cell cultures, also performing co-cultures with mouse stromal Schwann cell line (SW10). Model characterization by digital image analysis at different time points revealed that cell proliferation, vitronectin production, and migration-related gene expression depend on growing conditions and are specific to the tumor cell line. Morphometric data show that 3D in vitro models can help generate optimal patient-derived cancer models, by creating, identifying, and choosing patterns of clinically relevant artificial microenvironments to predict patient tumor cell behavior and therapeutic responses.

Keywords: 3D cancer modeling, DOCK8, KANK1, Ki67, Preclinical therapeutic studies, Vitronectin


Lopez-Muñoz, Gerardo A., Ortega, Maria Alejandra, Ferret-Miñana, Ainhoa, De Chiara, Francesco, Ramón-Azcón, Javier, (2020). Direct and label-free monitoring of albumin in 2D fatty liver disease model using plasmonic nanogratings Nanomaterials 10, (12), 2520

Non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD) is a metabolic disorder related to a chronic lipid accumulation within the hepatocytes. This disease is the most common liver disorder worldwide, and it is estimated that it is present in up to 25% of the world’s population. However, the real prevalence of this disease and the associated disorders is unknown mainly because reliable and applicable diagnostic tools are lacking. It is known that the level of albumin, a pleiotropic protein synthesized by hepatocytes, is correlated with the correct function of the liver. The development of a complementary tool that allows direct, sensitive, and label-free monitoring of albumin secretion in hepatocyte cell culture can provide insight into NAFLD’s mechanism and drug action. With this aim, we have developed a simple integrated plasmonic biosensor based on gold nanogratings from periodic nanostructures present in commercial Blu-ray optical discs. This sensor allows the direct and label-free monitoring of albumin in a 2D fatty liver disease model under flow conditions using a highly-specific polyclonal antibody. This technology avoids both the amplification and blocking steps showing a limit of detection within pM range (≈0.26 ng/mL). Thanks to this technology, we identified the optimal fetal bovine serum (FBS) concentration to maximize the cells’ lipid accumulation. Moreover, we discovered that the hepatocytes increased the amount of albumin secreted on the third day from the lipids challenge. These data demonstrate the ability of hepatocytes to respond to the lipid stimulation releasing more albumin. Further investigation is needed to unveil the biological significance of that cell behavior.

Keywords: 2D fatty liver in vitro model, Blu-Ray disc, Plasmonic nanomaterials, Label-Free Biosensing


Rubi-Sans, G., Castaño, O., Cano, I., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Perez-Amodio, S., Engel, E., (2020). Engineering cell-derived matrices: From 3D models to advanced personalized therapies Advanced Functional Materials 30, (44), e2000496

Regenerative medicine and disease models have evolved in recent years from two to three dimensions, providing in vitro constructs that are more similar to in vivo tissues. By mimicking native tissues, cell-derived matrices (CDMs) have emerged as new modifiable extracellular matrices for a variety of tissues, allowing researchers to study basic cellular processes in tissue-like structures, test tissue regeneration approaches, and model disease development. In this review, different fabrication techniques and characterization methods of CDMs are presented and examples of their application in cell behavior studies, tissue regeneration, and disease models are provided. In addition, future guidelines and perspectives in the field of CDMs are discussed.

Keywords: 3D models, Biomaterials, Cell-derived matrices, Extracellular matrix, Personalized therapies


Hino, N., Rossetti, L., Marín-Llauradó, A., Aoki, K., Trepat, X., Matsuda, M., Hirashima, T., (2020). ERK-mediated mechanochemical waves direct collective cell polarization Developmental Cell 53, (6), 646-660.e8

During collective migration of epithelial cells, the migration direction is aligned over a tissue-scale expanse. Although the collective cell migration is known to be directed by mechanical forces transmitted via cell-cell junctions, it remains elusive how the intercellular force transmission is coordinated with intracellular biochemical signaling to achieve collective movements. Here, we show that intercellular coupling of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-mediated mechanochemical feedback yields long-distance transmission of guidance cues. Mechanical stretch activates ERK through epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation, and ERK activation triggers cell contraction. The contraction of the activated cell pulls neighboring cells, evoking another round of ERK activation and contraction in the neighbors. Furthermore, anisotropic contraction based on front-rear polarization guarantees unidirectional propagation of ERK activation, and in turn, the ERK activation waves direct multicellular alignment of the polarity, leading to long-range ordered migration. Our findings reveal that mechanical forces mediate intercellular signaling underlying sustained transmission of guidance cues for collective cell migration.

Keywords: Collective cell migration, EGFR, ERK/MAPK, FRET, Front-rear polarity, Intercellular signal transfer, Mathematical model, Mechanochemical feedback, Mechanotransduction, wave propagation


Calvo, Mireia, González, Rubèn, Seijas, Núria, Vela, Emili, Hernández, Carme, Batiste, Guillem, Miralles, Felip, Roca, Josep, Cano, Isaac, Jané, Raimon, (2020). Health outcomes from home hospitalization: Multisource predictive modeling Journal of Medical Internet Research 22, (10), e21367

Background: Home hospitalization is widely accepted as a cost-effective alternative to conventional hospitalization for selected patients. A recent analysis of the home hospitalization and early discharge (HH/ED) program at Hospital Clínic de Barcelona over a 10-year period demonstrated high levels of acceptance by patients and professionals, as well as health value-based generation at the provider and health-system levels. However, health risk assessment was identified as an unmet need with the potential to enhance clinical decision making. Objective: The objective of this study is to generate and assess predictive models of mortality and in-hospital admission at entry and at HH/ED discharge. Methods: Predictive modeling of mortality and in-hospital admission was done in 2 different scenarios: at entry into the HH/ED program and at discharge, from January 2009 to December 2015. Multisource predictive variables, including standard clinical data, patients’ functional features, and population health risk assessment, were considered. Results: We studied 1925 HH/ED patients by applying a random forest classifier, as it showed the best performance. Average results of the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC; sensitivity/specificity) for the prediction of mortality were 0.88 (0.81/0.76) and 0.89 (0.81/0.81) at entry and at home hospitalization discharge, respectively; the AUROC (sensitivity/specificity) values for in-hospital admission were 0.71 (0.67/0.64) and 0.70 (0.71/0.61) at entry and at home hospitalization discharge, respectively. Conclusions: The results showed potential for feeding clinical decision support systems aimed at supporting health professionals for inclusion of candidates into the HH/ED program, and have the capacity to guide transitions toward community-based care at HH discharge.

Keywords: Home hospitalization, Health risk assessment, Predictive modeling, Chronic care, Integrated care, Modeling, Hospitalization, Health risk, Prediction, Mortality, Clinical decision support


Bortolla, R., Cavicchioli, M., Soler Rivaldi, J., Pascual Mateos, J.C., Verschure, P., Maffei, C., (2020). Hypersensitivity or hyperreactivity? An experimental investigation in Borderline Personality Disorder Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology 8, (1), 1-17

Objective: Starting from the controversial results showed by empirical research on Linehan’s Biosocial model of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), this study aims to empirically evaluate Linehan’s conceptualization of emotional hypersensitivity and hyperreactivity, as well as to investigate the role of pre-existing emotional states in BPD altered physiological responsivity. Methods: We asked 24 participants (BPD = 12; Healthy Controls = 12) to complete a self-reported questionnaire (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule) in order to assess their pre-task affective state. Subsequently, 36 emotional pictures from four valence categories (i.e. erotic, negative, positive, neutral) were administered while assessing participants self-reported and electrodermal responses. Results: BPD patients showed higher levels of pre-task negative affectivity as well as an enhanced physiological response to neutral stimuli. No main BPD group effect was found for the physiological data. Moreover, pre-task negative affectivity levels were exclusively related to physiological responses among BPD subjects. Discussion: Our findings supported the hypersensitivity hypothesis operationalized as an enhanced responsiveness to non-emotional cues. Hyperreactivity assumption was not supported. Conversely, our study revealed heightened physiological responses in relation to pre-existent negative emotional states in BPD. We discussed our results in the context of the putative pathological processes underlying BPD.

Keywords: Borderline Personality Disorder, Biosocial model, Hyperreactivity, Hypersensitivity, Negative affectivity, Physiology.


Altay, Gizem, Batlle, Eduard, Fernández-Majada, Vanesa, Martínez, Elena, (2020). In vitro self-organized mouse small intestinal epithelial monolayer protocol Bio-protocol 10, (3), e3514

Developing protocols to obtain intestinal epithelial monolayers that recapitulate in vivo physiology to overcome the limitations of the organoids’ closed geometry has become of great interest during the last few years. Most of the developed culture models showed physiological-relevant cell composition but did not prove self-renewing capacities. Here, we show a simple method to obtain mouse small intestine-derived epithelial monolayers organized into proliferative crypt-like domains, containing stem cells, and differentiated villus-like regions, closely resembling the in vivo cell composition and distribution. In addition, we adapted our model to a tissue culture format compatible with functional studies and prove close to physiological barrier properties of our in vitro epithelial monolayers. Thus, we have set-up a protocol to generate physiologically relevant intestinal epithelial monolayers to be employed in assays where independent access to both luminal and basolateral compartments is needed, such as drug absorption, intracellular trafficking and microbiome-epithelium interaction assays.

Keywords: Mouse intestinal organoids, Adult intestinal stem cells, Matrigel, Intestinal epithelial monolayer, In vitro intestinal epithelial model, Tissue-like functionality, TEER


Torres, M., Martinez-Garcia, M. A., Campos-Rodriguez, F., Gozal, D., Montserrat, J. M., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I., (2020). Lung cancer aggressiveness in an intermittent hypoxia murine model of postmenopausal sleep apnea Menopause 27, (6), 706-713

Objective: Intermittent hypoxia (IH)—a hallmark of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)—enhances lung cancer progression in mice via altered host immune responses that are also age and sex-dependent. However, the interactions of menopause with IH on tumor malignant properties remain unexplored. Here, we aimed to investigate lung cancer outcomes in the context of ovariectomy (OVX)-induced menopause in a murine model of OSA. Methods: Thirty-four female mice (C57BL/6, 12-week-old) were subjected to bilateral OVX or to Sham intervention. Six months after surgery, mice were pre-exposed to either IH or room air (RA) for 2 weeks. Then, 105 lung carcinoma (LLC1) cells were injected subcutaneously in the left flank, with IH or RA exposures continued for 4 weeks. Tumor weight, tumor invasion, and spontaneous lung metastases were assessed. Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) were isolated and subjected to flow cytometry polarity evaluation along with assessment of TAMs modulation of LLC1 proliferation in vitro. To determine the effect of IH and OVX on each experimental variable, a two-way analysis of variance was performed. Results: IH and OVX promoted a similar increase in tumor growth (2-fold; P = 0.05 and 1.74-fold; P < 0.05, respectively), and OVX-IH further increased it. Regarding lung metastasis, the concurrence of OVX in mice exposed to IH enhanced the number of metastases (23.7 ± 8.0) in comparison to those without OVX (7.9 ± 2.8; P < 0.05). The pro-tumoral phenotype of TAMS, assessed as M2/M1 ratio, was increased in OVX (0.06 ± 0.01; P < 0.01) and IH (0.06 ± 0.01; P < 0.01) compared with sham/RA conditions (0.14 ± 0.03). The co-culture of TAMS with naive LLC1 cells enhanced their proliferation only under IH. Conclusion: In female mice, both the IH that is characteristically present in OSA and OVX as a menopause model emerge as independent contributors that promote lung cancer aggressiveness and seemingly operate through alterations in the host immune response.

Keywords: Animal models, Cancer progression, Intermittent hypoxia, Menopause, Obstructive sleep apnea, Ovariectomy


Alert, R., Trepat, X., (2020). Physical models of collective cell migration Annual Review of Condensed Matter Physics 11, 77-101

Collective cell migration is a key driver of embryonic development, wound healing, and some types of cancer invasion. Here, we provide a physical perspective of the mechanisms underlying collective cell migration. We begin with a catalog of the cell-cell and cell-substrate interactions that govern cell migration, which we classify into positional and orientational interactions. We then review the physical models that have been developed to explain how these interactions give rise to collective cellular movement. These models span the subcellular to the supracellular scales, and they include lattice models, phase-field models, active network models, particle models, and continuum models. For each type of model, we discuss its formulation, its limitations, and the main emergent phenomena that it has successfully explained. These phenomena include flocking and fluid-solid transitions, as well as wetting, fingering, and mechanical waves in spreading epithelial monolayers. We close by outlining remaining challenges and future directions in the physics of collective cell migration.

Keywords: Active network models, Cellular Potts models, Continuum models, Particle models, Phase-field models, Tissue biophysics


Vodovotz, Y., Barnard, N., Hu, F. B., Jakicic, J., Lianov, L., Loveland, D., Buysse, D., Szigethy, E., Finkel, T., Sowa, G., Verschure, P., Williams, K., Sanchez, E., Dysinger, W., Maizes, V., Junker, C., Phillips, E., Katz, D., Drant, S., Jackson, R. J., Trasande, L., Woolf, S., Salive, M., South-Paul, J., States, S. L., Roth, L., Fraser, G., Stout, R., Parkinson, M. D., (2020). Prioritized research for the prevention, treatment, and reversal of chronic disease: recommendations from the lifestyle medicine research summit Frontiers in Medicine 7, 585744

Declining life expectancy and increasing all-cause mortality in the United States have been associated with unhealthy behaviors, socioecological factors, and preventable disease. A growing body of basic science, clinical research, and population health evidence points to the benefits of healthy behaviors, environments and policies to maintain health and prevent, treat, and reverse the root causes of common chronic diseases. Similarly, innovations in research methodologies, standards of evidence, emergence of unique study cohorts, and breakthroughs in data analytics and modeling create new possibilities for producing biomedical knowledge and clinical translation. To understand these advances and inform future directions research, The Lifestyle Medicine Research Summit was convened at the University of Pittsburgh on December 4–5, 2019. The Summit's goal was to review current status and define research priorities in the six core areas of lifestyle medicine: plant-predominant nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress, addictive behaviors, and positive psychology/social connection. Forty invited subject matter experts (1) reviewed existing knowledge and gaps relating lifestyle behaviors to common chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, many cancers, inflammatory- and immune-related disorders and other conditions; and (2) discussed the potential for applying cutting-edge molecular, cellular, epigenetic and emerging science knowledge and computational methodologies, research designs, and study cohorts to accelerate clinical applications across all six domains of lifestyle medicine. Notably, federal health agencies, such as the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration have begun to adopt “whole-person health and performance” models that address these lifestyle and environmental root causes of chronic disease and associated morbidity, mortality, and cost. Recommendations strongly support leveraging emerging research methodologies, systems biology, and computational modeling in order to accelerate effective clinical and population solutions to improve health and reduce societal costs. New and alternative hierarchies of evidence are also be needed in order to assess the quality of evidence and develop evidence-based guidelines on lifestyle medicine. Children and underserved populations were identified as prioritized groups to study. The COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately impacts people with chronic diseases that are amenable to effective lifestyle medicine interventions, makes the Summit's findings and recommendations for future research particularly timely and relevant.

Keywords: Chronic disease, Epigenetics, In silico modeling, Inflammation, Lifestyle medicine, Nutrition, Physical activity, Research methodologies


Torres, S., Abdullah, Z., Brol, M. J., Hellerbrand, C., Fernandez, M., Fiorotto, R., Klein, S., Königshofer, P., Liedtke, C., Lotersztajn, S., Nevzorova, Y. A., Schierwagen, R., Reiberger, T., Uschner, F. E., Tacke, F., Weiskirchen, R., Trebicka, J., (2020). Recent advances in practical methods for liver cell biology: A short overview International Journal of Molecular Sciences 21, (6), 2027

Molecular and cellular research modalities for the study of liver pathologies have been tremendously improved over the recent decades. Advanced technologies offer novel opportunities to establish cell isolation techniques with excellent purity, paving the path for 2D and 3D microscopy and high-throughput assays (e.g., bulk or single-cell RNA sequencing). The use of stem cell and organoid research will help to decipher the pathophysiology of liver diseases and the interaction between various parenchymal and non-parenchymal liver cells. Furthermore, sophisticated animal models of liver disease allow for the in vivo assessment of fibrogenesis, portal hypertension and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and for the preclinical testing of therapeutic strategies. The purpose of this review is to portray in detail novel in vitro and in vivo methods for the study of liver cell biology that had been presented at the workshop of the 8th meeting of the European Club for Liver Cell Biology (ECLCB-8) in October of 2018 in Bonn, Germany.

