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by Keyword: Brain

Porro GM, Lorandi I, Liu X, Kataoka K, Battaglia G, Gonzalez-Carter D, (2023). Identifying molecular tags selectively retained on the surface of brain endothelial cells to generate artificial targets for therapy delivery Fluids And Barriers Of The Cns 20, 88

Current strategies to identify ligands for brain delivery select candidates based on preferential binding to cell-membrane components (CMC) on brain endothelial cells (EC). However, such strategies generate ligands with inherent brain specificity limitations, as the CMC (e.g., the transferrin receptor TfR1) are also significantly expressed on peripheral EC. Therefore, novel strategies are required to identify molecules allowing increased specificity of therapy brain delivery. Here, we demonstrate that, while individual CMC are shared between brain EC and peripheral EC, their endocytic internalization rate is markedly different. Such differential endocytic rate may be harnessed to identify molecular tags for brain targeting based on their selective retention on the surface of brain EC, thereby generating 'artificial' targets specifically on the brain vasculature. By quantifying the retention of labelled proteins on the cell membrane, we measured the general endocytic rate of primary brain EC to be less than half that of primary peripheral (liver and lung) EC. In addition, through bio-panning of phage-displayed peptide libraries, we unbiasedly probed the endocytic rate of individual CMC of liver, lung and brain endothelial cells. We identified phage-displayed peptides which bind to CMC common to all three endothelia phenotypes, but which are preferentially endocytosed into peripheral EC, resulting in selective retention on the surface of brain EC. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the synthesized free-form peptides are capable of generating artificial cell-surface targets for the intracellular delivery of model proteins into brain EC with increasing specificity over time. The developed identification paradigm, therefore, demonstrates that the lower endocytic rate of individual CMC on brain EC can be harnessed to identify peptides capable of generating 'artificial' targets for the selective delivery of proteins into the brain vasculature. In addition, our approach identifies brain-targeting peptides which would have been overlooked by conventional identification strategies, thereby increasing the repertoire of candidates to achieve specific therapy brain delivery.© 2023. The Author(s).

JTD Keywords: brain endothelium, endocytic rates, ligand identification, nanoparticles, phage-display, Barrier, Brain endothelium, Brain targeting, Endocytic rates, Ligand identification, Phage-display


Loeck M, Placci M, Muro S, (2023). Effect of acid sphingomyelinase deficiency in type A Niemann-Pick disease on the transport of therapeutic nanocarriers across the blood-brain barrier Drug Delivery And Translational Research 13, 3077-3093

ASM deficiency in Niemann-Pick disease type A results in aberrant cellular accumulation of sphingomyelin, neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and early death. There is no available treatment because enzyme replacement therapy cannot surmount the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Nanocarriers (NCs) targeted across the BBB via transcytosis might help; yet, whether ASM deficiency alters transcytosis remains poorly characterized. We investigated this using model NCs targeted to intracellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), transferrin receptor (TfR), or plasmalemma vesicle-associated protein-1 (PV1) in ASM-normal vs. ASM-deficient BBB models. Disease differentially changed the expression of all three targets, with ICAM-1 becoming the highest. Apical binding and uptake of anti-TfR NCs and anti-PV1 NCs were unaffected by disease, while anti-ICAM-1 NCs had increased apical binding and decreased uptake rate, resulting in unchanged intracellular NCs. Additionally, anti-ICAM-1 NCs underwent basolateral reuptake after transcytosis, whose rate was decreased by disease, as for apical uptake. Consequently, disease increased the effective transcytosis rate for anti-ICAM-1 NCs. Increased transcytosis was also observed for anti-PV1 NCs, while anti-TfR NCs remained unaffected. A fraction of each formulation trafficked to endothelial lysosomes. This was decreased in disease for anti-ICAM-1 NCs and anti-PV1 NCs, agreeing with opposite transcytosis changes, while it increased for anti-TfR NCs. Overall, these variations in receptor expression and NC transport resulted in anti-ICAM-1 NCs displaying the highest absolute transcytosis in the disease condition. Furthermore, these results revealed that ASM deficiency can differently alter these processes depending on the particular target, for which this type of study is key to guide the design of therapeutic NCs.© 2023. Controlled Release Society.

JTD Keywords: asm deficiency, blood-brain barrier, delivery, determines, drug, endocytosis, enzymes, icam-1, lysosomal storage disease, mechanisms, nanoparticles, natural-history, niemann-pick disease type a, pv-1, receptor-mediated transcytosis, trafficking, transferrin receptor, Asm deficiency, Blood–brain barrier, Drug nanocarriers, Icam-1, Icam-1-targeted nanocarriers, Lysosomal storage disease, Niemann-pick disease type a, Pv-1, Receptor-mediated transcytosis, Transferrin receptor


Pereira, I, Lopez-Martinez, MJ, Samitier, J, (2023). Advances in current in vitro models on neurodegenerative diseases Frontiers In Bioengineering And Biotechnology 11, 1260397

Many neurodegenerative diseases are identified but their causes and cure are far from being well-known. The problem resides in the complexity of the neural tissue and its location which hinders its easy evaluation. Although necessary in the drug discovery process, in vivo animal models need to be reduced and show relevant differences with the human tissues that guide scientists to inquire about other possible options which lead to in vitro models being explored. From organoids to organ-on-a-chips, 3D models are considered the cutting-edge technology in cell culture. Cell choice is a big parameter to take into consideration when planning an in vitro model and cells capable of mimicking both healthy and diseased tissue, such as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), are recognized as good candidates. Hence, we present a critical review of the latest models used to study neurodegenerative disease, how these models have evolved introducing microfluidics platforms, 3D cell cultures, and the use of induced pluripotent cells to better mimic the neural tissue environment in pathological conditions.

JTD Keywords: 3d in vitro models, bioprinting, ipsc cell culture, microfluidic device, 3d in vitro models, Bioprinting, Blood-brain-barrier, Cerebral organoids, Culture model, Endothelial-cells, Expression profile, Extracellular-matrix, Ipsc cell culture, Microfluidic device, Neurodegenerative diseases, On-a-chip, Pluripotent stem-cells, Shear-stress, Substrate stiffness


Perxés Perich M, Palma-Florez S, Solé C, Goberna-Ferrón S, Samitier J, Gómez-Romero P, Mir M, Lagunas A, (2023). Polyoxometalate-Decorated Gold Nanoparticles Inhibit β-Amyloid Aggregation and Cross the Blood-Brain Barrier in a µphysiological Model Nanomaterials 13, 2697

Alzheimer's disease is characterized by a combination of several neuropathological hallmarks, such as extracellular aggregates of beta amyloid (Aβ). Numerous alternatives have been studied for inhibiting Aβ aggregation but, at this time, there are no effective treatments available. Here, we developed the tri-component nanohybrid system AuNPs@POM@PEG based on gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) covered with polyoxometalates (POMs) and polyethylene glycol (PEG). In this work, AuNPs@POM@PEG demonstrated the inhibition of the formation of amyloid fibrils, showing a 75% decrease in Aβ aggregation in vitro. As it is a potential candidate for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, we evaluated the cytotoxicity of AuNPs@POM@PEG and its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). We achieved a stable nanosystem that is non-cytotoxic below 2.5 nM to human neurovascular cells. The brain permeability of AuNPs@POM@PEG was analyzed in an in vitro microphysiological model of the BBB (BBB-on-a-chip), containing 3D human neurovascular cell co-cultures and microfluidics. The results show that AuNPs@POM@PEG was able to cross the brain endothelial barrier in the chip and demonstrated that POM does not affect the barrier integrity, giving the green light to further studies into this system as a nanotherapeutic.

JTD Keywords: beta-amyloid, blood-brain barrier organ-on-a-chip, cellular uptake, citrate, cytotoxicity, electrocatalytic reduction, gold nanoparticles, hypothesis, nanorods, polyoxometalates, size, stability, surface, Alzheimers-disease, Blood–brain barrier organ-on-a-chip, Gold nanoparticles, Nanovehicle, Polyoxometalates, Β-amyloid


Sauer, F, Grosser, S, Shahryari, M, Hayn, A, Guo, J, Braun, J, Briest, S, Wolf, B, Aktas, B, Horn, LC, Sack, I, Käs, JA, (2023). Changes in Tissue Fluidity Predict Tumor Aggressiveness In Vivo Advanced Science 10, e2303523

Cancer progression is caused by genetic changes and associated with various alterations in cell properties, which also affect a tumor's mechanical state. While an increased stiffness has been well known for long for solid tumors, it has limited prognostic power. It is hypothesized that cancer progression is accompanied by tissue fluidization, where portions of the tissue can change position across different length scales. Supported by tabletop magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) on stroma mimicking collagen gels and microscopic analysis of live cells inside patient derived tumor explants, an overview is provided of how cancer associated mechanisms, including cellular unjamming, proliferation, microenvironment composition, and remodeling can alter a tissue's fluidity and stiffness. In vivo, state-of-the-art multifrequency MRE can distinguish tumors from their surrounding host tissue by their rheological fingerprints. Most importantly, a meta-analysis on the currently available clinical studies is conducted and universal trends are identified. The results and conclusions are condensed into a gedankenexperiment about how a tumor can grow and eventually metastasize into its environment from a physics perspective to deduce corresponding mechanical properties. Based on stiffness, fluidity, spatial heterogeneity, and texture of the tumor front a roadmap for a prognosis of a tumor's aggressiveness and metastatic potential is presented.© 2023 The Authors. Advanced Science published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.

JTD Keywords: brain, cancer, cells, collective migration, elastic energy, elastography, in vivo magnetic resonance elastography, invasion, medical imaging, solid stress, tissue fluidity, tumor mechanics, viscoelastic properties, Cancer, Extracellular-matrix, In vivo magnetic resonance elastography, Medical imaging, Tissue fluidity, Tumor mechanics


Gregori-Pla, C, Zirak, P, Cotta, G, Bramon, P, Blanco, I, Serra, I, Mola, A, Fortuna, A, Solà-Soler, J, Giraldo, BFG, Durduran, T, Mayos, M, (2023). How does obstructive sleep apnea alter cerebral hemodynamics? Sleep 46,

We aimed to characterize the cerebral hemodynamic response to obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea events, and evaluate their association to polysomnographic parameters. The characterization of the cerebral hemodynamics in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may add complementary information to further the understanding of the severity of the syndrome beyond the conventional polysomnography.Severe OSA patients were studied during night sleep while monitored by polysomnography. Transcranial, bed-side diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS) and frequency-domain near-infrared diffuse correlation spectroscopy (NIRS-DOS) were used to follow microvascular cerebral hemodynamics in the frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex. Changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF), total hemoglobin concentration (THC), and cerebral blood oxygen saturation (StO2) were analyzed.We considered 3283 obstructive apnea/hypopnea events from sixteen OSA patients (Age (median, interquartile range) 57 (52-64.5); females 25%; AHI (apnea-hypopnea index) 84.4 (76.1-93.7)). A biphasic response (maximum/minimum followed by a minimum/maximum) was observed for each cerebral hemodynamic variable (CBF, THC, StO2), heart rate and peripheral arterial oxygen saturation (SpO2). Changes of the StO2 followed the dynamics of the SpO2, and were out of phase from the THC and CBF. Longer events were associated with larger CBF changes, faster responses and slower recoveries. Moreover, the extrema of the response to obstructive hypopneas were lower compared to apneas (p < .001).Obstructive apneas/hypopneas cause profound, periodic changes in cerebral hemodynamics, including periods of hyper- and hypo-perfusion and intermittent cerebral hypoxia. The duration of the events is a strong determinant of the cerebral hemodynamic response, which is more pronounced in apnea than hypopnea events.© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Sleep Research Society.

