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Nanoprobes and Nanoswitches

About

Research in the laboratory focuses on developing nanoscale tools to study biological systems. These tools include instrumentation based on proximity probes, such as electrochemical tunnelling microscopy and spectroscopy and single molecule force spectroscopy, that we apply to investigate electron transfer in individual redox proteins, and other biophysical and biochemical interactions.

These studies are relevant to understand lipid membrane dynamics, to the development of biosensors and molecular electronics devices, and have led to the discovery of long-distance electrochemically gated electron transport between partner proteins of the respiratory and photosynthetic chains.

Another set of nanotools that we are developing is based on engineered molecular actuators that can be switched with light, such as azobenzene, which can be chemically attached to biomolecules in order to remotely control their activity (photopharmacology). They include peptide inhibitors of protein-protein interactions, small molecule enzymatic inhibitors, and photoswitchable ligands of a diversity of other proteins.

Among several applications, these compounds have enabled photoactivated chemotherapy, photocontrol of cellular signaling mediated by ion channels and G protein-coupled receptors, photocontrol of cardiac activity and locomotion, sensory restoration, and photocontrol of brain waves.

Based on these tools, we have also developed two-photon pharmacology to manipulate and study the activity of neurons and glia in intact brain tissue with pharmacological selectivity and sub-cellular three-dimensional resolution.

Staff

Projects

INTERNATIONAL PROJECTSFINANCERPI
DEEPER · Deep Brain Photonic Tools for Cell-type specific targeting of Neural diseases (2021-2025)European Commission, ICTPau Gorostiza
Human Brain Project Specific Grant Agreement 3 (2020-2023)European Commission, FET FLAGSHIPSPau Gorostiza
NATIONAL PROJECTSFINANCERPI
DEEP RED · Neuromodulación de las vías inhibitorias mediante fotofarmacología activada por luz roja e infrarroja (2020-2023)MINECO, Retos investigación: Proyectos I+DPau Gorostiza
PRIVATELY FUNDED PROJECTSFINANCERPI
Drug4Sight · Light-regulated drugs to restore sight (2019-2022)Obra Social La CaixaPau Gorostiza
FINISHED PROJECTSFINANCERPI
DECA CECH · Cluster Emergente del Cerebro Humano (2019-2021)RIS3CAT – Tecnologies EmergentsPau Gorostiza
SGR Grups de recerca consolidats (2017-2020)AGAUR / SGRPau Gorostiza
Q-SPET · Quantum-controlled Single Protein Electron Transport (2019-2020)BIST Ignite ProgramPau Gorostiza
Human Brain Project Specific Grant Agreement 2 (2018-2020)European Commission, FET FLAGSHIPSPau Gorostiza
FOCUS Single Molecule Activation and ComputingICTPau Gorostiza
THERALIGHT Therapeutic Applications of Light-Regulated DrugsERC-PoCPau Gorostiza
Single-BioET Single-molecule junction capabilities to map the electron pathways in redox bio-molecular architectures (2012-2016)MARIE CURIE – RGIsmael Díez
Optogenetic pacemaking to rewire neural circuitsLa Marató TV3Pau Gorostiza
OPTOPHARMACOLOGY Aplicaciones terapéuticas de la optofarmacologíaMINECO (CTQ2013-43892-R)Pau Gorostiza
Milk fat globule membrane and periphera proteins: lipid-protein interactions (2016-2017)Fausto SanzINRA
WaveScalES Human Brain Project Specific Grant Agreement 1 (2016-2018)European Commission, FET FLAGSHIPSPau Gorostiza
OPTOFRAX Optopharmacological brain mapping of autism mouse (2015-2017)MARIE CURIE – IFMiquel Bosch
NANOPROSTHETICS Prótesis moleculares para restablecer la visión basadas en fotoconmutadores covalentes dirigidos (2016-2019)MINECO, Retos investigación: Proyectos I+DPau Gorostiza
MODULIGHTOR Moduladores fotoconmutables sintéticos para manipular remotamente proteínas endógenas: fotocontrol in vivo de canales iónicos pentaméricos (2015-2018)MINECO Nacional /Acciones de Programación Conjunta InternacionalPau Gorostiza
nanoET-leukemia Nanoconductance of electron transfer proteins of the respiratory chain. Direct measurement at the single molecular level and therapeutic regulation in cancer stem cells (2015-2018)MINECO, Proyectos RETOS 2015 / CIBERMarina  Giannotti / Anna Lagunas
Inhibición fotoselectiva de interacciones proteína-proteína para el estudio de redes interactómicas y el desarrollo de nuevas terapias (2015-2018)Pau GorostizaFundación Ramon Areces
Fotoconmutadores covalentes para el control remoto de receptores endógenos (2017-2019)Pau GorostizaConvocatoria de Ayudas a la Investigación FUNDALUCE