Keywords: Fibrogenesis, Hepatic stellate cells, Hepatocellular cancer, In vitro models, Steatosis


Maleeva, Galyna, Nin-Hill, Alba, Rustler, Karin, Petukhova, Elena, Ponomareva, Daria, Mukhametova, Elvira, Gomila-Juaneda, Alexandre, Wutz, Daniel, Alfonso-Prieto, Mercedes, König, Burkhard, Gorostiza, Pau, Bregestovski, Piotr, (2020). Subunit-specific photocontrol of glycine receptors by azobenzene-nitrazepam photoswitcher eneuro 8, (1), 0294-20

Photopharmacology is a unique approach that through a combination of photochemistry methods and advanced life science techniques allows the study and control of specific biological processes, ranging from intracellular pathways to brain circuits. Recently, a first photochromic channel blocker of anion-selective GABAA receptors, Azo-NZ1, has been described. In the present study using patch-clamp technique in heterologous system and in mice brain slices, site-directed mutagenesis and molecular modelling we provide evidence of the interaction of Azo-NZ1 with glycine receptors (GlyRs) and determine the molecular basis of this interaction. Glycinergic synaptic neurotransmission determines an important inhibitory drive in the vertebrate nervous system and plays a crucial role in the control of neuronal circuits in the spinal cord and brain stem. GlyRs are involved in locomotion, pain sensation, breathing and auditory function, as well as in the development of such disorders as hyperekplexia, epilepsy and autism. Here we demonstrate that Azo-NZ1 blocks in a UV dependent manner the activity of alpha2 GlyRs (GlyR2), while being barely active on alpha1 GlyRs (GlyR1). The site of Azo-NZ1 action is in the chloride-selective pore of GlyR at the 2’ position of transmembrane helix 2 and amino acids forming this site determine the difference in Azo-NZ1 blocking activity between GlyR2 and GlyR1. This subunit specific modulation is also shown on motoneurons of brainstem slices from neonatal mice that switch during development from expressing "foetal" GlyR2 to "adult" GlyR1 receptors. Significance Statement Photochromic molecules are becoming widely used for studying and modulating various biological processes. Successful application of these compounds, whose activity can be controlled with light, potentially provides a promising tool for future therapeutic approaches. The main advantage of such compounds is their precise spatial and temporal selectivity, a property that favours specific drug action and diminishes their side effects. In the present study, we describe in detail the interaction of the novel azobenzene-nitrazepam-based photochromic compound (Azo-NZ1) with glycine receptors (GlyRs) and determine its subunit-specific blocking activity in the Cl-selective pore of GlyRs. This compound offers a new strategy for specific control of glycinergic circuits and stepping stone for design of new GlyR-active drugs.

Keywords: Brain slices, Glycine receptors, Hypoglossal motoneurons, Molecular modelling, Patch-clamp, Photopharmacology


Amil, Adrián F., Puigbó, J.-Y., Verschure, P., (2020). Cholinergic control of chaos and evidence sensitivity in a neocortical model of perceptual decision-making Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 9th International Conference, Living Machines 2020 (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) , Springer International Publishing (Freiburg, Germany) 12413, 92-96

Perceptual decision-making in the brain is commonly modeled as a competition among tuned cortical populations receiving stimulation according to their perceptual evidence. However, the contribution of evidence on the decision-making process changes through time. In this regard, the mechanisms controlling the sensitivity to perceptual evidence remain unknown. Here we explore this issue by using a biologically constrained model of the neocortex performing a dual-choice perceptual discrimination task. We combine mutual and global GABAergic inhibition, which are differentially regulated by acetylcholine (ACh), a neuromodulator linked to enhanced stimulus discriminability. We find that, while mutual inhibition determines the phase-space separation between two stable attractors representing each stimulus, global inhibition controls the formation of a chaotic attractor in-between the two, effectively protecting the weakest stimulus. Hence, under low ACh levels, where global inhibition dominates, the decision-making process is chaotic and less determined by the difference between perceptual evidences. On the contrary, under high ACh levels, where mutual inhibition dominates, the network becomes very sensitive to small differences between stimuli. Our results are in line with the putative role of ACh in enhanced stimulus discriminability and suggest that ACh levels control the sensitivity to sensory inputs by regulating the amount of chaos.

Keywords: Acetylcholine, Cortical model, Decision-making, Chaos


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


Wang, S., Hu, Y., Burgués, J., Marco, S., Liu, S.-L., (2020). Prediction of gas concentration using gated recurrent neural networks 2nd IEEE International Conference on Artificial Intelligence Circuits and Systems (AICAS) , IEEE (Genova, Italy) , 178-182

Low-cost gas sensors allow for large-scale spatial monitoring of air quality in the environment. However they require calibration before deployment. Methods such as multivariate regression techniques have been applied towards sensor calibration. In this work, we propose instead, the use of deep learning methods, particularly, recurrent neural networks for predicting the gas concentrations based on the outputs of these sensors. This paper presents a first study of using Gated Recurrent Unit (GRU) neural network models for gas concentration prediction. The GRU networks achieve on average, a 44.69% and a 25.17% RMSE improvement in concentration prediction on a gas dataset when compared with Support Vector Regression (SVR) and Multilayer Perceptron (MLP) models respectively. With the current advances in deep network hardware accelerators, these networks can be combined with the sensors for a compact embedded system suitable for edge applications.

Keywords: Robot sensing systems, Predictive models, Logic gates, Gas detectors, Training, Temperature measurement, Support vector machines


Almici, Enrico, Caballero, David, Montero, Joan, Samitier, Josep, (2020). Engineering cell-derived matrices with controlled 3D architectures for pathophysiological studies Methods in Cell Biology (ed. Caballero, David, Kundu, Subhas C., Reis, Rui Luís), Academic Press (Cambridge, USA) 156, 161-183

The composition and architecture of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and their dynamic alterations, play an important regulatory role on numerous cellular processes. Cells embedded in 3D scaffolds show phenotypes and morphodynamics reminiscent of the native scenario. This is in contrast to flat environments, where cells display artificial phenotypes. The structural and biomolecular properties of the ECM are critical in regulating cell behavior via mechanical, chemical and topological cues, which induce cytoskeleton rearrangement and gene expression. Indeed, distinct ECM architectures are encountered in the native stroma, which depend on tissue type and function. For instance, anisotropic geometries are associated with ECM degradation and remodeling during tumor progression, favoring tumor cell invasion. Overall, the development of innovative in vitro ECM models of the ECM that reproduce the structural and physicochemical properties of the native scenario is of upmost importance to investigate the mechanistic determinants of tumor dissemination. In this chapter, we describe an extremely versatile technique to engineer three-dimensional (3D) matrices with controlled architectures for the study of pathophysiological processes in vitro. To this aim, a confluent culture of “sacrificial” fibroblasts was seeded on top of microfabricated guiding templates to induce the 3D ECM growth with specific isotropic or anisotropic architectures. The resulting matrices, and cells seeded on them, recapitulated the structure, composition, phenotypes and morphodynamics typically found in the native scenario. Overall, this method paves the way for the development of in vitro ECMs for pathophysiological studies with potential clinical relevance.

Keywords: Extracellular matrix, Cell-derived matrix, 3D model, Biomimicry, Anisotropy


Lehmann, J., Praktiknjo, M., Nielsen, M. J., Schierwagen, R., Meyer, C., Thomas, D., Violi, F., Strassburg, C. P., Bendtsen, F., Moller, S., Krag, A., Karsdal, M. A., Leeming, D. J., Trebicka, J., (2019). Collagen type IV remodelling gender-specifically predicts mortality in decompensated cirrhosis Liver International 39, (5), 885-893

Background & Aims: Remodelling of extracellular matrix is crucial in progressive liver fibrosis. Collagen type III desposition has been shown in acute decompensation. Extratracellular matrix is compiled of deposition of various components. The role of basement membrane collagen type IV in advanced cirrhosis and acute decompensation is unclear and investigated in this study. Methods: Patients with decompensated cirrhosis from the prospective NEPTUN cohort (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03628807), who underwent transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt procedure were included. Clinical and laboratory parameters, PRO-C4 and C4M levels were measured in blood samples from portal and hepatic veins just before transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt placement. Results: Levels of C4M and PRO-C4 are significantly lower in patients with massive ascites and impaired renal sodium excretion. C4M and PRO-C4 show gender-specific profiles with significantly lower levels in females compared to males. Females with higher C4M levels show higher mortality. By contrast, males with higher C4M levels show lower mortality. In multivariate Cox regression analysis, C4M is an independent predictor of survival in female patients. Conclusion: This study shows that markers of collagen type IV remodelling do not accumulate in severe renal dysfunction. Although collagen type IV degradation markers derive from the liver, portal venous C4M levels are relevant for survival. Moreover, it demonstrates that circulating C4M shows gender-specific profiles, which can independently predict survival in female patients with decompensated cirrhosis.

Keywords: ACLF, Acute decompensation, Acute-on-chronic liver failure, Cirrhosis, Collagen type IV, Extracellular matrix remodelling, Gender, Liver, Portal hypertension, Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt


Garcia-Puig, A., Mosquera, J. L., Jiménez-Delgado, S., García-Pastor, C., Jorba, I., Navajas, D., Canals, F., Raya, A., (2019). Proteomics analysis of extracellular matrix remodeling during zebrafish heart regeneration Molecular & cellular proteomics 18, (9), 1745-1755

Adult zebrafish, in contrast to mammals, are able to regenerate their hearts in response to injury or experimental amputation. Our understanding of the cellular and molecular bases that underlie this process, although fragmentary, has increased significantly over the last years. However, the role of the extracellular matrix (ECM) during zebrafish heart regeneration has been comparatively rarely explored. Here, we set out to characterize the ECM protein composition in adult zebrafish hearts, and whether it changed during the regenerative response. For this purpose, we first established a decellularization protocol of adult zebrafish ventricles that significantly enriched the yield of ECM proteins. We then performed proteomic analyses of decellularized control hearts and at different times of regeneration. Our results show a dynamic change in ECM protein composition, most evident at the earliest (7 days post-amputation) time-point analyzed. Regeneration associated with sharp increases in specific ECM proteins, and with an overall decrease in collagens and cytoskeletal proteins. We finally tested by atomic force microscopy that the changes in ECM composition translated to decreased ECM stiffness. Our cumulative results identify changes in the protein composition and mechanical properties of the zebrafish heart ECM during regeneration.

Keywords: Animal models, Atomic force microscopy, Cardiovascular disease, Cardiovascular function or biology, Developmental biology, Extracellular matrix, Heart regeneration, Proteomic analysis


Calvo, M., Le Rolle, V., Romero, D., Béhar, N., Gomis, P., Mabo, P., Hernández, A. I., (2019). Recursive model identification for the analysis of the autonomic response to exercise testing in Brugada syndrome Artificial Intelligence in Medicine 97, 98-104

This paper proposes the integration and analysis of a closed-loop model of the baroreflex and cardiovascular systems, focused on a time-varying estimation of the autonomic modulation of heart rate in Brugada syndrome (BS), during exercise and subsequent recovery. Patient-specific models of 44 BS patients at different levels of risk (symptomatic and asymptomatic) were identified through a recursive evolutionary algorithm. After parameter identification, a close match between experimental and simulated signals (mean error = 0.81%) was observed. The model-based estimation of vagal and sympathetic contributions were consistent with physiological knowledge, enabling to observe the expected autonomic changes induced by exercise testing. In particular, symptomatic patients presented a significantly higher parasympathetic activity during exercise, and an autonomic imbalance was observed in these patients at peak effort and during post-exercise recovery. A higher vagal modulation during exercise, as well as an increasing parasympathetic activity at peak effort and a decreasing vagal contribution during post-exercise recovery could be related with symptoms and, thus, with a worse prognosis in BS. This work proposes the first evaluation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic responses to exercise testing in patients suffering from BS, through the recursive identification of computational models; highlighting important trends of clinical relevance that provide new insights into the underlying autonomic mechanisms regulating the cardiovascular system in BS. The joint analysis of the extracted autonomic parameters and classic electrophysiological markers could improve BS risk stratification.

Keywords: Autonomic nervous system, Brugada syndrome, Computational model, Recursive identification


Grechuta, Klaudia, Ulysse, Laura, Rubio Ballester, Belén, Verschure, Paul, (2019). Self beyond the body: Action-driven and task-relevant purely distal cues modulate performance and body ownership Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 13, Article 91

Our understanding of body ownership largely relies on the so-called Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI). In this paradigm, synchronous stroking of the real and the rubber hands leads to an illusion of ownership of the rubber hand provided that it is physically, anatomically, and spatially plausible. Self-attribution of an artificial hand also occurs during visuomotor synchrony. In particular, participants experience ownership over a virtual or a rubber hand when the visual feedback of self-initiated movements follows the trajectory of the instantiated motor commands, such as in the Virtual Hand Illusion (VHI) or the moving Rubber Hand Illusion (mRHI). Evidence yields that both when the cues are triggered externally (RHI) and when they result from voluntary actions (VHI and mRHI), the experience of ownership is established through bottom-up integration and top-down prediction of proximodistal cues (visuotactile or visuomotor) within the peripersonal space. It seems, however, that depending on whether the sensory signals are externally (RHI) or self-generated (VHI and mRHI), the top-down expectation signals are qualitatively different. On the one hand, in the RHI the sensory correlations are modulated by top-down influences which constitute empirically induced priors related to the internal (generative) model of the body. On the other hand, in the VHI and mRHI body ownership is actively shaped by processes which allow for continuous comparison between the expected and the actual sensory consequences of the actions. Ample research demonstrates that the differential processing of the predicted and the reafferent information is addressed by the central nervous system via an internal (forward) model or corollary discharge. Indeed, results from the VHI and mRHI suggest that, in action-contexts, the mechanism underlying body ownership could be similar to the forward model. Crucially, forward models integrate across all self-generated sensory signals including not only proximodistal (i.e., visuotactile or visuomotor) but also purely distal sensory cues (i.e., visuoauditory). Thus, if body ownership results from a consistency of a forward model, it will be affected by the (in)congruency of purely distal cues provided that they inform about action-consequences and are relevant to a goal-oriented task. Specifically, they constitute a corrective error signal. Here, we explicitly addressed this question. To test our hypothesis, we devised an embodied virtual reality-based motor task where action outcomes were signaled by distinct auditory cues. By manipulating the cues with respect to their spatial, temporal and semantic congruency, we show that purely distal (visuoauditory) feedback which violates predictions about action outcomes compromises both performance and body ownership. These results demonstrate, for the first time, that body ownership is influenced by not only externally and self-generated cues which pertain to the body within the peripersonal space but also those arising outside of the body. Hence, during goal-oriented tasks body ownership may result from the consistency of forward models.

Keywords: Body ownership, Internal forward model, Goal-oriented behavior, Multisensory integration, Top-down prediction


Oliveira, V. R., Uriarte, J. J., Falcones, B., Zin, W. A., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I., (2019). Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide induces alveolar epithelial cell stiffening Journal of Biomechanics 83, 315-318

Introduction: Application of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is a widely employed model to mimic acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Available data regarding LPS-induced biomechanical changes on pulmonary epithelial cells are limited only to P. aeruginosa LPS. Considering that LPS from different bacteria could promote a specific mechanical response in epithelial cells, we aim to assess the effect of E. coli LPS, widely employed as a model of ARDS, in the biomechanics of alveolar epithelial cells. Methods: Young’s modulus (E) of alveolar epithelial cells (A549) was measured by atomic force microscopy every 5 min throughout 60 min of experiment after treatment with LPS from E. coli (100 μg/mL). The percentage of cells presenting actin stress fibers (F-actin staining) was also evaluated. Control cells were treated with culture medium and the values obtained were compared with LPS-treated cells for each time-point. Results: Application of LPS induced significant increase in E after 20 min (77%) till 60 min (104%) in comparison to controls. Increase in lung epithelial cell stiffness induced by LPS was associated with a higher number of cells presenting cytoskeletal remodeling. Conclusions: The observed effects of E. coli LPS on alveolar epithelial cells suggest that this widely-used LPS is able to promote a quick formation of actin stress fibers and stiffening cells, thereby facilitating the disruption of the pulmonary epithelial barrier.

Keywords: Acute respiratory distress syndrome model, Alveolar epithelium, Biomechanics, E. coli, Lipopolysaccharide


Bortolla, Roberta, Cavicchioli, Marco, Galli, Marco, Verschure, P., Maffei, Cesare, (2019). A comprehensive evaluation of emotional responsiveness in borderline personality disorder: a support for hypersensitivity hypothesis Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation 6, (1), 8

Background: Many experimental studies have evaluated Linehan’s biological emotional vulnerability in Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). However, some inconsistencies were observed in operationalizing and supporting its components. This study aims at clarifying which aspects of Linehan’s model are altered in BPD, considering a multimodal evaluation of processes concerned with emotional responsiveness (self-report, psychophysiology and eye-tracking). Methods: Forty-eight socio-emotional pictures were administered to 28 participants (14 BPD, 14 Healthy Controls, HCs), gender- and age-matched, by employing two different lengths of stimuli exposure (5 s and 15 s). Results: Our results supported the hypersensitivity hypothesis in terms of faster physiological responses and altered visual processing. Furthermore, hypersensitivity was associated with detailed socio-emotional contents. Hyperreactivity assumption was not experimentally sustained by physiological and self-report data. Ultimately, the slow return to emotional baseline was demonstrated as an impaired emotional modulation. Conclusions: Our data alternatively supported the hypersensitivity and the slow return to emotional baseline hypotheses, postulated by Linehan’s Biosocial model, rather than the hyperreactivity assumption. Results have been discussed in light of other BPD core psychopathological processes.