JTD Keywords: cerebral hemodynamics, desaturation, diffuse correlation spectroscopy, duration, hypopnea, hypoxemia, near-infrared spectroscopy, optical pathlength, oxygenation, severity, sleep disorder, spectroscopy, tissue, Adult, Airway obstruction, Apnea hypopnea index, Arterial oxygen saturation, Article, Blood oxygen tension, Blood-flow, Brain blood flow, Brain cortex, Cerebral hemodynamics, Controlled study, Diffuse correlation spectroscopy, Disease severity, Female, Frequency, Frontal lobe, Heart rate, Hemodynamics, Hemoglobin, Hemoglobin determination, Human, Humans, Major clinical study, Male, Near infrared spectroscopy, Near-infrared spectroscopy, Obstructive sleep apnea, Oxygen, Periodicity, Polysomnography, Sleep apnea syndromes, Sleep apnea, obstructive, Sleep disorder, Spectroscopy, near-infrared


Nong J, Glassman PM, Myerson JW, Zuluaga-Ramirez V, Rodriguez-Garcia A, Mukalel A, Omo-Lamai S, Walsh LR, Zamora ME, Gong X, Wang Z, Bhamidipati K, Kiseleva RY, Villa CH, Greineder CF, Kasner SE, Weissman D, Mitchell MJ, Muro S, Persidsky Y, Brenner JS, Muzykantov VR, Marcos-Contreras OA, (2023). Targeted Nanocarriers Co-Opting Pulmonary Intravascular Leukocytes for Drug Delivery to the Injured Brain Acs Nano 17, 13121-13136

Ex vivo-loaded white blood cells (WBC) can transfer cargo to pathological foci in the central nervous system (CNS). Here we tested affinity ligand driven in vivo loading of WBC in order to bypass the need for ex vivo WBC manipulation. We used a mouse model of acute brain inflammation caused by local injection of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α). We intravenously injected nanoparticles targeted to intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (anti-ICAM/NP). We found that (A) at 2 h, >20% of anti-ICAM/NP were localized to the lungs; (B) of the anti-ICAM/NP in the lungs >90% were associated with leukocytes; (C) at 6 and 22 h, anti-ICAM/NP pulmonary uptake decreased; (D) anti-ICAM/NP uptake in brain increased up to 5-fold in this time interval, concomitantly with migration of WBCs into the injured brain. Intravital microscopy confirmed transport of anti-ICAM/NP beyond the blood-brain barrier and flow cytometry demonstrated complete association of NP with WBC in the brain (98%). Dexamethasone-loaded anti-ICAM/liposomes abrogated brain edema in this model and promoted anti-inflammatory M2 polarization of macrophages in the brain. In vivo targeted loading of WBC in the intravascular pool may provide advantages of coopting WBC predisposed to natural rapid mobilization from the lungs to the brain, connected directly via conduit vessels.

JTD Keywords: drug delivery, icam-1, inflammation, lung injury, messenger-rna, migration, model, nanoparticles, neutrophils, pharmacokinetics, t-cells, white bloodcells, Adhesion molecules, Brain, Drug delivery, Inflammation, Nanoparticles, Pharmacokinetics, White blood cells


Brewer MK, Torres P, Ayala V, Portero-Otin M, Pamplona R, Andrés-Benito P, Ferrer I, Gentry MS, Guinovart JJ, Duran J, (2023). Glycogen accumulation modulates life span in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis Journal Of Neurochemistry ,

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord. Glial cells, including astrocytes and microglia, have been shown to contribute to neurodegeneration in ALS, and metabolic dysfunction plays an important role in the progression of the disease. Glycogen is a soluble polymer of glucose found at low levels in the central nervous system that plays an important role in memory formation, synaptic plasticity, and the prevention of seizures. However, its accumulation in astrocytes and/or neurons is associated with pathological conditions and aging. Importantly, glycogen accumulation has been reported in the spinal cord of human ALS patients and mouse models. In the present work, using the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS, we show that glycogen accumulates in the spinal cord and brainstem during symptomatic and end stages of the disease and that the accumulated glycogen is associated with reactive astrocytes. To study the contribution of glycogen to ALS progression, we generated SOD1G93A mice with reduced glycogen synthesis (SOD1G93A GShet mice). SOD1G93A GShet mice had a significantly longer life span than SOD1G93A mice and showed lower levels of the astrocytic pro-inflammatory cytokine Cxcl10, suggesting that the accumulation of glycogen is associated with an inflammatory response. Supporting this, inducing an increase in glycogen synthesis reduced life span in SOD1G93A mice. Altogether, these results suggest that glycogen in reactive astrocytes contributes to neurotoxicity and disease progression in ALS.© 2023 The Authors. Journal of Neurochemistry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Society for Neurochemistry.

JTD Keywords: activation, astrocytes, brain, contributes, expression, glycogen, impairment, mice, motor neurons, neurodegeneration, reactive astrocytes, spinal cord, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Astrocytes, Glycogen, Motor neurons, Motor-neuron degeneration, Neurodegeneration, Spinal cord


Levy, N, Kiskinis, E, Ortega, JA, Alvarez, Z, (2023). Effect of Age-specific Decellularized Extracellular Matrix on Neuronal Physiology and Repair (PP‐455) Tissue Engineering Part a 29, PP-455

Martinez-Torres S, Mesquida-Veny F, Del Rio JA, Hervera A, (2023). Injury-induced activation of the endocannabinoid system promotes axon regeneration Iscience 26, 106814

Regeneration after a peripheral nerve injury still remains a challenge, due to the limited regenerative potential of axons after injury. While the endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been widely studied for its neuroprotective and analgesic effects, its role in axonal regeneration and during the conditioning lesion remains unexplored. In this study, we observed that a peripheral nerve injury induces axonal regeneration through an increase in the endocannabinoid tone. We also enhanced the regenerative capacity of dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons through the inhibition of endocannabinoid degradative enzyme MAGL or a CB1R agonist. Our results suggest that the ECS, via CB1R and PI3K-pAkt pathway activation, plays an important role in promoting the intrinsic regenerative capacity of sensory neurons after injury.© 2023 The Author(s).

JTD Keywords: brain, gene-expression, lesion, nerve, receptors, targets, Clinical neuroscience, Drugs, Endogenous cannabinoid system, Molecular medicine


Placci, M, Giannotti, MI, Muro, S, (2023). Polymer-based drug delivery systems under investigation for enzyme replacement and other therapies of lysosomal storage disorders Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 197, 114683

Lysosomes play a central role in cellular homeostasis and alterations in this compartment associate with many diseases. The most studied example is that of lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs), a group of 60 + maladies due to genetic mutations affecting lysosomal components, mostly enzymes. This leads to aberrant intracellular storage of macromolecules, altering normal cell function and causing multiorgan syndromes, often fatal within the first years of life. Several treatment modalities are available for a dozen LSDs, mostly consisting of enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) strategies. Yet, poor biodistribution to main targets such as the central nervous system, musculoskeletal tissue, and others, as well as generation of blocking antibodies and adverse effects hinder effective LSD treatment. Drug delivery systems are being studied to surmount these obstacles, including polymeric constructs and nanoparticles that consti-tute the focus of this article. We provide an overview of the formulations being tested, the diseases they aim to treat, and the results observed from respective in vitro and in vivo studies. We also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these strategies, the remaining gaps of knowledge regarding their per-formance, and important items to consider for their clinical translation. Overall, polymeric nanocon-structs hold considerable promise to advance treatment for LSDs.(c) 2023 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: cellular and animal models, enzyme replacement therapy, lysosomal storage disorders, nanoemulsions, nanoparticles, Beta-glucuronidase deficiency, Blood-brain-barrier, Cellular and animal models, Central-nervous-system, Enzyme replacement therapy, Feline gm1 gangliosidosis, Human acid sphingomyelinase, Human alpha-galactosidase, Lysosomal storage disorders, Mucopolysaccharidosis type-ii, Nanoemulsions, Nanoparticles, Neuronal ceroid-lipofuscinosis, Niemann-pick-disease, Pluripotent stem-cells, Polymer-based drug delivery systems


Andrés-Benito, P, Iñigo-Marco, I, Brullas, M, Carmona, M, del Rio, JA, Fernández-Irigoyen, J, Santamaría, E, Povedano, M, Ferrer, I, (2023). Proteostatic modulation in brain aging without associated Alzheimer's disease-and age-related neuropathological changes Aging-Us 15, 3295-3330

(Phospho)proteomics of old-aged subjects without cognitive or behavioral symptoms, and without AD-neuropathological changes and lacking any other neurodegenerative alteration will increase understanding about the physiological state of human brain aging without associate neurological deficits and neuropathological lesions.(Phospho)proteomics using conventional label-free- and SWATH-MS (Sequential window acquisition of all theoretical fragment ion spectra mass spectrometry) has been assessed in the frontal cortex (FC) of individuals without NFTs, senile plaques (SPs) and age-related co-morbidities classified by age (years) in four groups; group 1 (young, 30-44); group 2 (middle-aged: MA, 45-52); group 3 (early-elderly, 64-70); and group 4 (late-elderly, 75-85).Protein levels and deregulated protein phosphorylation linked to similar biological terms/functions, but involving different individual proteins, are found in FC with age. The modified expression occurs in cytoskeleton proteins, membranes, synapses, vesicles, myelin, membrane transport and ion channels, DNA and RNA metabolism, ubiquitin-proteasome-system (UPS), kinases and phosphatases, fatty acid metabolism, and mitochondria. Dysregulated phosphoproteins are associated with the cytoskeleton, including microfilaments, actin-binding proteins, intermediate filaments of neurons and glial cells, and microtubules; membrane proteins, synapses, and dense core vesicles; kinases and phosphatases; proteins linked to DNA and RNA; members of the UPS; GTPase regulation; inflammation; and lipid metabolism. Noteworthy, protein levels of large clusters of hierarchically-related protein expression levels are stable until 70. However, protein levels of components of cell membranes, vesicles and synapses, RNA modulation, and cellular structures (including tau and tubulin filaments) are markedly altered from the age of 75. Similarly, marked modifications occur in the larger phosphoprotein clusters involving cytoskeleton and neuronal structures, membrane stabilization, and kinase regulation in the late elderly.Present findings may increase understanding of human brain proteostasis modifications in the elderly in the subpopulation of individuals not having AD neuropathological change and any other neurodegenerative change in any telencephalon region.

JTD Keywords: (phospho)proteomics, cortex, cytoskeleton, hippocampus, kinases, membranes, mitochondria, mitochondrial-function, pathological process, phosphoproteome analysis, phosphorylation, proteome, quantitative proteomics, synapsis, tau-protein, therapeutic target, (phospho)proteomics, Brain aging, Cytoskeleton, Kinases, Membranes, Mitochondria, Neurodegenerative diseases, Proteome, Synapsis


Andrés-Benito, P, Carmona, M, Pirla, MJ, Torrejón-Escribano, B, del Rio, J, Ferrer, I, (2023). Dysregulated Protein Phosphorylation as Main Contributor of Granulovacuolar Degeneration at the First Stages of Neurofibrillary Tangles Pathology Neuroscience 518, 119-140

The hippocampus of cases with neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) pathology classified as stages I–II, III–IV, and V–VI without comorbidities, and middle-aged (MA) individuals with no NFT pathology, were examined to learn about the composition of granulovacuolar degeneration (GVD). Our results confirm the presence of CK1-?, p38-P Thr180/Tyr182, SAPK/JNK-P Thr183/Thr185, GSK-3?/?-P Tyr279/Tyr216, and GSK-3? Ser9 in the cytoplasmic granules in a subset of neurons of the CA1 and CA2 subfields of the hippocampus. Also, we identify the presence of PKA ?/?-P Thr197, SRC-P Tyr416, PAK1-P Ser199/Ser204, CAMK2A-P Tyr197, and PKCG-P Thr655 in cytoplasmic granules in cases with NFT pathology, but not in MA cases. Our results also confirm the presence of ?-catenin-P Ser45/Thr41, IRE?-P Ser274, eIF2?-P Ser51, TDP-43-P Ser403-404 (but absent TDP-43), and ubiquitin in cytoplasmic granules. Other components of the cytoplasmic granules are MAP2-P Thr1620/1623, MAP1B-P Thr1265, ADD1-P Ser726, and ADD1/ADD1-P Ser726/Ser713, in addition to several tau species including 3Rtau, 4Rtau, and tau-P Ser262. The analysis of GVD at progressive stages of NFT pathology reveals the early appearance of phosphorylated kinases and proteins in cytoplasmic granules at stages I–II, before the appearance of pre-tangles and NFTs. Most of these granules are not surrounded by LAMP1-positive membranes. Markers of impaired ubiquitin-protesome system, abnormal reticulum stress response, and altered endocytic and autophagic pathways occur in a subpopulation of neurons containing cytoplasmic granules, and they appear later. These observations suggest early phosphorylation of kinases leading to their activation, and resulting in the abnormal phosphorylation of various substrates, including tau, as a main alteration at the first stages of GVD. © 2021 The Author(s)

