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by Keyword: Motor

Brewer, MK, Torres, P, Ayala, V, Portero-Otin, M, Pamplona, R, Andrés-Benito, P, Ferrer, I, Guinovart, JJ, Duran, J, (2024). Glycogen accumulation modulates life span in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis Journal Of Neurochemistry 168, 744-759

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


Padial, Tania Patino, Del Grosso, Erica, Gentile, Serena, Pellejero, Lorena Baranda, Mestre, Rafael, Paffen, Lars J M M, Sanchez, Samuel, Ricci, Francesco, (2024). Synthetic DNA-based Swimmers Driven by Enzyme Catalysis Journal Of The American Chemical Society 146, 12664-12671

Here, we report DNA-based synthetic nanostructures decorated with enzymes (hereafter referred to as DNA-enzyme swimmers) that self-propel by converting the enzymatic substrate to the product in solution. The DNA-enzyme swimmers are obtained from tubular DNA structures that self-assemble spontaneously by the hybridization of DNA tiles. We functionalize these DNA structures with two different enzymes, urease and catalase, and show that they exhibit concentration-dependent movement and enhanced diffusion upon addition of the enzymatic substrate (i.e., urea and H2O2). To demonstrate the programmability of such DNA-based swimmers, we also engineer DNA strands that displace the enzyme from the DNA scaffold, thus acting as molecular brakes on the DNA swimmers. These results serve as a first proof of principle for the development of synthetic DNA-based enzyme-powered swimmers that can self-propel in fluids.

JTD Keywords: Design, Motor, Shapes


Ruiz-González, N, Esporrín-Ubieto, D, Hortelao, AC, Fraire, JC, Bakenecker, AC, Guri-Canals, M, Cugat, R, Carrillo, JM, Garcia-Batlletbó, M, Laiz, P, Patiño, T, Sánchez, S, (2024). Swarms of Enzyme-Powered Nanomotors Enhance the Diffusion of Macromolecules in Viscous Media Small 20, 2309387

Over the past decades, the development of nanoparticles (NPs) to increase the efficiency of clinical treatments has been subject of intense research. Yet, most NPs have been reported to possess low efficacy as their actuation is hindered by biological barriers. For instance, synovial fluid (SF) present in the joints is mainly composed of hyaluronic acid (HA). These viscous media pose a challenge for many applications in nanomedicine, as passive NPs tend to become trapped in complex networks, which reduces their ability to reach the target location. This problem can be addressed by using active NPs (nanomotors, NMs) that are self-propelled by enzymatic reactions, although the development of enzyme-powered NMs, capable of navigating these viscous environments, remains a considerable challenge. Here, the synergistic effects of two NMs troops, namely hyaluronidase NMs (HyaNMs, Troop 1) and urease NMs (UrNMs, Troop 2) are demonstrated. Troop 1 interacts with the SF by reducing its viscosity, thus allowing Troop 2 to swim more easily through the SF. Through their collective motion, Troop 2 increases the diffusion of macromolecules. These results pave the way for more widespread use of enzyme-powered NMs, e.g., for treating joint injuries and improving therapeutic effectiveness compared with traditional methods. The conceptual idea of the novel approach using hyaluronidase NMs (HyaNMs) to interact with and reduce the viscosity of the synovial fluid (SF) and urease NMs (UrNMs) for a more efficient transport of therapeutic agents in joints.image

JTD Keywords: Biological barrier, Clinical research, Clinical treatments, Collective motion, Collective motion,nanomotors,nanorobots,swarming,viscous medi, Collective motions, Complex networks, Enzymatic reaction, Enzymes, Hyaluronic acid, Hyaluronic-acid,ph,viscoelasticity,adsorption,barriers,behavior,ureas, Macromolecules, Medical nanotechnology, Nano robots, Nanomotors, Nanorobots, Swarming, Synovial fluid, Target location, Viscous media, Viscous medium


Chen, SQ, Prado-Morales, C, Sánchez-deAlcázar, D, Sánchez, S, (2024). Enzymatic micro/nanomotors in biomedicine: from single motors to swarms Journal Of Materials Chemistry b 12, 2711-2719

Micro/nanomotors (MNMs) have evolved from single self-propelled entities to versatile systems capable of performing one or multiple biomedical tasks. When single MNMs self-assemble into coordinated swarms, either under external control or triggered by chemical reactions, they offer advantages that individual MNMs cannot achieve. These benefits include intelligent multitasking and adaptability to changes in the surrounding environment. Here, we provide our perspective on the evolution of MNMs, beginning with the development of enzymatic MNMs since the first theoretical model was proposed in 2005. These enzymatic MNMs hold immense promise in biomedicine due to their advantages in biocompatibility and fuel availability. Subsequently, we introduce the design and application of single motors in biomedicine, followed by the control of MNM swarms and their biomedical applications. In the end, we propose viable solutions for advancing the development of MNM swarms and anticipate valuable insights into the creation of more intelligent and controllable MNM swarms for biomedical applications.; Micro/nanomotor swarms propelled by diverse mechanisms.

JTD Keywords: Active particles, Actuation, Behaviors, Biocompatibility, Biomedical applications, Coordination reactions, Design and application, Diffusion, External control, Medical applications, Micromotors, Motion, Nanomotors, Powered nanomotors, Propulsion, Self-assemble, Surrounding environment, Theoretical modeling, Versatile system, Viable solutions


Simo, C, Serra-Casablancas, M, Hortelao, AC, Di Carlo, V, Guallar-Garrido, S, Plaza-Garcia, S, Rabanal, RM, Ramos-Cabrer, P, Yaguee, B, Aguado, L, Bardia, L, Tosi, S, Gomez-Vallejo, V, Martin, A, Patino, T, Julian, E, Colombelli, J, Llop, J, Sanchez, S, (2024). Urease-powered nanobots for radionuclide bladder cancer therapy Nature Nanotechnology 19, 554-564

Bladder cancer treatment via intravesical drug administration achieves reasonable survival rates but suffers from low therapeutic efficacy. To address the latter, self-propelled nanoparticles or nanobots have been proposed, taking advantage of their enhanced diffusion and mixing capabilities in urine when compared with conventional drugs or passive nanoparticles. However, the translational capabilities of nanobots in treating bladder cancer are underexplored. Here, we tested radiolabelled mesoporous silica-based urease-powered nanobots in an orthotopic mouse model of bladder cancer. In vivo and ex vivo results demonstrated enhanced nanobot accumulation at the tumour site, with an eightfold increase revealed by positron emission tomography in vivo. Label-free optical contrast based on polarization-dependent scattered light-sheet microscopy of cleared bladders confirmed tumour penetration by nanobots ex vivo. Treating tumour-bearing mice with intravesically administered radio-iodinated nanobots for radionuclide therapy resulted in a tumour size reduction of about 90%, positioning nanobots as efficient delivery nanosystems for bladder cancer therapy.© 2024. The Author(s).

JTD Keywords: cell, drug-delivery, nanomotors, tissue, Bladder cancers, Cancer therapy, Diseases, Drug administration, Drug delivery, Enhanced diffusion, Enhanced mixing, Ex-vivo, In-vivo, Mammals, Nanobots, Nanoparticles, Nanosystems, Oncology, Positron emission tomography, Radioisotopes, Silica, Survival rate, Therapeutic efficacy, Tumor penetration, Tumors


Fraire, JC, Guix, M, Hortelao, AC, Ruiz-González, N, Bakenecker, AC, Ramezani, P, Hinnekens, C, Sauvage, F, De Smedt, SC, Braeckmans, K, Sánchez, S, (2023). Light-Triggered Mechanical Disruption of Extracellular Barriers by Swarms of Enzyme-Powered Nanomotors for Enhanced Delivery Acs Nano 17, 7180-7193

Targeted drug delivery depends on the ability of nanocarriers to reach the target site, which requires the penetration of different biological barriers. Penetration is usually low and slow because of passive diffusion and steric hindrance. Nanomotors (NMs) have been suggested as the next generation of nanocarriers in drug delivery due to their autonomous motion and associated mixing hydrodynamics, especially when acting collectively as a swarm. Here, we explore the concept of enzyme-powered NMs designed as such that they can exert disruptive mechanical forces upon laser irradiation. The urease-powered motion and swarm behavior improve translational movement compared to passive diffusion of state-of-the-art nanocarriers, while optically triggered vapor nanobubbles can destroy biological barriers and reduce steric hindrance. We show that these motors, named Swarm 1, collectively displace through a microchannel blocked with type 1 collagen protein fibers (barrier model), accumulate onto the fibers, and disrupt them completely upon laser irradiation. We evaluate the disruption of the microenvironment induced by these NMs (Swarm 1) by quantifying the efficiency by which a second type of fluorescent NMs (Swarm 2) can move through the cleared microchannel and be taken up by HeLa cells at the other side of the channel. Experiments showed that the delivery efficiency of Swarm 2 NMs in a clean path was increased 12-fold in the presence of urea as fuel compared to when no fuel was added. When the path was blocked with the collagen fibers, delivery efficiency dropped considerably and only depicted a 10-fold enhancement after pretreatment of the collagen-filled channel with Swarm 1 NMs and laser irradiation. The synergistic effect of active motion (chemically propelled) and mechanical disruption (light-triggered nanobubbles) of a biological barrier represents a clear advantage for the improvement of therapies which currently fail due to inadequate passage of drug delivery carriers through biological barriers.

JTD Keywords: drug delivery, enzyme catalysis, nanoparticles, swarming, vapor nanobubbles, Drug delivery, Enzyme catalysis, Nanomotors, Nanoparticles, Swarming, Vapor nanobubbles


García-Alén, L, Kumru, H, Castillo-Escario, Y, Benito-Penalva, J, Medina-Casanovas, J, Gerasimenko, YP, Edgerton, VR, García-Alías, G, Vidal, J, (2023). Transcutaneous Cervical Spinal Cord Stimulation Combined with Robotic Exoskeleton Rehabilitation for the Upper Limbs in Subjects with Cervical SCI: Clinical Trial Biomedicines 11, 589

(1) Background: Restoring arm and hand function is a priority for individuals with cervical spinal cord injury (cSCI) for independence and quality of life. Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) promotes the upper extremity (UE) motor function when applied at the cervical region. The aim of the study was to determine the effects of cervical tSCS, combined with an exoskeleton, on motor strength and functionality of UE in subjects with cSCI. (2) Methods: twenty-two subjects participated in the randomized mix of parallel-group and crossover clinical trial, consisting of an intervention group (n = 15; tSCS exoskeleton) and a control group (n = 14; exoskeleton). The assessment was carried out at baseline, after the last session, and two weeks after the last session. We assessed graded redefined assessment of strength, sensibility, and prehension (GRASSP), box and block test (BBT), spinal cord independence measure III (SCIM-III), maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), ASIA impairment scale (AIS), and WhoQol-Bref; (3) Results: GRASSP, BBT, SCIM III, cylindrical grip force and AIS motor score showed significant improvement in both groups (p ≤ 0.05), however, it was significantly higher in the intervention group than the control group for GRASSP strength, and GRASSP prehension ability (p ≤ 0.05); (4) Conclusion: our findings show potential advantages of the combination of cervical tSCS with an exoskeleton to optimize the outcome for UE.