Keywords: Borderline personality disorder, Emotional vulnerability, Linehan’s model, Hypersensitivity, Slow return to emotional baseline


Campillo, N., Falcones, B., Otero, J., Colina, R., Gozal, D., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I., (2019). Differential oxygenation in tumor microenvironment modulates macrophage and cancer cell crosstalk: Novel experimental settingand proof of concept Frontiers in Oncology 9, 43

Hypoxia is a common characteristic of many solid tumors that has been associated with tumor aggressiveness. Limited diffusion of oxygen generates a gradient of oxygen availability from the blood vessel to the interstitial space and may underlie the recruitment of macrophages fostering cancer progression. However, the available data based on the recruitment of circulating cells to the tumor microenvironment has been so far carried out by conventional co-culture systems which ignore the hypoxic gradient between the vessel to the tumor interstitium. Here, we have designed a novel easy-to-build cell culture device that enables evaluation of cellular cross-talk and cell migration while they are being simultaneously exposed to different oxygenation environments. As a proof-of-concept of the potential role of differential oxygenation among interacting cells we have evaluated the activation and recruitment of macrophages in response to hypoxic melanoma, breast, and kidney cancer cells. We found that hypoxic melanoma and breast cancer cells co-cultured with normoxic macrophages enhanced their directional migration. By contrast, hypoxic kidney cells were not able to increase their recruitment. We also identified well-described hypoxia-induced pathways which could contribute in the immune cell recruitment (VEGFA and PTGS2 genes). Moreover, melanoma and breast cancer increased their proliferation. However, oxygenation levels affected neither kidney cancer cell proliferation nor gene expression, which in turn resulted in no significant changes in macrophage migration and polarization. Therefore, the cell culture device presented here provides an excellent opportunity for researchers to reproduce the in vivo hypoxic gradients in solid tumors and to study their role in recruiting circulating cells to the tumor in specific types of cancer.

Keywords: Hypoxia gradient, Macrophage motility, Models of host-tumor interactions, Novel assay technology, Tumor progression


Ruiz, A. D., Mejía, J. S., López, J. M., Giraldo, B. F., (2019). Characterization of cardiac and respiratory system of healthy subjects in supine and sitting position Pattern Recognition and Image Analysis ibPRIA 2019: Iberian Conference on Pattern Recognition and Image Analysis (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) , Springer, Cham (Madrid, Spain) 11867, 367-377

Studies based on the cardiac and respiratory system have allowed a better knowledge of their behavior to contribute with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases associated with them. The main goal of this project was to analyze the behavior of the cardiorespiratory system in healthy subjects, depending on the body position. The electrocardiography and respiratory flow signals were recorded in two positions, supine and sitting. Each signal was analyzed considering sliding windows of 30 s, with and overlapping of 50%. Temporal and spectral features were extracted from each signal. A total of 187 features were extracted for each window. According to statistical analysis, 148 features showed significant differences when comparing the position of the subject. Afterwards, the classifications methods based on decision trees, k-nearest neighbor and support vector machines were applied to identify the best classification model. The most advantageous performance model was obtained with a linear support vector machine method, with an accuracy of 99.5%, a sensitivity of 99.2% and a specificity of 99.6%. In conclusion, we have observed that the position of the body (supine or sitting) could modulate the cardiac and respiratory system response. New statistical models might provide new tools to analyze the behavior of these systems and the cardiorespiratory interaction complexity.

Keywords: Cardiac dynamics, Respiratory dynamics, Statistical models, Supine and sitting posture


Solà-Soler, J., Giraldo, B. F., Jané, R., (2019). Linear mixed effects modelling of oxygen desaturation after sleep apneas and hypopneas: A pilot study Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 41st Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Berlín, Germany) , 5731-5734

Obstructive Sleep Apnea severity is commonly determined after a sleep polysomnographic study by the Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI). This index does not contain information about the duration of events, and weights apneas and hypopneas alike. Significant differences in disease severity have been reported in patients with the same AHI. The aim of this work was to study the effect of obstructive event type and duration on the subsequent oxygen desaturation (SaO2) by mixed-effects models. These models allow continuous and categorical independent variables and can model within-subject variability through random effects. The desaturation depth dSaO2, desaturation duration dtSaO2 and desaturation area dSaO2A were analyzed in the 2022 apneas and hypopneas of eight severe patients. A mixed-effects model was defined to account for the influence of event duration (AD), event type, and their interaction on SaO2 parameters. A two-step backward model reduction process was applied for random and fixed effects optimization. The optimum model obtained for dtSaO2 suggests an almost subject-independent proportion increase with AD, which did not significantly change in apneas as compared to hypopneas. The optimum model for dSaO2 reveals a significantly higher increase as a function of AD in apneas than hypopneas. Dependence of on event type and duration was different in every subject, and a subject-specific model could be obtained. The optimum model for SaO2A combines the effects of the other two. In conclusion, the proposed mixed-effects models for SaO2 parameters allow to study the effect of respiratory event duration and type, and to include repeated events within each subject. This simple model can be easily extended to include the contribution of other important factors such as patient severity, sleep stage, sleeping position, or the presence of arousals.

Keywords: Biological system modeling, Sleep apnea, Mathematical model, Indexes, Reduced order systems, Optimization


Gumí-Audenis, B., Giannotti, M. I., (2019). Structural and mechanical characterization of supported model membranes by AFM Biomimetic Lipid Membranes: Fundamentals, Applications, and Commercialization (ed. Kök, Fatma N., Arslan Yildiz, Ahu, Inci, Fatih), Springer International Publishing (Cham, Germany) , 1-27

Several cellular processes, including adhesion, signaling and transcription, endocytosis, and membrane resealing, among others, involve conformational changes such as bending, vesiculation, and tubulation. These mechanisms generally involve membrane separation from the cytoskeleton as well as strong bending, for which the membrane chemical composition and physicochemical properties, often highly localized and dynamic, are key players. The mechanical role of the lipid membrane in force triggered (or sensing) mechanisms in cells is important, and understanding the lipid bilayers’ physical and mechanical properties is essential to comprehend their contribution to the overall membrane. Atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based experimental approaches have been to date very valuable to deepen into these aspects. As a stand-alone, high-resolution imaging technique and force transducer with the possibility to operate in aqueous environment, it defies most other surface instrumentation in ease of use, sensitivity and versatility. In this chapter, we introduce the different AFM-based methods to assess topological and nanomechanical information on model membranes, specifically to supported lipid bilayers (SLBs), including several examples ranging from pure phospholipid homogeneous bilayers to multicomponent and phase-separated SLBs, increasing the bilayer complexity, in the direction of mimicking biological membranes.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Force spectroscopy, Model membranes, Nanomechanics, Supported lipid bilayers


Magdaleno, Fernando, Schierwagen, R., Uschner, Frank E., Trebicka, J., (2018). “Tipping” extracellular matrix remodeling towards regression of liver fibrosis: novel concepts Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica , 64, (1), 51-61

Fibrosis development was initially conceived as an incessant progressive condition. Nowadays, it has become evident that fibrotic tissue undergoes a continuous two-way process: fibrogenesis and fibrinolysis, characterizing the remodeling of extracellular matrix (ECM). However, in established fibrosis, this two-way process is tipped towards fibrogenesis and this leads to a self-perpetuating accumulation of ECM, a distinct metabolic unit, together with other cells and processes promoting fibrosis deposition. Several mechanisms promote fibrosis regression, such as degradation of ECM, infiltration of restorative macrophages, prevention of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition of hepatocytes, restoration of the liver sinusoidal endothelial cells’ differentiation phenotype, and reversion to quiescence, apoptosis and senescence of hepatic stellate cells (HSC). Hence, fibrosis is the result of an unbalanced two-way process of matrix remodeling. At the late stage of the disease, antifibrotic interventions could become necessary to reverse self-perpetuating fibrogenesis and accelerate regression of fibrosis even if cause and cofactors of hepatic injury have been eliminated. This review outlines some of the important mechanisms leading towards regression of liver fibrosis.

Keywords: Hepatic stellate cells, Extracellular matrix, remodeling, Rho-associated kinases, Janus kinases


Macedo, Maria Helena, Araújo, Francisca, Martínez, Elena, Barrias, Cristina, Sarmento, Bruno, (2018). iPSC-Derived enterocyte-like cells for drug absorption and metabolism studies Trends in Molecular Medicine 24, (8), 696-708

Intestinal cell models have been widely studied and used to evaluate absorption and metabolism of drugs in the small intestine, constituting valuable tools as a first approach to evaluate the behavior of new drugs. However, such cell models might not be able to fully predict the absorption mechanisms and metabolic pathways of the tested compounds. In recent years, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) differentiated into enterocyte-like cells have been proposed as more biorelevant intestinal models. In this review, we describe mechanisms underlying the differentiation of iPSCs into enterocyte-like cells, appraise the usefulness of these cells in tridimensional intestinal models, and discuss their suitability to be used in the future for drug screening.

Keywords: iPSCs, Enterocytes, Differentiation, Small intestine, Drug absorption, Intestinal models


González-García, C., Cantini, M., Ballester-Beltrán, J., Altankov, G., Salmerón-Sánchez, M., (2018). The strength of the protein-material interaction determines cell fate Acta Biomaterialia 77, 74-84

Extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins are key mediators of cell/material interactions. The surface density and conformation of these proteins adsorbed on the material surface influence cell adhesion and the cellular response. We have previously shown that subtle variations in surface chemistry lead to drastic changes in the conformation of adsorbed fibronectin (FN). On poly(ethyl acrylate) (PEA), FN unfolds and displays domains for cell adhesion and FN-FN interaction, whereas on poly(methyl acrylate) (PMA) – with only one methyl group less – FN remains globular as it is in solution. The effect of the strength of the protein/material interaction in cell response, and its relation to protein density and conformation, has received limited attention so far. In this work, we used FN-functionalized AFM cantilevers to evaluate, via force spectroscopy, the strength of interaction between fibronectin and the underlying polymer which controls FN conformation (PEA and PMA). We found that the strength of FN/PEA interaction is significantly higher than FN/PMA, which limits the mobility of FN layer on PEA, reduces the ability of cells to mechanically reorganize FN and then leads to enhanced proteolysis and degradation of the surrounding matrix with compromised cell viability. By contrast, both PEA and PMA support cell adhesion when FN density is increased and also in the presence of serum or other serum proteins, including vitronectin (VN) and bovine serum albumin (BSA), which provide a higher degree of mobility to the matrix. Statement of Significance: The identification of parameters influencing cell response is of paramount importance for the design of biomaterials that will act as synthetic scaffolds for cells to anchor, grow and, eventually, become specialised tissues. Cells interact with materials through an intermediate layer of proteins adsorbed on the material surface. It is known that the density and conformation of these proteins determine cell behaviour. Here we show that the strength of protein/material interactions, which has received very limited attention so far, is key to understand the cellular response to biomaterials. Very strong protein/material interactions reduce the ability of cells to mechanically reorganize proteins at the material interface which results in enhanced matrix degradation, leading ultimately to compromised cell viability.

Keywords: Fibronectin adsorption, Fibronectin remodeling, Protein mobility, Protein-material interaction strength


Badiola-Mateos, M., Hervera, A., del Río, J. A., Samitier, J., (2018). Challenges and future prospects on 3D in-vitro modeling of the neuromuscular circuit Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 6, Article 194

Movement of skeletal-muscle fibers is generated by the coordinated action of several cells taking part within the locomotion circuit (motoneurons, sensory-neurons, Schwann cells, astrocytes, microglia, and muscle-cells). Failures in any part of this circuit could impede or hinder coordinated muscle movement and cause a neuromuscular disease (NMD) or determine its severity. Studying fragments of the circuit cannot provide a comprehensive and complete view of the pathological process. We trace the historic developments of studies focused on in-vitro modeling of the spinal-locomotion circuit and how bioengineered innovative technologies show advantages for an accurate mimicking of physiological conditions of spinal-locomotion circuit. New developments on compartmentalized microfluidic culture systems (cμFCS), the use of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and 3D cell-cultures are analyzed. We finally address limitations of current study models and three main challenges on neuromuscular studies: (i) mimic the whole spinal-locomotion circuit including all cell-types involved and the evaluation of independent and interdependent roles of each one; (ii) mimic the neurodegenerative response of mature neurons in-vitro as it occurs in-vivo; and (iii) develop, tune, implement, and combine cμFCS, hiPSC, and 3D-culture technologies to ultimately create patient-specific complete, translational, and reliable NMD in-vitro model. Overcoming these challenges would significantly facilitate understanding the events taking place in NMDs and accelerate the process of finding new therapies.

Keywords: 3D-culture, Compartmentalized microfluidic culture systems (cμFCS), HiPSC, In-vitro models, Neuromuscular circuit


Torras, N., García-Díaz, M., Fernández-Majada, V., Martínez, Elena, (2018). Mimicking epithelial tissues in three-dimensional cell culture models Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 6, Article 197

Epithelial tissues are composed of layers of tightly connected cells shaped into complex three-dimensional (3D) structures such as cysts, tubules, or invaginations. These complex 3D structures are important for organ-specific functions and often create biochemical gradients that guide cell positioning and compartmentalization within the organ. One of the main functions of epithelia is to act as physical barriers that protect the underlying tissues from external insults. In vitro, epithelial barriers are usually mimicked by oversimplified models based on cell lines grown as monolayers on flat surfaces. While useful to answer certain questions, these models cannot fully capture the in vivo organ physiology and often yield poor predictions. In order to progress further in basic and translational research, disease modeling, drug discovery, and regenerative medicine, it is essential to advance the development of new in vitro predictive models of epithelial tissues that are capable of representing the in vivo-like structures and organ functionality more accurately. Here, we review current strategies for obtaining biomimetic systems in the form of advanced in vitro models that allow for more reliable and safer preclinical tests. The current state of the art and potential applications of self-organized cell-based systems, organ-on-a-chip devices that incorporate sensors and monitoring capabilities, as well as microfabrication techniques including bioprinting and photolithography, are discussed. These techniques could be combined to help provide highly predictive drug tests for patient-specific conditions in the near future.

Keywords: 3D cell culture models, Biofabrication, Disease modeling, Drug screening, Epithelial barriers, Microengineered tissues, Organ-on-a-chip, Organoids


Páez-Avilés, C., van Rijnsoever, F. J., Juanola-Feliu, E., Samitier, J., (2018). Multi-disciplinarity breeds diversity: the influence of innovation project characteristics on diversity creation in nanotechnology Journal of Technology Transfer 43, (2), 458-481

Nanotechnology is an emerging and promising field of research. Creating sufficient technological diversity among its alternatives is important for the long-term success of nanotechnologies, as well as for other emerging technologies. Diversity prevents early lock-in, facilitates recombinant innovation, increases resilience, and allows market growth. Creation of new technological alternatives usually takes place in innovation projects in which public and private partners often collaborate. Currently, there is little empirical evidence about which characteristics of innovation projects influence diversity. In this paper we study the influence of characteristics of EU-funded nanotechnology projects on the creation of technological diversity. In addition to actor diversity and the network of the project, we also include novel variables that have a plausible influence on diversity creation: the degree of multi-disciplinarity of the project and the size of the joint knowledge base of project partners. We apply topic modelling (Latent Dirichlet allocation) as a novel method to categorize technological alternatives. Using an ordinal logistic regression model, our results show that the largest contribution to diversity comes from the multi-disciplinary nature of a project. The joint knowledge base of project partners and the geographical distance between them were positively associated with technological diversity creation. In contrast, the number and diversity of actors and the degree of clustering showed a negative association with technological diversity creation. These results extend current micro-level explanations of how the diversity of an emerging technology is created. The contribution of this study could also be helpful for policy makers to influence the level of diversity in a technological field, and hence to contribute to survival of emerging technologies.

Keywords: Innovation projects, Multi-disciplinarity, Nanotechnology, Social networks, Technological diversity, Topic models


Menal, M. J., Jorba, I., Torres, M., Montserrat, J. M., Gozal, D., Colell, A., Piñol-Ripoll, G., Navajas, D., Almendros, I., Farré, R., (2018). Alzheimer's disease mutant mice exhibit reduced brain tissue stiffness compared to wild-type mice in both normoxia and following intermittent hypoxia mimicking sleep apnea Frontiers in Neurology 9, Article 1

Background: Evidence from patients and animal models suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and that AD is associated with reduced brain tissue stiffness. Aim: To investigate whether intermittent hypoxia (IH) alters brain cortex tissue stiffness in AD mutant mice exposed to IH mimicking OSA. Methods: Six-eight month old (B6C3-Tg(APPswe,PSEN1dE9)85Dbo/J) AD mutant mice and wild-type (WT) littermates were subjected to IH (21% O2 40 s to 5% O2 20 s; 6 h/day) or normoxia for 8 weeks. After euthanasia, the stiffness (E) of 200-μm brain cortex slices was measured by atomic force microscopy. Results: Two-way ANOVA indicated significant cortical softening and weight increase in AD mice compared to WT littermates, but no significant effects of IH on cortical stiffness and weight were detected. In addition, reduced myelin was apparent in AD (vs. WT), but no significant differences emerged in the cortex extracellular matrix components laminin and glycosaminoglycans when comparing baseline AD and WT mice. Conclusion: AD mutant mice exhibit reduced brain tissue stiffness following both normoxia and IH mimicking sleep apnea, and such differences are commensurate with increased edema and demyelination in AD.