JTD Keywords: alzheimer's disease, alzheimers association guidelines, alzheimer’s disease, brain aging, cyclin-dependent kinase-5, granulovacuolar degeneration, kinases, national institute, neuropathologic assessment, p38 kinase, progressive supranuclear palsy, protein phosphorylation, tau, tau pathology, up-regulation, upstream activator, Alzheimer's disease, Brain aging, Glycogen-synthase kinase-3, Granulovacuolar degeneration, Kinases, Protein phosphorylation, Tau


Overby, SJ, Cerro-Herreros, E, Espinosa-Espinosa, J, González-Martínez, I, Moreno, N, Fernández-Costa, JM, Balaguer-Trias, J, Ramón-Azcón, J, Pérez-Alonso, M, Moller, T, Llamusí, B, Artero, R, (2023). BlockmiR AONs as Site-Specific Therapeutic MBNL Modulation in Myotonic Dystrophy 2D and 3D Muscle Cells and HSALR Mice Pharmaceutics 15, 1118

The symptoms of Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1 (DM1) are multi-systemic and life-threatening. The neuromuscular disorder is rooted in a non-coding CTG microsatellite expansion in the DM1 protein kinase (DMPK) gene that, upon transcription, physically sequesters the Muscleblind-like (MBNL) family of splicing regulator proteins. The high-affinity binding occurring between the proteins and the repetitions disallow MBNL proteins from performing their post-transcriptional splicing regulation leading to downstream molecular effects directly related to disease symptoms such as myotonia and muscle weakness. In this study, we build on previously demonstrated evidence showing that the silencing of miRNA-23b and miRNA-218 can increase MBNL1 protein in DM1 cells and mice. Here, we use blockmiR antisense technology in DM1 muscle cells, 3D mouse-derived muscle tissue, and in vivo mice to block the binding sites of these microRNAs in order to increase MBNL translation into protein without binding to microRNAs. The blockmiRs show therapeutic effects with the rescue of mis-splicing, MBNL subcellular localization, and highly specific transcriptomic expression. The blockmiRs are well tolerated in 3D mouse skeletal tissue inducing no immune response. In vivo, a candidate blockmiR also increases Mbnl1/2 protein and rescues grip strength, splicing, and histological phenotypes.

JTD Keywords: antisense oligonucleotides, aon, blockmir, brain, expression, genes, mbnl, mir-218, mir-23b, mirna, muscleblind, myotonic dystrophy 1, phenotypes, proteins, type-1, Messenger-rna, Muscleblind, Myotonic dystrophy 1


Palma-Florez S, López-Canosa A, Moralez-Zavala F, Castaño O, Kogan MJ, Samitier J, Lagunas A, Mir M, (2023). BBB-on-a-chip with integrated micro-TEER for permeability evaluation of multi-functionalized gold nanorods against Alzheimer's disease Journal Of Nanobiotechnology 21, 115

The lack of predictive models that mimic the blood-brain barrier (BBB) hinders the development of effective drugs for neurodegenerative diseases. Animal models behave differently from humans, are expensive and have ethical constraints. Organ-on-a-chip (OoC) platforms offer several advantages to resembling physiological and pathological conditions in a versatile, reproducible, and animal-free manner. In addition, OoC give us the possibility to incorporate sensors to determine cell culture features such as trans-endothelial electrical resistance (TEER). Here, we developed a BBB-on-a-chip (BBB-oC) platform with a TEER measurement system in close distance to the barrier used for the first time for the evaluation of the permeability performance of targeted gold nanorods for theranostics of Alzheimer's disease. GNR-PEG-Ang2/D1 is a therapeutic nanosystem previously developed by us consisting of gold nanorods (GNR) functionalized with polyethylene glycol (PEG), angiopep-2 peptide (Ang2) to overcome the BBB and the D1 peptide as beta amyloid fibrillation inhibitor, finally obtaining GNR-PEG-Ang2/D1 which showed to be useful for disaggregation of the amyloid in in vitro and in vivo models. In this work, we evaluated its cytotoxicity, permeability, and some indications of its impact on the brain endothelium by employing an animal-free device based on neurovascular human cells.In this work, we fabricated a BBB-oC with human astrocytes, pericytes and endothelial cells and a TEER measuring system (TEER-BBB-oC) integrated at a micrometric distance of the endothelial barrier. The characterization displayed a neurovascular network and the expression of tight junctions in the endothelium. We produced GNR-PEG-Ang2/D1 and determined its non-cytotoxic range (0.05-0.4 nM) for plated cells included in the BBB-oC and confirmed its harmless effect at the highest concentration (0.4 nM) in the microfluidic device. The permeability assays revealed that GNR-PEG-Ang2/D1 cross the BBB and this entry is facilitated by Ang2 peptide. Parallel to the permeability analysis of GNR-PEG-Ang2/D1, an interesting behavior of the TJs expression was observed after its administration probably related to the ligands on the nanoparticle surface.BBB-oC with a novel TEER integrated setup which allow a correct read-out and cell imaging monitoring was proven as a functional and throughput platform to evaluate the brain permeability performance of nanotherapeutics in a physiological environment with human cells, putting forward a viable alternative to animal experimentation.© 2023. The Author(s).

JTD Keywords: alzheimer disease (ad), cell-culture, cytotoxicity, endothelial-cells, gold nanoparticles, microfluidic platform, model, organ-on-a-chip (ooc), peptide, tight junction, trans-endothelial electrical resistance (teer), transport, Alzheimer disease (ad), Blood-brain barrier (bbb), Blood-brain-barrier, Blood–brain barrier (bbb), Gold nanoparticles, Organ-on-a-chip (ooc), Trans-endothelial electrical resistance (teer)


Ferrer I, Andrés-Benito P, Carmona M, Del Rio JA, (2022). Common and Specific Marks of Different Tau Strains Following Intra-Hippocampal Injection of AD, PiD, and GGT Inoculum in hTau Transgenic Mice International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 15940

Heterozygous hTau mice were used for the study of tau seeding. These mice express the six human tau isoforms, with a high predominance of 3Rtau over 4Rtau. The following groups were assessed: (i) non-inoculated mice aged 9 months (n = 4); (ii) Alzheimer's Disease (AD)-inoculated mice (n = 4); (iii) Globular Glial Tauopathy (GGT)-inoculated mice (n = 4); (iv) Pick's disease (PiD)-inoculated mice (n = 4); (v) control-inoculated mice (n = 4); and (vi) inoculated with vehicle alone (n = 2). AD-inoculated mice showed AT8-immunoreactive neuronal pre-tangles, granular aggregates, and dots in the CA1 region of the hippocampus, dentate gyrus (DG), and hilus, and threads and dots in the ipsilateral corpus callosum. GGT-inoculated mice showed unique or multiple AT8-immunoreactive globular deposits in neurons, occasionally extended to the proximal dendrites. PiD-inoculated mice showed a few loose pre-tangles in the CA1 region, DG, and cerebral cortex near the injection site. Coiled bodies were formed in the corpus callosum in AD-inoculated mice, but GGT-inoculated mice lacked globular glial inclusions. Tau deposits in inoculated mice co-localized active kinases p38-P and SAPK/JNK-P, thus suggesting active phosphorylation of the host tau. Tau deposits were absent in hTau mice inoculated with control homogenates and vehicle alone. Deposits in AD-inoculated hTau mice contained 3Rtau and 4Rtau; those in GGT-inoculated mice were mainly stained with anti-4Rtau antibodies, but a small number of deposits contained 3Rtau. Deposits in PiD-inoculated mice were stained with anti-3Rtau antibodies, but rare neuronal, thread-like, and dot-like deposits showed 4Rtau immunoreactivity. These findings show that tau strains produce different patterns of active neuronal seeding, which also depend on the host tau. Unexpected 3Rtau and 4Rtau deposits after inoculation of homogenates from 4R and 3R tauopathies, respectively, suggests the regulation of exon 10 splicing of the host tau during the process of seeding, thus modulating the plasticity of the cytoskeleton.

JTD Keywords: alzheimer's disease (ad), alzheimers-disease, brain, corticobasal degeneration, globular glial tauopathy (ggt), htau, isoforms, pathological tau, pick's disease (pid), picks-disease, propagation, protein, seeding, tau splicing, tauopathy, Alzheimer’s disease (ad), Globular glial tauopathy (ggt), Htau, Paired helical filaments, Pick’s disease (pid), Seeding, Tau, Tau splicing


Cable, J, Arlotta, P, Parker, KK, Hughes, AJ, Goodwin, K, Mummery, CL, Kamm, RD, Engle, SJ, Tagle, DA, Boj, SF, Stanton, AE, Morishita, Y, Kemp, ML, Norfleet, DA, May, EE, Lu, A, Bashir, R, Feinberg, AW, Hull, SM, Gonzalez, AL, Blatchley, MR, Pulido, NM, Morizane, R, McDevitt, TC, Mishra, D, Mulero-Russe, A, (2022). Engineering multicellular living systems-A Keystone Symposia report Annals Of The New York Academy Of Sciences 1518, 183-195

The ability to engineer complex multicellular systems has enormous potential to inform our understanding of biological processes and disease and alter the drug development process. Engineering living systems to emulate natural processes or to incorporate new functions relies on a detailed understanding of the biochemical, mechanical, and other cues between cells and between cells and their environment that result in the coordinated action of multicellular systems. On April 3-6, 2022, experts in the field met at the Keystone symposium "Engineering Multicellular Living Systems" to discuss recent advances in understanding how cells cooperate within a multicellular system, as well as recent efforts to engineer systems like organ-on-a-chip models, biological robots, and organoids. Given the similarities and common themes, this meeting was held in conjunction with the symposium "Organoids as Tools for Fundamental Discovery and Translation".

JTD Keywords: computational, engineered living, engineered organs, multicellular, Brain organoids, Cell diversity, Computational, Dynamics, Engineered living, Engineered organs, Heart, Maturation, Model, Multicellular, Mycobacterium-tuberculosis, Quantitative-analysis, Systems, Tissue deformation


Caballeria, E, Maier, M, Balcells-Oliveró, M, López-Pelayo, H, Oliveras, C, Ballester, BR, Verschure, PFMJ, Gual, A, (2022). Rehabilitation Gaming System for Alcohol-Related Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Usability Study Alcohol And Alcoholism 57, 595-601

Aims: Cognitive impairment in patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD) is highly prevalent, and it negatively impacts treatment outcome. However, this condition is neither systematically assessed nor treated. Thus, we aimed to explore the usability of a virtual reality-based protocol ('Rehabilitation Gaming System', RGS) for patients with AUD. Methods: Twenty AUD patients (50% also cognitive impairment) underwent a single session of the RGS protocol (four cognitive training tasks, 10 minutes each). System Usability Scale (SUS) and Post-Study System Usability Questionnaire (PSSUQ) were applied to assess the RGS usability and patients' satisfaction with it. Also, the Perceived Competence Scale was administered to assess the patients' feelings of competence when using the training protocol. Comparisons of the responses to these questionnaires were performed between AUD patients with cognitive impairment and those without cognitive impairment. Results: RGS usability was very positively rated (median SUS score = 80, Interquartile Range, IQR = 68.13-86-88). No significant differences were found in the median SUS scores for any of the sociodemographic or clinical variables, excepting for gender (women median score = 85; IQR = 80-94.38 vs. men median score = 71.25; IQR = 61.25-89.25; P-value = 0.035). The quality of the information provided by the RGS training scenarios and the usability were positively rated (PSSUQ), and patients experienced high feelings of competence. Conclusions: The RGS has been found to be usable in the short term and patients with AUD stated to be satisfied with it. Future larger, randomized trials are needed to explore the effectiveness of this tool to help overcome the cognitive deficits in AUD patients. Short Summary: Although cognitive impairments are highly prevalent in alcohol use disorder (AUD), no long-term gold standard intervention has yet been identified. The Rehabilitation Gaming System (virtual reality-based cognitive training protocol) has shown short-term high usability in AUD. Its effectiveness in providing engaging, long-term cognitive rehabilitation in AUD should be further assessed.