Publications

Equipment

  • iMic molecular imaging system
  • Electrochemical scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) for molecular imaging
  • Asylum Research Molecular Force Probe
  • Multimode SPM Nanoscope III (SCT-UB)
  • Autolab potentiostat
  • Patch clamp setup with Heka EPC10 amplifier
  • Molecular Imaging Electrochemical STM

Collaborations

  • Prof. Amadeu Llebaria
    Institut de Química Avançada de Catalunya (IQAC-CSIC)
  • Prof. Ernest Giralt
    Dept. de Química Orgànica, Universitat de Barcelona
  • Prof. Miquel Àngel Pericàs
    Institut Català d’Investigació Química (ICIQ), Tarragona
  • Dr. Piotr Bregestovski
    Institut de Neurobiologie de la Mediterraneé (INMED), Marseille
  • Dr. Mireia Oliva
    Dept. de Farmàcia i Tecnologia Farmacèutica, Universitat de Barcelona
  • Dr. Artur Llobet
    Dept. Patología y Terapéutica Experimental, Universitat de Barcelona
  • Dr. Joan Torrent
    Escola Universitària d’Òptica i Optometria de Terrassa, Spain
  • Prof. Dirk Trauner
    Chemistry Dept., UC Berkeley, USA
  • Prof. Carles Solsona
    Pathology and Experimental Therapeutics Dept, UB
  • Prof. Francisco Ciruela
    ICREA / Universitat de Barcelona, Spain
  • Prof. Jesús Giraldo & Dr. Jordi Hernando
    Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • Niek van Hulst, Michael Krieg, Pablo Loza
    Institut de Ciències Fotòniques (ICFO)
  • Carme Rovira
    ICREA, Universitat de Barcelona
  • Pedro de la Villa
    Universidad de Alcalá de Henares
  • Eduardo Fernández
    Universitat Miguel Hernández
  • Burkhard König
    Regensburg University
  • Michael Decker
    Regensburg University
  • Elisabet Romero
    Institut Català d’Investigació Química (ICIQ), Tarragona
  • Ismael Díez-Pérez
    King’s College London
  • Andrea Barberis
    Italian Institute of Technology
  • Roberta Croce
    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Gertrudis Perea
    Instituto Cajal
  • Irene Díaz-Moreno, Miguel Ángel de la Rosa, Antonio Díaz-Quintana
    Instituto de Investigaciones Químicas, Universidad de Sevilla
  • Joan Torrent
    Escola Universitària d’Òptica i Optometria de Terrassa, Spain
  • Jordi Hernando, Ramon Alibés, Félix Busque, Josep Maria Lluch
    Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

News

The Group of Pau Gorostiza at IBEC participates in the “Emerging Cluster of the Human Brain! (CECH) RIS3CAT Initiative, in which research institutes and industry work together to achieve an integrative and multi-level understanding of the human brain.

IBEC contributes to multi-disciplinary efforts to understand the brain and improve neurological healthcare

The Group of Pau Gorostiza at IBEC participates in the “Emerging Cluster of the Human Brain! (CECH) RIS3CAT Initiative, in which research institutes and industry work together to achieve an integrative and multi-level understanding of the human brain.

IBEC’s research group “Nanoprobes and nanoswitches” creates a system based on light to inhibit the endocytocis and control its spatio-temporal dynamics. The newly developed light-sensitive small-molecule inhibitors of endocytosis (called dynazos) are water-soluble, cell permeable, photostable, and enable fast photoswitchable inhibition of endocytosis. This technology will allow more accurate and controlled studies were endocytosis is crucial, as in cellular grow, differentiation and motility.

Lights, Cells, Action! IBEC develops small molecules able to control endocytosis with light

IBEC’s research group “Nanoprobes and nanoswitches” creates a system based on light to inhibit the endocytocis and control its spatio-temporal dynamics. The newly developed light-sensitive small-molecule inhibitors of endocytosis (called dynazos) are water-soluble, cell permeable, photostable, and enable fast photoswitchable inhibition of endocytosis. This technology will allow more accurate and controlled studies were endocytosis is crucial, as in cellular grow, differentiation and motility.