Keywords: Animal model, Atomic force microscopy, Brain mechanics, Cortex stiffness, Neurodegenerative disease


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


Freire, I. T., Arsiwalla, X. D., Puigbò, J. Y., Verschure, P., (2018). Limits of multi-agent predictive models in the formation of social conventions Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications (ed. Falomir, Z., Gibert, K., Plaza, E.), IOS Press (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) Volume 308: Artificial Intelligence Research and Development, 297-301

A major challenge in cognitive science and AI is to understand how intelligent agents might be able to predict mental states of other agents during complex social interactions. What are the computational principles of such a Theory of Mind (ToM)? In previous work, we have investigated hypotheses of how the human brain might realize a ToM of other agents in a multi-agent social scenario. In particular, we have proposed control-based cognitive architectures to predict the model of other agents in a game-theoretic task (Battle of the Exes). Our multi-layer architecture implements top-down predictions from adaptive to reactive layers of control and bottom-up error feedback from reactive to adaptive layers. We tested cooperative and competitive strategies among different multi-agent models, demonstrating that while pure RL leads to reasonable efficiency and fairness in social interactions, there are other architectures that can perform better in specific circumstances. However, we found that even the best predictive models fall short of human data in terms of stability of social convention formation. In order to explain this gap between humans and predictive AI agents, in this work we propose introducing the notion of trust in the form of mutual agreements between agents that might enhance stability in the formation of conventions such as turn-taking.

Keywords: Cognitive Architectures, Game Theory, Multi-Agent Models, Reinforcement Learning, Theory of Mind


Verschure, P., Prescott, T. J., (2018). A living machines approach to the sciences of mind and brain Living Machines: A Handbook of Research in Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems (ed. Prescott, T. J., Lepora, Nathan, Verschure, P.), Oxford Scholarship (Oxford, UK) , 15-25

How do the sciences of mind and brain—neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence (AI)—stand in relation to each other in the 21st century? This chapter proposes that despite our knowledge expanding at ever-accelerating rates, our understanding of the relationship between mind and brain is, in some important sense, becoming less and less. An increasing explanatory gap can only be bridged by a multi-tiered and integrated theoretical framework that recognizes the value of developing explanations at different levels, combining these into cross-level integrated theories, and directly contributing to new technologies that improve the human condition. Development of technologies that instantiate principles gleaned from the study of the mind and brain, or biomimetic technologies, is a key part of the validation process for scientific theories of mind and brain. We call this strategy for the integration of science and engineering a Living Machines approach. Following this path can lead not only to better science, and useful engineering, but also a richer view of human experience and of relationships between science, engineering, and art.

Keywords: Convergent validation, Multi-tiered theories, Paradigms in cognitive science, Philosophy of science, Physical models, Reductionism


Caballero, D., Samitier, J., (2017). Topological control of extracellular matrix growth: A native-like model for cell morphodynamics studies ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 9, (4), 4159-4170

The interaction of cells with their natural environment influences a large variety of cellular phenomena, including cell adhesion, proliferation, and migration. The complex extracellular matrix network has challenged the attempts to replicate in vitro the heterogeneity of the cell environment and has threatened, in general, the relevance of in vitro studies. In this work, we describe a new and extremely versatile approach to generate native-like extracellular matrices with controlled morphologies for the in vitro study of cellular processes. This general approach combines the confluent culture of fibroblasts with microfabricated guiding templates to direct the three-dimensional growth of well-defined extracellular networks which recapitulate the structural and biomolecular complexity of features typically found in vivo. To evaluate its performance, we studied fundamental cellular processes, including cell cytoskeleton organization, cell-matrix adhesion, proliferation, and protrusions morphodynamics. In all cases, we found striking differences depending on matrix architecture and, in particular, when compared to standard two-dimensional environments. We also assessed whether the engineered matrix networks influenced cell migration dynamics and locomotion strategy, finding enhanced migration efficiency for cells seeded on aligned matrices. Altogether, our methodology paves the way to the development of high-performance models of the extracellular matrix for potential applications in tissue engineering, diagnosis, or stem-cell biology.

Keywords: Biomimetics, Cell migration, Engineered cell-derived matrices, Extracellular matrix, In vitro model


Maffei, Giovanni, Herreros, Ivan, Sanchez-Fibla, Marti, Friston, Karl J., Verschure, Paul F. M. J., (2017). The perceptual shaping of anticipatory actions Proceedings of the Royal Society B , 284, (1869)

Humans display anticipatory motor responses to minimize the adverse effects of predictable perturbations. A widely accepted explanation for this behavior relies on the notion of an inverse model that, learning from motor errors, anticipates corrective responses. Here, we propose and validate the alternative hypothesis that anticipatory control can be realized through a cascade of purely sensory predictions that drive the motor system, reflecting the causal sequence of the perceptual events preceding the error. We compare both hypotheses in a simulated anticipatory postural adjustment task. We observe that adaptation in the sensory domain, but not in the motor one, supports the robust and generalizable anticipatory control characteristic of biological systems. Our proposal unites the neurobiology of the cerebellum with the theory of active inference and provides a concrete implementation of its core tenets with great relevance both to our understanding of biological control systems and, possibly, to their emulation in complex artefacts.

Keywords: Active inference, Cerebellum, Computational model, Motor control, Perceptual learning


Garreta, Elena, Marco, Andrés, Eguizábal, Cristina, Tarantino, Carolina, Samitier, Mireia, Badiola, Maider, Gutiérrez, Joaquín, Samitier, Josep, Montserrat, Nuria, (2017). Pluripotent stem cells and skeletal muscle differentiation: Challenges and immediate applications The Plasticity of Skeletal Muscle: From Molecular Mechanism to Clinical Applications (ed. Sakuma, Kunihiro), Springer Singapore (Singapore, Singapore) 2018, 1-35

Recent advances in the generation of skeletal muscle derivatives from pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) provide innovative tools for muscle development, disease modeling, and cell replacement therapies. Here, we revise major relevant findings that have contributed to these advances in the field, by the revision of how early findings using mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) set the bases for the derivation of skeletal muscle cells from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) and patient-derived human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) to the use of genome editing platforms allowing for disease modeling in the petri dish.

Keywords: Pluripotent stem cells, Differentiation, Genome editing, Disease modeling


Noguera-Ortega, Estela, Secanella-Fandos, Silvia, Eraña, Hasier, Gasión, Jofre, Rabanal, Rosa M., Luquin, Marina, Torrents, Eduard, Julián, Esther, (2016). Nonpathogenic Mycobacterium brumae inhibits bladder cancer growth in vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo European Urology Focus , 2, (1), 67-76

Background Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) prevents tumour recurrence and progression in non–muscle-invasive bladder cancer (BC). However, common adverse events occur, including BCG infections. Objective To find a mycobacterium with similar or superior antitumour activity to BCG but with greater safety. Design In vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo comparisons of the antitumour efficacy of nonpathogenic mycobacteria and BCG. Intervention The in vitro antitumour activity of a broad set of mycobacteria was studied in seven different BC cell lines. The most efficacious was selected and its ex vivo capacity to activate immune cells and its in vivo antitumour activity in an orthotopic murine model of BC were investigated. Outcome measurements and statistical analysis Growth inhibition of BC cells was the primary outcome measurement. Parametric and nonparametric tests were use to analyse the in vitro results, and a Kaplan-Meier test was applied to measure survival in mycobacteria-treated tumour-bearing mice. Results and limitations Mycobacterium brumae is superior to BCG in inhibiting low-grade BC cell growth, and has similar effects to BCG against high-grade cells. M. brumae triggers an indirect antitumour response by activating macrophages and the cytotoxic activity of peripheral blood cells against BC cells. Although no significant differences were observed between BCG and M. brumae treatments in mice, M. brumae treatment prolonged survival in comparison to BCG treatment in tumour-bearing mice. In contrast to BCG, M. brumae does not persist intracellularly or in tumour-bearing mice, so the risk of infection is lower. Conclusions Our preclinical data suggest that M. brumae represents a safe and efficacious candidate as a therapeutic agent for non–muscle-invasive BC. Patient summary We investigated the antitumour activity of nonpathogenic mycobacteria in in vitro and in vivo models of non–muscle-invasive bladder cancer. We found that Mycobacterium brumae effectively inhibits bladder cancer growth and helps the host immune system to eradicate cancer cells, and is a promising agent for antitumour immunotherapy.

Keywords: Animal models, Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, Cytokines, Immunomodulation, Immunotherapy, Mycobacteria, Urothelial cell line


Asadipour, N., Trepat, X., Muñoz, J. J., (2016). Porous-based rheological model for tissue fluidisation Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids 96, 535-549

It has been experimentally observed that cells exhibit a fluidisation process when subjected to a transient stretch, with an eventual recovery of the mechanical properties upon removal of the applied deformation. This fluidisation process is characterised by a decrease of the storage modulus and an increase of the phase angle. We propose a rheological model which is able to reproduce this combined mechanical response. The model is described in the context of continua and adapted to a cell-centred particle system that simulates cell–cell interactions. Mechanical equilibrium is coupled with two evolution laws: (i) one for the reference configuration, and (ii) another for the porosity or polymer density. The first law depends on the actual strain of the tissue, while the second assumes different remodelling rates during porosity increase and decrease. The theory is implemented on a particle based model and tested on a stretching experiment. The numerical results agree with the experimental measurements for different stretching magnitudes.

Keywords: Cell remodelling, Cell rheology, Fluidisation, Softening, Viscoelasticity


Huerta, R., Mosqueiro, T., Fonollosa, J., Rulkov, N.F., Rodríguez-Lujan, I., (2016). Online decorrelation of humidity and temperature in chemical sensors for continuous monitoring Chemometrics and Intelligent Laboratory Systems , 157, 169-176

A method for online decorrelation of chemical sensor signals from the effects of environmental humidity and temperature variations is proposed. The goal is to improve the accuracy of electronic nose measurements for continuous monitoring by processing data from simultaneous readings of environmental humidity and temperature. The electronic nose setup built for this study included eight metal-oxide sensors, temperature and humidity sensors with a wireless communication link to external computer. This wireless electronic nose was used to monitor the air for two years in the residence of one of the authors and it collected data continuously during 537 days with a sampling rate of 1 sample per second. To estimate the effects of variations in air humidity and temperature on the chemical sensors' signals, we used a standard energy band model for an n-type metal-oxide (MOX) gas sensor. The main assumption of the model is that variations in sensor conductivity can be expressed as a nonlinear function of changes in the semiconductor energy bands in the presence of external humidity and temperature variations. Fitting this model to the collected data, we confirmed that the most statistically significant factors are humidity changes and correlated changes of temperature and humidity. This simple model achieves excellent accuracy with a coefficient of determination R2 close to 1. To show how the humidity–temperature correction model works for gas discrimination, we constructed a model for online discrimination among banana, wine and baseline response. This shows that pattern recognition algorithms improve performance and reliability by including the filtered signal of the chemical sensors.

Keywords: Electronic nose, Chemical sensors, Humidity, Temperature, Decorrelation, Wireless e-nose, MOX sensors, Energy band model, Home monitoring


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


Paoli, R., Samitier, J., (2016). Mimicking the kidney: A key role in organ-on-chip development Micromachines , 7, (7), 126

Pharmaceutical drug screening and research into diseases call for significant improvement in the effectiveness of current in vitro models. Better models would reduce the likelihood of costly failures at later drug development stages, while limiting or possibly even avoiding the use of animal models. In this regard, promising advances have recently been made by the so-called "organ-on-chip" (OOC) technology. By combining cell culture with microfluidics, biomedical researchers have started to develop microengineered models of the functional units of human organs. With the capacity to mimic physiological microenvironments and vascular perfusion, OOC devices allow the reproduction of tissue- and organ-level functions. When considering drug testing, nephrotoxicity is a major cause of attrition during pre-clinical, clinical, and post-approval stages. Renal toxicity accounts for 19% of total dropouts during phase III drug evaluation-more than half the drugs abandoned because of safety concerns. Mimicking the functional unit of the kidney, namely the nephron, is therefore a crucial objective. Here we provide an extensive review of the studies focused on the development of a nephron-on-chip device.

Keywords: Disease model, Drug discovery, Kidney, Nephron-on-chip, Organ-on-chip


Coelho, N. M., Llopis-Hernández, V., Salmerón-Sánchez, M., Altankov, G., (2016). Dynamic reorganization and enzymatic remodeling of type IV collagen at cell–biomaterial interface Advances in Protein Chemistry and Structural Biology (ed. Christo, Z. Christov), Academic Press (San Diego, USA) 105, 81-104

Abstract Vascular basement membrane remodeling involves assembly and degradation of its main constituents, type IV collagen (Col IV) and laminin, which is critical during development, angiogenesis, and tissue repair. Remodeling can also occur at cell–biomaterials interface altering significantly the biocompatibility of implants. Here we describe the fate of adsorbed Col IV in contact with endothelial cells adhering on positively charged NH2 or hydrophobic CH3 substrata, both based on self-assembly monolayers (SAMs) and studied alone or mixed in different proportions. AFM studies revealed distinct pattern of adsorbed Col IV, varying from single molecular deposition on pure NH2 to network-like assembly on mixed SAMs, turning to big globular aggregates on bare CH3. Human umbilical endothelial cells (HUVECs) interact better with Col IV adsorbed as single molecules on NH2 surface and readily rearrange it in fibril-like pattern that coincide with secreted fibronectin fibrils. The cells show flattened morphology and well-developed focal adhesion complexes that are rich on phosphorylated FAK while expressing markedly low pericellular proteolytic activity. Conversely, on hydrophobic CH3 substrata HUVECs showed abrogated spreading and FAK phosphorylation, combined with less reorganization of the aggregated Col IV and significantly increased proteolytic activity. The later involves both MMP-2 and MMP-9, as measured by zymography and FITC-Col IV release. The mixed SAMs support intermediate remodeling activity. Taken together these results show that chemical functionalization combined with Col IV preadsorption provides a tool for guiding the endothelial cells behavior and pericellular proteolytic activity, events that strongly affect the fate of cardiovascular implants.

Keywords: Type IV collagen, Adsorption, Remodeling, Pericellular proteolysis, Reorganization, Substratum chemistry, CH3 and NH2 groups, Self-assembly monolayers


Malandrino, Andrea, Pozo, Jose Maria, Castro-Mateos, Isaac, Frangi, Alejandro F., van Rijsbergen, Marc M., Ito, Keita, Wilke, Hans-Joachim, Dao, Tien Tuan, Ho Ba Tho, Marie-Christine, Noailly, Jerome, (2015). On the relative relevance of subject-specific geometries and degeneration-specific mechanical properties for the study of cell death in human intervertebral disc models Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 3, (Article 5), 1-15

Capturing patient- or condition-specific intervertebral disk (IVD) properties in finite element models is outmost important in order to explore how biomechanical and biophysical processes may interact in spine diseases. However, disk degenerative changes are often modeled through equations similar to those employed for healthy organs, which might not be valid. As for the simulated effects of degenerative changes, they likely depend on specific disk geometries. Accordingly, we explored the ability of continuum tissue models to simulate disk degenerative changes. We further used the results in order to assess the interplay between these simulated changes and particular IVD morphologies, in relation to disk cell nutrition, a potentially important factor in disk tissue regulation. A protocol to derive patient-specific computational models from clinical images was applied to different spine specimens. In vitro, IVD creep tests were used to optimize poro-hyperelastic input material parameters in these models, in function of the IVD degeneration grade. The use of condition-specific tissue model parameters in the specimen-specific geometrical models was validated against independent kinematic measurements in vitro. Then, models were coupled to a transport-cell viability model in order to assess the respective effects of tissue degeneration and disk geometry on cell viability. While classic disk poro-mechanical models failed in representing known degenerative changes, additional simulation of tissue damage allowed model validation and gave degeneration-dependent material properties related to osmotic pressure and water loss, and to increased fibrosis. Surprisingly, nutrition-induced cell death was independent of the grade-dependent material properties, but was favored by increased diffusion distances in large IVDs. Our results suggest that in situ geometrical screening of IVD morphology might help to anticipate particular mechanisms of disk degeneration.