JTD Keywords: arm function, cervical spinal cord injury, electrical-stimulation, functional walking, functionality, grip force, hand function, individuals, injury, motor function, reliability, robotics, spasticity, transcutaneous electrical spinal cord stimulation, upper extremity, Epidural stimulation, Transcutaneous electrical spinal cord stimulation, Upper extremity


Badiola-Mateos, M, Osaki, T, Kamm, RD, Samitier, J, (2022). In vitro modelling of human proprioceptive sensory neurons in the neuromuscular system Scientific Reports 12, 21318

Proprioceptive sensory neurons (pSN) are an essential and undervalued part of the neuromuscular circuit. A protocol to differentiate healthy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) human neural stem cells (hNSC) into pSN, and their comparison with the motor neuron (MN) differentiation process from the same hNSC sources, facilitated the development of in vitro co-culture platforms. The obtained pSN spheroids cultured interact with human skeletal myocytes showing the formation of annulospiral wrapping-like structures between TrkC + neurons and a multinucleated muscle fibre, presenting synaptic bouton-like structures in the contact point. The comparative analysis of the genetic profile performed in healthy and sporadic ALS hNSC differentiated to pSN suggested that basal levels of ETV1, critical for motor feedback from pSN, were much lower for ALS samples and that the differences between healthy and ALS samples, suggest the involvement of pSN in ALS pathology development and progression.© 2022. The Author(s).

JTD Keywords: Amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis,pluripotent stem-cells,peripheral nervous-system,stretch reflex arc,mechanosensory circuit,cellular-localization,molecular-cloning,motor-neurons,muscle,expressio


Mesquida-Veny, F, Martínez-Torres, S, Del Río, JA, Hervera, A, (2022). Genetic control of neuronal activity enhances axonal growth only on permissive substrates Molecular Medicine 28, 97

Abstract Background Neural tissue has limited regenerative ability. To cope with that, in recent years a diverse set of novel tools has been used to tailor neurostimulation therapies and promote functional regeneration after axonal injuries. Method In this report, we explore cell-specific methods to modulate neuronal activity, including opto- and chemogenetics to assess the effect of specific neuronal stimulation in the promotion of axonal regeneration after injury. Results Opto- and chemogenetic stimulations of neuronal activity elicited increased in vitro neurite outgrowth in both sensory and cortical neurons, as well as in vivo regeneration in the sciatic nerve, but not after spinal cord injury. Mechanistically, inhibitory substrates such as chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans block the activity induced increase in axonal growth. Conclusions We found that genetic modulations of neuronal activity on both dorsal root ganglia and corticospinal motor neurons increase their axonal growth capacity but only on permissive environments.

JTD Keywords: activation, chemogenetics, electrical-stimulation, expression, functional recovery, increases, injury, motor cortex, neuronal activity, optogenetics, permissive substrate, promotes recovery, regeneration, Optogenetics, Regeneration, Spinal-cord


Wang, L, Huang, Y, Xu, H, Chen, S, Chen, H, Lin, Y, Wang, X, Liu, X, Sánchez, S, Huang, X, (2022). Contaminants-fueled laccase-powered Fe3O4@SiO2 nanomotors for synergistical degradation of multiple pollutants Materials Today Chemistry 26, 101059

Although an increasing number of micro/nanomotors have been designed for environmental remediation in the past decade, the construction of contaminants-fueled nanomotors for synergistically degrading multiple pollutants simultaneously remains a challenge. Herein, laccase-powered Fe3O4@silica nanomotors are fabricated, assisted with lipase enzyme for the enhanced degradation of multiple contaminants using the contaminants themselves as fuels. Notably, we demonstrate that representative industrial phenols and polycyclic aromatic pollutants possess the ability of triggering the enhanced Brownian motion of laccase nanomotors (De of 1.16 mu m(2)/s in 220 mu M biphenol A (BPA), 1.40 mu m(2)/s in 375 mu M Congo red (CR)). Additionally, the k(cat) value of lipase-assisted laccase-powered nanomotors increased over 1.4 times, enhancing their Brownian motion, while leading to the efficient degradation of multiple contaminants such as BPA, CR, and triacetin droplets within 40 min, simultaneously. Ultimately, the lipase-assisted laccase nanomotors exhibit great advantages over free laccase, free lipase, lipase nanomotors, or laccase nanomotors in K-m, k(cat), catalytic stability, recycling property, and the degradation efficiency of contaminants. Therefore, our work further broadens the library of enzyme-powered nanomotors and provides deep insights in synergistical enzymatic catalysis, thus paving avenues for environmental remediation based on enzyme-powered micro/nanomotors. (C) 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: core, dye, environmental remediation, enzyme catalysis, hybrid, light, microspheres, motors, pollutants removal, propulsion, removal, self-propulsion, shell, Core, Dye, Environmental remediation, Enzyme catalysis, Hybrid, Light, Micro/nanomotors, Micromotors, Microspheres, Motors, Pollutants removal, Propulsion, Removal, Self-propulsion, Shell


Hutson, TH, Hervera, A, (2022). Editorial: Biochemical and genetic tools to investigate the underlying mechanisms and treatment of sensorimotor pathologies Frontiers In Molecular Neuroscience 15, 1041458

Blithikioti C, Miquel L, Paniello B, Nuño L, Gual A, Ballester BR, Fernandez A, Herreros I, Verschure P, Balcells-Olivero M, (2022). Chronic cannabis use affects cerebellum dependent visuomotor adaptation Journal Of Psychiatric Research 156, 8-15

Cannabis is one of the most commonly used substances in the world. However, its effects on human cognition are not yet fully understood. Although the cerebellum has the highest density of cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R) in the human brain, literature on how cannabis use affects cerebellar-dependent learning is sparse. This study examined the effect of chronic cannabis use on sensorimotor adaptation, a cerebellar-mediated task, which has been suggested to depend on endocannabinoid signaling.Chronic cannabis users (n = 27) with no psychiatric comorbidities and healthy, cannabis-naïve controls (n = 25) were evaluated using a visuomotor rotation task. Cannabis users were re-tested after 1 month of abstinence (n = 13) to assess whether initial differences in performance would persist after cessation of use.Cannabis users showed lower adaptation rates compared to controls at the first time point. However, this difference in performance did not persist when participants were retested after one month of abstinence (n = 13). Healthy controls showed attenuated implicit learning in the late phase of the adaptation during re-exposure, which was not present in cannabis users. This explains the lack of between group differences in the second time point and suggests a potential alteration of synaptic plasticity required for cerebellar learning in cannabis users.Overall, our results suggest that chronic cannabis users show alterations in sensorimotor adaptation, likely due to a saturation of the endocannabinoid system after chronic cannabis use.Copyright © 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: Addiction, Cannabis, Cerebellum, Endocannabinoid system, Visuomotor adaptation


Arque, X, Patino, T, Sanchez, S, (2022). Enzyme-powered micro- and nano-motors: key parameters for an application-oriented design Chemical Science 13, 9128-9146

Nature has inspired the creation of artificial micro- and nanomotors that self-propel converting chemical energy into mechanical action. These tiny machines have appeared as promising biomedical tools for treatment and diagnosis and have also been used for environmental, antimicrobial or sensing applications. Among the possible catalytic engines, enzymes have emerged as an alternative to inorganic catalysts due to their biocompatibility and the variety and bioavailability of fuels. Although the field of enzyme-powered micro- and nano-motors has a trajectory of more than a decade, a comprehensive framework on how to rationally design, control and optimize their motion is still missing. With this purpose, herein we performed a thorough bibliographic study on the key parameters governing the propulsion of these enzyme-powered devices, namely the chassis shape, the material composition, the motor size, the enzyme type, the method used to incorporate enzymes, the distribution of the product released, the motion mechanism, the motion media and the technique used for motion detection. In conclusion, from the library of options that each parameter offers there needs to be a rational selection and intelligent design of enzymatic motors based on the specific application envisioned.

JTD Keywords: Catalase, Hydrogen-peroxide, Micro/nanomotors, Micromotors, Movement, Nanomotors, Propulsion, Surfactants, Therapy, Tumor microenvironment


Amil, AF, Ballester, BR, Maier, M, Verschure, PFMJ, (2022). Chronic use of cannabis might impair sensory error processing in the cerebellum through endocannabinoid dysregulation Addictive Behaviors 131, 107297

Chronic use of cannabis leads to both motor deficits and the downregulation of CB1 receptors (CB1R) in the cerebellum. In turn, cerebellar damage is often related to impairments in motor learning and control. Further, a recent motor learning task that measures cerebellar-dependent adaptation has been shown to distinguish well between healthy subjects and chronic cannabis users. Thus, the deteriorating effects of chronic cannabis use in motor performance point to cerebellar adaptation as a key process to explain such deficits. We review the literature relating chronic cannabis use, the endocannabinoid system in the cerebellum, and different forms of cerebellar-dependent motor learning, to suggest that CB1R downregulation leads to a generalized underestimation and misprocessing of the sensory errors driving synaptic updates in the cerebellar cortex. Further, we test our hypothesis with a computational model performing a motor adaptation task and reproduce the behavioral effect of decreased implicit adaptation that appears to be a sign of chronic cannabis use. Finally, we discuss the potential of our hypothesis to explain similar phenomena related to motor impairments following chronic alcohol dependency. © 2022

JTD Keywords: adaptation, addiction, alcohol-abuse, cerebellum, chronic cannabis use, cognition, deficits, endocannabinoid system, error processing, explicit, modulation, motor learning, release, synaptic plasticity, Adaptation, Adaptation, physiological, Alcoholism, Article, Behavioral science, Cannabinoid 1 receptor, Cannabis, Cannabis addiction, Cerebellum, Cerebellum cortex, Cerebellum disease, Chronic cannabis use, Computer model, Down regulation, Endocannabinoid, Endocannabinoid system, Endocannabinoids, Error processing, Hallucinogens, Human, Humans, Motor dysfunction, Motor learning, Nerve cell plasticity, Nonhuman, Physiology, Psychedelic agent, Purkinje-cells, Regulatory mechanism, Sensation, Sensory dysfunction, Sensory error processing impairment, Synaptic transmission, Task performance


Engel, AK, Verschure, PFMJ, Kragic, D, Polani, D, Effenberg, AO, Konig, P, (2022). Editorial: Sensorimotor Foundations of Social Cognition Frontiers In Human Neuroscience 16, 971133-971133

Mura, A, Maier, M, Ballester, BR, Costa, JD, Lopez-Luque, J, Gelineau, A, Mandigout, S, Ghatan, PH, Fiorillo, R, Antenucci, F, Coolen, T, Chivite, I, Callen, A, Landais, H, Gomez, OI, Melero, C, Brandi, S, Domenech, M, Daviet, JC, Zucca, R, Verschure, PFMJ, (2022). Bringing rehabilitation home with an e-health platform to treat stroke patients: study protocol of a randomized clinical trial (RGS@home) Trials 23, 518

Background: There is a pressing need for scalable healthcare solutions and a shift in the rehabilitation paradigm from hospitals to homes to tackle the increase in stroke incidence while reducing the practical and economic burden for patients, hospitals, and society. Digital health technologies can contribute to addressing this challenge; however, little is known about their effectiveness in at-home settings. In response, we have designed the RGS@home study to investigate the effectiveness, acceptance, and cost of a deep tech solution called the Rehabilitation Gaming System (RGS). RGS is a cloud-based system for delivering Al-enhanced rehabilitation using virtual reality, motion capture, and wearables that can be used in the hospital and at home. The core principles of the brain theory-based RGS intervention are to deliver rehabilitation exercises in the form of embodied, goal-oriented, and task-specific action.; Methods: The RGS@home study is a randomized longitudinal clinical trial designed to assess whether the combination of the RGS intervention with standard care is superior to standard care alone for the functional recovery of stroke patients at the hospital and at home. The study is conducted in collaboration with hospitals in Spain, Sweden, and France and includes inpatients and outpatients at subacute and chronic stages post-stroke. The intervention duration is 3 months with assessment at baseline and after 3, 6, and 12 months. The impact of RGS is evaluated in terms of quality of life measurements, usability, and acceptance using standardized clinical scales, together with health economic analysis. So far, one-third of the patients expected to participate in the study have been recruited (N = 90, mean age 60, days after stroke >= 30 days). The trial will end in July 2023.; Discussion: We predict an improvement in the patients' recovery, high acceptance, and reduced costs due to a soft landing from the clinic to home rehabilitation. In addition, the data provided will allow us to assess whether the prescription of therapy at home can counteract deterioration and improve quality of life while also identifying new standards for online and remote assessment, diagnostics, and intervention across European hospitals.