JTD Keywords: Addiction, Brain-damage, Deficits, Impact, Neurocognitive impairment, Therapy


Matera, C, Calvé, P, Casadó-Anguera, V, Sortino, R, Gomila, AMJ, Moreno, E, Gener, T, Delgado-Sallent, C, Nebot, P, Costazza, D, Conde-Berriozabal, S, Masana, M, Hernando, J, Casadó, V, Puig, MV, Gorostiza, P, (2022). Reversible Photocontrol of Dopaminergic Transmission in Wild-Type Animals International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 10114

Understanding the dopaminergic system is a priority in neurobiology and neuropharmacology. Dopamine receptors are involved in the modulation of fundamental physiological functions, and dysregulation of dopaminergic transmission is associated with major neurological disorders. However, the available tools to dissect the endogenous dopaminergic circuits have limited specificity, reversibility, resolution, or require genetic manipulation. Here, we introduce azodopa, a novel photoswitchable ligand that enables reversible spatiotemporal control of dopaminergic transmission. We demonstrate that azodopa activates D1-like receptors in vitro in a light-dependent manner. Moreover, it enables reversibly photocontrolling zebrafish motility on a timescale of seconds and allows separating the retinal component of dopaminergic neurotransmission. Azodopa increases the overall neural activity in the cortex of anesthetized mice and displays illumination-dependent activity in individual cells. Azodopa is the first photoswitchable dopamine agonist with demonstrated efficacy in wild-type animals and opens the way to remotely controlling dopaminergic neurotransmission for fundamental and therapeutic purposes.

JTD Keywords: azobenzene, behavior, brainwave, d-1, dopamine, gpcr, in vivo electrophysiology, inhibitors, optogenetics, optopharmacology, photochromism, photopharmacology, photoswitch, stimulation, zebrafish, Azobenzene, Receptors, Zebrafish


Solomon M, Loeck M, Silva-Abreu M, Moscoso R, Bautista R, Vigo M, Muro S, (2022). Altered blood-brain barrier transport of nanotherapeutics in lysosomal storage diseases Journal Of Controlled Release 349, 1031-1044

Treatment of neurological lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs) are limited because of impermeability of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to macromolecules. Nanoformulations targeting BBB transcytosis are being explored, but the status of these routes in LSDs is unknown. We studied nanocarriers (NCs) targeted to the transferrin receptor (TfR), ganglioside GM1 or ICAM1, associated to the clathrin, caveolar or cell adhesion molecule (CAM) routes, respectively. We used brain endothelial cells and mouse models of acid sphingomyelinase-deficient Niemann Pick disease (NPD), and postmortem LSD patients' brains, all compared to respective controls. NC transcytosis across brain endothelial cells and brain distribution in mice were affected, yet through different mechanisms. Reduced TfR and clathrin expression were found, along with decreased transcytosis in cells and mouse brain distribution. Caveolin-1 expression and GM1 transcytosis were also reduced, yet increased GM1 levels seemed to compensate, providing similar NC brain distribution in NPD vs. control mice. A tendency to lower NHE-1 levels was seen, but highly increased ICAM1 expression in cells and human brains correlated with increased transcytosis and brain distribution in mice. Thus, transcytosis-related alterations in NPD and likely other LSDs may impact therapeutic access to the brain, illustrating the need for these mechanistic studies.Copyright © 2022 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: acid sphingomyelinase, antibody-affinity, blood -brain barrier, drug-delivery, icam-1-targeted nanocarriers, in-vivo, mediated endocytosis, model, neurological diseases, niemann-pick, targeted nanocarriers, trafficking, transcytosis pathways, Blood-brain barrier, Central-nervous-system, Lysosomal storage disorders, Neurological diseases, Targeted nanocarriers, Transcytosis pathways


Molina-Fernandez, R, Picon-Pages, P, Barranco-Almohalla, A, Crepin, G, Herrera-Fernandez, V, Garcia-Elias, A, Fanlo-Ucar, H, Fernandez-Busquets, X, Garcia-Ojalvo, J, Oliva, B, Munoz, FJ, (2022). Differential regulation of insulin signalling by monomeric and oligomeric amyloid beta-peptide Brain Commun 4, fcac243

Alzheimer's disease and Type 2 diabetes are pathological processes associated to ageing. Moreover, there are evidences supporting a mechanistic link between Alzheimer's disease and insulin resistance (one of the first hallmarks of Type 2 diabetes). Regarding Alzheimer's disease, amyloid beta-peptide aggregation into beta-sheets is the main hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. At monomeric state, amyloid beta-peptide is not toxic but its function in brain, if any, is unknown. Here we show, by in silico study, that monomeric amyloid beta-peptide 1-40 shares the tertiary structure with insulin and is thereby able to bind and activate insulin receptor. We validated this prediction experimentally by treating human neuroblastoma cells with increasing concentrations of monomeric amyloid. beta-peptide 1-40. Our results confirm that monomeric amyloid beta-peptide 1-40 activates insulin receptor autophosphorylation, triggering downstream enzyme phosphorylarions and the glucose Transporter 4 translocation to the membrane. On the other hand, neuronal insulin resistance is known to be associated to Alzheimer's disease since early stages. We thus modelled the docking of oligomeric amyloid peptide 1-40 to insulin receptor. We found that oligomeric amyloid. beta-peptide 1-40 blocks insulin receptor, impairing its activation. It was confirmed in vitro by observing the lack of insulin receptor autophosphorylation, and also the impairment of insulin-induced intracellular enzyme activations and the glucose Transporter 4 translocation to the membrane. By biological system analysis, we have carried out a mathematical model recapitulating the process that turns amyloid beta-peptide binding to insulin receptor from the physiological to the pathophysiological regime. Our results suggest that monomeric amyloid beta-peptide 1-40 contributes to mimic insulin effects in the brain, which could be good when neurons have an extra requirement of energy beside the well-known protective effects on insulin intracellular signalling, while its accumulation and subsequent oligomerization blocks the insulin receptor producing insulin resistance and compromising neuronal metabolism and protective pathways.

JTD Keywords: akt, alzheimer’s disease, amyloid β-peptide, insulin, A-beta, Aggregation, Akt, Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimers-disease, Amyloid beta-peptide, Brain, Design, Insulin, Insulin resistance, Precursor protein, Protein-protein docking, Receptor, Resistance, Site


Castagna, R, Kolarski, D, Durand-de Cuttoli, R, Maleeva, G, (2022). Orthogonal Control of Neuronal Circuits and Behavior Using Photopharmacology Journal Of Molecular Neuroscience 72, 1433-1442

Over the last decades, photopharmacology has gone far beyond its proof-of-concept stage to become a bona fide approach to study neural systems in vivo. Indeed, photopharmacological control has expanded over a wide range of endogenous targets, such as receptors, ion channels, transporters, kinases, lipids, and DNA transcription processes. In this review, we provide an overview of the recent progresses in the in vivo photopharmacological control of neuronal circuits and behavior. In particular, the use of small aquatic animals for the in vivo screening of photopharmacological compounds, the recent advances in optical modulation of complex behaviors in mice, and the development of adjacent techniques for light and drug delivery in vivo are described.

JTD Keywords: brain circuits, circadian rhythm, in vivo photomodulation, in vivo technology, neuronal receptors, Architecture, Azobenzene photoswitches, Brain circuits, Channels, Circadian rhythm, In vivo photomodulation, In vivo technology, Light, Modulator, Neuronal receptors, Optical control, Optogenetics, Pharmacology, Photopharmacology, Receptors, Systems


Bohner, M, Maazouz, Y, Ginebra, MP, Habibovic, P, Schoenecker, JG, Seeherman, H, van den Beucken, JJJP, Witte, F, (2022). Sustained local ionic homeostatic imbalance caused by calcification modulates inflammation to trigger heterotopic ossification Acta Biomaterialia 145, 1-24

Heterotopic ossification (HO) is a condition triggered by an injury leading to the formation of mature lamellar bone in extraskeletal soft tissues. Despite being a frequent complication of orthopedic and trauma surgery, brain and spinal injury, the etiology of HO is poorly understood. The aim of this study is to evaluate the hypothesis that a sustained local ionic homeostatic imbalance (SLIHI) created by mineral formation during tissue calcification modulates inflammation to trigger HO. This evaluation also considers the role SLIHI could play for the design of cell-free, drug-free osteoinductive bone graft substitutes. The evaluation contains five main sections. The first section defines relevant concepts in the context of HO and provides a summary of proposed causes of HO. The second section starts with a detailed analysis of the occurrence and involvement of calcification in HO. It is followed by an explanation of the causes of calcification and its consequences. This allows to speculate on the potential chemical modulators of inflammation and triggers of HO. The end of this second section is devoted to in vitro mineralization tests used to predict the ectopic potential of materials. The third section reviews the biological cascade of events occurring during pathological and material-induced HO, and attempts to propose a quantitative timeline of HO formation. The fourth section looks at potential ways to control HO formation, either acting on SLIHI or on inflammation. Chemical, physical, and drug-based approaches are considered. Finally, the evaluation finishes with a critical assessment of the definition of osteoinduction.

JTD Keywords: apatite, beta-tricalcium phosphate, bone, bone graft, bone morphogenetic protein, demineralized bone-matrix, experimental myositis-ossificans, extracellular calcium, heterotopic ossification, in-vitro, inflammation, multinucleated giant-cells, osteoinduction, spinal-cord-injury, total hip-arthroplasty, traumatic brain-injury, Apatite, Calcium-sensing receptor, Osteoinduction


Mir, M, Palma-Florez, S, Lagunas, A, Lopez-Martinez, MJ, Samitier, J, (2022). Biosensors Integration in Blood-Brain Barrier-on-a-Chip: Emerging Platform for Monitoring Neurodegenerative Diseases Acs Sensors 7, 1237-1247

Over the most recent decades, the development of new biological platforms to study disease progression and drug efficacy has been of great interest due to the high increase in the rate of neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs). Therefore, blood-brain barrier (BBB) as an organ-on-a-chip (OoC) platform to mimic brain-barrier performance could offer a deeper understanding of NDDs as well as a very valuable tool for drug permeability testing for new treatments. A very attractive improvement of BBB-oC technology is the integration of detection systems to provide continuous monitoring of biomarkers in real time and a fully automated analysis of drug permeably, rendering more efficient platforms for commercialization. In this Perspective, an overview of the main BBB-oC configurations is introduced and a critical vision of the BBB-oC platforms integrating electronic read out systems is detailed, indicating the strengths and weaknesses of current devices, proposing the great potential for biosensors integration in BBB-oC. In this direction, we name potential biomarkers to monitor the evolution of NDDs related to the BBB and/or drug cytotoxicity using biosensor technology in BBB-oC.

JTD Keywords: biosensors, blood−brain barrier (bbb), neurodegenerative diseases (ndds), organ-on-a-chip (ooc), Bbb, Biosensors, Blood-brain barrier (bbb), Electrical-resistance, Electrochemical biosensors, Endothelial-cells, In-vitro model, Matrix metalloproteinases, Mechanisms, Neurodegenerative diseases (ndds), Organ-on-a-chip (ooc), Permeability, Stress, Transendothelial electrical resistance (teer), Transepithelial, Transepithelial/transendothelial electrical resistance (teer), Transport


Pavlova EL, Semenov RV, Pavlova-Deb MP, Guekht AB, (2022). Transcranial direct current stimulation of the premotor cortex aimed to improve hand motor function in chronic stroke patients Brain Research 1780

Objective: To investigate the effects of single-session premotor and primary motor tDCS in chronic stroke patients with relation to possible inter-hemispheric interactions. Methods: Anodal tDCS of either M1 or premotor cortex of the side contralateral to the paretic hand, cathodal tDCS of the premotor cortex of the side ipsilateral to the paretic hand and sham stimulation were performed in 12 chronic stroke patients with mild hand paresis in a balanced cross-over design. The Jebsen-Taylor Hand Function test, evaluating the time required for performance of everyday motor tasks, was employed. Results: The repeated-measure ANOVA with Greenhouse-Geisser correction showed significant influence of the stimulation type (factor SESSION; F(2.6, 28.4) = 47.3, p < 0.001), the test performance time relative to stimulation (during or after tDCS; factor TIME, F(1.0, 11.0) = 234.5, p < 0.001) with higher effect after the stimulation and the interaction SESSION*TIME (F(1.7, 1.2) = 30.5, p < 0.001). All active conditions were effective for the modulation of JTT performance, though the highest effect was observed after anodal tDCS of M1, followed by effects after anodal stimulation of the premotor cortex contralateral to the paretic hand. Based on the correlation patterns, the inhibitory input to M1 from premotor cortex of another hemisphere and an excitatory input from the ipsilesional premotor cortex were suggested. Conclusion: The premotor cortex is a promising candidate area for transcranial non-invasive stimulation of chronic stroke patients. © 2022 The Author(s)