Keywords: Intervertebral Disc Degeneration, Finite element modelling, Lumbar spine, Poroelasticity, Damage model, Subject-specific modelling, Disc cell nutrition


Kovtun, A., Goeckelmann, M. J., Niclas, A. A., Montufar, E. B., Ginebra, M. P., Planell, J. A., Santin, M., Ignatius, A., (2015). In vivo performance of novel soybean/gelatin-based bioactive and injectable hydroxyapatite foams Acta Biomaterialia Elsevier Ltd 12, (1), 242-249

Major limitations of calcium phosphate cements (CPCs) are their relatively slow degradation rate and the lack of macropores allowing the ingrowth of bone tissue. The development of self-setting cement foams has been proposed as a suitable strategy to overcome these limitations. In previous work we developed a gelatine-based hydroxyapatite foam (G-foam), which exhibited good injectability and cohesion, interconnected porosity and good biocompatibility in vitro. In the present study we evaluated the in vivo performance of the G-foam. Furthermore, we investigated whether enrichment of the foam with soybean extract (SG-foam) increased its bioactivity. G-foam, SG-foam and non-foamed CPC were implanted in a critical-size bone defect in the distal femoral condyle of New Zealand white rabbits. Bone formation and degradation of the materials were investigated after 4, 12 and 20 weeks using histological and biomechanical methods. The foams maintained their macroporosity after injection and setting in vivo. Compared to non-foamed CPC, cellular degradation of the foams was considerably increased and accompanied by new bone formation. The additional functionalization with soybean extract in the SG-foam slightly reduced the degradation rate and positively influenced bone formation in the defect. Furthermore, both foams exhibited excellent biocompatibility, implying that these novel materials may be promising for clinical application in non-loaded bone defects.

Keywords: Bone regeneration, Calcium phosphate cement, Gelatine, Rabbit model, Soybean


Torres, M., Rojas, M., Campillo, N., Cardenes, N., Montserrat, J. M., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2015). Parabiotic model for differentiating local and systemic effects of continuous and intermittent hypoxia Journal of Applied Physiology , 118, (1), 42-47

Hypoxia can be damaging either because cells are directly sensitive to low oxygen pressure in their local microenvironment and/or because they are exposed to circulating factors systemically secreted in response to hypoxia. The conventional hypoxia model, breathing hypoxic air, does not allow one to distinguish between these local and systemic effects. Here we propose and validate a model for differentially applying local and systemic hypoxic challenges in an animal. We used parabiosis, two mice sharing circulation by surgical union through the skin, and tested the hypothesis that when one of the parabionts breathes room air and the other one is subjected to hypoxic air, both mice share systemic circulation but remain normoxic and hypoxic, respectively. We tested two common hypoxic paradigms in 10 parabiotic pairs: continuous hypoxia (10% O2) mimicking chronic lung diseases, and intermittent hypoxia (40 s, 21% O2; 20 s, 5% O2) simulating sleep apnea. Arterial oxygen saturation and oxygen partial pressure at muscle tissue were measured in both parabionts. Effective cross-circulation was assessed by intraperitoneally injecting a dye in one of the parabionts and measuring blood dye concentration in both animals after 2 h. The results confirmed the hypothesis that tissues of the parabiont under room air were perfused with normally oxygenated blood and, at the same time, were exposed to all of the systemic mediators secreted by the other parabiont actually subjected to hypoxia. In conclusion, combination of parabiosis and hypoxic/normoxic air breathing is a novel approach to investigate the effects of local and systemic hypoxia in respiratory diseases.

Keywords: Animal model, Local hypoxia, Parabiosis, Systemic hypoxia


Gumí-Audenis, B., Carlà, F., Vitorino, M. V., Panzarella, A., Porcar, L., Boilot, M., Guerber, S., Bernard, P., Rodrigues, M. S., Sanz, F., Giannotti, M. I., Costa, L., (2015). Custom AFM for X-ray beamlines: in situ biological investigations under physiological conditions Journal of Synchrotron Radiation , 22, 1364-1371

A fast atomic force microscope (AFM) has been developed that can be installed as a sample holder for grazing-incidence X-ray experiments at solid/gas or solid/liquid interfaces. It allows a wide range of possible investigations, including soft and biological samples under physiological conditions (hydrated specimens). The structural information obtained using the X-rays is combined with the data gathered with the AFM (morphology and mechanical properties), providing a unique characterization of the specimen and its dynamics in situ during an experiment. In this work, lipid monolayers and bilayers in air or liquid environment have been investigated by means of AFM, both with imaging and force spectroscopy, and X-ray reflectivity. In addition, this combination allows the radiation damage induced by the beam on the sample to be studied, as has been observed on DOPC and DPPC supported lipid bilayers under physiological conditions.

Keywords: In situ atomic force microscopy, Grazing-incidence scattering and reflectivity, Radiation damage, Model lipid membranes


de Oñate, L., Garreta, E., Tarantino, C., Martínez, Elena, Capilla, E., Navarro, I., Gutiérrez, J., Samitier, J., Campistol, J.M., Muñoz-Cánovas, P., Montserrat, N., (2015). Research on skeletal muscle diseases using pluripotent stem cells Muscle Cell and Tissue (ed. Sakuma, K.), InTech (Rijeka, Croatia) , 333-357

The generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), especially the generation of patient-derived pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) suitable for disease modelling in vitro, opens the door for the potential translation of stem-cell related studies into the clinic. Successful replacement, or augmentation, of the function of damaged cells by patient-derived differentiated stem cells would provide a novel cell-based therapy for skeletal muscle-related diseases. Since iPSCs resemble human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in their ability to generate cells of the three germ layers, patient-specific iPSCs offer definitive solutions for the ethical and histo-incompatibility issues related to hESCs. Indeed human iPSC (hiPSC)-based autologous transplantation is heralded as the future of regenerative medicine. Interestingly, during the last years intense research has been published on disease-specific hiPSCs derivation and differentiation into relevant tissues/organs providing a unique scenario for modelling disease progression, to screen patient-specific drugs and enabling immunosupression-free cell replacement therapies. Here, we revise the most relevant findings in skeletal muscle differentiation using mouse and human PSCs. Finally and in an effort to bring iPSC technology to the daily routine of the laboratory, we provide two different protocols for the generation of patient-derived iPSCs.

Keywords: Pluripotent stem cells, Myogenic differentiation, Disease modelling, Patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells, Muscular dystrophy


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


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


Gomila, G., Gramse, G., Fumagalli, L., (2014). Finite-size effects and analytical modeling of electrostatic force microscopy applied to dielectric films Nanotechnology 25, (25), 255702 (11)

A numerical analysis of the polarization force between a sharp conducting probe and a dielectric film of finite lateral dimensions on a metallic substrate is presented with the double objective of (i) determining the conditions under which the film can be approximated by a laterally infinite film and (ii) proposing an analytical model valid in this limit. We show that, for a given dielectric film, the critical diameter above which the film can be modeled as laterally infinite depends not only on the probe geometry, as expected, but mainly on the film thickness. In particular, for films with intermediate to large thicknesses (>100 nm), the critical diameter is nearly independent from the probe geometry and essentially depends on the film thickness and dielectric constant following a relatively simple phenomenological expression. For films that can be considered as laterally infinite, we propose a generalized analytical model valid in the thin-ultrathin limit (<20-50 nm) that reproduces the numerical calculations and the experimental data. Present results provide a general framework under which accurate quantification of electrostatic force microscopy measurements on dielectric films on metallic substrates can be achieved.

Keywords: Dielectric constant, Dielectric films, Electrostatic force microscopy, Quantification, Analytical models, Electric force microscopy, Electrostatic force, Film thickness, Permittivity, Probes, Substrates, Ultrathin films, Accurate quantifications, Electrostatic force microscopy, Finite size effect, Lateral dimension, Metallic substrate, Numerical calculation, Polarization forces, Quantification, Dielectric films


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


Pérez-Amodio, Soledad, Engel, Elisabeth, (2014). Bone biology and Regeneration Bio-Ceramics with Clinical Applications (ed. Vallet-Regí, M.), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (Chichester, UK) , 315-342

Each bone of the skeleton constantly undergoes modeling during life to help it to adapt to changing biomechanical forces as well as remodeling to remove old bone and replace it with new, mechanically stronger bone to help preserve bone strength. Bone remodeling involves the removal of mineralized bone by osteoclasts, followed by the formation of bone matrix through the osteoblasts that subsequently become mineralized. All these assets make bone a suitable model for regeneration. Bone tissue can be grossly divided into inorganic mineral material (mostly HA), and organic material from cells and the extracellular matrix. This chapter outlines some of the bone diseases such as osteoporosis and Paget's disease. Bone can be considered as a biphasic composite material, with two phases: one the mineral and the other collagen. This combination confers better mechanical properties on the tissue than each component itself.

Keywords: Bone biology, Bone cells, Bone diseases, Bone extracellular matrix, Bone mechanics, Bone remodeling, Bone tissue regeneration, Skeleton


Noailly, J., Malandrino, A., Galbusera, F., Jin, Zhongmin, (2014). Computational modelling of spinal implants Computational Modelling of Biomechanics and Biotribology in the Musculoskeletal System (ed. Jin, Z.), Woodhead Publishing (Cambridge, UK) Biomaterials and Tissues, 447-484

This chapter focuses on the use of the finite element method in the design and exploration of spinal implants. Following an introduction to biomechanical alterations of the spine in disease and to spine finite element modelling, focus is placed on different models developed for spine treatment simulations. Despite the hindrance of working thorough representations of in vivo situations, predictions of load transfer within both the implants and the tissues simulated allow improved interpretations of known clinical outcomes, and permit the educated design of new implants. The potential of probabilistic modelling is also discussed in relation to model validation and patient-specific analyses. Finally, the latest developments in the multiphysical modelling of intervertebral discs are presented, revealing a strong potential for the study of implant-based strategies that aim to restore the functional biophysics of the spine.

Keywords: Spinal implant, Finite element modelling, Spine surgery, Spine biomechanics, Tissue mechanobiology


Marbán, Arturo, Casals, Alicia, Fernández, Josep, Amat, Josep, (2014). Haptic feedback in surgical robotics: Still a challenge Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing ROBOT2013: First Iberian Robotics Conference (ed. Armada, Manuel A., Sanfeliu, Alberto, Ferre, Manuel), Springer International Publishing 252, 245-253

Endowing current surgical robotic systems with haptic feedback to perform minimally invasive surgery (MIS), such as laparoscopy, is still a challenge. Haptic is a feature lost in surgical teleoperated systems limiting surgeons capabilities and ability. The availability of haptics would provide important advantages to the surgeon: Improved tissue manipulation, reducing the breaking of sutures and increase the feeling of telepresence, among others. To design and develop a haptic system, the measurement of forces can be implemented based on two approaches: Direct and indirect force sensing. MIS performed with surgical robots, imposes many technical constraints to measure forces, such as: Miniaturization, need of sterilization or materials compatibility, making it necessary to rely on indirect force sensing. Based on mathematical models of the components involved in an intervention and indirect force sensing techniques, a global perspective on how to address the problem of measurement of tool-tissue interaction forces is presented.

Keywords: Surgical robotics, Haptic feedback, Indirect force sensing, Machine learning, Data fusion, Mathematical models


Aviles, A. I., Casals, A., (2014). Interpolation based deformation model for minimally invasive beating heart surgery IFMBE Proceedings XIII Mediterranean Conference on Medical and Biological Engineering and Computing 2013 (ed. Roa Romero, Laura M.), Springer International Publishing (London, UK) 41, 372-375

Heart motion compensation is a key issue in medical robotics due to the benefits that minimally invasive beating heart surgery offers over traditional cardiac surgery. Although different proposals have been presented, nowadays, there is not yet a suitable solution working in real clinical environments due to the lack of robustness of existing methods. The process of heart motion estimation required to produce the compensation actions can be tackled as a process of three iterative steps. The first based on generating a deformation model from the processing of a video sequence of the beating heart. The selection of a deformation model is crucial in the sense that it has to offer both valuable information and good computational performance. These characteristics are required when the reaction time has a significant repercussion over the system behavior, as in this case. This paper, presents a computational analysis of deformation model based on interpolation methods. In particular, wavelet and thin-plate splines are evaluated. The significance of this study relies on the fact that it is a reference starting point of reference for creating both a common framework and a robust solution. In addition, the obtained results will contribute to increase the robustness from the initial stage of the solution.

Keywords: Deformation model, Wavelets, Computer performance, Radial basis functions, Interpolation methods


Barreto, S., Clausen, C. H., Perrault, C. M., Fletcher, D. A., Lacroix, D., (2013). A multi-structural single cell model of force-induced interactions of cytoskeletal components Biomaterials 34, (26), 6119-6126

Several computational models based on experimental techniques and theories have been proposed to describe cytoskeleton (CSK) mechanics. Tensegrity is a prominent model for force generation, but it cannot predict mechanics of individual CSK components, nor explain the discrepancies from the different single cell stimulating techniques studies combined with cytoskeleton-disruptors. A new numerical concept that defines a multi-structural 3D finite element (FE) model of a single-adherent cell is proposed to investigate the biophysical and biochemical differences of the mechanical role of each cytoskeleton component under loading. The model includes prestressed actin bundles and microtubule within cytoplasm and nucleus surrounded by the actin cortex. We performed numerical simulations of atomic force microscopy (AFM) experiments by subjecting the cell model to compressive loads. The numerical role of the CSK components was corroborated with AFM force measurements on U2OS-osteosarcoma cells and NIH-3T3 fibroblasts exposed to different cytoskeleton-disrupting drugs. Computational simulation showed that actin cortex and microtubules are the major components targeted in resisting compression. This is a new numerical tool that explains the specific role of the cortex and overcomes the difficulty of isolating this component from other networks invitro. This illustrates that a combination ofcytoskeletal structures with their own properties is necessary for a complete description of cellular mechanics.

Keywords: Actin bundles, Actin cortex, AFM (atomic force microscopy), Cytoskeleton, Finite element modeling, Microtubules


Hoyo, J., Guaus, E., Oncins, G., Torrent-Burgués, J., Sanz, F., (2013). Incorporation of Ubiquinone in supported lipid bilayers on ITO Journal of Physical Chemistry B , 117, (25), 7498-7506

Ubiquinone (UQ) is one of the main electron and proton shuttle molecules in biological systems, and dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) is one of the most used model lipids. Supported planar bilayers (SPBs) are extensively accepted as biological model membranes. In this study, SPBs have been deposited on ITO, which is a semiconductor with good electrical and optical features. Specifically, topographic atomic force microscopy (AFM) images and force curves have been performed on SPBs with several DPPC:UQ ratios to study the location and the interaction of UQ in the SPB. Additionally, cyclic voltammetry has been used to understand the electrochemical behavior of DPPC:UQ SPBs. Obtained results show that, in our case, UQ is placed in two main different positions in SPBs. First, between the DPPC hydrophobic chains, fact that originates a decrease in the breakthrough force of the bilayer, and the second between the two leaflets that form the SPBs. This second position occurs when increasing the UQ content, fact that eventually forms UQ aggregates at high concentrations. The formation of aggregates produces an expansion of the SPB average height and a bimodal distribution of the breakthrough force. The voltammetric response of UQ depends on its position on the bilayer.

Keywords: Bimodal distribution, Biological models, Dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine, Electrochemical behaviors, Hydrophobic chains, Supported lipid bilayers, Supported planar bilayers, Voltammetric response


Ruiz, C., Noailly, J., Lacroix, D., (2013). Material property discontinuities in intervertebral disc porohyperelastic finite element models generate numerical instabilities due to volumetric strain variations Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials , 26, 1-10

Numerical studies of the intervertebral disc (IVD) are important to better understand the load transfer and the mechanobiological processes within the disc. Among the relevant calculations, fluid-related outputs are critical to describe and explore accurately the tissue properties. Porohyperelastic finite element models of IVD can describe accurately the disc behaviour at the organ level and allow the inclusion of fluid effects. However, results may be affected by numerical instabilities when fast load rates are applied. We hypothesized that such instabilities would appear preferentially at material discontinuities such as the annulus-nucleus boundary and should be considered when testing mesh convergence. A L4-L5 IVD model including the nucleus, annulus and cartilage endplates were tested under pure rotational loads, with different levels of mesh refinement. The effect of load relaxation and swelling were also studied. Simulations indicated that fluid velocity oscillations appeared due to numerical instability of the pore pressure spatial derivative at material discontinuities. Applying local refinement only was not enough to eliminate these oscillations. In fact, mesh refinements had to be local, material-dependent, and supplemented by the creation of a material transition zone, including interpolated material properties. Results also indicated that oscillations vanished along load relaxation, and faster attenuation occurred with the incorporation of the osmotic pressure. We concluded that material discontinuities are a major cause of instability for poromechanical calculations in multi-tissue models when load velocities are simulated. A strategy was presented to address these instabilities and recommendations on the use of IVD porohyperelastic models were given.