JTD Keywords: deep tech, e-health, home treatment, motor recovery, randomized clinical trial, stroke, upper extremities, virtual reality, Deep tech, E-health, Functional recovery, Home treatment, Motor recovery, Randomized clinical trial, Stroke, Upper extremities, Virtual reality, Wearables


Vilela, D, Guix, M, Parmar, J, Blanco-Blanes, A, Sánchez, S, (2022). Micromotor‐in‐Sponge Platform for Multicycle Large‐Volume Degradation of Organic Pollutants Small 18, 2107619

The presence of organic pollutants in the environment is a global threat to human health and ecosystems due to their bioaccumulation and long-term persistence. Hereby a micromotor-in-sponge concept is presented that aims not only at pollutant removal, but towards an efficient in situ degradation by exploiting the synergy between the sponge hydrophobic nature and the rapid pollutant degradation promoted by the cobalt-ferrite (CFO) micromotors embedded at the sponge's core. Such a platform allows the use of extremely low fuel concentration (0.13% H2 O2 ), as well as its reusability and easy recovery. Moreover, the authors demonstrate an efficient multicycle pollutant degradation and treatment of large volumes (1 L in 15 min) by using multiple sponges. Such a fast degradation process is due to the CFO bubble-propulsion motion mechanism, which induces both an enhanced fluid mixing within the sponge and an outward flow that allows a rapid fluid exchange. Also, the magnetic control of the system is demonstrated, guiding the sponge position during the degradation process. The micromotor-in-sponge configuration can be extrapolated to other catalytic micromotors, establishing an alternative platform for an easier implementation and recovery of micromotors in real environmental applications.© 2022 Wiley-VCH GmbH.

JTD Keywords: effective removal, fabrication, microbots, microjets, organic pollutants, propelled micromotors, self-propelled micromotors, sponges, water treatment, Oil-water separation, Organic pollutants, Water treatment


Arque, X, Torres, MDT, Patino, T, Boaro, A, Sanchez, S, de la Fuente-Nunez, C, (2022). Autonomous Treatment of Bacterial Infections in Vivo Using Antimicrobial Micro- and Nanomotors Acs Nano 16, 7547-7558

The increasing resistance of bacteria to existing antibiotics constitutes a major public health threat globally. Most current antibiotic treatments are hindered by poor delivery to the infection site, leading to undesired off-target effects and drug resistance development and spread. Here, we describe micro- and nanomotors that effectively and autonomously deliver antibiotic payloads to the target area. The active motion and antimicrobial activity of the silica-based robots are driven by catalysis of the enzyme urease and antimicrobial peptides, respectively. These antimicrobial motors show micromolar bactericidal activity in vitro against different Gram-positive and Gram-negative pathogenic bacterial strains and act by rapidly depolarizing their membrane. Finally, they demonstrated autonomous anti-infective efficacy in vivo in a clinically relevant abscess infection mouse model. In summary, our motors combine navigation, catalytic conversion, and bactericidal capacity to deliver antimicrobial payloads to specific infection sites. This technology represents a much-needed tool to direct therapeutics to their target to help combat drug-resistant infections.

JTD Keywords: antibiotic-resistance, antimicrobial peptides, autonomous treatment, bacterial infection, delivery, ll-37, nanomotors, nanoparticles, peptide, self-propulsion, tissue, vitro, wasp venom, Antibiotic-resistance, Antimicrobial peptides, Autonomous treatment, Bacterial infection, Delivery, Ll-37, Mesoporous silica nanoparticles, Nanomotors, Nanoparticles, Peptide, Self-propulsion, Tissue, Vitro, Wasp venom


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, 147790

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


Ballester, BR, Winstein, C, Schweighofer, N, (2022). Virtuous and Vicious Cycles of Arm Use and Function Post-stroke Frontiers In Neurology 13, 804211

Large doses of movement practice have been shown to restore upper extremities' motor function in a significant subset of individuals post-stroke. However, such large doses are both difficult to implement in the clinic and highly inefficient. In addition, an important reduction in upper extremity function and use is commonly seen following rehabilitation-induced gains, resulting in “rehabilitation in vain”. For those with mild to moderate sensorimotor impairment, the limited spontaneous use of the more affected limb during activities of daily living has been previously proposed to cause a decline of motor function, initiating a vicious cycle of recovery, in which non-use and poor performance reinforce each other. Here, we review computational, experimental, and clinical studies that support the view that if arm use is raised above an effective threshold, one enters a virtuous cycle in which arm use and function can reinforce each other via self-practice in the wild. If not, one enters a vicious cycle of declining arm use and function. In turn, and in line with best practice therapy recommendations, this virtuous/vicious cycle model advocates for a paradigm shift in neurorehabilitation whereby rehabilitation be embedded in activities of daily living such that self-practice with the aid of wearable technology that reminds and motivates can enhance paretic limb use of those who possess adequate residual sensorimotor capacity. Altogether, this model points to a user-centered approach to recovery post-stroke that is tailored to the participant's level of arm use and designed to motivate and engage in self-practice through progressive success in accomplishing meaningful activities in the wild. Copyright © 2022 Ballester, Winstein and Schweighofer.

JTD Keywords: compensatory movement, computational neurorehabilitation, decision-making, individuals, learned non-use, learned nonuse, monkeys, neurorehabilitation, recovery, rehabilitation, stroke, stroke patients, wearable sensors, wrist, Arm movement, Article, Cerebrovascular accident, Clinical decision making, Clinical practice, Clinical study, Compensatory movement, Computational neurorehabilitation, Computer model, Daily life activity, Decision-making, Experimental study, Human, Induced movement therapy, Learned non-use, Musculoskeletal function, Neurorehabilitation, Paresis, Sensorimotor function, Stroke, Stroke rehabilitation, User-centered design, Vicious cycle, Virtuous cycle, Wearable sensors


Valles, M, Pujals, S, Albertazzi, L, Sánchez, S, (2022). Enzyme Purification Improves the Enzyme Loading, Self-Propulsion, and Endurance Performance of Micromotors Acs Nano 16, 5615-5626

Enzyme-powered micro- and nanomotors make use of biocatalysis to self-propel in aqueous media and hold immense promise for active and targeted drug delivery. Most (if not all) of these micro- and nanomotors described to date are fabricated using a commercially available enzyme, despite claims that some commercial preparations may not have a sufficiently high degree of purity for downstream applications. In this study, the purity of a commercial urease, an enzyme frequently used to power the motion of micro- and nanomotors, was evaluated and found to be impure. After separating the hexameric urease from the protein impurities by size-exclusion chromatography, the hexameric urease was subsequently characterized and used to functionalize hollow silica microcapsules. Micromotors loaded with purified urease were found to be 2.5 times more motile than the same micromotors loaded with unpurified urease, reaching average speeds of 5.5 ?m/s. After comparing a number of parameters, such as enzyme distribution, protein loading, and motor reusability, between micromotors functionalized with purified vs unpurified urease, it was concluded that protein purification was essential for optimal performance of the enzyme-powered micromotor.

JTD Keywords: canavalin, catalysis, delivery, dls, enhanced diffusion, enzyme, lipase immobilization, micromotors, self-propulsion, super-resolution microscopy, urease, Mesoporous silica nanoparticles, Micromotors, Super-resolution microscopy


Matamoros-Angles, A, Hervera, A, Soriano, J, Marti, E, Carulla, P, Llorens, F, Nuvolone, M, Aguzzi, A, Ferrer, I, Gruart, A, Delgado-Garcia, JM, Del Rio, JA, (2022). Analysis of co-isogenic prion protein deficient mice reveals behavioral deficits, learning impairment, and enhanced hippocampal excitability Bmc Biology 20, 17

Background Cellular prion protein (PrP(C)) is a cell surface GPI-anchored protein, usually known for its role in the pathogenesis of human and animal prionopathies. However, increasing knowledge about the participation of PrP(C) in prion pathogenesis contrasts with puzzling data regarding its natural physiological role. PrP(C) is expressed in a number of tissues, including at high levels in the nervous system, especially in neurons and glial cells, and while previous studies have established a neuroprotective role, conflicting evidence for a synaptic function has revealed both reduced and enhanced long-term potentiation, and variable observations on memory, learning, and behavior. Such evidence has been confounded by the absence of an appropriate knock-out mouse model to dissect the biological relevance of PrP(C), with some functions recently shown to be misattributed to PrP(C) due to the presence of genetic artifacts in mouse models. Here we elucidate the role of PrP(C) in the hippocampal circuitry and its related functions, such as learning and memory, using a recently available strictly co-isogenic Prnp(0/0) mouse model (Prnp(ZH3/ZH3)). Results We performed behavioral and operant conditioning tests to evaluate memory and learning capabilities, with results showing decreased motility, impaired operant conditioning learning, and anxiety-related behavior in Prnp(ZH3/ZH3) animals. We also carried in vivo electrophysiological recordings on CA3-CA1 synapses in living behaving mice and monitored spontaneous neuronal firing and network formation in primary neuronal cultures of Prnp(ZH3/ZH3) vs wildtype mice. PrP(C) absence enhanced susceptibility to high-intensity stimulations and kainate-induced seizures. However, long-term potentiation (LTP) was not enhanced in the Prnp(ZH3/ZH3) hippocampus. In addition, we observed a delay in neuronal maturation and network formation in Prnp(ZH3/ZH3) cultures. Conclusion Our results demonstrate that PrP(C) promotes neuronal network formation and connectivity. PrP(C) mediates synaptic function and protects the synapse from excitotoxic insults. Its deletion may underlie an epileptogenic-susceptible brain that fails to perform highly cognitive-demanding tasks such as associative learning and anxiety-like behaviors.