JTD Keywords: areas, contralateral primary motor, dorsal premotor, excitability, jtt, lateral premotor, object manipulation, premotor cortex, recovery, stroke, tdcs, time-course, transcranial direct current stimulation, Jtt, Noninvasive brain-stimulation, Premotor cortex, Stroke, Tdcs, Transcranial direct current stimulation


Espinoso, A, Andrzejak, RG, (2022). Phase irregularity: A conceptually simple and efficient approach to characterize electroencephalographic recordings from epilepsy patients Physical Review e 105, 34212

The severe neurological disorder epilepsy affects almost 1% of the world population. For patients who suffer from pharmacoresistant focal-onset epilepsy, electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings are essential for the localization of the brain area where seizures start. Apart from the visual inspection of the recordings, quantitative EEG signal analysis techniques proved to be useful for this purpose. Among other features, regularity versus irregularity and phase coherence versus phase independence allowed characterizing brain dynamics from the measured EEG signals. Can phase irregularities also characterize brain dynamics? To address this question, we use the univariate coefficient of phase velocity variation, defined as the ratio of phase velocity standard deviation and the mean phase velocity. Beyond that, as a bivariate measure we use the classical mean phase coherence to quantify the degree of phase locking. All phase-based measures are combined with surrogates to test null hypotheses about the dynamics underlying the signals. In the first part of our analysis, we use the Rössler model system to study our approach under controlled conditions. In the second part, we use the Bern-Barcelona EEG database which consists of focal and nonfocal signals extracted from seizure-free recordings. Focal signals are recorded from brain areas where the first seizure EEG signal changes can be detected, and nonfocal signals are recorded from areas that are not involved in the seizure at its onset. Our results show that focal signals have less phase variability and more phase coherence than nonfocal signals. Once combined with surrogates, the mean phase velocity proved to have the highest discriminative power between focal and nonfocal signals. In conclusion, conceptually simple and easy to compute phase-based measures can help to detect features induced by epilepsy from EEG signals. This holds not only for the classical mean phase coherence but even more so for univariate measures of phase irregularity. © 2022 American Physical Society.

JTD Keywords: brain, entropy, epileptogenic networks, functional connectivity, hilbert transform, seizure onset, surrogate data, synchronization, time-series, Biomedical signal processing, Brain areas, Brain dynamics, Dynamics, Electroencephalographic signals, Electroencephalography, Electrophysiology, Intracranial eeg signals, Localisation, Neurological disorders, Neurology, Phase based, Phase coherence, Signal detection, Simple++, Univariate, Velocity, World population


Aydin, O, Passaro, AP, Raman, R, Spellicy, SE, Weinberg, RP, Kamm, RD, Sample, M, Truskey, GA, Zartman, J, Dar, RD, Palacios, S, Wang, J, Tordoff, J, Montserrat, N, Bashir, R, Saif, MTA, Weiss, R, (2022). Principles for the design of multicellular engineered living systems Apl Bioengineering 6, 10903

Remarkable progress in bioengineering over the past two decades has enabled the formulation of fundamental design principles for a variety of medical and non-medical applications. These advancements have laid the foundation for building multicellular engineered living systems (M-CELS) from biological parts, forming functional modules integrated into living machines. These cognizant design principles for living systems encompass novel genetic circuit manipulation, self-assembly, cell–cell/matrix communication, and artificial tissues/organs enabled through systems biology, bioinformatics, computational biology, genetic engineering, and microfluidics. Here, we introduce design principles and a blueprint for forward production of robust and standardized M-CELS, which may undergo variable reiterations through the classic design-build-test-debug cycle. This Review provides practical and theoretical frameworks to forward-design, control, and optimize novel M-CELS. Potential applications include biopharmaceuticals, bioreactor factories, biofuels, environmental bioremediation, cellular computing, biohybrid digital technology, and experimental investigations into mechanisms of multicellular organisms normally hidden inside the “black box” of living cells.

JTD Keywords: cell-fate specification, endothelial-cells, escherichia-coli, extracellular-matrix, gene-expression noise, nuclear hormone-receptors, pluripotent stem-cells, primitive endoderm, transcription factors, Artificial tissues, Assembly cells, Biological parts, Biological systems, Bioremediation, Blood-brain-barrier, Cell engineering, Cell/matrix communication, Design principles, Environmental technology, Functional modules, Fundamental design, Genetic circuits, Genetic engineering, Living machines, Living systems, Medical applications, Molecular biology, Synthetic biology


Andrés-Benito, P, Carmona, M, Jordán, M, Fernández-Irigoyen, J, Santamaría, E, del Rio, JA, Ferrer, I, (2022). Host Tau Genotype Specifically Designs and Regulates Tau Seeding and Spreading and Host Tau Transformation Following Intrahippocampal Injection of Identical Tau AD Inoculum International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 718

Several studies have demonstrated the different characteristics of tau seeding and spreading following intracerebral inoculation in murine models of tau-enriched fractions of brain homogenates from AD and other tauopathies. The present study is centered on the importance of host tau in tau seeding and the molecular changes associated with the transformation of host tau into abnormal tau. The brains of three adult murine genotypes expressing different forms of tau—WT (murine 4Rtau), hTau (homozygous transgenic mice knock-out for murine tau protein and heterozygous expressing human forms of 3Rtau and 4Rtau proteins), and mtWT (homozygous transgenic mice knock-out for murine tau protein)—were analyzed following unilateral hippocampal inoculation of sarkosyl-insoluble tau fractions from the same AD and control cases. The present study reveals that (a) host tau is mandatory for tau seeding and spreading following tau inoculation from sarkosyl-insoluble fractions obtained from AD brains; (b) tau seeding does not occur following intracerebral inoculation of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from controls; (c) tau seeding and spreading are characterized by variable genotype-dependent tau phosphorylation and tau nitration, MAP2 phosphorylation, and variable activation of kinases that co-localize with abnormal tau deposits; (d) transformation of host tau into abnormal tau is an active process associated with the activation of specific kinases; (e) tau seeding is accompanied by modifications in tau splicing, resulting in the expression of new 3Rtau and 4Rtau isoforms, thus indicating that inoculated tau seeds have the capacity to model exon 10 splicing of the host mapt or MAPT with a genotype-dependent pattern; (e) selective regional and cellular vulnerabilities, and different molecular compositions of the deposits, are dependent on the host tau of mice injected with identical AD tau inocula.

JTD Keywords: 3rtau and 4rtau, alzheimer's disease, alzheimer’s disease, brains, granulovacuolar degeneration, host tau, htau, intranuclear distribution, messenger-rna, pathological tau, propagation, protein-kinases, seeding and spreading, tauopathies, transmission, 3rtau and 4rtau, Alzheimers-disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Host tau, Htau, Seeding and spreading, Tauopathies


Páscoa dos Santos F, Verschure PFMJ, (2022). Excitatory-Inhibitory Homeostasis and Diaschisis: Tying the Local and Global Scales in the Post-stroke Cortex Frontiers In Systems Neuroscience 15, 806544

Maintaining a balance between excitatory and inhibitory activity is an essential feature of neural networks of the neocortex. In the face of perturbations in the levels of excitation to cortical neurons, synapses adjust to maintain excitatory-inhibitory (EI) balance. In this review, we summarize research on this EI homeostasis in the neocortex, using stroke as our case study, and in particular the loss of excitation to distant cortical regions after focal lesions. Widespread changes following a localized lesion, a phenomenon known as diaschisis, are not only related to excitability, but also observed with respect to functional connectivity. Here, we highlight the main findings regarding the evolution of excitability and functional cortical networks during the process of post-stroke recovery, and how both are related to functional recovery. We show that cortical reorganization at a global scale can be explained from the perspective of EI homeostasis. Indeed, recovery of functional networks is paralleled by increases in excitability across the cortex. These adaptive changes likely result from plasticity mechanisms such as synaptic scaling and are linked to EI homeostasis, providing a possible target for future therapeutic strategies in the process of rehabilitation. In addition, we address the difficulty of simultaneously studying these multiscale processes by presenting recent advances in large-scale modeling of the human cortex in the contexts of stroke and EI homeostasis, suggesting computational modeling as a powerful tool to tie the meso- and macro-scale processes of recovery in stroke patients. Copyright © 2022 Páscoa dos Santos and Verschure.

JTD Keywords: balanced excitation, canonical microcircuit, cerebral-cortex, cortical excitability, cortical reorganization, diaschisis, excitability, excitatory-inhibitory balance, functional networks, homeostatic plasticity, ischemic-stroke, neuronal avalanches, photothrombotic lesions, state functional connectivity, whole-brain models, Algorithm, Biological marker, Brain, Brain cell, Brain cortex, Brain function, Brain radiography, Cerebrovascular accident, Cortical reorganization, Diaschisis, Down regulation, Excitability, Excitatory-inhibitory balance, Fluorine magnetic resonance imaging, Functional networks, Homeostasis, Homeostatic plasticity, Human, Motor dysfunction, Neuromodulation, Plasticity, Pyramidal nerve cell, Review, Simulation, Stroke, Stroke patient, Theta-burst stimulation, Visual cortex


Tejo-Otero, A, Fenollosa-Artes, F, Achaerandio, I, Rey-Vinolas, S, Buj-Corral, I, Mateos-Timoneda, MA, Engel, E, (2022). Soft-Tissue-Mimicking Using Hydrogels for the Development of Phantoms Gels 8, 40

With the currently available materials and technologies it is difficult to mimic the mechanical properties of soft living tissues. Additionally, another significant problem is the lack of information about the mechanical properties of these tissues. Alternatively, the use of phantoms offers a promising solution to simulate biological bodies. For this reason, to advance in the state-of-the-art a wide range of organs (e.g., liver, heart, kidney as well as brain) and hydrogels (e.g., agarose, polyvinyl alcohol –PVA–, Phytagel –PHY– and methacrylate gelatine –GelMA–) were tested regarding their mechanical properties. For that, viscoelastic behavior, hardness, as well as a non-linear elastic mechanical response were measured. It was seen that there was a significant difference among the results for the different mentioned soft tissues. Some of them appear to be more elastic than viscous as well as being softer or harder. With all this information in mind, a correlation between the mechanical properties of the organs and the different materials was performed. The next conclusions were drawn: (1) to mimic the liver, the best material is 1% wt agarose; (2) to mimic the heart, the best material is 2% wt agarose; (3) to mimic the kidney, the best material is 4% wt GelMA; and (4) to mimic the brain, the best materials are 4% wt GelMA and 1% wt agarose. Neither PVA nor PHY was selected to mimic any of the studied tissues. © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

JTD Keywords: brain, composite hydrogel, dynamic mechanical analysis, elastography, hardness, hydrogels, in-vitro, liver, materials, mechanical-properties, mimicking, soft tissues, tissue scaffolding, viscoelasticity, warner-braztler shear test, warner–braztler shear test, Dynamic mechanical analysis, Hardness, Hydrogels, Materials, Mimicking, Soft tissues, Tissue scaffolding, Viscoelastic characterization, Viscoelasticity, Warner–braztler shear test


Leite, DM, Seifi, M, Ruiz-Perez, L, Nguemo, F, Plomann, M, Swinny, JD, Battaglia, G, (2022). Syndapin-2 mediated transcytosis of amyloid-beta across the blood brain barrier Brain Commun 4, fcac093

A deficient transport of amyloid-beta across the blood-brain barrier, and its diminished clearance from the brain, contribute to neurodegenerative and vascular pathologies, such as Alzheimer's disease and cerebral amyloid angiopathy, respectively. At the blood-brain barrier, amyloid-beta efflux transport is associated with the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1. However, the precise mechanisms governing amyloid-beta transport across the blood-brain barrier, in health and disease, remain to be fully understood. Recent evidence indicates that the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 transcytosis occurs through a tuhulation-mediated mechanism stabilized by syndapin-2. Here, we show that syndapin-2 is associated with amyloid-beta clearance via low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 across the blood-brain barrier. We further demonstrate that risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, amyloid-beta expression and ageing, are associated with a decline in the native expression of syndapin-2 within the brain endothelium. Our data reveals that syndapin-2-mediated pathway, and its balance with the endosomal sorting, are important for amyloid-beta clearance proposing a measure to evaluate Alzheimer's disease and ageing, as well as a target for counteracting amyloid-beta build-up. Moreover, we provide evidence for the impact of the avidity of amyloid-beta assemblies in their trafficking across the brain endothelium and in low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 expression levels, which may affect the overall clearance of amyloid-beta across the blood-brain barrier.