Keywords: Fast loads, Intervertebral disc, Numerical instabilities, Poroelastic model


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


Malandrino, Andrea, Noailly, J., Lacroix, Damien, (2013). Regional annulus fibre orientations used as a tool for the calibration of lumbar intervertebral disc finite element models Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering , 16, (9), 923-928

The collagen network of the annulus fibrosus largely controls the functional biomechanics of the lumbar intervertebral discs (IVDs). Quantitative anatomical examinations have shown bundle orientation patterns, possibly coming from regional adaptations of the annulus mechanics. This study aimed to show that the regional differences in annulus mechanical behaviour could be reproduced by considering only fibre orientation changes. Using the finite element method, a lumbar annulus was modelled as a poro-hyperelastic material in which fibres were represented by a direction-dependent strain energy density term. Fibre orientations were calibrated to reproduce the annulus tensile behaviours measured for four different regions: posterior outer, anterior outer, posterior inner and anterior inner. The back-calculated fibre angles and regional patterns as well as the global disc behaviour were comparable with anatomical descriptions reported in the literature. It was concluded that annulus fibre variations might be an effective tool to calibrate lumbar spine IVD and segment models.

Keywords: Intervertebral disc, Annulus fibrosus, Model calibration, Fibre orientation


Giraldo, B. F., Chaparro, J. A., Caminal, P., Benito, S., (2013). Characterization of the respiratory pattern variability of patients with different pressure support levels Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 35th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Osaka, Japan) , 3849-3852

One of the most challenging problems in intensive care is still the process of discontinuing mechanical ventilation, called weaning process. Both an unnecessary delay in the discontinuation process and a weaning trial that is undertaken too early are undesirable. In this study, we analyzed respiratory pattern variability using the respiratory volume signal of patients submitted to two different levels of pressure support ventilation (PSV), prior to withdrawal of the mechanical ventilation. In order to characterize the respiratory pattern, we analyzed the following time series: inspiratory time, expiratory time, breath duration, tidal volume, fractional inspiratory time, mean inspiratory flow and rapid shallow breathing. Several autoregressive modeling techniques were considered: autoregressive models (AR), autoregressive moving average models (ARMA), and autoregressive models with exogenous input (ARX). The following classification methods were used: logistic regression (LR), linear discriminant analysis (LDA) and support vector machines (SVM). 20 patients on weaning trials from mechanical ventilation were analyzed. The patients, submitted to two different levels of PSV, were classified as low PSV and high PSV. The variability of the respiratory patterns of these patients were analyzed. The most relevant parameters were extracted using the classifiers methods. The best results were obtained with the interquartile range and the final prediction errors of AR, ARMA and ARX models. An accuracy of 95% (93% sensitivity and 90% specificity) was obtained when the interquartile range of the expiratory time and the breath duration time series were used a LDA model. All classifiers showed a good compromise between sensitivity and specificity.

Keywords: autoregressive moving average processes, feature extraction, medical signal processing, patient care, pneumodynamics, signal classification, support vector machines, time series, ARX, autoregressive modeling techniques, autoregressive models with exogenous input, autoregressive moving average model, breath duration time series, classification method, classifier method, discontinuing mechanical ventilation, expiratory time, feature extraction, final prediction errors, fractional inspiratory time, intensive care, interquartile range, linear discriminant analysis, logistic regression analysis, mean inspiratory flow, patient respiratory volume signal, pressure support level, pressure support ventilation, rapid shallow breathing, respiratory pattern variability characterization, support vector machines, tidal volume, weaning trial, Analytical models, Autoregressive processes, Biological system modeling, Estimation, Support vector machines, Time series analysis, Ventilation


Jané, R., Lazaro, J., Ruiz, P., Gil, E., Navajas, D., Farre, R., Laguna, P., (2013). Obstructive Sleep Apnea in a rat model: Effects of anesthesia on autonomic evaluation from heart rate variability measures CinC 2013 Computing in Cardiology Conference (CinC) , IEEE (Zaragoza, Spain) , 1011-1014

Rat model of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a realistic approach for studying physiological mechanisms involved in sleep. Rats are usually anesthetized and autonomic nervous system (ANS) could be blocked. This study aimed to assess the effect of anesthesia on ANS activity during OSA episodes. Seven male Sprague-Dawley rats were anesthetized intraperitoneally with urethane (1g/kg). The experiments were conducted applying airway obstructions, simulating 15s-apnea episodes for 15 minutes. Five signals were acquired: respiratory pressure and flow, SaO2, ECG and photoplethysmography (PPG). In total, 210 apnea episodes were studied. Normalized power spectrum of Pulse Rate Variability (PRV) was analyzed in the Low Frequency (LF) and High Frequency (HF) bands, for each episode in consecutive 15s intervals (before, during and after the apnea). All episodes showed changes in respiratory flow and SaO2 signal. Conversely, decreases in the amplitude fluctuations of PPG (DAP) were not observed. Normalized LF presented extremely low values during breathing (median=7,67%), suggesting inhibition of sympathetic system due to anesthetic effect. Subtle increases of LF were observed during apnea. HRV and PPG analysis during apnea could be an indirect tool to assess the effect and deep of anesthesia.

Keywords: electrocardiography, fluctuations, medical disorders, medical signal detection, medical signal processing, neurophysiology, photoplethysmography, pneumodynamics, sleep, ECG, SaO2 flow, SaO2 signal, airway obstructions, amplitude fluctuations, anesthesia effects, anesthetized nervous system, autonomic evaluation, autonomic nervous system, breathing, heart rate variability, high-frequency bands, low-frequency bands, male Sprague-Dawley rats, normalized power spectrum, obstructive sleep apnea, photoplethysmography, physiological mechanisms, pulse rate variability, rat model, respiratory flow, respiratory pressure, signal acquisition, sympathetic system inhibition, time 15 min, time 15 s, Abstracts, Atmospheric modeling, Computational modeling, Electrocardiography, Rats, Resonant frequency


Fumagalli, Laura, Esteban-Ferrer, Daniel, Cuervo, Ana, Carrascosa, Jose L., Gomila, Gabriel, (2012). Label-free identification of single dielectric nanoparticles and viruses with ultraweak polarization forces Nature Materials Nature Publishing Group 11, (9), 743-826

Label-free detection of the material composition of nanoparticles could be enabled by the quantification of the nanoparticles’ inherent dielectric response to an applied electric field. However, the sensitivity of dielectric nanoscale objects to geometric and non-local effects makes the dielectric response extremely weak. Here we show that electrostatic force microscopy with sub-piconewton resolution can resolve the dielectric constants of single dielectric nanoparticles without the need for any reference material, as well as distinguish nanoparticles that have an identical surface but different inner composition. We unambiguously identified unlabelled ~10unm nanoparticles of similar morphology but different low-polarizable materials, and discriminated empty from DNA-containing virus capsids. Our approach should make the in situ characterization of nanoscale dielectrics and biological macromolecules possible.

Keywords: Biological materials, Nanoscale materials, Characterisation and analytical techniques, Computation, modelling and theory


Gil, V., Del Río, J. A., (2012). Analysis of axonal growth and cell migration in 3D hydrogel cultures of embryonic mouse CNS tissue Nature Protocols 7, (2), 268-280

This protocol uses rat tail-derived type I collagen hydrogels to analyze key processes in developmental neurobiology, such as chemorepulsion and chemoattraction. The method is based on culturing small pieces of brain tissue from embryonic or early perinatal mice inside a 3D hydrogel formed by rat tail-derived type I collagen or, alternatively, by commercial Matrigel. The neural tissue is placed in the hydrogel with other brain tissue pieces or cell aggregates genetically modified to secrete a particular molecule that can generate a gradient inside the hydrogel. The present method is uncomplicated and generally reproducible, and only a few specific details need to be considered during its preparation. Moreover, the degree and behavior of axonal growth or neural migration can be observed directly using phase-contrast, fluorescence microscopy or immunocytochemical methods. This protocol can be carried out in 4 weeks.

Keywords: Cell biology, Cell culture, Developmental biology, Imaging, Model organisms, Neuroscience, Tissue culture


Sánchez-Danés, A., Richaud-Patin, Y., Carballo-Carbajal, I., Jiménez-Delgado, S., Caig, C., Mora, S., Di Guglielmo, C., Ezquerra, M., Patel, B., Giralt, A., Canals, J. M., Memo, M., Alberch, J., López-Barneo, J., Vila, M., Cuervo, A. M., Tolosa, E., Consiglio, A., Raya, A., (2012). Disease-specific phenotypes in dopamine neurons from human iPS-based models of genetic and sporadic Parkinson's disease EMBO Molecular Medicine 4, (5), 380-395

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) offer an unprecedented opportunity to model human disease in relevant cell types, but it is unclear whether they could successfully model age-related diseases such as Parkinson's disease (PD). Here, we generated iPSC lines from seven patients with idiopathic PD (ID-PD), four patients with familial PD associated to the G2019S mutation in the Leucine-Rich Repeat Kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene (LRRK2-PD) and four age- and sex-matched healthy individuals (Ctrl). Over long-time culture, dopaminergic neurons (DAn) differentiated from either ID-PD- or LRRK2-PD-iPSC showed morphological alterations, including reduced numbers of neurites and neurite arborization, as well as accumulation of autophagic vacuoles, which were not evident in DAn differentiated from Ctrl-iPSC. Further induction of autophagy and/or inhibition of lysosomal proteolysis greatly exacerbated the DAn morphological alterations, indicating autophagic compromise in DAn from ID-PD- and LRRK2-PD-iPSC, which we demonstrate occurs at the level of autophagosome clearance. Our study provides an iPSC-based in vitro model that captures the patients' genetic complexity and allows investigation of the pathogenesis of both sporadic and familial PD cases in a disease-relevant cell type.

Keywords: Autophagy, Disease modeling, LRRK2 mutation, Neurodegeneration, Pluripotent stem cells


Almendros, I., Montserrat, J. M., Torres, M., Bonsignore, M. R., Chimenti, L., Navajas, D., Farre, R., (2012). Obesity and intermittent hypoxia increase tumor growth in a mouse model of sleep apnea Sleep Medicine , 13, (10), 1254-1260

Background: Intermittent hypoxia and obesity which are two pathological conditions commonly found in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), potentially enhance cancer progression. Objective: To investigate whether obesity and/or intermittent hypoxia (IH) mimicking OSA affect tumor growth. Methods: A subcutaneous melanoma was induced in 40 mice [22 obese (40-45 g) and 18 lean (20-25 g)] by injecting 10(6) B16F10 cells in the flank. Nineteen mice (10 obese/9 lean) were subjected to IH (6 h/day for 17 days). A group of 21 mice (12 obese/9 lean) were kept under normoxia. At day 17, tumors were excised, weighed and processed to quantify necrosis and endothelial expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and CD-31. VEGF in plasma was also assessed. Results: In lean animals, IH enhanced tumor growth from 0.81 +/- 0.17 to 1.95 +/- 0.32 g. In obese animals, a similar increase in tumor growth (1.94 +/- 0.18 g) was observed under normoxia, while adding IH had no further effect (1.69 +/- 0.23 g). IH only promoted an increase in tumoral necrosis in lean animals. However, obesity under normoxic conditions increased necrosis, VEGF and CD-31 expression in tumoral tissue. Plasma VEGF strongly correlated with tumor weight (rho = 0.76, p < 0.001) in the whole sample; it increased in lean IH-treated animals from 66.40 +/- 3.47 to 108.37 +/- 9.48 pg/mL, p < 0.001), while the high baseline value in obese mice (106.90 +/- 4.32 pg/mL) was unaffected by IH. Conclusions: Obesity and IH increased tumor growth, but did not appear to exert any synergistic effects. Circulating VEGF appeared as a crucial mediator of tumor growth in both situations.

Keywords: Intermittent hypoxia, Obesity, Cancer, Sleep apnea, Animal model


Guamán, Ana V., Carreras, Alba, Calvo, Daniel, Agudo, Idoya, Navajas, Daniel, Pardo, Antonio, Marco, Santiago, Farré, Ramon, (2012). Rapid detection of sepsis in rats through volatile organic compounds in breath Journal of Chromatography B , 881-882, 76-82

Background: Sepsis is one of the main causes of death in adult intensive care units. The major drawbacks of the different methods used for its diagnosis and monitoring are their inability to provide fast responses and unsuitability for bedside use. In this study, performed using a rat sepsis model, we evaluate breath analysis with Ion Mobility Spectrometry (IMS) as a fast, portable and non-invasive strategy. Methods: This study was carried out on 20 Sprague-Dawley rats. Ten rats were injected with lipopolysaccharide from Escherichia coli and ten rats were IP injected with regular saline. After a 24-h period, the rats were anaesthetized and their exhaled breaths were collected and measured with IMS and SPME-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (SPME-GC/MS) and the data were analyzed with multivariate data processing techniques. Results: The SPME-GC/MS dataset processing showed 92% accuracy in the discrimination between the two groups, with a confidence interval of between 90.9% and 92.9%. Percentages for sensitivity and specificity were 98% (97.5–98.5%) and 85% (84.6–87.6%), respectively. The IMS database processing generated an accuracy of 99.8% (99.7–99.9%), a specificity of 99.6% (99.5–99.7%) and a sensitivity of 99.9% (99.8–100%). Conclusions: IMS involving fast analysis times, minimum sample handling and portable instrumentation can be an alternative for continuous bedside monitoring. IMS spectra require data processing with proper statistical models for the technique to be used as an alternative to other methods. These animal model results suggest that exhaled breath can be used as a point-of-care tool for the diagnosis and monitoring of sepsis.

Keywords: Sepsis, Volatile organic compounds, Ion mobility spectrometer, Rat model, Bedside patient systems, Non-invasive detection


Giraldo, B.F., Gaspar, B.W., Caminal, P., Benito, S., (2012). Analysis of roots in ARMA model for the classification of patients on weaning trials Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 34th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (San Diego, USA) , 698-701

One objective of mechanical ventilation is the recovery of spontaneous breathing as soon as possible. Remove the mechanical ventilation is sometimes more difficult that maintain it. This paper proposes the study of respiratory flow signal of patients on weaning trials process by autoregressive moving average model (ARMA), through the location of poles and zeros of the model. A total of 151 patients under extubation process (T-tube test) were analyzed: 91 patients with successful weaning (GS), 39 patients that failed to maintain spontaneous breathing and were reconnected (GF), and 21 patients extubated after the test but before 48 hours were reintubated (GR). The optimal model was obtained with order 8, and statistical significant differences were obtained considering the values of angles of the first four poles and the first zero. The best classification was obtained between GF and GR, with an accuracy of 75.3% on the mean value of the angle of the first pole.

Keywords: Analytical models, Biological system modeling, Computational modeling, Estimation, Hospitals, Poles and zeros, Ventilation, Autoregressive moving average processes, Patient care, Patient monitoring, Pneumodynamics, Poles and zeros, Ventilation, ARMA model, T-tube test, Autoregressive moving average model, Extubation process, Mechanical ventilation, Optimal model, Patient classification, Respiratory flow signal, Roots, Spontaneous breathing, Weaning trials


Chaparro, J.A., Giraldo, B.F., Caminal, P., Benito, S., (2012). Performance of respiratory pattern parameters in classifiers for predict weaning process Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 34th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (San Diego, USA) , 4349-4352

Weaning trials process of patients in intensive care units is a complex clinical procedure. 153 patients under extubation process (T-tube test) were studied: 94 patients with successful trials (group S), 38 patients who failed to maintain spontaneous breathing and were reconnected (group F), and 21 patients with successful test but that had to be reintubated before 48 hours (group R). The respiratory pattern of each patient was characterized through the following time series: inspiratory time (TI), expiratory time (TE), breathing cycle duration (TTot), tidal volume (VT), inspiratory fraction (TI/TTot), half inspired flow (VT/TI), and rapid shallow index (f/VT), where f is respiratory rate. Using techniques as autoregressive models (AR), autoregressive moving average models (ARMA) and autoregressive models with exogenous input (ARX), the most relevant parameters of the respiratory pattern were obtained. We proposed the evaluation of these parameters using classifiers as logistic regression (LR), linear discriminant analysis (LDA), support vector machines (SVM) and classification and regression tree (CART) to discriminate between patients from groups S, F and R. An accuracy of 93% (98% sensitivity and 82% specificity) has been obtained using CART classification.