JTD Keywords: anxiety, behavior, cellular prion protein, epilepsy, hippocampus, Anxiety, Behavior, Cellular prion protein, Developmental expression, Epilepsy, Gene-expression, Hippocampus, Kainate-induced seizures, Lacking, Ltp, Memory, Messenger-rna, Motor behavior, Mouse, Prp


dos Santos, FP, 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


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


Mestre, R, Patiño, T, Sánchez, S, (2021). Biohybrid robotics: From the nanoscale to the macroscale Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews-Nanomedicine And Nanobiotechnology 13, e01703

© 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC. Biohybrid robotics is a field in which biological entities are combined with artificial materials in order to obtain improved performance or features that are difficult to mimic with hand-made materials. Three main level of integration can be envisioned depending on the complexity of the biological entity, ranging from the nanoscale to the macroscale. At the nanoscale, enzymes that catalyze biocompatible reactions can be used as power sources for self-propelled nanoparticles of different geometries and compositions, obtaining rather interesting active matter systems that acquire importance in the biomedical field as drug delivery systems. At the microscale, single enzymes are substituted by complete cells, such as bacteria or spermatozoa, whose self-propelling capabilities can be used to transport cargo and can also be used as drug delivery systems, for in vitro fertilization practices or for biofilm removal. Finally, at the macroscale, the combinations of millions of cells forming tissues can be used to power biorobotic devices or bioactuators by using muscle cells. Both cardiac and skeletal muscle tissue have been part of remarkable examples of untethered biorobots that can crawl or swim due to the contractions of the tissue and current developments aim at the integration of several types of tissue to obtain more realistic biomimetic devices, which could lead to the next generation of hybrid robotics. Tethered bioactuators, however, result in excellent candidates for tissue models for drug screening purposes or the study of muscle myopathies due to their three-dimensional architecture. This article is categorized under: Therapeutic Approaches and Drug Discovery > Emerging Technologies Nanotechnology Approaches to Biology > Nanoscale Systems in Biology.

JTD Keywords: bacteria-bots, based biorobots, biorobots, bots, enzymatic nanomotors, hybrid robotics, muscle‐, Bacteria‐, Bacteria-bots, Biorobots, Enzymatic nanomotors, Hybrid robotics, Muscle-based biorobots


Demirel, B, Moulin-Frier, C, Arsiwalla, XD, Verschure, PFMJ, Sánchez-Fibla, M, (2021). Distinguishing Self, Other, and Autonomy From Visual Feedback: A Combined Correlation and Acceleration Transfer Analysis Frontiers In Human Neuroscience 15, 560657

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

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


Xu, DD, Hu, J, Pan, X, Sánchez, S, Yan, XH, Ma, X, (2021). Enzyme-Powered Liquid Metal Nanobots Endowed with Multiple Biomedical Functions Acs Nano 15, 11543-11554

Catalytically powered micro/nanobots (MNBs) can perform active movement by harnessing energy from in situ chemical reactions and show tremendous potential in biomedical applications. However, the development of imageable MNBs that are driven by bioavailable fuels and possess multiple therapeutic functions remains challenging. To resolve such issues, we herein propose enzyme (urease) powered liquid metal (LM) nanobots that are naturally of multiple therapeutic functions and imaging signals. The main body of the nanobot is composed of a biocompatible LM nanoparticle encapsulated by polydopamine (PDA). Urease enzyme needed for the powering and desired drug molecules, e.g., cefixime trihydrate antibiotic, are grafted on external surfaces of the PDA shell. Such a chemical composition endows the nanobots with dual-mode ultrasonic (US) and photoacoustic (PA) imaging signals and favorable photothermal effect. These LM nanobots exhibit positive chemotaxis and therefore can be collectively guided along a concentration gradient of urea for targeted transportation. When exposed to NIR light, the LM nanobots would deform and complete the function change from active drug carriers to photothermal reagents, to achieve synergetic antibacterial treatment by both photothermal and chemotherapeutic effects. The US and PA properties of the LM nanoparticle can be used to not only track and monitor the active movement of the nanobots in a microfluidic vessel model but also visualize their dynamics in the bladder of a living mouse in vivo. To conclude, the LM nanobots demonstrated herein represent a proof-of-concept therapeutic nanosystem with multiple biomedical functionalities, providing a feasible tool for preclinical studies and clinical trials of MNB-based imaging-guided therapy.

JTD Keywords: cell, chemo-photothermal therapy, chemotaxis, image tracking, liquid metal nanobots, nanomotors, tracking, Chemo-photothermal therapy, Chemotaxis, Image tracking, Liquid metal nanobots, Nanomotors


Hirsch, T, Barthel, M, Aarts, P, Chen, YA, Freivogel, S, Johnson, MJ, Jones, TA, Jongsma, MLA, Maier, M, Punt, D, Sterr, A, Wolf, SL, Heise, KF, (2021). A First Step Toward the Operationalization of the Learned Non-Use Phenomenon: A Delphi Study Neurorehabilitation And Neural Repair 35, 383-392

© The Author(s) 2021. Background: The negative discrepancy between residual functional capacity and reduced use of the contralesional hand, frequently observed after a brain lesion, has been termed Learned Non-Use (LNU) and is thought to depend on the interaction of neuronal mechanisms during recovery and learning-dependent mechanisms. Objective: Albeit the LNU phenomenon is generally accepted to exist, currently, no transdisciplinary definition exists. Furthermore, although therapeutic approaches are implemented in clinical practice targeting LNU, no standardized diagnostic routine is described in the available literature. Our objective was to reach consensus regarding a definition as well as synthesize knowledge about the current diagnostic procedures. Methods: We used a structured group communication following the Delphi method among clinical and scientific experts in the field, knowledge from both, the work with patient populations and with animal models. Results: Consensus was reached regarding a transdisciplinary definition of the LNU phenomenon. Furthermore, the mode and strategy of the diagnostic process, as well as the sources of information and outcome parameters relevant for the clinical decision making, were described with a wide range showing the current lack of a consistent universal diagnostic approach. Conclusions: The need for the development of a structured diagnostic procedure and its implementation into clinical practice is emphasized. Moreover, it exists a striking gap between the prevailing hypotheses regarding the mechanisms underlying the LNU phenomenon and the actual evidence. Therefore, basic research is needed to bridge between bedside and bench and eventually improve clinical decision making and further development of interventional strategies beyond the field of stroke rehabilitation.

JTD Keywords: diagnosis, experience-dependent non-use, perceptual disorders, rehabilitation, sensorimotor learning, Diagnosis, Experience-dependent non-use, Perceptual disorders, Rehabilitation, Sensorimotor learning


Vilela, D, Blanco-Cabra, N, Eguskiza, A, Hortelao, AC, Torrents, E, Sanchez, S, (2021). Drug-Free Enzyme-Based Bactericidal Nanomotors against Pathogenic Bacteria Acs Applied Materials & Interfaces 13, 14964-14973

The low efficacy of current conventional treatments for bacterial infections increases mortality rates worldwide. To alleviate this global health problem, we propose drug-free enzyme-based nanomotors for the treatment of bacterial urinary-tract infections. We develop nanomotors consisting of mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNPs) that were functionalized with either urease (U-MSNPs), lysozyme (L-MSNPs), or urease and lysozyme (M-MSNPs), and use them against nonpathogenic planktonic Escherichia coli. U-MSNPs exhibited the highest bactericidal activity due to biocatalysis of urea into NaHCO3 and NH3, which also propels U-MSNPs. In addition, U-MSNPs in concentrations above 200 μg/mL were capable of successfully reducing 60% of the biofilm biomass of a uropathogenic E. coli strain. This study thus provides a proof-of-concept, demonstrating that enzyme-based nanomotors are capable of fighting infectious diseases. This approach could potentially be extended to other kinds of diseases by selecting appropriate biomolecules.

JTD Keywords: biofilms, carbonate, e. coli, enzymatic nanomotors, infections, lysozyme, micromotors, nanomachines, proteins, self-propulsion, Biofilms, E. coli, Eliminate escherichia-coli, Enzymatic nanomotors, Infections, Nanomachines, Self-propulsion


Hortelao, AC, Simó, C, Guix, M, Guallar-Garrido, S, Julián, E, Vilela, D, Rejc, L, Ramos-Cabrer, P, Cossío, U, Gómez-Vallejo, V, Patiño, T, Llop, J, Sánchez, S, (2021). Swarming behavior and in vivo monitoring of enzymatic nanomotors within the bladder Science Robotics 6, eabd2823

Enzyme-powered nanomotors are an exciting technology for biomedical applications due to their ability to navigate within biological environments using endogenous fuels. However, limited studies into their collective behavior and demonstrations of tracking enzyme nanomotors in vivo have hindered progress toward their clinical translation. Here, we report the swarming behavior of urease-powered nanomotors and its tracking using positron emission tomography (PET), both in vitro and in vivo. For that, mesoporous silica nanoparticles containing urease enzymes and gold nanoparticles were used as nanomotors. To image them, nanomotors were radiolabeled with either I on gold nanoparticles or F-labeled prosthetic group to urease. In vitro experiments showed enhanced fluid mixing and collective migration of nanomotors, demonstrating higher capability to swim across complex paths inside microfabricated phantoms, compared with inactive nanomotors. In vivo intravenous administration in mice confirmed their biocompatibility at the administered dose and the suitability of PET to quantitatively track nanomotors in vivo. Furthermore, nanomotors were administered directly into the bladder of mice by intravesical injection. When injected with the fuel, urea, a homogeneous distribution was observed even after the entrance of fresh urine. By contrast, control experiments using nonmotile nanomotors (i.e., without fuel or without urease) resulted in sustained phase separation, indicating that the nanomotors’ self-propulsion promotes convection and mixing in living reservoirs. Active collective dynamics, together with the medical imaging tracking, constitute a key milestone and a step forward in the field of biomedical nanorobotics, paving the way toward their use in theranostic applications. 124 18

JTD Keywords: cell, reversal, silica nanoparticles, size, step, transport, Propelled micromotors


Mestre, R, Cadefau, N, Hortelao, AC, Grzelak, J, Gich, M, Roig, A, Sánchez, S, (2021). Nanorods Based on Mesoporous Silica Containing Iron Oxide Nanoparticles as Catalytic Nanomotors: Study of Motion Dynamics Chemnanomat 7, 134-140

© 2020 Wiley-VCH GmbH Self-propelled particles and, in particular, those based on mesoporous silica, have raised considerable interest due to their potential applications in the environmental and biomedical fields thanks to their biocompatibility, tunable surface chemistry and large porosity. Although spherical particles have been widely used to fabricate nano- and micromotors, not much attention has been paid to other geometries, such as nanorods. Here, we report the fabrication of self-propelled mesoporous silica nanorods (MSNRs) that move by the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide by a sputtered Pt layer, Fe2O3 nanoparticles grown within the mesopores, or the synergistic combination of both. We show that motion can occur in two distinct sub-populations characterized by two different motion dynamics, namely enhanced diffusion or directional propulsion, especially when both catalysts are used. These results open up the possibility of using MSNRs as chassis for the fabrication of self-propelled particles for the environmental or biomedical fields.