JTD Keywords: alzheimer’s disease, amyloid-β, blood–brain barrier, syndapin-2, Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimers-disease, Amyloid-beta, Apolipoprotein-j, Blood-brain barrier, Clearance, Expression, Membrane invagination, Peptide, Protein, Rab gtpases, Receptor, Syndapin-2, Transport, Tubular transcytosis


Ballester, BR, Antenucci, F, Maier, M, Coolen, ACC, Verschure, PFMJ, (2021). Estimating upper-extremity function from kinematics in stroke patients following goal-oriented computer-based training Journal Of Neuroengineering And Rehabilitation 18, 186

Introduction: After a stroke, a wide range of deficits can occur with varying onset latencies. As a result, assessing impairment and recovery are enormous challenges in neurorehabilitation. Although several clinical scales are generally accepted, they are time-consuming, show high inter-rater variability, have low ecological validity, and are vulnerable to biases introduced by compensatory movements and action modifications. Alternative methods need to be developed for efficient and objective assessment. In this study, we explore the potential of computer-based body tracking systems and classification tools to estimate the motor impairment of the more affected arm in stroke patients. Methods: We present a method for estimating clinical scores from movement parameters that are extracted from kinematic data recorded during unsupervised computer-based rehabilitation sessions. We identify a number of kinematic descriptors that characterise the patients' hemiparesis (e.g., movement smoothness, work area), we implement a double-noise model and perform a multivariate regression using clinical data from 98 stroke patients who completed a total of 191 sessions with RGS. Results: Our results reveal a new digital biomarker of arm function, the Total Goal-Directed Movement (TGDM), which relates to the patients work area during the execution of goal-oriented reaching movements. The model's performance to estimate FM-UE scores reaches an accuracy of R-2: 0.38 with an error (sigma: 12.8). Next, we evaluate its reliability (r = 0.89 for test-retest), longitudinal external validity (95% true positive rate), sensitivity, and generalisation to other tasks that involve planar reaching movements (R-2: 0.39). The model achieves comparable accuracy also for the Chedoke Arm and Hand Activity Inventory (R-2: 0.40) and Barthel Index (R-2: 0.35). Conclusions: Our results highlight the clinical value of kinematic data collected during unsupervised goal-oriented motor training with the RGS combined with data science techniques, and provide new insight into factors underlying recovery and its biomarkers.

JTD Keywords: interactive feedback, motion classification, motion sensing, multivariate regression, posture monitoring, rehabilitation, stroke, Adult, Aged, Analytic method, Arm movement, Article, Barthel index, Brain hemorrhage, Cerebrovascular accident, Chedoke arm and hand activity inventory, Clinical protocol, Cognitive defect, Computer analysis, Controlled study, Convergent validity, Correlation coefficient, Disease severity, External validity, Female, Fugl meyer assessment for the upper extremity, Functional assessment, Functional status assessment, General health status assessment, Hemiparesis, Human, Interactive feedback, Ischemic stroke, Kinematics, Major clinical study, Male, Mini mental state examination, Motion classification, Motion sensing, Motor analog scale, Movement, Multivariate regression, Muscle function, Posture monitoring, Probability, Recovery, Rehabilitation, Reliability, Retrospective study, Stroke, Stroke patient, Test retest reliability, Therapy, Total goal directed movement, Upper extremities, Upper limb, Upper-limb, Wolf motor function test


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.

JTD 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


Ferrer, I, Andrés-Benito, P, Ausín, K, Pamplona, R, del Rio, JA, Fernández-Irigoyen, J, Santamaría, E, (2021). Dysregulated protein phosphorylation: A determining condition in the continuum of brain aging and Alzheimer's disease Brain Pathology 31, e12996

Tau hyperphosphorylation is the first step of neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) formation. In the present study, samples of the entorhinal cortex (EC) and frontal cortex area 8 (FC) of cases with NFT pathology classified as stages I–II, III–IV, and V–VI without comorbidities, and of middle-aged (MA) individuals with no NFT pathology, were analyzed by conventional label-free and SWATH-MS (sequential window acquisition of all theoretical fragment ion spectra mass spectrometry) to assess the (phospho)proteomes. The total number of identified dysregulated phosphoproteins was 214 in the EC, 65 of which were dysregulated at the first stages (I–II) of NFT pathology; 167 phosphoproteins were dysregulated in the FC, 81 of them at stages I–II of NFT pathology. A large percentage of dysregulated phosphoproteins were identified in the two regions and at different stages of NFT progression. The main group of dysregulated phosphoproteins was made up of components of the membranes, cytoskeleton, synapses, proteins linked to membrane transport and ion channels, and kinases. The present results show abnormal phosphorylation of proteins at the first stages of NFT pathology in the elderly (in individuals clinically considered representative of normal aging) and sporadic Alzheimer's disease (sAD). Dysregulated protein phosphorylation in the FC precedes the formation of NFTs and SPs. The most active period of dysregulated phosphorylation is at stages III–IV when a subpopulation of individuals might be clinically categorized as suffering from mild cognitive impairment which is a preceding determinant stage in the progression to dementia. Altered phosphorylation of selected proteins, carried out by activation of several kinases, may alter membrane and cytoskeletal functions, among them synaptic transmission and membrane/cytoskeleton signaling. Besides their implications in sAD, the present observations suggest a molecular substrate for “benign” cognitive deterioration in “normal” brain aging.

JTD Keywords: (phospho)proteomics, alzheimer's disease, amyloid-beta, association guidelines, brain aging, cytoskeleton, frontal-cortex, kinases, lipid rafts, membranes, national institute, neuropathologic assessment, pathological process, protein phosphorylation, synapse pathology, synapses, tau, tau pathology, (phospho)proteomics, Age-related tauopathy, Alzheimer's disease, Brain aging, Cytoskeleton, Kinases, Membranes, Protein phosphorylation, Synapses, Tau


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, 704414

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.



JTD 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


Barbero-Castillo, A, Riefolo, F, Matera, C, Caldas-Martínez, S, Mateos-Aparicio, P, Weinert, JF, Garrido-Charles, A, Claro, E, Sanchez-Vives, MV, Gorostiza, P, (2021). Control of Brain State Transitions with a Photoswitchable Muscarinic Agonist Advanced Science 8, 2005027

The ability to control neural activity is essential for research not only in basic neuroscience, as spatiotemporal control of activity is a fundamental experimental tool, but also in clinical neurology for therapeutic brain interventions. Transcranial-magnetic, ultrasound, and alternating/direct current (AC/DC) stimulation are some available means of spatiotemporal controlled neuromodulation. There is also light-mediated control, such as optogenetics, which has revolutionized neuroscience research, yet its clinical translation is hampered by the need for gene manipulation. As a drug-based light-mediated control, the effect of a photoswitchable muscarinic agonist (Phthalimide-Azo-Iper (PAI)) on a brain network is evaluated in this study. First, the conditions to manipulate M2 muscarinic receptors with light in the experimental setup are determined. Next, physiological synchronous emergent cortical activity consisting of slow oscillations-as in slow wave sleep-is transformed into a higher frequency pattern in the cerebral cortex, both in vitro and in vivo, as a consequence of PAI activation with light. These results open the way to study cholinergic neuromodulation and to control spatiotemporal patterns of activity in different brain states, their transitions, and their links to cognition and behavior. The approach can be applied to different organisms and does not require genetic manipulation, which would make it translational to humans.

JTD Keywords: brain states, light-mediated control, muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, neuromodulation, Activation, Alternating/direct currents, Basal forebrain, Brain, Brain states, Clinical research, Clinical translation, Controlled drug delivery, Cortex, Forebrain cholinergic system, Genetic manipulations, Higher frequencies, Hz oscillation, Light‐, Light-mediated control, Mediated control, Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, Muscarinic agonists, Muscarinic receptor, Neurology, Neuromodulation, Neurons, Noradrenergic modulation, Parvalbumin-positive interneurons, Photopharmacology, Receptor-binding, Slow, Spatiotemporal control, Spatiotemporal patterns


Riefolo, F, Sortino, R, Matera, C, Claro, E, Preda, B, Vitiello, S, Traserra, S, Jimenez, M, Gorostiza, P, (2021). Rational Design of Photochromic Analogues of Tricyclic Drugs Journal Of Medicinal Chemistry 64, 9259-9270

Tricyclic chemical structures are the core of many important drugs targeting all neurotransmitter pathways. These medicines enable effective therapies to treat from peptic ulcer disease to psychiatric disorders. However, when administered systemically, they cause serious adverse effects that limit their use. To obtain localized and on-demand pharmacological action using light, we have designed photoisomerizable ligands based on azobenzene that mimic the tricyclic chemical structure and display reversibly controlled activity. Pseudo-analogues of the tricyclic antagonist pirenzepine demonstrate that this is an effective strategy in muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, showing stronger inhibition upon illumination both in vitro and in cardiac atria ex vivo. Despite the applied chemical modifications to make pirenzepine derivatives sensitive to light stimuli, the most potent candidate of the set, cryptozepine-2, maintained a moderate but promising M-1 vs M-2 subtype selectivity. These photoswitchable crypto-azologs of tricyclic drugs might open a general way to spatiotemporally target their therapeutic action while reducing their systemic toxicity and adverse effects.

JTD Keywords: Binding, M1, Pirenzepine, Rat-brain, Receptor


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

JTD 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


Badiola-Mateos, M, Di Giuseppe, D, Paoli, R, Lopez-Martinez, MJ, Mencattini, A, Samitier, J, Martinelli, E, (2021). A novel multi-frequency trans-endothelial electrical resistance (MTEER) sensor array to monitor blood-brain barrier integrity Sensors And Actuators B-Chemical 334, 129599

© 2021 Elsevier B.V. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a dynamic cellular barrier that regulates brain nutrient supply, waste efflux, and paracellular diffusion through specialized junctional complexes. Finding a system to mimic and monitor BBB integrity (i.e., to be able to assess the effect of certain compounds on opening or closing the barrier) is of vital importance in several pathologies. This work aims to overcome some limitations of current barrier integrity measuring techniques thanks to a multi-layer microfluidic platform with integrated electrodes and Multi-frequency Trans-Endothelial Electrical Resistance (MTEER) in synergy with machine learning algorithms. MTEER measurements are performed across the barrier in a range of frequencies up to 10 MHz highlighting the presence of information on different frequency ranges. Results show that the proposed platform can detect barrier formation, opening, and regeneration afterwards, correlating with the results obtained from immunostaining of junctional complexes. This model presents novel techniques for a future biological barrier in-vitro studies that could potentially help on elucidating barrier opening or sealing on treatments with different drugs.

JTD Keywords: blood-brain barrier, cellular barrier integrity monitoring, impedance sensors, machine learning, microelectrodes, mteer, rapid prototyping, Blood-brain barrier, Cellular barrier integrity monitoring, Electrical impedance spectroscopy, Impedance sensors, Machine learning, Microelectrodes, Mteer, Rapid prototyping


Woythe, L, Tito, NB, Albertazzi, L, (2021). A quantitative view on multivalent nanomedicine targeting Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 169, 1-21

© 2020 The Authors Although the concept of selective delivery has been postulated over 100 years ago, no targeted nanomedicine has been clinically approved so far. Nanoparticles modified with targeting ligands to promote the selective delivery of therapeutics towards a specific cell population have been extensively reported. However, the rational design of selective particles is still challenging. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of quantitative theoretical and experimental understanding of the interactions involved in cell targeting. In this review, we discuss new theoretical models and experimental methods that provide a quantitative view of targeting. We show the new advancements in multivalency theory enabling the rational design of super-selective nanoparticles. Furthermore, we present the innovative approaches to obtain key targeting parameters at the single-cell and single molecule level and their role in the design of targeting nanoparticles. We believe that the combination of new theoretical multivalent design and experimental methods to quantify receptors and ligands aids in the rational design and clinical translation of targeted nanomedicines.