IBEC researchers develop new multi-responsive molecules able to self-assemble in water forming fiber-like structures. The so-called discotic molecules show responsiveness to temperature, light, pH, and ionic strength and they might show great potential for medical applications such as drug delivery systems, diagnosis or tissue engineering. Edgar Fuentes is a PhD student in the Nanoscopy for Nanomedicine Group led by Lorenzo Albertazzi at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC). Within this group, Edgar and his colleagues focus on the synthesis of novel smart supramolecular materials for drug delivery.

New chemical lego blocks for health solutions

IBEC researchers develop new multi-responsive molecules able to self-assemble in water forming fiber-like structures. The so-called discotic molecules show responsiveness to temperature, light, pH, and ionic strength and they might show great potential for medical applications such as drug delivery systems, diagnosis or tissue engineering. Edgar Fuentes is a PhD student in the Nanoscopy for Nanomedicine Group led by Lorenzo Albertazzi at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC). Within this group, Edgar and his colleagues focus on the synthesis of novel smart supramolecular materials for drug delivery.

“We have achieved that blind fish recover their vision by adding a light-sensitive molecule to the tank’s water that has a pharmacological effect on their retina, ”explains Pau Gorostiza, ICREA researcher at IBEC, who has been working on the development of light regulated drugs for more than ten years.

Can a light sensitive drug restore vision? Pau Gorostiza on BigVang

“We have achieved that blind fish recover their vision by adding a light-sensitive molecule to the tank’s water that has a pharmacological effect on their retina, ”explains Pau Gorostiza, ICREA researcher at IBEC, who has been working on the development of light regulated drugs for more than ten years.

Rossella Castagna a postdoctoral researcher in the Nanoprobes and Nanowitches group at IBEC was awared with the ISOP2019 prize last week 9th International Symposium on Photochromism held in Paris. This recognition comes from her contribution to the field of photochromism and for the results that were collectively obtained in their group in the field of photopharmacology. Rossella presented the group results on photoswitchable drugs at the reference international meeting for photochromism, held every 3 years, where she was awarded with the conference prize. According to the organizing committee, such a prize rewards the most talented young researchers whose contribution is expected to notably impact the field of photochromism.

Rossella Castagna, postdoctoral researcher at IBEC wins the ISOP2019 prize

Rossella Castagna a postdoctoral researcher in the Nanoprobes and Nanowitches group at IBEC was awared with the ISOP2019 prize last week 9th International Symposium on Photochromism held in Paris. This recognition comes from her contribution to the field of photochromism and for the results that were collectively obtained in their group in the field of photopharmacology. Rossella presented the group results on photoswitchable drugs at the reference international meeting for photochromism, held every 3 years, where she was awarded with the conference prize. According to the organizing committee, such a prize rewards the most talented young researchers whose contribution is expected to notably impact the field of photochromism.

José Antonio del Río, Pau Gorostiza, and Samuel Sánchez have been awarded in two of the “la Caixa” calls. José Antonio del Río, principal investigator of the Molecular and Cellular Neurobiotechnology Group at IBEC, is one of the winners of the second edition of the call for applications in biomedicine and health. Del Río’s project focuses on analysing the molecular mechanisms involved in the genesis and propagation of tau protein in brain cells. This protein is linked with several neurodegenerative processes and is present in numerous diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Pau Gorostiza, principal investigator of the Nanoprobes and Nanoswitches Group, also received an award at the second edition of the call for applications for research projects in biomedicine and health. In this case, for his project on degenerative eye conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa, which causes blindness due to the progressive degeneration of the cones and rods, which are the light sensitive cells.

Three researchers from IBEC awarded with grants from “la Caixa” for their pioneering and high social impact research

José Antonio del Río, Pau Gorostiza, and Samuel Sánchez have been awarded in two of the “la Caixa” calls. José Antonio del Río, principal investigator of the Molecular and Cellular Neurobiotechnology Group at IBEC, is one of the winners of the second edition of the call for applications in biomedicine and health. Del Río’s project focuses on analysing the molecular mechanisms involved in the genesis and propagation of tau protein in brain cells. This protein is linked with several neurodegenerative processes and is present in numerous diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Pau Gorostiza, principal investigator of the Nanoprobes and Nanoswitches Group, also received an award at the second edition of the call for applications for research projects in biomedicine and health. In this case, for his project on degenerative eye conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa, which causes blindness due to the progressive degeneration of the cones and rods, which are the light sensitive cells.