JTD Keywords: Mesoporous silica, Nanomotors, Nanorods, Porous materials, Self-propulsion


Costa, JD, Ballester, BR, Verschure, PFMJ, (2021). A Rehabilitation Wearable Device to Overcome Post-stroke Learned Non-use. Methodology, Design and Usability Communications In Computer And Information Science 1538, 198-205

After a stroke, a great number of patients experience persistent motor impairments such as hemiparesis or weakness in one entire side of the body. As a result, the lack of use of the paretic limb might be one of the main contributors to functional loss after clinical discharge. We aim to reverse this cycle by promoting the use of the paretic limb during activities of daily living (ADLs). To do so, we describe the key components of a system composed of a wearable bracelet (i.e., a smartwatch) and a mobile phone, designed to bring a set of neurorehabilitation principles that promote acquisition, retention and generalization of skills to the home of the patient. A fundamental question is whether the loss in motor function derived from learned–non–use may emerge as a consequence of decision–making processes for motor optimization. Our system is based on well-established rehabilitation strategies that aim to reverse this behaviour by increasing the reward associated with action execution and implicitly reducing the expected cost of using the paretic limb, following the notion of reinforcement–induced movement therapy (RIMT). Here we validate an accelerometer-based measure of arm use and its capacity to discriminate different activities that require increasing movement of the arm. The usability and acceptance of the device as a rehabilitation tool is tested using a battery of self–reported and objective measurements obtained from acute/subacute patients and healthy controls. We believe that an extension of these technologies will allow for the deployment of unsupervised rehabilitation paradigms during and beyond hospitalization time. © 2021, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

JTD Keywords: adls, hemiparesis, learned non-use, wearables, Activities of daily living, Adls, Functional loss, Generalisation, Hemiparesis, Learned non-use, Motor impairments, Neurorehabilitation [], Patient experiences, Stroke, Wearable devices, Wearable technology, Wearables


Blancas, Maria, Maffei, Giovanni, Sánchez-Fibla, Martí, Vouloutsi, Vasiliki, Verschure, P., (2020). Collaboration variability in autism spectrum disorder Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 14, (412), 559793

This paper addresses how impairments in prediction in young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) relate to their behavior during collaboration. To assess it, we developed a task where participants play in collaboration with a synthetic agent to maximize their score. The agent’s behavior changes during the different phases of the game, requiring participants to model the agent’s sensorimotor contingencies to play collaboratively. Our results (n = 30, 15 per group) show differences between autistic and neurotypical individuals in their behavioral adaptation to the other partner. Contrarily, there are no differences in the self-reports of that collaboration.

JTD Keywords: Autism, Prediction, Collaboration, Sensorimotor contingencies, Neurodiversity


Sánchez-Fibla, M., Forestier, S., Moulin-Frier, C., Puigbò, J. Y., Verschure, P., (2020). From motor to visually guided bimanual affordance learning Adaptive Behavior 28, (2), 63-78

The mechanisms of how the brain orchestrates multi-limb joint action have yet to be elucidated and few computational sensorimotor (SM) learning approaches have dealt with the problem of acquiring bimanual affordances. We propose a series of bidirectional (forward/inverse) SM maps and its associated learning processes that generalize from uni- to bimanual interaction (and affordances) naturally, reinforcing the motor equivalence property. The SM maps range from a SM nature to a solely sensory one: full body control, delta SM control (through small action changes), delta sensory co-variation (how body-related perceptual cues covariate with object-related ones). We make several contributions on how these SM maps are learned: (1) Context and Behavior-Based Babbling: generalizing goal babbling to the interleaving of absolute and local goals including guidance of reflexive behaviors; (2) Event-Based Learning: learning steps are driven by visual, haptic events; and (3) Affordance Gradients: the vectorial field gradients in which an object can be manipulated. Our modeling of bimanual affordances is in line with current robotic research in forward visuomotor mappings and visual servoing, enforces the motor equivalence property, and is also consistent with neurophysiological findings like the multiplicative encoding scheme.

JTD Keywords: Affordances, Bimanual affordances, Goal babbling, Interlimb coordination, Motor equivalence, Sensorimotor learning


Castillo-Escario, Y., Rodríguez-Cañón, M., García-Alías, G., Jané, R., (2020). Identifying muscle synergies from reaching and grasping movements in rats IEEE Access 8, 62517-62530

Reaching and grasping (R&G) is a skilled voluntary movement which is critical for animals. In this work, we aim to identify muscle synergy patterns from R&G movements in rats and show how these patterns can be used to characterize such movements and investigate their consistency and repeatability. For that purpose, we analyzed the electromyographic (EMG) activity of five forelimb muscles recorded while the animals were engaged in R&G tasks. Our dataset included 200 R&G attempts from three different rats. Non-negative matrix factorization was used to decompose EMG signals and extract muscle synergies. We compared all pairs of attempts and created cross-validated models to study intra- and inter-subject variability. We found that three synergies were enough to accurately reconstruct the EMG envelopes. These muscle synergies and their corresponding activation coefficients were very similar for all the attempts in the database, providing a general pattern to describe the movement. Results suggested that the movement strategy adopted by an individual in its different attempts was highly repetitive, but also resembled the strategies adopted by the other animals. Inter-subject variability was not much higher than intra-subject variability. This study is a proof-of-concept, but the proposed approaches can help to establish whether there is a stereotyped pattern of neuromuscular activity in R&G movement in healthy rats, and the changes that occur in animal models of acute neurological injuries. Research on muscle synergies could elucidate motor control mechanisms, and lead to quantitative tools for evaluating upper limb motor impairment after an injury.

JTD Keywords: Electromyography, Motor control, Muscle synergies, Reaching and grasping, Upper limb


Mestre, R., Cadefau, N., Hortelão, A. C., Grzelak, J., Gich, M., Roig, A., Sánchez, S., (2020). Nanorods based on mesoporous silica containing iron oxide nanoparticles as catalytic nanomotors: Study of motion dynamics ChemNanoMat 7, (2), 134-140

Self-propelled particles and, in particular, those based on mesoporous silica, have raised considerable interest due to their potential applications in the environmental and biomedical fields thanks to their biocompatibility, tunable surface chemistry and large porosity. Although spherical particles have been widely used to fabricate nano- and micromotors, not much attention has been paid to other geometries, such as nanorods. Here, we report the fabrication of self-propelled mesoporous silica nanorods (MSNRs) that move by the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide by a sputtered Pt layer, Fe2O3 nanoparticles grown within the mesopores, or the synergistic combination of both. We show that motion can occur in two distinct sub-populations characterized by two different motion dynamics, namely enhanced diffusion or directional propulsion, especially when both catalysts are used. These results open up the possibility of using MSNRs as chassis for the fabrication of self-propelled particles for the environmental or biomedical fields

JTD Keywords: Mesoporous silica, Nanomotors, Nanorods, Porous materials, Self-propulsion


Kaang, Byung Kwon, Mestre, Rafael, Kang, Dong-Chang, Sánchez, Samuel, Kim, Dong-Pyo, (2020). Scalable and integrated flow synthesis of triple-responsive nano-motors via microfluidic Pickering emulsification Applied Materials Today 21, 100854

Artificial micro-/nano-motors are tiny machines as newly emerging tools capable of achieving numerous tasks. In principle, the self-phoretic motions require asymmetric structures in geometry and chemistry. However, conventional production techniques suffered from complex and time consuming multi-step process in low uniformity, and difficult to endow multi-functions into motors. This work disclosed a continuous-flow synthesis of triple-responsive (thermophoretic, chemical and magnetic movement) nano-motors (m-SiO2/Fe3O4-Pdop/Pt) via microfluidic Pickering emulsification in a process of integrated and scalable manner. The droplet microfluidic process allows efficient self-assembly of the silica nanoparticles surrounding the spherical interface of resin droplet, rendering excellent Pickering efficiency and reproducibility, and followed by anisotropic decoration of polydopamine (Pdop) and Pt catalyst in a serial flow process. The obtained Janus nanoparticles reveal double- or triple-responsive self-propulsions with synergic mobility by combining thermophoresis powered by light, catalytic driven motion in H2O2 or magnetic movement by magnet. Further, a non-metallic polydopamine based thermophoretic motion as well as an automated nano-cleaner for rapid water purification by dye removal are convincingly functioned. Finally, this novel integrated flow strategy proves a scalable manufacturing production (> 0.7 g hr−1) of the nano-motors using inexpensive single microreactor, fulfilling quantitative and qualitative needs for versatile applications.

JTD Keywords: Microfluidics Pickering emulsions, Triple-responsive motor, Adsorbent


Xu, D., Wang, Y., Liang, C., You, Y., Sanchez, S., Ma, X., (2020). Self-propelled micro/nanomotors for on-demand biomedical cargo transportation Small 16, (27), 1902464

Micro/nanomotors (MNMs) are miniaturized machines that can perform assigned tasks at the micro/nanoscale. Over the past decade, significant progress has been made in the design, preparation, and applications of MNMs that are powered by converting different sources of energy into mechanical force, to realize active movement and fulfill on-demand tasks. MNMs can be navigated to desired locations with precise controllability based on different guidance mechanisms. A considerable research effort has gone into demonstrating that MNMs possess the potential of biomedical cargo loading, transportation, and targeted release to achieve therapeutic functions. Herein, the recent advances of self-propelled MNMs for on-demand biomedical cargo transportation, including their self-propulsion mechanisms, guidance strategies, as well as proof-of-concept studies for biological applications are presented. In addition, some of the major challenges and possible opportunities of MNMs are identified for future biomedical applications in the hope that it may inspire future research.

JTD Keywords: Biomedical applications, Cargo transportation, Guidance strategies, Micro/nanomotors, Self-propulsion


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

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

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


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

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

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


Llopis-Lorente, A., García-Fernández, A., Murillo-Cremaes, N., Hortelão, A. C., Patinño, T., Villalonga, R., Sancenón, F., Martínez-Máñer, R., Sánchez, S., (2019). Enzyme-powered gated mesoporous silica nanomotors for on-command intracellular payload delivery ACS Nano 13, (10), 12171-12183

The introduction of stimuli-responsive cargo release capabilities on self-propelled micro- and nanomotors holds enormous potential in a number of applications in the biomedical field. Herein, we report the preparation of mesoporous silica nanoparticles gated with pH-responsive supramolecular nanovalves and equipped with urease enzymes which act as chemical engines to power the nanomotors. The nanoparticles are loaded with different cargo molecules ([Ru(bpy)3]Cl2 (bpy = 2,2′-bipyridine) or doxorubicin), grafted with benzimidazole groups on the outer surface, and capped by the formation of inclusion complexes between benzimidazole and cyclodextrin-modified urease. The nanomotor exhibits enhanced Brownian motion in the presence of urea. Moreover, no cargo is released at neutral pH, even in the presence of the biofuel urea, due to the blockage of the pores by the bulky benzimidazole:cyclodextrin-urease caps. Cargo delivery is only triggered on-command at acidic pH due to the protonation of benzimidazole groups, the dethreading of the supramolecular nanovalves, and the subsequent uncapping of the nanoparticles. Studies with HeLa cells indicate that the presence of biofuel urea enhances nanoparticle internalization and both [Ru(bpy)3]Cl2 or doxorubicin intracellular release due to the acidity of lysosomal compartments. Gated enzyme-powered nanomotors shown here display some of the requirements for ideal drug delivery carriers such as the capacity to self-propel and the ability to “sense” the environment and deliver the payload on demand in response to predefined stimuli.