JTD Keywords: binding-kinetics, biological identity, biomolecular corona, blood-brain-barrier, drug-delivery, gold nanoparticles, multivalency, nanotechnology, protein corona, quantitative characterization, rational design, super-selectivity, superresolution microscopy, tumor heterogeneity, Ligand-receptor interactions, Multivalency, Nanotechnology, Quantitative characterization, Rational design, Super-selectivity


Maleeva, G, Nin-Hill, A, Rustler, K, Petukhova, E, Ponomareva, D, Mukhametova, E, Gomila, AMJ, Wutz, D, Alfonso-Prieto, M, König, B, Gorostiza, P, Bregestovski, P, (2021). Subunit-specific photocontrol of glycine receptors by azobenzene-nitrazepam photoswitcher Eneuro 8, 0294-20.2020

© 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.

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


Wiers, RW, Verschure, P, (2021). Curing the broken brain model of addiction: Neurorehabilitation from a systems perspective Addictive Behaviors 112, 106602

© 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.

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


Duro-Castano, A., Moreira Leite, D., Forth, J., Deng, Y., Matias, D., Noble Jesus, C., Battaglia, G., (2020). Designing peptide nanoparticles for efficient brain delivery Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 160, 52-77

The targeted delivery of therapeutic compounds to the brain is arguably the most significant open problem in drug delivery today. Nanoparticles (NPs) based on peptides and designed using the emerging principles of molecular engineering show enormous promise in overcoming many of the barriers to brain delivery faced by NPs made of more traditional materials. However, shortcomings in our understanding of peptide self-assembly and blood–brain barrier (BBB) transport mechanisms pose significant obstacles to progress in this area. In this review, we discuss recent work in engineering peptide nanocarriers for the delivery of therapeutic compounds to the brain: from synthesis, to self-assembly, to in vivo studies, as well as discussing in detail the biological hurdles that a nanoparticle must overcome to reach the brain.

JTD Keywords: Alzheimer's disease, Blood-brain barrier, Drug delivery, Glioma, Parkinson's disease, Peptides, Self-assembly, Transcytosis


Manthe, Rachel L., Loeck, Maximilian, Bhowmick, Tridib, Solomon, Melani, Muro, Silvia, (2020). Intertwined mechanisms define transport of anti-ICAM nanocarriers across the endothelium and brain delivery of a therapeutic enzyme Journal of Controlled Release 324, 181-193

The interaction of drug delivery systems with tissues is key for their application. An example is drug carriers targeted to endothelial barriers, which can be transported to intra-endothelial compartments (lysosomes) or transcellularly released at the tissue side (transcytosis). Although carrier targeting valency influences this process, the mechanism is unknown. We studied this using polymer nanocarriers (NCs) targeted to intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), an endothelial-surface glycoprotein whose expression is increased in pathologies characterized by inflammation. A bell-shaped relationship was found between NC targeting valency and the rate of transcytosis, where high and low NC valencies rendered less efficient transcytosis rates than an intermediate valency formulation. In contrast, an inverted bell-shape relationship was found for NC valency and lysosomal trafficking rates. Data suggested a model where NC valency plays an opposing role in the two sub-processes involved in transcytosis: NC binding-uptake depended directly on valency and exocytosis-detachment was inversely related to this parameter. This is because the greater the avidity of the NC-receptor interaction the more efficient uptake becomes, but NC-receptor detachment post-transport is more compromised. Cleavage of the receptor at the basolateral side of endothelial cells facilitated NC transcytosis, likely by helping NC detachment post-transport. Since transcytosis encompasses both sets of events, the full process finds an optimum at the intersection of these inverted relationships, explaining the bell-shaped behavior. NCs also trafficked to lysosomes from the apical side and, additionally, from the basolateral side in the case of high valency NCs which are slower at detaching from the receptor. This explains the opposite behavior of NC valency for transcytosis vs. lysosomal transport. Anti-ICAM NCs were verified to traffic into the brain after intravenous injection in mice, and both cellular and in vivo data showed that intermediate valency NCs resulted in higher delivery of a therapeutic enzyme, acid sphingomyelinase, required for types A and B Niemann-Pick disease.

JTD Keywords: Blood-brain barrier, ICAM-1-targeted nanocarriers, Targeting valency, Receptor-mediated transport, Lysosomal transcytosis destinations


M Leite, D., Matias, D., Battaglia, G., (2020). The role of BAR proteins and the glycocalyx in brain endothelium transcytosis Cells 9, (12), 2685

Within the brain, endothelial cells lining the blood vessels meticulously coordinate the transport of nutrients, energy metabolites and other macromolecules essential in maintaining an appropriate activity of the brain. While small molecules are pumped across specialised molecular transporters, large macromolecular cargos are shuttled from one side to the other through membrane-bound carriers formed by endocytosis on one side, trafficked to the other side and released by exocytosis. Such a process is collectively known as transcytosis. The brain endothelium is recognised to possess an intricate vesicular endosomal network that mediates the transcellular transport of cargos from blood-to-brain and brain-to-blood. However, mounting evidence suggests that brain endothelial cells (BECs) employ a more direct route via tubular carriers for a fast and efficient transport from the blood to the brain. Here, we compile the mechanism of transcytosis in BECs, in which we highlight intracellular trafficking mediated by tubulation, and emphasise the possible role in transcytosis of the Bin/Amphiphysin/Rvs (BAR) proteins and glycocalyx (GC)-a layer of sugars covering BECs, in transcytosis. Both BAR proteins and the GC are intrinsically associated with cell membranes and involved in the modulation and shaping of these membranes. Hence, we aim to summarise the machinery involved in transcytosis in BECs and highlight an uncovered role of BAR proteins and the GC at the brain endothelium.

JTD Keywords: BAR proteins, Blood-brain barrier, Endothelium, Glycocalyx, Transcytosis, Tubulation


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.

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


Peyman, Zirak, Clara, Gregori-Pla, Igor, Blanco, Ana, Fortuna, Gianluca, Cotta, Pau, Bramon, Isabel, Serra, Anna, Mola, Jordi, Solà-Soler, Beatriz, F. Giraldo-Giraldo, Turgut, Durduran, Mercedes, Mayos, (2018). Characterization of the microvascular cerebral blood flow response to obstructive apneic events during night sleep Neurophotonics 5, (4), 045003

Obstructive apnea causes periodic changes in cerebral and systemic hemodynamics, which may contribute to the increased risk of cerebrovascular disease of patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) syndrome. The improved understanding of the consequences of an apneic event on the brain perfusion may improve our knowledge of these consequences and then allow for the development of preventive strategies. Our aim was to characterize the typical microvascular, cortical cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes in an OSA population during an apneic event. Sixteen patients (age 58  ±  8  years, 75% male) with a high risk of severe OSA were measured with a polysomnography device and with diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS) during one night of sleep with 1365 obstructive apneic events detected. All patients were later confirmed to suffer from severe OSA syndrome with a mean of 83  ±  15 apneas and hypopneas per hour. DCS has been shown to be able to characterize the microvascular CBF response to each event with a sufficient contrast-to-noise ratio to reveal its dynamics. It has also revealed that an apnea causes a peak increase of microvascular CBF (30  ±  17  %  ) at the end of the event followed by a drop (−20  ±  12  %  ) similar to what was observed in macrovascular CBF velocity of the middle cerebral artery. This study paves the way for the utilization of DCS for further studies on these populations.

JTD Keywords: Sleep disorder breathing, Cerebral blood flow, Brain perfusion, Diffuse correlation spectroscopy


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.

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


Arsiwalla, X. D., Pacheco, D., Principe, A., Rocamora, R., Verschure, P., (2018). A temporal estimate of integrated information for intracranial functional connectivity Artificial Neural Networks and Machine Learning (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) 27th International Conference on Artificial Neural Networks (ICANN 2018) , Springer, Cham (Rhodes, Greece) 11140, 403-412

A major challenge in computational and systems neuroscience concerns the quantification of information processing at various scales of the brain’s anatomy. In particular, using human intracranial recordings, the question we ask in this paper is: How can we estimate the informational complexity of the brain given the complex temporal nature of its dynamics? To address this we work with a recent formulation of network integrated information that is based on the Kullback-Leibler divergence between the multivariate distribution on the set of network states versus the corresponding factorized distribution over its parts. In this work, we extend this formulation for temporal networks and then apply it to human brain data obtained from intracranial recordings in epilepsy patients. Our findings show that compared to random re-wirings of the data, functional connectivity networks, constructed from human brain data, score consistently higher in the above measure of integrated information. This work suggests that temporal integrated information may indeed be a good starting point as a future measure of cognitive complexity.

JTD Keywords: Brain networks, Complexity measures, Computational neuroscience, Functional connectivity


Verschure, P., (2018). The architecture of mind and brain Living machines: A handbook of research in biomimetics and biohybrid systems (ed. Prescott, T. J., Lepora, Nathan, Verschure, P.), Oxford Scholarship (Oxford, UK) , 338-345

The components of a Living Machine must be integrated into a functioning whole, which requires a detailed understanding of the architecture of living machines. This chapter starts with a conceptual and historical analysis which from Plato brings us to nineteenth-century neuroscience and early concepts of the layered structure of nervous systems. These concepts were further captured in the cognitive behaviorism of Tolman and came to full fruition in the cognitive revolution of the second half of the twentieth century. Verschure subsequently describes the most relevant proposals of cognitive architectures followed by an overview of the few proposals stemming from modern neuroscience on the architecture of the brain. Subsequently, we will look at contemporary contenders that mediate between cognitive and brain architecture. An important challenge to any model of cognitive architectures is how to benchmark it. Verschure proposes the Unified Theories of Embodied Minds (UTEM) benchmark which advances from Newell’s classic Unified Theories of Cognition benchmark.

JTD Keywords: Architecture, Mind, Brain, Organization, System, Virtualization, Abstraction layers


Verschure, P., (2018). A chronology of Distributed Adaptive Control Living machines: A handbook of research in biomimetics and biohybrid systems (ed. Prescott, T. J., Lepora, Nathan, Verschure, P.), Oxford Scholarship (Oxford, UK) , 346-360

This chapter presents the Distributed Adaptive Control (DAC) theory of the mind and brain of living machines. DAC provides an explanatory framework for biological brains and an integration framework for synthetic ones. DAC builds on several themes presented in the handbook: it integrates different perspectives on mind and brain, exemplifies the synthetic method in understanding living machines, answers well-defined constraints faced by living machines, and provides a route for the convergent validation of anatomy, physiology, and behavior in our explanation of biological living machines. DAC addresses the fundamental question of how a living machine can obtain, retain, and express valid knowledge of its world. We look at the core components of DAC, specific benchmarks derived from the engagement with the physical and the social world (the H4W and the H5W problems) in foraging and human–robot interaction tasks. Lastly we address how DAC targets the UTEM benchmark and the relation with contemporary developments in AI.

JTD Keywords: Distributed Adaptive Control, Problem of priors, Symbol grounding problem, Convergent validation, Foraging, brain, Architecture, system


Mattotti, M., Alvarez, Z., Delgado, L., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Aparicio, C., Planell, J. A., Alcántara, S., Engel, E., (2017). Differential neuronal and glial behavior on flat and micro patterned chitosan films Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 158, 569-577

Chitosan is a biodegradable natural polysaccharide that has been widely studied for regenerative purposes in the central nervous system. In this study we assessed the in vitro glial and neuronal cells response to chitosan either flat or patterned with grooves in the micrometric range. Chitosan demonstrated to be a good substrate for the attachment and growth of both neurons and glial cells. Chitosan micropatterns promoted glial cell maturation, suggesting astroglial activation. Nevertheless, those mature/reactive glial cells were permissive for axonal growth. Axons aligned and organized along the patterned grooves and the size of the linear topographic patterns is also affecting neurite and cell response. Patterns with 10 μm width induced fasciculation of axons, which can be useful for CNS tissue engineering substrates when precise orientation of the axonal outgrowth is desired.