Keywords: Accuracy, Indexes, Logistics, Regression tree analysis, Support vector machines, Time series analysis, Autoregressive moving average processes, Medical signal processing, Pattern classification, Pneumodynamics, Regression analysis, Sensitivity, Signal classification, Support vector machines, Time series, SVM, T-tube testing, Autoregressive models-with-exogenous input, Autoregressive moving average models, Breathing cycle duration, Classification-and-regression tree, Expiratory time, Extubation process, Half inspired flow, Inspiratory fraction, Inspiratory time, Intensive care units, Linear discriminant analysis, Logistic regression, Rapid shallow index, Respiratory pattern parameter performance, Sensitivity, Spontaneous breathing, Support vector machines, Tidal volume, Time 48 hr, Time series, Weaning process classifiers


Almendros, Isaac, Farre, Ramon, Planas, Anna M., Torres, Marta, Bonsignore, Maria R., Navajas, Daniel, Montserrat, Josep M., (2011). Tissue oxygenation in brain, muscle, and fat in a rat model of sleep apnea: Differential effect of obstructive apneas and intermittent hypoxia Sleep , 34, (8), 1127-1133

Study Objectives: To test the hypotheses that the dynamic changes in brain oxygen partial pressure (PtO(2)) in response to obstructive apneas or to intermittent hypoxia differ from those in other organs and that the changes in brain PtO(2) in response to obstructive apneas is a source of oxidative stress. Design: Prospective controlled animal study. Setting: University laboratory. Participants: 98 Sprague-Dawley rats. Interventions: Cerebral cortex, skeletal muscle, or visceral fat tissues were exposed in anesthetized animals subjected to either obstructive apneas or intermittent hypoxia (apneic and hypoxic events of 15 s each and 60 events/h) for 1 h. Measurements and Results: Arterial oxygen saturation (spO(2)) presented a stable pattern, with similar desaturations during both stimuli. The PtO(2) was measured by a microelectrode. During obstructive apneas, a fast increase in cerebral PtO(2) was observed (38.2 +/- 3.4 vs. 54.8 +/- 5.9 mm Hg) but not in the rest of tissues. This particular cerebral response was not found during intermittent hypoxia. The cerebral content of reduced glutathione was decreased after obstructive apneas (46.2% +/- 15.2%) compared to controls (100.0% +/- 14.7%), but not after intermittent hypoxia. This antioxidant consumption after obstructive apneas was accompanied by increased cerebral lipid peroxidation under this condition. No changes were observed for these markers in the other tissues. Conclusions: These results suggest the cerebral cortex could be protected in some way from hypoxic periods caused by obstructive apneas. The increased cerebral PtO(2) during obstructive apneas may, however, cause harmful effects (oxidative stress). The obstructive apnea model appears to be more adequate than the intermittent hypoxia model for studying brain changes associated with OSA.

Keywords: Tissue oxygenation, Obstructive apnea, Intermittent hypoxia, Animal model, Oxidative stress


Gustavsson, J., Ginebra, M. P., Engel, E., Planell, J., (2011). Ion reactivity of calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite in standard cell culture media Acta Biomaterialia 7, (12), 4242-4252

Solution-mediated surface reactions occur for most calcium phosphate-based biomaterials and may influence cellular response. A reasonable extrapolation of such processes observed in vitro to in vivo performance requires a deep understanding of the underlying mechanisms. We therefore systematically investigated the nature of ion reactivity of calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite (CDHA) by exposing it for different periods of time to standard cell culture media of different chemical composition (DMEM and McCoy medium, with and without osteogenic supplements and serum proteins). Kinetic ion interaction studies of principal extracellular ions revealed non-linear sorption of Ca2+ (∼50% sorption) and K+ (∼8%) as well as acidification of all media during initial contact with CDHA (48 h). Interestingly, inorganic phosphorus (Pi) was sorbed from McCoy medium (∼50%) or when using osteogenic media containing β-glycerophosphate, but not from DMEM medium. Non-linear sorption data could be perfectly described by pseudo-first-order and pseudo-second-order sorption models. At longer contact time (21 days), and with frequent renewal of culture medium, sorption of Ca2+ remained constant throughout the experiment, while sorption of Pi gradually decreased in McCoy medium. In great contrast, CDHA began to release Pi slowly with time when using DMEM medium. Infrared spectra showed that CDHA exposed to culture media had a carbonated surface chemistry, suggesting that carbonate plays a key role in the ion reactivity of CDHA. Our data show that different compositions of the aqueous environment may provoke opposite ion reactivity of CDHA, and this must be carefully considered when evaluating the osteoinductive potential of the material.

Keywords: Hydroxyapatite, Bioactive materials, Cell culture medium, Ion exchange, Sorption models


Sjoberg, B. M., Torrents, E., (2011). Shift in ribonucleotide reductase gene expression in pseudomonas aeruginosa during infection Infection and Immunity , 79, (7), 2663-2669

The roles of different ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs) in bacterial pathogenesis have not been studied systematically. In this work we analyzed the importance of the different Pseudomonas aeruginosa RNRs in pathogenesis using the Drosophila melanogaster host-pathogen interaction model. P. aeruginosa codes for three different RNRs with different environmental requirements. Class II and III RNR chromosomal mutants exhibited reduced virulence in this model. Translational reporter fusions of RNR gene nrdA, nrdJ, or nrdD to the green fluorescent protein were constructed to measure the expression of each class during the infection process. Analysis of the P. aeruginosa infection by flow cytometry revealed increased expression of nrdJ and nrdD and decreased nrdA expression during the infection process. Expression of each RNR class fits with the pathogenicities of the chromosomal deletion mutants. An extended understanding of the pathogenicity and physiology of P. aeruginosa will be important for the development of novel drugs against infections in cystic fibrosis patients.

Keywords: Broad-host-range, Anaerobic growth, Drosophila-melanogaster, Bacterial biofilms, Escherichia-coli, Cystic-fibrosis, Model host, Virulence, Promoter, Vectors


Almendros, I., Farré, R., Torres, M., Bonsignore, M. R., Dalmases, M., Ramírez, J., Navajas, D., Montserrat, J. M., (2011). Early and mid-term effects of obstructive apneas in myocardial injury and inflammation Sleep Medicine , 12, (10), 1037-1040

Background: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with cardiovascular disorders, but the different comorbidities in OSA patients make it difficult to know their specific effects on the development of cardiovascular injury. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether recurrent obstructive apneas could lead to myocardial injury. Methods: Thirty-six male Sprague-Dawley rats (300-350. g) were either acutely (3. h) or sustainably (5. h/day, for 10. days) subjected to obstructive apneas with a pattern of 15. s each, 60. apneas/h. Corresponding control groups were formed for the acute and sustained models. To assess the induction of systemic inflammation, IL1-β was measured in plasma. Ventricular tissue injury was evaluated by histological techniques (presence of inflammatory cell infiltration, eosin autofluorescence, and detection of apoptosis). Results: After 3. h of obstructive apneas, a significant increase in IL1-β (64.9. ±. 29.6. ng/μl) were observed with respect to the controls (7.3. ±. 1.0. ng/μl), but no myocardial injury was present. Conversely to the acute model, the systemic inflammation triggered by obstructive apneas for 10. days was reduced. However, the percentage of area with enhanced eosin autofluorescence and of apoptotic cells (1.83. ±. 0.35% and 24.4. ±. 1.5%, respectively) was increased when compared to the control group (0.72. ±. 0.20% and 5.0. ±. 2.8%, respectively). Conclusions: This study suggests that obstructive apneas are a potential source of early systemic and ventricular inflammation and myocardial cell injury after sustained apneas application, which could represent an initial phase in the progression of heart disease associated with OSA.

Keywords: Animal models, Inflammation, Myocardial injury, Obstructive sleep apnea


Cagido, Viviane Ramos, Zin, Walter Araujo, Ramirez, Jose, Navajas, Daniel, Farre, Ramon, (2011). Alternating ventilation in a rat model of increased abdominal pressure Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology , 175, (3), 310-315

During alternating ventilation (AV) one lung is inflating while the other is deflating. Considering the possible respiratory and hemodynamic advantages of AV, we investigated its effects during increased intra-abdominal pressure (IAP = 10 mmHg). In Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 6, 270–375 g) the main bronchi were independently cannulated, and respiratory mechanics determined while animals underwent different ventilatory patterns: synchronic ventilation without increased IAP (SV-0), elevated IAP during SV (SV-10), and AV with elevated IAP (AV-10). Thirty-three other animals (SV-0, n = 10; SV-10, n = 11 and AV-10, n = 12) were ventilated during 3 h. Mean arterial pressure (MAP), and lung histology were assessed. Increased IAP resulted in significantly higher elastances (p < 0.001), being AV-10 lower than SV-10 (p < 0.020). SV-10 showed higher central venous pressure (p < 0.003) than S-0; no change was observed in AV-10. Wet/dry lung weight ratio was lower in AV-10 than SV-10 (p = 0.009). Application of AV reduced hemodynamic and lung impairments induced by increased IAP during SV.

Keywords: Alternating ventilation, Respiratory mechanics, Intra-abdominal pressure, Hemodynamic, Mechanical ventilation, Animal model


Carreras, Alba, Wang, Yang, Gozal, David, Montserrat, Josep M., Navajas, Daniel, Farre, Ramon, (2011). Non-invasive system for applying airway obstructions to model obstructive sleep apnea in mice Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology , 175, (1), 164-168

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by recurrent upper airway obstructions during sleep. The most common animal model of OSA is based on subjecting rodents to intermittent hypoxic exposures and does not mimic important OSA features, such as recurrent hypercapnia and increased inspiratory efforts. To circumvent some of these issues, a novel murine model involving non-invasive application of recurrent airway obstructions was developed. An electronically controlled airbag system is placed in front of the mouse's snout, whereby inflating the airbag leads to obstructed breathing and spontaneous breathing occurs with the airbag deflated. The device was tested on 29 anesthetized mice by measuring inspiratory effort and arterial oxygen saturation (SaO(2)). Application of recurrent obstructive apneas (6s each, 120/h) for 6h resulted in SaO(2) oscillations to values reaching 84.4 +/- 2.5% nadir, with swings mimicking OSA patients. This novel system, capable of applying controlled recurrent airway obstructions in mice, is an easy-to-use tool for investigating pertinent aspects of OSA.

Keywords: Animal model, Upper airway Obstruction, Mouse model, Non-invasive system, Model sleep apnea, Respiratory disease


Garcia-Manyes, S., Redondo-Morata, L., Oncins, G., Sanz, F., (2010). Nanomechanics of lipid bilayers: Heads or tails? Journal of the American Chemical Society American Chemical Society 132, (37), 12874-12886

Understanding the effect of mechanical stress on membranes is of primary importance in biophysics. Here we use force spectroscopy AFM to quantitatively characterize the nanomechanical stability of supported lipid bilayers as a function of their chemical composition. The onset of plastic deformation reveals itself as a repetitive jump in the approaching force curve, which represents a molecular fingerprint for the bilayer mechanical stability. By systematically probing a set of chemically distinct supported lipid bilayers (SLBs), we first show that both the headgroup and tail have a decisive effect on their mechanical properties. While the mechanical stability of the probed SLBs linearly increases by 3.3 nN upon the introduction of each additional -CH2- in the chain, it exhibits a significant dependence on the phospholipid headgroup, ranging from 3 nN for DPPA to 66 nN for DPPG. Furthermore, we also quantify the reduction of the membrane mechanical stability as a function of the number of unsaturations and molecular branching in the chemical structure of the apolar tails. Finally, we demonstrate that, upon introduction of cholesterol and ergosterol, contrary to previous belief the mechanical stability of membranes not only increases linearly in the liquid phase (DLPC) but also for phospholipids present in the gel phase (DPPC). Our results are discussed in the framework of the continuum nucleation model. This work highlights the compelling effect of subtle variations in the chemical structure of phospholipid molecules on the membrane response when exposed to mechanical forces, a mechanism of common occurrence in nature.

Keywords: Atomic-force microscopy, Molecular-dynamics simulation, Aqueous-electrolyte solutions, Supported planar membranes, Phospholipid-bilayers, Biological-membranes, Physical-properties, Fluid membranes, Model membranes, Chain-length


del Rio, Jose Antonio, Soriano, Eduardo, (2010). Regenerating cortical connections in a dish: the entorhino-hippocampal organotypic slice co-culture as tool for pharmacological screening of molecules promoting axon regeneration Nature Protocols 5, (2), 217-226

We present a method for using long-term organotypic slice co-cultures of the entorhino-hippocampal formation to analyze the axon-regenerative properties of a determined compound. The culture method is based on the membrane interphase method, which is easy to perform and is generally reproducible. The degree of axonal regeneration after treatment in lesioned cultures can be seen directly using green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgenic mice or by axon tracing and histological methods. Possible changes in cell morphology after pharmacological treatment can be determined easily by focal in vitro electroporation. The well-preserved cytoarchitectonics in the co-culture facilitate the analysis of identified cells or regenerating axons. The protocol takes up to a month.

Keywords: Cajal-retzius cells, Green-fluorescent-protein, In-vitro model, Rat hippocampus, Nervous-tissue, Brain-slices, Dentate gyrus, Gene-transfer, Cultures, Damage


Sandino, C., Checa, S., Prendergast, P. J., Lacroix, D., (2010). Simulation of angiogenesis and cell differentiation in a CaP scaffold subjected to compressive strains using a lattice modeling approach Biomaterials 31, (8), 2446-2452

Mechanical stimuli are one of the factors that influence tissue differentiation. In the development of biomaterials for bone tissue engineering, mechanical stimuli and formation of a vascular network that transport oxygen to cells within the pores of the scaffolds are essential. Angiogenesis and cell differentiation have been simulated in scaffolds of regular porosity; however, the dynamics of differentiation can be different when the porosity is not uniform. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of the mechanical stimuli and the capillary network formation on cell differentiation within a scaffold of irregular morphology. A porous scaffold of calcium phosphate based glass was used. The pores and the solid phase were discretized using micro computed tomography images. Cell activity was simulated within the interconnected pore domain of the scaffold using a lattice modeling approach. Compressive strains of 0.5 and 1% of total deformation were applied and two cases of mesenchymal stem cells initialization (in vitro seeding and in vivo) were simulated. Similar capillary networks were formed independently of the cell initialization mode and the magnitude of the mechanical strain applied. Most of vessels grew in the pores at the periphery of the scaffolds and were blocked by the walls of the scaffold. When 0.5% of strain was applied, 70% of the pore volume was affected by mechano-regulatory stimuli corresponding to bone formation; however, because of the lack of oxygen, only 40% of the volume was filled with osteoblasts. 40% of volume was filled with chondrocytes and 3% with fibroblasts. When the mechanical strain was increased to 1%, 11% of the pore volume was filled with osteoblasts, 59% with chondrocytes, and 8% with fibroblasts. This study has shown the dynamics of the correlation between mechanical load, angiogenesis and tissue differentiation within a scaffold with irregular morphology.

Keywords: Tissue engineering, Calcium phosphates, Mechanoregulation, Micro computer tomography, Finite element modeling


Park, C. Y., Tambe, D., Alencar, A. M., Trepat, X., Zhou, E. H., Millet, E., Butler, J. P., Fredberg, J. J., (2010). Mapping the cytoskeletal prestress The American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology , 298, (5), C1245-C1252

Park CY, Tambe D, Alencar AM, Trepat X, Zhou EH, Millet E, Butler JP, Fredberg JJ. Mapping the cytoskeletal prestress. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 298: C1245-C1252, 2010. First published February 17, 2010; doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00417.2009.-Cell mechanical properties on a whole cell basis have been widely studied, whereas local intracellular variations have been less well characterized and are poorly understood. To fill this gap, here we provide detailed intracellular maps of regional cytoskeleton (CSK) stiffness, loss tangent, and rate of structural rearrangements, as well as their relationships to the underlying regional F-actin density and the local cytoskeletal prestress. In the human airway smooth muscle cell, we used micropatterning to minimize geometric variation. We measured the local cell stiffness and loss tangent with optical magnetic twisting cytometry and the local rate of CSK remodeling with spontaneous displacements of a CSK-bound bead. We also measured traction distributions with traction microscopy and cell geometry with atomic force microscopy. On the basis of these experimental observations, we used finite element methods to map for the first time the regional distribution of intracellular prestress. Compared with the cell center or edges, cell corners were systematically stiffer and more fluidlike and supported higher traction forces, and at the same time had slower remodeling dynamics. Local remodeling dynamics had a close inverse relationship with local cell stiffness. The principal finding, however, is that systematic regional variations of CSK stiffness correlated only poorly with regional F-actin density but strongly and linearly with the regional prestress. Taken together, these findings in the intact cell comprise the most comprehensive characterization to date of regional variations of cytoskeletal mechanical properties and their determinants.

Keywords: Cell mechanics, Stiffness, Remodeling, Heterogeneity


Carreras, A., Rojas, M., Tsapikouni, T., Montserrat, J. M., Navajas, D., Farre, R., (2010). Obstructive apneas induce early activation of mesenchymal stem cells and enhancement of endothelial wound healing Respiratory Research , 11, (91), 1-7

Background: The aim was to test the hypothesis that the blood serum of rats subjected to recurrent airway obstructions mimicking obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) induces early activation of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) and enhancement of endothelial wound healing. Methods: We studied 30 control rats and 30 rats subjected to recurrent obstructive apneas (60 per hour, lasting 15 s each, for 5 h). The migration induced in MSC by apneic serum was measured by transwell assays. MSC-endothelial adhesion induced by apneic serum was assessed by incubating fluorescent-labelled MSC on monolayers of cultured endothelial cells from rat aorta. A wound healing assay was used to investigate the effect of apneic serum on endothelial repair. Results: Apneic serum showed significant increase in chemotaxis in MSC when compared with control serum: the normalized chemotaxis indices were 2.20 +/- 0.58 (m +/- SE) and 1.00 +/- 0.26, respectively (p < 0.05). MSC adhesion to endothelial cells was greater (1.75 +/- 0.14 -fold; p < 0.01) in apneic serum than in control serum. When compared with control serum, apneic serum significantly increased endothelial wound healing (2.01 +/- 0.24 -fold; p < 0.05). Conclusions: The early increases induced by recurrent obstructive apneas in MSC migration, adhesion and endothelial repair suggest that these mechanisms play a role in the physiological response to the challenges associated to OSA.