JTD Keywords: Controlled release, Drug delivery, Enzymatic catalysis, Gatekeepers, Nanocarriers, Nanomotors, Stimuli-responsive nanomaterials


Hortelão, Ana C., Carrascosa, Rafael, Murillo-Cremaes, Nerea, Patiño, Tania, Sánchez, Samuel, (2019). Targeting 3D bladder cancer spheroids with urease-powered nanomotors ACS Nano 13, (1), 429-439

Cancer is one of the main causes of death around the world, lacking efficient clinical treatments that generally present severe side effects. In recent years, various nanosystems have been explored to specifically target tumor tissues, enhancing the efficacy of cancer treatment and minimizing the side effects. In particular, bladder cancer is the ninth most common cancer worldwide and presents a high survival rate but serious recurrence levels, demanding an improvement in the existent therapies. Here, we present urease-powered nanomotors based on mesoporous silica nanoparticles that contain both polyethylene glycol and anti-FGFR3 antibody on their outer surface to target bladder cancer cells in the form of 3D spheroids. The autonomous motion is promoted by urea, which acts as fuel and is inherently present at high concentrations in the bladder. Antibody-modified nanomotors were able to swim in both simulated and real urine, showing a substrate-dependent enhanced diffusion. The internalization efficiency of the antibody-modified nanomotors into the spheroids in the presence of urea was significantly higher compared with antibody-modified passive particles or bare nanomotors. Furthermore, targeted nanomotors resulted in a higher suppression of spheroid proliferation compared with bare nanomotors, which could arise from the local ammonia production and the therapeutic effect of anti-FGFR3. These results hold significant potential for the development of improved targeted cancer therapy and diagnostics using biocompatible nanomotors.

JTD Keywords: 3D cell culture, Bladder cancer, Enzymatic catalysis, Nanomachines, Nanomotors, Self-propulsion, Targeting


Wang, Lei, Hortelão, Ana C., Huang, Xin, Sánchez, Samuel, (2019). Lipase-powered mesoporous silica nanomotors for triglyceride degradation Angewandte Chemie International Edition 58, (24), 7992-7996

We report lipase-based nanomotors that are capable of enhanced Brownian motion over long periods of time in triglyceride solution and of degrading triglyceride droplets that mimic “blood lipids”. We achieved about 40 min of enhanced diffusion of lipase-modified mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNPs) through a biocatalytic reaction between lipase and its corresponding water-soluble oil substrate (triacetin) as fuel, which resulted in an enhanced diffusion coefficient (ca. 50 % increase) at low triacetin concentration (<10 mm). Lipase not only serves as the power engine but also as a highly efficient cleaner for the triglyceride droplets (e.g., tributyrin) in PBS solution, which could yield potential biomedical applications, for example, for dealing with diseases related to the accumulation of triglycerides, or for environmental remediation, for example, for the degradation of oil spills.

JTD Keywords: Enzyme nanomotors, Lipase, Micromotors, Oil removal, Self-propulsion


Arqué, Xavier, Romero-Rivera, Adrian, Feixas, Ferran, Patiño, Tania, Osuna, Sílvia, Sánchez, Samuel, (2019). Intrinsic enzymatic properties modulate the self-propulsion of micromotors Nature Communications 10, (1), 2826

Bio-catalytic micro- and nanomotors self-propel by the enzymatic conversion of substrates into products. Despite the advances in the field, the fundamental aspects underlying enzyme-powered self-propulsion have rarely been studied. In this work, we select four enzymes (urease, acetylcholinesterase, glucose oxidase, and aldolase) to be attached on silica microcapsules and study how their turnover number and conformational dynamics affect the self-propulsion, combining both an experimental and molecular dynamics simulations approach. Urease and acetylcholinesterase, the enzymes with higher catalytic rates, are the only enzymes capable of producing active motion. Molecular dynamics simulations reveal that urease and acetylcholinesterase display the highest degree of flexibility near the active site, which could play a role on the catalytic process. We experimentally assess this hypothesis for urease micromotors through competitive inhibition (acetohydroxamic acid) and increasing enzyme rigidity (β-mercaptoethanol). We conclude that the conformational changes are a precondition of urease catalysis, which is essential to generate self-propulsion.

JTD Keywords: Biocatalysis, Immobilized enzymes, Molecular machines and motors


Patiño, Tania, Porchetta, Alessandro, Jannasch, Anita, Lladó, Anna, Stumpp, Tom, Schäffer, Erik, Ricci, Francesco, Sánchez, Samuel, (2019). Self-sensing enzyme-powered micromotors equipped with pH-responsive DNA nanoswitches Nano Letters 19, (6), 3440-3447

Biocatalytic micro- and nanomotors have emerged as a new class of active matter self-propelled through enzymatic reactions. The incorporation of functional nanotools could enable the rational design of multifunctional micromotors for simultaneous real-time monitoring of their environment and activity. Herein, we report the combination of DNA nanotechnology and urease-powered micromotors as multifunctional tools able to swim, simultaneously sense the pH of their surrounding environment, and monitor their intrinsic activity. With this purpose, a FRET-labeled triplex DNA nanoswitch for pH sensing was immobilized onto the surface of mesoporous silica-based micromotors. During self-propulsion, urea decomposition and the subsequent release of ammonia led to a fast pH increase, which was detected by real-time monitoring of the FRET efficiency through confocal laser scanning microscopy at different time points (i.e., 30 s, 2 and 10 min). Furthermore, the analysis of speed, enzymatic activity, and propulsive force displayed a similar exponential decay, matching the trend observed for the FRET efficiency. These results illustrate the potential of using specific DNA nanoswitches not only for sensing the micromotors’ surrounding microenvironment but also as an indicator of the micromotor activity status, which may aid to the understanding of their performance in different media and in different applications.

JTD Keywords: Micromotors, DNA-nanoswitch, pH detection, Self-propulsion, Nanosensors, Nanomotors


Herreros, Ivan, Miquel, Laia, Blithikioti, Chrysanthi, Nuño, Laura, Rubio Ballester, Belen, Grechuta, Klaudia, Gual, Antoni, Balcells-Oliveró, Mercè, Verschure, P., (2019). Motor adaptation impairment in chronic cannabis users assessed by a visuomotor rotation task Journal of Clinical Medicine 8, (7), 1049

Background—The cerebellum has been recently suggested as an important player in the addiction brain circuit. Cannabis is one of the most used drugs worldwide, and its long-term effects on the central nervous system are not fully understood. No valid clinical evaluations of cannabis impact on the brain are available today. The cerebellum is expected to be one of the brain structures that are highly affected by prolonged exposure to cannabis, due to its high density in endocannabinoid receptors. We aim to use a motor adaptation paradigm to indirectly assess cerebellar function in chronic cannabis users (CCUs). Methods—We used a visuomotor rotation (VMR) task that probes a putatively-cerebellar implicit motor adaptation process together with the learning and execution of an explicit aiming rule. We conducted a case-control study, recruiting 18 CCUs and 18 age-matched healthy controls. Our main measure was the angular aiming error. Results—Our results show that CCUs have impaired implicit motor adaptation, as they showed a smaller rate of adaptation compared with healthy controls (drift rate: 19.3 +/− 6.8° vs. 27.4 +/− 11.6°; t(26) = −2.1, p = 0.048, Cohen’s d = −0.8, 95% CI = (−1.7, −0.15)). Conclusions—We suggest that a visuomotor rotation task might be the first step towards developing a useful tool for the detection of alterations in implicit learning among cannabis users.

JTD Keywords: Cerebellum, Cannabis, Implicit motor learning, Motor adaptation, Visuomotor rotation


Maier, Martina, Ballester, Belén Rubio, Verschure, P., (2019). Principles of neurorehabilitation after stroke based on motor learning and brain plasticity mechanisms Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 13, 74

What are the principles underlying effective neurorehabilitation? The aim of neurorehabilitation is to exploit interventions based on human and animal studies about learning and adaptation, as well as to show that the activation of experience-dependent neuronal plasticity augments functional recovery after stroke. Instead of teaching compensatory strategies that do not reduce impairment but allow the patient to return home as soon as possible, functional recovery might be more sustainable as it ensures a long-term reduction in impairment and an improvement in quality of life. At the same time, neurorehabilitation permits the scientific community to collect valuable data, which allows inferring about the principles of brain organization. Hence neuroscience sheds light on the mechanisms of learning new functions or relearning lost ones. However, current rehabilitation methods lack the exact operationalization of evidence gained from skill learning literature, leading to an urgent need to bridge motor learning theory and present clinical work in order to identify a set of ingredients and practical applications that could guide future interventions. This work aims to unify the neuroscientific literature relevant to the recovery process and rehabilitation practice in order to provide a synthesis of the principles that constitute an effective neurorehabilitation approach. Previous attempts to achieve this goal either focused on a subset of principles or did not link clinical application to the principles of motor learning and recovery. We identified 15 principles of motor learning based on existing literature: massed practice, spaced practice, dosage, task-specific practice, goal-oriented practice, variable practice, increasing difficulty, multisensory stimulation, rhythmic cueing, explicit feedback/knowledge of results, implicit feedback/knowledge of performance, modulate effector selection, action observation/embodied practice, motor imagery, and social interaction. We comment on trials that successfully implemented these principles and report evidence from experiments with healthy individuals as well as clinical work.

JTD Keywords: Neurorehabilitation, Motor learning, Plasticity, Stroke, Principles


Ballester, B. R., Maier, M., Duff, A., Cameirão, M., Bermúdez, S., Duarte, E., Cuxart, A., Rodríguez, S., San Segundo Mozo, R. M., Verschure, P., (2019). A critical time window for recovery extends beyond one-year post-stroke Journal of neurophysiology Journal of Neurophysiology , 122, (1), 350-357

The impact of rehabilitation on post-stroke motor recovery and its dependency on the patient's chronicity remain unclear. The field has widely accepted the notion of a proportional recovery rule with a "critical window for recovery" within the first 3-6 mo poststroke. This hypothesis justifies the general cessation of physical therapy at chronic stages. However, the limits of this critical window have, so far, been poorly defined. In this analysis, we address this question, and we further explore the temporal structure of motor recovery using individual patient data from a homogeneous sample of 219 individuals with mild to moderate upper-limb hemiparesis. We observed that improvement in body function and structure was possible even at late chronic stages. A bootstrapping analysis revealed a gradient of enhanced sensitivity to treatment that extended beyond 12 mo poststroke. Clinical guidelines for rehabilitation should be revised in the context of this temporal structure. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Previous studies in humans suggest that there is a 3- to 6-mo "critical window" of heightened neuroplasticity poststroke. We analyze the temporal structure of recovery in patients with hemiparesis and uncover a precise gradient of enhanced sensitivity to treatment that expands far beyond the limits of the so-called critical window. These findings highlight the need for providing therapy to patients at the chronic and late chronic stages.