JTD Keywords: Brain, Chitosan, Glia, Micropattern, Neuron


Jorba, I., Menal, M. J., Torres, M., Gozal, D., Piñol-Ripoll, G., Colell, A., Montserrat, J. M., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I., (2017). Ageing and chronic intermittent hypoxia mimicking sleep apnea do not modify local brain tissue stiffness in healthy mice Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials , 71, 106-113

Recent evidence suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may increase the risk of Alzheimer´s disease (AD), with the latter promoting alterations in brain tissue stiffness, a feature of ageing. Here, we assessed the effects of age and intermittent hypoxia (IH) on brain tissue stiffness in a mouse model of OSA. Two-month-old and 18-month-old mice (N=10 each) were subjected to IH (20% O2 40 s – 6% O2 20 s) for 8 weeks (6 h/day). Corresponding control groups for each age were kept under normoxic conditions in room air (RA). After sacrifice, the brain was excised and 200-micron coronal slices were cut with a vibratome. Local stiffness of the cortex and hippocampus were assessed in brain slices placed in an Atomic Force Microscope. For both brain regions, the Young's modulus (E) in each animal was computed as the average values from 9 force-indentation curves. Cortex E mean (±SE) values were 442±122 Pa (RA) and 455±120 (IH) for young mice and 433±44 (RA) and 405±101 (IH) for old mice. Hippocampal E values were 376±62 (RA) and 474±94 (IH) for young mice and 486±93 (RA) and 521±210 (IH) for old mice. For both cortex and hippocampus, 2-way ANOVA indicated no statistically significant effects of age or challenge (IH vs. RA) on E values. Thus, neither chronic IH mimicking OSA nor ageing up to late middle age appear to modify local brain tissue stiffness in otherwise healthy mice.

JTD Keywords: Atomic Force Microscopy, Brain mechanics, Cortex stiffness, Hippocampus stiffness, Obstructive sleep apnea, Young's modulus


Schulz, S., Legorburu Cladera, B., Giraldo, B., Bolz, M., Bar, K. J., Voss, A., (2017). Neuronal desynchronization as marker of an impaired brain network Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 39th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Seogwipo, South Korea) , 2251-2254

Synchronization is a central key feature of neural information processing and communication between different brain areas. Disturbance of oscillatory brain rhythms and decreased synchronization have been associated with different disorders including schizophrenia. The aim of this study was to investigate whether synchronization (in relaxed conditions with no stimuli) between different brain areas within the delta, theta, alpha (alpha1, alpha2), beta (beta1, beta2), and gamma bands is altered in patients with a neurological disorder in order to generate significant cortical enhancements. To achieve this, we investigated schizophrenic patients (SZO; N=17, 37.5±10.4 years, 15 males) and compared them to healthy subjects (CON; N=21, 36.7±13.4 years, 15 males) applying the phase locking value (PLV). We found significant differences between SZO and CON in different brain areas of the theta, alpha1, beta2 and gamma bands. These areas are related to the central and parietal lobes for the theta band, the parietal lobe for the alpha1, the parietal and frontal for the beta2 and the frontal-central for the gamma band. The gamma band revealed the most significant differences between CON and SZO. PLV were 61.7% higher on average in SZO in most of the clusters when compared to CON. The related brain areas are directly related to cognition skills which are proved to be impaired in SZO. The results of this study suggest that synchronization in SZO is also altered when the patients were not asked to perform a task that requires their cognitive skills (i.e., no stimuli are applied - in contrast to other findings).

JTD Keywords: Synchronization, Electroencephalography, Electrodes, Brain, Time series analysis, Oscillators, Frequency synchronization


Tahirbegi, I.B., Pardo, W.A., Alvira, M., Mir, M., Samitier, J., (2016). Amyloid Aβ 42, a promoter of magnetite nanoparticle formation in Alzheimer's disease Nanotechnology 27, (46), 465102

The accumulation of iron oxides - mainly magnetite - with amyloid peptide is a key process in the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the mechanism for biogeneration of magnetite inside the brain of someone with AD is still unclear. The iron-storing protein ferritin has been identified as the main magnetite-storing molecule. However, accumulations of magnetite in AD are not correlated with an increase in ferritin, leaving this question unresolved. Here we demonstrate the key role of amyloid peptide Aβ 42, one of the main hallmarks of AD, in the generation of magnetite nanoparticles in the absence of ferritin. The capacity of amyloid peptide to bind and concentrate iron hydroxides, the basis for the formation of magnetite, benefits the spontaneous synthesis of these nanoparticles, even under unfavorable conditions for their formation. Using scanning and transmission electron microscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy and magnetic force microscopy we characterized the capacity of amyloid peptide Aβ 42 to promote magnetite formation.

JTD Keywords: Alzheimer disease (AD), amyloid peptide Ab42, magnetite nanoparticle, metallobiomolecule, iron oxide, neurodegenerative brain diseases


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.

JTD 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


Tajes, M., Ramos-Fernández, E., Weng-Jiang, X., Bosch-Morató, M., Guivernau, B., Eraso-Pichot, A., Salvador, B., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Roquer, J., Muñoz, F. J., (2014). The blood-brain barrier: Structure, function and therapeutic approaches to cross it Molecular Membrane Biology , 31, (5), 152-167

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is constituted by a specialized vascular endothelium that interacts directly with astrocytes, neurons and pericytes. It protects the brain from the molecules of the systemic circulation but it has to be overcome for the proper treatment of brain cancer, psychiatric disorders or neurodegenerative diseases, which are dramatically increasing as the population ages. In the present work we have revised the current knowledge on the cellular structure of the BBB and the different procedures utilized currently and those proposed to cross it. Chemical modifications of the drugs, such as increasing their lipophilicity, turn them more prone to be internalized in the brain. Other mechanisms are the use of molecular tools to bind the drugs such as small immunoglobulins, liposomes or nanoparticles that will act as Trojan Horses favoring the drug delivery in brain. This fusion of the classical pharmacology with nanotechnology has opened a wide field to many different approaches with promising results to hypothesize that BBB will not be a major problem for the new generation of neuroactive drugs. The present review provides an overview of all state-of-the-art of the BBB structure and function, as well as of the classic strategies and these appeared in recent years to deliver drugs into the brain for the treatment of Central Nervous System (CNS) diseases.

JTD Keywords: Blood brain barrier, Drug delivery, Membrane transport


Casals, Alicia, Fedele, Pasquale, Marek, Tadeusz, Molfino, Rezia, Muscolo, GiovanniGerardo, Recchiuto, CarmineTommaso, (2014). A robotic suit controlled by the human brain for people suffering from quadriplegia Lecture Notes in Computer Science Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems (ed. Natraj, Ashutosh, Cameron, Stephen, Melhuish, Chris, Witkowski, Mark), Springer Berlin Heidelberg , 294-295

The authors present an introductory work for the implementation of an international cooperative project aimed at designing, developing and validating a new generation of ergonomic robotic suits, wearable by the users and controlled by the human brain. The aim of the proposers is to allow the motion of people affected by paralysis or with reduced motor abilities. Therefore, the project will focus on the fusion between neuroergonomics and robotics, also by means of brain-machine interfaces. Breakthrough solutions will compose the advanced robotic suit, endowed with soft structures to increment safety and human comfort, and with an advanced real-time control that takes into account the interaction with the human body.

JTD Keywords: Neuroergonomics, Brain computer interfaces, Robotics, Robotic suits, Compliant actuators, Exoskeleton, EEG, Dynamic balance control


Armendáriz, Beatriz G., Bribian, Ana, Pérez-Martínez, Esther, Martínez, Albert, de Castro, Fernando, Soriano, Eduardo, Burgaya, Ferran, (2012). Expression of Semaphorin 4F in neurons and brain oligodendrocytes and the regulation of oligodendrocyte precursor migration in the optic nerve Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience , 49, (1), 54-67

Semaphorins are secreted or membrane-anchored proteins that play critical roles in neural development and adult brain plasticity. Sema4F is a transmembrane semaphorin found on glutamatergic synapses, in which it is attached to the PSD-95-scaffolding protein. Here we further examined the expression of Sema4F by raising specific antibodies. We show that Sema4F protein is widely expressed by neurons during neural development and in the adult brain. We also demonstrate a preferential localization of this protein in postsynaptic dendrites. Moreover, Sema4F is expressed not only by neurons but also by oligodendrocyte precursors in the optic nerve and along the migratory pathways of oligodendroglial cells, and also by subsets of postnatal oligodendroglial cells in the brain. Finally, in vitro experiments demonstrate that endogenous Sema4F expressed by brain cells of oligodendroglial lineage regulates the outgrowth migration of oligodendrocyte precursors and promotes their differentiation. The present data extend our knowledge about the expression of Sema4F and uncover a novel function in the control of oligodendrocyte precursor migration in the developing brain.

JTD Keywords: Semaphorin, Oligodendrocyte, Guidance, Optic nerve, Brain


Carulla, Patricia, Bribian, Ana, Rangel, Alejandra, Gavin, Rosalina, Ferrer, Isidro, Caelles, Carme, Antonio del Rio, Jose, Llorens, Franc, (2011). Neuroprotective role of PrP(C) against kainate-induced epileptic seizures and cell death depends on the modulation of JNK3 activation by GluR6/7-PSD-95 binding Molecular Biology of the Cell , 22, (17), 3041-3054

Cellular prion protein (PrP(C)) is a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol-anchored glycoprotein. When mutated or misfolded, the pathogenic form (PrP(SC)) induces transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. In contrast, PrP(C) has a number of physiological functions in several neural processes. Several lines of evidence implicate PrP(C) in synaptic transmission and neuroprotection since its absence results in an increase in neuronal excitability and enhanced excitotoxicity in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, PrP(C) has been implicated in the inhibition of N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA)-mediated neurotransmission, and prion protein gene (Prnp) knockout mice show enhanced neuronal death in response to NMDA and kainate (KA). In this study, we demonstrate that neurotoxicity induced by KA in Prnp knockout mice depends on the c-Jun N-terminal kinase 3 (JNK3) pathway since Prnp(%) Jnk3(%) mice were not affected by KA. Pharmacological blockage of JNK3 activity impaired PrP(C)-dependent neurotoxicity. Furthermore, our results indicate that JNK3 activation depends on the interaction of PrP(C) with postsynaptic density 95 protein (PSD-95) and glutamate receptor 6/7 (GluR6/7). Indeed, GluR6-PSD-95 interaction after KA injections was favored by the absence of PrP(C). Finally, neurotoxicity in Prnp knockout mice was reversed by an AMPA/KA inhibitor (6,7-dinitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione) and the GluR6 antagonist NS-102. We conclude that the protection afforded by PrP(C) against KA is due to its ability to modulate GluR6/7-mediated neurotransmission and hence JNK3 activation.

JTD Keywords: Ischemic brain-injury, Prion protein PrP(C), Stress-inducible protein-1, Synaptic plasticity, Neurite outgrowth, Signaling module, Caspase-3 activation, Organotypic cultures, Cerebral-ischemia


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.

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


Crespo, C., Gallego, J., Cot, A., Falcón, C., Bullich, S., Pareto, D., Aguiar, P., Sempau, J., Lomeña, F., Calviño, F., Pavía, J., Ros, D., (2008). Quantification of dopaminergic neurotransmission SPECT studies with 123I-labelled radioligands. A comparison between different imaging systems and data acquisition protocols using Monte Carlo simulation European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging , 35, (7), 1334-1342

Purpose: 123I-labelled radioligands are commonly used for single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging of the dopaminergic system to study the dopamine transporter binding. The aim of this work was to compare the quantitative capabilities of two different SPECT systems through Monte Carlo (MC) simulation. Methods: The SimSET MC code was employed to generate simulated projections of a numerical phantom for two gamma cameras equipped with a parallel and a fan-beam collimator, respectively. A fully 3D iterative reconstruction algorithm was used to compensate for attenuation, the spatially variant point spread function (PSF) and scatter. A post-reconstruction partial volume effect (PVE) compensation was also developed. Results: For both systems, the correction for all degradations and PVE compensation resulted in recovery factors of the theoretical specific uptake ratio (SUR) close to 100%. For a SUR value of 4, the recovered SUR for the parallel imaging system was 33% for a reconstruction without corrections (OSEM), 45% for a reconstruction with attenuation correction (OSEM-A), 56% for a 3D reconstruction with attenuation and PSF corrections (OSEM-AP), 68% for OSEM-AP with scatter correction (OSEM-APS) and 97% for OSEM-APS plus PVE compensation (OSEM-APSV). For the fan-beam imaging system, the recovered SUR was 41% without corrections, 55% for OSEM-A, 65% for OSEM-AP, 75% for OSEM-APS and 102% for OSEM-APSV. Conclusion: Our findings indicate that the correction for degradations increases the quantification accuracy, with PVE compensation playing a major role in the SUR quantification. The proposed methodology allows us to reach similar SUR values for different SPECT systems, thereby allowing a reliable standardisation in multicentric studies.

JTD Keywords: Brain SPECT, Monte Carlo methods, Receptor imaging, Reconstruction quantification, SPECT instrumentation and algorithms