Keywords: Induced acute lung, Sleep-apnea, Intermitent hypoxia, Cardiovascular-disease, Progenito Cells, Rat model, Inflammation, Mechanisms, Repair, Blood


Carreras, Alba, Almendros, Isaac, Montserrat, Josep M., Navajas, Daniel, Farre, Ramon, (2010). Mesenchymal stem cells reduce inflammation in a rat model of obstructive sleep apnea Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology , 172, (3), 210-212

The aim was to test the hypothesis that mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) could reduce the inflammation induced by recurrent airway occlusions in an animal model of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A nasal mask was applied to 30 anesthetized rats. Twenty rats were subjected to a pattern of recurrent obstructive apneas mimicking OSA (60/h, lasting 15 s each) for 5h. MSC (5x10(6) cells) were intravenously injected into 10 of these rats. Ten rats not subjected to apneas or MSC injection were used as controls. The rat blood serum concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1beta were measured by ELISA. IL-1beta was significantly greater in the rats subjected to recurrent apneas (66.7+/-41.2 pg/mL; m+/-SEM) than in controls (1.9+/-1.0 pg/mL; p<0.05). In the group of apneic rats subjected to MSC injection, IL-1beta was significantly reduced (6.1+/-3.8 pg/mL; p<0.05). In conclusion, MSC triggered an early anti-inflammatory response in rats subjected to recurrent obstructive apneas, suggesting that these stem cells could play a role in the physiological response to counterbalance inflammation in OSA.

Keywords: Obstructive sleep apnea, Animal model, Airway obstruction, Inflammation


Garde, A., Sörnmo, L., Jané, R., Giraldo, B., (2010). Breathing pattern characterization in chronic heart failure patients using the respiratory flow signal Annals of Biomedical Engineering , 38, (12), 3572-3580

This study proposes a method for the characterization of respiratory patterns in chronic heart failure (CHF) patients with periodic breathing (PB) and nonperiodic breathing (nPB), using the flow signal. Autoregressive modeling of the envelope of the respiratory flow signal is the starting point for the pattern characterization. Spectral parameters extracted from the discriminant frequency band (DB) are used to characterize the respiratory patterns. For each classification problem, the most discriminant parameter subset is selected using the leave-one-out cross-validation technique. The power in the right DB provides an accuracy of 84.6% when classifying PB vs. nPB patterns in CHF patients, whereas the power of the DB provides an accuracy of 85.5% when classifying the whole group of CHF patients vs. healthy subjects, and 85.2% when classifying nPB patients vs. healthy subjects.

Keywords: Chronic heart failure, AR modeling, Respiratory pattern, Discriminant band, Periodic and nonperiodic breathing


Garde, A., Sörnmo, L., Jané, R., Giraldo, B. F., (2010). Correntropy-based spectral characterization of respiratory patterns in patients with chronic heart failure IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering 57, (8), 1964-1972

A correntropy-based technique is proposed for the characterization and classification of respiratory flow signals in chronic heart failure (CHF) patients with periodic or nonperiodic breathing (PB or nPB, respectively) and healthy subjects. The correntropy is a recently introduced, generalized correlation measure whose properties lend themselves to the definition of a correntropy-based spectral density (CSD). Using this technique, both respiratory and modulation frequencies can be reliably detected at their original positions in the spectrum without prior demodulation of the flow signal. Single-parameter classification of respiratory patterns is investigated for three different parameters extracted from the respiratory and modulation frequency bands of the CSD, and one parameter defined by the correntropy mean. The results show that the ratio between the powers in the modulation and respiratory frequency bands provides the best result when classifying CHF patients with either PB or nPB, yielding an accuracy of 88.9%. The correntropy mean offers excellent performance when classifying CHF patients versus healthy subjects, yielding an accuracy of 95.2% and discriminating nPB patients from healthy subjects with an accuracy of 94.4%.

Keywords: Autoregressive (AR) modeling, Chronic heart failure (CHF), Correntropy spectral density (CSD), Linear classification, Periodic breathing (PB)


Prendergast, P. J., Checa, S., Lacroix, D., (2010). Computational models of tissue differentiation Computational Modeling in Biomechanics (ed. Suvranu De, Farshid Guilak, Mohammad R. K. Mofrad), Springer-Verlag Berlin (Berlin) 3, 353-372

Readers of this chapter will learn about our approach to computer simulation of tissue differentiation in response to mechanical forces. It involves defining algorithms for mechanoregulation of each of following cell activities: proliferation, apoptosis, migration, and differentiation using a stimulus based on a combination of strain and fluid flow (Prendergast et al., J. Biomech., 1997) - algorithms are based on a lattice-modelling which also facilitates building algorithms for complex processes such as angiogenesis. The algorithms are designed to be collaboratable individually. They can be combined to create a computational simulation method for tissue differentiation, using finite element analysis to compute the mechanical stimuli in even quite complex biomechanical environments. Examples are presented of the simulation method in use.

Keywords: Mechanobiology, Lattice modeling, Differentiation, Tissue engineering, Finite element modeling, Scaffolds


Carreras, A., Almendros, I., Acerbi, I., Montserrat, J. M., Navajas, D., Farre, R., (2009). Obstructive apneas induce early release of mesenchymal stem cells into circulating blood Sleep , 32, (1), 117-119

STUDY OBJECTIVES: To investigate whether noninvasive application of recurrent airway obstructions induces early release of mesenchymal stem cells into the circulating blood in a rat model of obstructive sleep apnea. DESIGN: Prospective controlled animal study. SETTING: University laboratory. PATIENTS OR PARTICIPANTS: Twenty male Sprague-Dawley rats (250-300 g). INTERVENTIONS: A specially designed nasal mask was applied to the anesthetized rats. Ten rats were subjected to a pattern of recurrent obstructive apneas (60 per hour, lasting 15 seconds each) for 5 hours. Ten anesthetized rats were used as controls. MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: Mesenchymal stem cells from the blood and bone marrow samples were isolated and cultured to count the total number of colony-forming unit fibroblasts (CFU-F) of adherent cells after 9 days in culture. The number of CFU-F from circulating blood was significantly (P = 0.02) higher in the rats subjected to recurrent obstructive apneas (5.00 +/- 1.16; mean +/- SEM) than in controls (1.70 +/- 0.72). No significant (P = 0.54) differences were observed in CFU-F from bone marrow. CONCLUSIONS: Application of a pattern of airway obstructions similar to those experienced by patients with sleep apnea induced an early mobilization of mesenchymal stem cells into circulating blood.

Keywords: Adipocytes/cytology, Animals, Blood Cell Count, Bone Marrow Cells/ cytology, Cell Adhesion/physiology, Cell Count, Cell Differentiation/physiology, Cell Division/physiology, Disease Models, Animal, Fibroblasts/cytology, Male, Mesenchymal Stem Cells/ cytology, Osteocytes/cytology, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Sleep Apnea, Obstructive/ blood, Stem Cells/cytology


Sunyer, R., Ritort, F., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2009). Thermal activation and ATP dependence of the cytoskeleton remodeling dynamics Physical Review E 79, (5), 51920

The cytoskeleton (CSK) is a nonequilibrium polymer network that uses hydrolyzable sources of free energy such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to remodel its internal structure. As in inert nonequilibrium soft materials, CSK remodeling has been associated with structural rearrangements driven by energy-activated processes. We carry out particle tracking and traction microscopy measurements of alveolar epithelial cells at various temperatures and ATP concentrations. We provide the first experimental evidence that the remodeling dynamics of the CSK is driven by structural rearrangements over free-energy barriers induced by thermally activated forces mediated by ATP. The measured activation energy of these forces is similar to 40k(B)T(r) (k(B) being the Boltzmann constant and T-r being the room temperature). Our experiments provide clues to understand the analogy between the dynamics of the living CSK and that of inert nonequilibrium soft materials.

Keywords: Biochemistry, Cellular biophysics, Free energy, Molecular biophysics, Physiological models


Lacroix, D., Planell, J. A., Prendergast, P. J., (2009). Computer-aided design and finite-element modelling of biomaterial scaffolds for bone tissue engineering Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences , 367, (1895), 1993-2009

Scaffold biomaterials for tissue engineering can be produced in many different ways depending on the applications and the materials used. Most research into new biomaterials is based on an experimental trial-and-error approach that limits the possibility of making many variations to a single material and studying its interaction with its surroundings. Instead, computer simulation applied to tissue engineering can offer a more exhaustive approach to test and screen out biomaterials. In this paper, a review of the current approach in biomaterials designed through computer-aided design (CAD) and through finite-element modelling is given. First we review the approach used in tissue engineering in the development of scaffolds and the interactions existing between biomaterials, cells and mechanical stimuli. Then, scaffold fabrication through CAD is presented and characterization of existing scaffolds through computed images is reviewed. Several case studies of finite-element studies in tissue engineering show the usefulness of computer simulations in determining the mechanical environment of cells when seeded into a scaffold and the proper design of the geometry and stiffness of the scaffold. This creates a need for more advanced studies that include aspects of mechanobiology in tissue engineering in order to be able to predict over time the growth and differentiation of tissues within scaffolds. Finally, current perspectives indicate that more efforts need to be put into the development of such advanced studies, with the removal of technical limitations such as computer power and the inclusion of more accurate biological and genetic processes into the developed algorithms.

Keywords: Biomechanics, Tissue engineering, Biomaterials, Finite-element modelling


Morgenstern, C., Schwaibold, M., Randerath, W. J., Bolz, A., Jané, R., (2009). Assessment of changes in upper airway obstruction by automatic identification of inspiratory flow limitation during sleep IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering 56, (8), 2006-2015

New techniques for automatic invasive and noninvasive identification of inspiratory flow limitation (IFL) are presented. Data were collected from 11 patients with full nocturnal polysomnography and gold-standard esophageal pressure (Pes) measurement. A total of 38,782 breaths were extracted and automatically analyzed. An exponential model is proposed to reproduce the relationship between Pes and airflow of an inspiration and achieve an objective assessment of changes in upper airway obstruction. The characterization performance of the model is appraised with three evaluation parameters: mean-squared error when estimating resistance at peak pressure, coefficient of determination, and assessment of IFL episodes. The model's results are compared to the two best-performing models in the literature. The obtained gold-standard IFL annotations were then employed to train, test, and validate a new noninvasive automatic IFL classification system. Discriminant analysis, support vector machines, and Adaboost algorithms were employed to objectively classify breaths noninvasively with features extracted from the time and frequency domains of the breaths' flowpatterns. The results indicated that the exponential model characterizes IFL and subtle relative changes in upper airway obstruction with the highest accuracy and objectivity. The new noninvasive automatic classification system also succeeded in identifying IFL episodes, achieving a sensitivity of 0.87 and a specificity of 0.85.

Keywords: Esophageal pressure, Exponential model, Inspiratory flow limitation, Noninvasive, Classification, Upper airway obstruction


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


Udina, S., Carmona, M., Carles, G., Santander, J., Fonseca, L., Marco, S., (2008). A micromachined thermoelectric sensor for natural gas analysis: Thermal model and experimental results Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 134, (2), 551-558

Natural gas may show significant changes in its chemical composition depending on its origin. Typically, natural gas analysis is carried out using process gas chromatography. However, other methods based on the evaluation of physical properties have recently been reported. Thermal conductivity sensors are currently used in the analysis of binary mixtures of dissimilar gases. In contrast, natural gas is a complex mixture of mainly hydrocarbons, plus other residual gases as carbon dioxide and nitrogen. In this work, the response of a micromachined sensor integrating a heater and a thermopile is studied, regarding its potential use for natural gas analysis. A finite element thermal model of the device is described, and thermal operation simulations as well as a preliminary sensitivity analysis are reported. Experimental data has been collected and compared with simulated data, showing very good agreement. Results show that small variations in the gas mixture composition can be clearly detected. The sensor appears as a good candidate to be included in low-cost natural gas property analysis and quality control systems.

Keywords: Natural gas, Thermopile, MEMS, Thermal conductivity, Modeling, FEM simulation


Guaus, E., Errachid, A., Torrent-Burgues, J., (2008). Voltammetric response of a glassy carbon electrode modified by a Langmuir-Blodgett film of a thiomacrocyclic compound Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry , 614, (1-2), 73-82

A Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) film of a thiomacrocyclic (ThM) compound was deposited on the surface of a glassy carbon electrode (GCE) sheet, from a subphase containing Cu(II) ions. The study of the voltammetric response of this modified GCE when the ThM was bonded to Cu2+, showed that the films had the behaviour of confined species of an electrode surface, and that the current density of the voltammograms increased with the number of LB layers deposited. On the other hand, a LB film of the ThM compound was deposited on the surface of a GCE sheet from a subphase of pure water. When the voltammetric response of the GCE-ThM electrode was studied in a Cu2+-SO42- solution, it was found that a membrane model applies to describe the effect of the LB film on the GCE surface.

Keywords: Modified electrodes, Langmuir-Blodgett films, Cyclic voltammetry, Permeation at LB films, Membrane model of a thin film


Farre, R., Montserrat, J. M., Navajas, D., (2008). Morbidity due to obstructive sleep apnea: insights from animal models Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine , 14, (6), 530-536

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a prevalent disorder with clinically well known mid-term and long-term consequences. It is difficult, however, to investigate the mechanisms causing morbidity in OSA from human studies, owing to confounding factors in patients. Animal research is useful to analyze the various injurious stimuli--intermittent hypoxia/hypercapnia, mechanical stress and sleep disruption--that potentially cause OSA morbidity. This review is focused on the most recent advances in our understanding of the consequences of OSA, achieved as a result of animal models. RECENT FINDINGS: Animal research has improved our knowledge of various aspects of the cardiovascular consequences of OSA: myocardial damage, left ventricular dysfunction, vasoconstriction, hypertension and atherosclerosis. The systemic and metabolic consequences of OSA--inflammation, insulin resistance, alterations in lipid metabolism and hepatic morbidity--have also been investigated with animal models. Our understanding of the mechanisms involved in the neurocognitive consequences of OSA--neuronal and brain alterations and cognitive dysfunctions--has also been improved through animal research. Moreover, animal models have recently been used to investigate the mechanisms of upper airway inflammation and dysfunction. SUMMARY: The simple experimental models used to investigate OSA morbidity are useful for investigating isolated mechanisms. However, more complex and realistic models incorporating the various injurious challenges characterizing OSA are required to more precisely translate the results of animal research to patients and to design potentially preventive and therapeutic strategies.

Keywords: Animal model, Morbidity, Sleep apnea, Translational research


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


Farre, R., Nacher, M., Serrano-Mollar, A., Galdiz, J. B., Alvarez, F. J., Navajas, D., Montserrat, J. M., (2007). Rat model of chronic recurrent airway obstructions to study the sleep apnea syndrome Sleep , 30, (7), 930-933

Study Objectives: To implement a chronic rat model of recurrent airway obstructions to study the obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) syndrome. Design: Prospective controlled animal study. Setting: University laboratory. Patients or Participants: 24 male Sprague-Dawley rats (250-300 g). Interventions: The rats were placed in a setup consisting of a body chamber and a head chamber separated by a neck collar specially designed to apply recurrent airway obstructions with OSA patterns. Rats in the Obstruction group (n=8) were subjected to 5-s obstructions at a rate of 60 per hour, 6 h/day during 4 weeks. Sham rats (n=8) were placed in the setup but no obstructions were applied. Naive rats (n=8) were subjected to no intervention. Measurements and Results: Breathing flow, pressure, CO2 air concentration, and SpO(2) showed that the model mimicked OSA respiratory events (obstructive apneas, increased respiratory efforts, and oxygen saturation dips). Animal stress, assessed by body weight and plasma corticosterone, was not significantly different across Obstruction and Sham groups. This supports the concept that this novel model does not introduce a significant burden of stress in the rat after acclimatization to the chamber. Thromboxane-B2/6-keto-Prostaglandin-F1a ratio in plasma, which is an index of vasoconstriction, was significantly increased in the rats subjected to obstructions. Conclusions: The designed animal model of chronic recurrent airway obstructions is feasible and potentially useful to study the mechanisms involved in the cardiovascular consequences of OSA.

Keywords: Obstructive sleep apnea, Animal model, Airway obstruction