JTD Keywords: Motor recovery, Neuroplasticity, Neurorehabilitation, Stroke recovery, Virtual reality


Rubio Ballester, B., Mura, A., Maier, M., Tobella-Pareja, Laura, Alfayate-Domingo, D., Gimeno-Esteve, M. F., Aguilar, A., Verschure, P., (2019). Adaptive VR-based rehabilitation to prevent deterioration in adults with cerebral palsy Application of VR and Advanced Technology in Pediatric Populations International Conference on Virtual Rehabilitation 2019 (ICVR 2019) , ISVR (Tel Aviv, Israel) , 1-7

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disabling life-long condition progressively impeding a patient’s independence. Although incident rates are high, a clear understanding of the disease is missing. CP is characterized by several motor disorders and sensory or perceptive comorbidities. This multifaceted nature complicates proper diagnosis and hampers the search for possible treatments. During adolescence and adulthood, individuals with CP experience a drastic deterioration in gross motor control, independence, and quality of life. There is poor evidence that physical therapy promotes the retention of function through aging, and no clinical studies exist that explore the potential of VRbased training to prevent deterioration. In this pilot randomized controlled trial, we expose 14 adults with CP to the Rehabilitation Gaming System (RGS) and examine its usability, effectiveness, and acceptability. Our results show that the RGS difficulty adaptation algorithm automatically matches the patients' impairment level as captured by clinical scales (Barthel and Box & Blocks). The clinical effectiveness and acceptability of the RGS and conventional therapy were comparable. We conclude that VR-based physical therapy as an adjunct to usual treatment may be a promising approach for the prevention of deterioration in adolescents and adults with CP.

JTD Keywords: Cerebral palsy, Virtual realitY, Motor function, Physical therapy, Rehabilitation


Hortelão, A. C., Patiño, T., Perez-Jiménez, A., Blanco, A., Sánchez, S., (2018). Enzyme-powered nanobots enhance anticancer drug delivery Advanced Functional Materials 28, 1705086

The use of enzyme catalysis to power micro- and nanomotors exploiting biocompatible fuels has opened new ventures for biomedical applications such as the active transport and delivery of specific drugs to the site of interest. Here, urease-powered nanomotors (nanobots) for doxorubicin (Dox) anticancer drug loading, release, and efficient delivery to cells are presented. These mesoporous silica-based core-shell nanobots are able to self-propel in ionic media, as confirmed by optical tracking and dynamic light scattering analysis. A four-fold increase in drug release is achieved by nanobots after 6 h compared to their passive counterparts. Furthermore, the use of Dox-loaded nanobots presents an enhanced anticancer efficiency toward HeLa cells, which arises from a synergistic effect of the enhanced drug release and the ammonia produced at high concentrations of urea substrate. A higher content of Dox inside HeLa cells is detected after 1, 4, 6, and 24 h incubation with active nanobots compared to passive Dox-loaded nanoparticles. The improvement in drug delivery efficiency achieved by enzyme-powered nanobots may hold potential toward their use in future biomedical applications such as the substrate-triggered release of drugs in target locations.

JTD Keywords: Drug delivery, Enzymatic catalysis, Nanobots, Nanomachines, Nanomotors


Wang, Xu, Sridhar, Varun, Guo, Surong, Talebi, Nahid, Miguel-López, Albert, Hahn, Kersten, van Aken, Peter A., Sánchez, Samuel, (2018). Fuel-free nanocap-like motors actuated under visible light Advanced Functional Materials 28, (25), 1705862

The motion of nanomotors triggered by light sources will provide new alternative routes to power nanoarchitectures without the need of chemical fuels. However, most light-driven nanomotors are triggered by UV-light, near infrared reflection, or laser sources. It is demonstrated that nanocap shaped Au/TiO2 nanomotors (175 nm in diameter) display increased Brownian motion in the presence of broad spectrum visible light. The motion results from the surface plasmon resonance effect leading to self-electrophoresis between the Au and TiO2 layers, a mechanism called plasmonic photocatalytic effect in the field of photocatalysis. This mechanism is experimentally characterized by electron energy loss spectroscopy, energy-filtered transmission electron microscopy, and optical video tracking. This mechanism is also studied in a more theoretical manner using numerical finite-difference time-domain simulations. The ability to power nanomaterials with visible light may result in entirely new applications for externally powered micro/nanomotors.

JTD Keywords: Enhanced Brownian motion, Fuel-free nanomotors, Nanomachines, Self-electrophoresis, Visible light


Katuri, Jaideep, Caballero, David, Voituriez, R., Samitier, Josep, Sanchez, Samuel, (2018). Directed flow of micromotors through alignment interactions with micropatterned ratchets ACS Nano 12, (7), 7282-7291

To achieve control over naturally diffusive, out-of-equilibrium systems composed of self-propelled particles, such as cells or self-phoretic colloids, is a long-standing challenge in active matter physics. The inherently random motion of these active particles can be rectified in the presence of local and periodic asymmetric cues given that a non-trivial interaction exists between the self-propelled particle and the cues. Here, we exploit the phoretic and hydrodynamic interactions of synthetic micromotors with local topographical features to break the time-reversal symmetry of particle trajectories and to direct a macroscopic flow of micromotors. We show that the orientational alignment induced on the micromotors by the topographical features, together with their geometrical asymmetry, are crucial in generating directional particle flow. We also show that our system can be used to concentrate micromotors in confined spaces and identify the interactions responsible for this effect. Finally, we develop a minimal model which identifies the main parameters of the system responsible for the observed rectification. Overall, our system allows for robust control over both temporal and spatial distribution of synthetic micromotors.

JTD Keywords: Active colloids, Directional control, Janus particles, Micromotors, Self-propulsion


Villa, Katherine, Parmar, Jemish, Vilela, Diana, Sánchez, Samuel, (2018). Metal-oxide-based microjets for the simultaneous removal of organic pollutants and heavy metals ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 10, (24), 20478-20486

Water contamination from industrial and anthropogenic activities is nowadays a major issue in many countries worldwide. To address this problem, efficient water treatment technologies are required. Recent efforts have focused on the development of self-propelled micromotors that provide enhanced micromixing and mass transfer by the transportation of reactive species, resulting in higher decontamination rates. However, a real application of these micromotors is still limited due to the high cost associated to their fabrication process. Here, we present Fe2O3-decorated SiO2/MnO2 microjets for the simultaneous removal of industrial organic pollutants and heavy metals present in wastewater. These microjets were synthesized by low-cost and scalable methods. They exhibit an average speed of 485 ± 32 μm s–1 (∼28 body length per s) at 7% H2O2, which is the highest reported for MnO2-based tubular micromotors. Furthermore, the photocatalytic and adsorbent properties of the microjets enable the efficient degradation of organic pollutants, such as tetracycline and rhodamine B under visible light irradiation, as well as the removal of heavy metal ions, such as Cd2+ and Pb2+.

JTD Keywords: Micromotors, Photocatalytic, Water purification, Fenton, Magnetic control, Iron oxide, Manganese oxide


Parmar, J., Villa, K., Vilela, D., Sánchez, S., (2017). Platinum-free cobalt ferrite based micromotors for antibiotic removal Applied Materials Today 9, 605-611

Self-propelled micromotors have previously shown to enhance pollutant removal compared to non-motile nano-micro particles. However, these systems are expensive, difficult to scale-up and require surfactant for efficient work. Efficient and inexpensive micromotors are desirable for their practical applications in water treatment technologies. We describe cobalt-ferrite based micromotors (CFO micromotors) fabricated by a facile and scalable synthesis, that produce hydroxyl radicals via Fenton-like reaction and take advantage of oxygen gas generated during this reaction for self-propulsion. Once the reaction is complete, the CFO micromotors can be easily separated and collected due to their magnetic nature. The CFO micromotors are demonstrated for highly efficient advanced oxidative removal of tetracycline antibiotic from the water. Furthermore, the effects of different concentrations of micromotors and hydrogen peroxide on the antibiotic degradation were studied, as well as the generation of the highly reactive hydroxyl radicals responsible for the oxidation reaction.

JTD Keywords: Degradation, Fenton reaction, Microbots, Nanomotors, Self-propelled Micromotors, Water treatment


Stanton, Morgan M., Sánchez, Samuel, (2017). Pushing bacterial biohybrids to in vivo applications Trends in Biotechnology , 35, (10), 910-913

Bacterial biohybrids use the energy of bacteria to manipulate synthetic materials with the goal of solving biomedical problems at the micro- and nanoscale. We explore current in vitro studies of bacterial biohybrids, the first attempts at in vivo biohybrid research, and problems to be addressed for the future.

JTD Keywords: Bacteria, Biohybrid, Microswimmers, Micromotors, Drug delivery


Stanton, M. M., Park, B. W., Miguel-López, A., Ma, X., Sitti, M., Sánchez, S., (2017). Biohybrid microtube swimmers driven by single captured bacteria Small 13, (19), 1603679

Bacteria biohybrids employ the motility and power of swimming bacteria to carry and maneuver microscale particles. They have the potential to perform microdrug and cargo delivery in vivo, but have been limited by poor design, reduced swimming capabilities, and impeded functionality. To address these challenge, motile Escherichia coli are captured inside electropolymerized microtubes, exhibiting the first report of a bacteria microswimmer that does not utilize a spherical particle chassis. Single bacterium becomes partially trapped within the tube and becomes a bioengine to push the microtube though biological media. Microtubes are modified with "smart" material properties for motion control, including a bacteria-attractant polydopamine inner layer, addition of magnetic components for external guidance, and a biochemical kill trigger to cease bacterium swimming on demand. Swimming dynamics of the bacteria biohybrid are quantified by comparing "length of protrusion" of bacteria from the microtubes with respect to changes in angular autocorrelation and swimmer mean squared displacement. The multifunctional microtubular swimmers present a new generation of biocompatible micromotors toward future microbiorobots and minimally invasive medical applications.

JTD Keywords: Biohybrids, E. coli, Micromotors, Microswimmers, Polydopamine


Vilela, D., Stanton, M. M., Parmar, J., Sánchez, S., (2017). Microbots decorated with silver nanoparticles kill bacteria in aqueous media ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 9, (27), 22093-22100

Water contamination is one of the most persistent problems of public health. Resistance of some pathogens to conventional disinfectants can require the combination of multiple disinfectants or increased disinfectant doses, which may produce harmful byproducts. Here, we describe an efficient method for disinfecting Escherichia coli and removing the bacteria from contaminated water using water self-propelled Janus microbots decorated with silver nanoparticles (AgNPs). The structure of a spherical Janus microbot consists of a magnesium (Mg) microparticle as a template that also functions as propulsion source by producing hydrogen bubbles when in contact with water, an inner iron (Fe) magnetic layer for their remote guidance and collection, and an outer AgNP-coated gold (Au) layer for bacterial adhesion and improving bactericidal properties. The active motion of microbots increases the chances of the contact of AgNPs on the microbot surface with bacteria, which provokes the selective Ag+ release in their cytoplasm, and the microbot self-propulsion increases the diffusion of the released Ag+ ions. In addition, the AgNP-coated Au cap of the microbots has a dual capability of capturing bacteria and then killing them. Thus, we have demonstrated that AgNP-coated Janus microbots are capable of efficiently killing more than 80% of E. coli compared with colloidal AgNPs that killed only less than 35% of E. coli in contaminated water solutions in 15 min. After capture and extermination of bacteria, magnetic properties of the cap allow collection of microbots from water along with the captured dead bacteria, leaving water with no biological contaminants. The presented biocompatible Janus microbots offer an encouraging method for rapid disinfection of water.