Scientists from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia develop a technique that enables them to work out the specific function of a neuronal receptor according to its location in the brain. The study, published in PNAS, is based on the activation of photoswitchable drugs with micrometric precision and offers new opportunities in neurobiology. Schizophrenia, depression, myasthenia… Many neurological diseases are due to the malfunctioning of a neuronal receptor. These proteins, also known as neuroreceptors, are responsible for sending and detecting neurotransmitters, chemical substances that allow communication between neurons.

Closer to a functional atlas of the brain

Scientists from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia develop a technique that enables them to work out the specific function of a neuronal receptor according to its location in the brain. The study, published in PNAS, is based on the activation of photoswitchable drugs with micrometric precision and offers new opportunities in neurobiology. Schizophrenia, depression, myasthenia… Many neurological diseases are due to the malfunctioning of a neuronal receptor. These proteins, also known as neuroreceptors, are responsible for sending and detecting neurotransmitters, chemical substances that allow communication between neurons.

The President of the European Research Council, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, visited last May 15th the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC). The event was inaugurated by IBEC’s Director, Josep Samitier, who presented an overview on the cutting-edge research carried out at the institute in the fields of bioengineering and nanomedicine. Afterwards, ERC Grantees working at IBEC had the opportunity to explain the impact of ERC grants on their professional careers and established a dialogue with ERC President on the past, present and future of the European Research Council.

ERC President visits IBEC

The President of the European Research Council, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, visited last May 15th the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC). The event was inaugurated by IBEC’s Director, Josep Samitier, who presented an overview on the cutting-edge research carried out at the institute in the fields of bioengineering and nanomedicine. Afterwards, ERC Grantees working at IBEC had the opportunity to explain the impact of ERC grants on their professional careers and established a dialogue with ERC President on the past, present and future of the European Research Council.

A scientific team led by IBEC and UAB manages to efficiently activate molecules located inside cell tissues using two-photon excitation of with infrared light lasers. The results of the study has been published in Nature Communications. Having absolute control of the activity of a molecule in an organism. Deciding when, where and how a drug is activated. These are some of the goals expected to be reached with the so-called photoswitchable molecules, compounds that, in the presence of certain light waves, change their properties. Today, thanks to the results of a study led by the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) together with the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), the scientific community is one step closer to achieving this objective.

A new technique allows researchers to focus the action of drugs via infrared light

A scientific team led by IBEC and UAB manages to efficiently activate molecules located inside cell tissues using two-photon excitation of with infrared light lasers. The results of the study has been published in Nature Communications. Having absolute control of the activity of a molecule in an organism. Deciding when, where and how a drug is activated. These are some of the goals expected to be reached with the so-called photoswitchable molecules, compounds that, in the presence of certain light waves, change their properties. Today, thanks to the results of a study led by the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) together with the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), the scientific community is one step closer to achieving this objective.

Collaborating IBEC groups have published a study in Nature Communications that reveals that electron transfer can take place while a protein is approaching its partner site, and not only when the proteins are engaged, as was previously thought. The results open up a new way of thinking about how proteins interact, and can have implications in a better understanding of many processes – such as photosynthesis, respiration and detoxification – in which electron transfer plays an important role. The relocation of an electron from one chemical entity to another – electron transfer (ET) – doesn’t happen passively: electrons are carried individually by redox proteins.

Proteins can transfer electrons at a distance

Collaborating IBEC groups have published a study in Nature Communications that reveals that electron transfer can take place while a protein is approaching its partner site, and not only when the proteins are engaged, as was previously thought. The results open up a new way of thinking about how proteins interact, and can have implications in a better understanding of many processes – such as photosynthesis, respiration and detoxification – in which electron transfer plays an important role. The relocation of an electron from one chemical entity to another – electron transfer (ET) – doesn’t happen passively: electrons are carried individually by redox proteins.

Jobs

We are happy to receive CVs and enquiries from talented individuals. Prospective students and staff are encouraged to contact us to discuss possibilities. Please feel free to suggest new projects, areas of research or new ideas. You can visit the jobs page to find currents job openings in all IBEC groups or administration positions.