JTD Keywords: Bactericidal, Magnetic control, Micromotors, Microswimmers, Self-propulsion, Silver nanoparticles


Ma, Xing, Sánchez, Samuel, (2017). Self-propelling micro-nanorobots: challenges and future perspectives in nanomedicine Nanomedicine 12, (12), 1363-1367

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

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

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


Ma, X., Sánchez, S., (2017). Bio-catalytic mesoporous Janus nano-motors powered by catalase enzyme Tetrahedron , 73, (33), 4883-4886

Enzyme triggered bio-catalytic reactions convert chemical energy into mechanical force to power micro/nano-machines. Though there have been reports about enzymes powered micro/nano-motors, enzymatic Janus nano-motor smaller than 100 nm has not been reported yet. Here, we prepared an enzyme powered Janus nano-motor by half-capping a thin layer of silicon dioxide (4 nm SiO2) onto a mesoporous silica nanoparticle (MSNP) of 90 nm, enabling asymmetry to the nano-architecture. The nano-motors are chemically powered by the decomposition of H2O2 triggered by the enzyme catalase located at one face of the nanoparticles. The self-propulsion is characterized by dynamic light scattering (DLS) and optical microscopy. The apparent diffusion coefficient was enhanced by 150% compared to their Brownian motion at low H2O2 concentration (i.e. below 3 wt%). Mesoporous nano-motors might serve as active drug delivery nano-systems in future biomedical applications such as intracellular drug delivery.

JTD Keywords: Enzyme catalysis, Janus particles, Mesoporous silica, Nano-motors, Nanomachine, Self-propulsion


Parmar, J., Vilela, D., Pellicer, E., Esqué-de los Ojos, D., Sort, J., Sánchez, S., (2016). Reusable and long-lasting active microcleaners for heterogeneous water remediation Advanced Functional Materials 26, (23), 4152-4161

Self-powered micromachines are promising tools for future environmental remediation technology. Waste-water treatment and water reuse is an essential part of environmental sustainability. Herein, we present reusable Fe/Pt multi-functional active microcleaners that are capable of degrading organic pollutants (malachite green and 4-nitrophenol) by generated hydroxyl radicals via a Fenton-like reaction. Various different properties of microcleaners, such as the effect of their size, short-term storage, long-term storage, reusability, continuous swimming capability, surface composition, and mechanical properties, are studied. It is found that these microcleaners can continuously swim for more than 24 hours and can be stored more than 5 weeks during multiple cleaning cycles. The produced microcleaners can also be reused, which reduces the cost of the process. During the reuse cycles the outer iron surface of the Fe/Pt microcleaners generates the in-situ, heterogeneous Fenton catalyst and releases a low concentration of iron into the treated water, while the mechanical properties also appear to be improved due to both its surface composition and structural changes. The microcleaners are characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), nanoindentation, and finite-element modeling (FEM).

JTD Keywords: Catalysts, Heterogeneous catalysis, Microcleaners, Micromotors, Nanorobots, Wastewater treatment


Ma, X., Jannasch, A., Albrecht, U. R., Hahn, K., Miguel-López, A., Schäffer, E., Sánchez, S., (2015). Enzyme-powered hollow mesoporous Janus nanomotors Nano Letters 15, (10), 7043-7050

The development of synthetic nanomotors for technological applications in particular for life science and nanomedicine is a key focus of current basic research. However, it has been challenging to make active nanosystems based on biocompatible materials consuming nontoxic fuels for providing self-propulsion. Here, we fabricate self-propelled Janus nanomotors based on hollow mesoporous silica nanoparticles (HMSNPs), which are powered by biocatalytic reactions of three different enzymes: catalase, urease, and glucose oxidase (GOx). The active motion is characterized by a mean-square displacement (MSD) analysis of optical video recordings and confirmed by dynamic light scattering (DLS) measurements. We found that the apparent diffusion coefficient was enhanced by up to 83%. In addition, using optical tweezers, we directly measured a holding force of 64 ± 16 fN, which was necessary to counteract the effective self-propulsion force generated by a single nanomotor. The successful demonstration of biocompatible enzyme-powered active nanomotors using biologically benign fuels has a great potential for future biomedical applications.

JTD Keywords: Enzyme, Hollow mesoporous silica nanoparticles, Hybrid motors, Janus particles, Nanomotors, Optical tweezers


Sánchez, S., Soler, L., Katuri, J., (2015). Chemically powered micro- and nanomotors Angewandte Chemie - International Edition 54, (4), 1414-1444

Chemically powered micro- and nanomotors are small devices that are self-propelled by catalytic reactions in fluids. Taking inspiration from biomotors, scientists are aiming to find the best architecture for self-propulsion, understand the mechanisms of motion, and develop accurate control over the motion. Remotely guided nanomotors can transport cargo to desired targets, drill into biomaterials, sense their environment, mix or pump fluids, and clean polluted water. This Review summarizes the major advances in the growing field of catalytic nanomotors, which started ten years ago.

JTD Keywords: Catalysis, Micromotors, Nanomotors, Robots, Self-propulsion


Ma, X., Katuri, J., Zeng, Y., Zhao, Y., Sánchez, S., (2015). Surface conductive graphene-wrapped micromotors exhibiting enhanced motion Small 11, (38), 5023–5027

Surface-conductive Janus spherical motors are fabricated by wrapping silica particles with reduced graphene oxide capped with a thin Pt layer. These motors exhibit a 100% enhanced velocity as compared to standard SiO2–Pt motors. Furthermore, the versatility of graphene may open up possibilities for a diverse range of applications from active drug delivery systems to water remediation.

JTD Keywords: Enhanced speed, Graphene wrapping, Janus micromotors, Janus particles, Micromotors, Surface conduction


Seo, K. D., Kwak, B. K., Sánchez, S., Kim, D. S., (2015). Microfluidic-assisted fabrication of flexible and location traceable organo-motor IEEE Transactions on Nanobioscience , 14, (3), 298-304

In this paper, we fabricate a flexible and location traceable micromotor, called organo-motor, assisted by microfluidic devices and with high throughput. The organo-motors are composed of organic hydrogel material, poly (ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA), which can provide the flexibility of their structure. For spatial and temporal traceability of the organo-motors under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPION; Fe3O4) were incorporated into the PEGDA microhydrogels. Furthermore, a thin layer of platinum (Pt) was deposited onto one side of the SPION-PEGDA microhydrogels providing geometrical asymmetry and catalytic propulsion in aqueous fluids containing hydrogen peroxide solution, H2O2. Furthermore, the motion of the organo-motor was controlled by a small external magnet enabled by the presence of SPION in the motor architecture.

JTD Keywords: Flexible, Hydrogel, Magnetic resonance imaging, Microfluidics, Micromotor, Microparticle, Organo-motor, Poly (ethylene glycol) diacrylate, Self-propulsion, Superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles


Khalil, I. S. M., Magdanz, V., Sánchez, S., Schmidt, O. G., Misra, S., (2015). Precise localization and control of catalytic janus micromotors using weak magnetic fields International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems , 12, (2), 1-7

We experimentally demonstrate the precise localization of spherical Pt-Silica Janus micromotors (diameter 5 μm) under the influence of controlled magnetic fields. First, we control the motion of the Janus micromotors in two-dimensional (2D) space. The control system achieves precise localization within an average region-of-convergence of 7 μm. Second, we show that these micromotors provide sufficient propulsion force, allowing them to overcome drag and gravitational forces and move both downwards and upwards. This propulsion is studied by moving the micromotors in three-dimensional (3D) space. The micromotors move downwards and upwards at average speeds of 19.1 μm/s and 9.8 μm/s, respectively. Moreover, our closed-loop control system achieves localization in 3D space within an average region-of-convergence of 6.3 μm in diameter. The precise motion control and localization of the Janus micromotors in 2D and 3D spaces provides broad possibilities for nanotechnology applications.

JTD Keywords: 3D space, Localization, Magnetic control, Micromotors, Self-propulsion


Urra, O., Casals, A., Jané, R., (2014). Synergy analysis as a tool to design and assess an effective stroke rehabilitation Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 36th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Chicago, USA) , 3550-3553

The poor rehabilitation success rate, including the cases of ineffective and detrimental adaptations, make stroke a leading cause of disability. Thus, it is essential to recognize the mechanisms driving healthy motor recovery to improve such rate. Stroke alters the Synergy Architecture (SA), the modular muscle control system. So SA analysis may constitute a powerful tool to design and assess rehabilitation procedures. However, current impairment scales do not consider the patient's neuromuscular state. To gain insights into this hypothesis, we recorded multiple myoelectric signals from upper-limb muscles, in healthy subjects, while executing a set of common rehabilitation exercises. We found that SA reveals optimized motor control strategies and the positive effects of the use of visual feedback (VF) on motor control. Furthermore we demonstrate that the right and left arm's SA share the basic structure within the same subject, so we propose using the unaffected limb's SA as a reference motion pattern to be reached through rehabilitation.

JTD Keywords: Bars, Electromyography, Motor drives, Neuromuscular, Vectors, Visualization


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

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

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


Antelis, J.M., Montesano, L., Giralt, X., Casals, A., Minguez, J., (2012). Detection of movements with attention or distraction to the motor task during robot-assisted passive movements of the upper limb Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 34th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (San Diego, USA) , 6410-6413

Robot-assisted rehabilitation therapies usually focus on physical aspects rather than on cognitive factors. However, cognitive aspects such as attention, motivation, and engagement play a critical role in motor learning and thus influence the long-term success of rehabilitation programs. This paper studies motor-related EEG activity during the execution of robot-assisted passive movements of the upper limb, while participants either: i) focused attention exclusively on the task; or ii) simultaneously performed another task. Six healthy subjects participated in the study and results showed lower desynchronization during passive movements with another task simultaneously being carried out (compared to passive movements with exclusive attention on the task). In addition, it was proved the feasibility to distinguish between the two conditions.

JTD Keywords: Electrodes, Electroencephalography, Induction motors, Medical treatment, Robot sensing systems, Time frequency analysis, Biomechanics, Cognition, Electroencephalography, Medical robotics, Medical signal detection, Medical signal processing, Patient rehabilitation, Attention, Cognitive aspects, Desynchronization, Engagement, Motivation, Motor learning, Motor task, Motor-related EEG activity, Physical aspects, Robot-assisted passive movement detection, Robot-assisted rehabilitation therapies, Upper limb


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

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

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