Closer to a functional atlas of the brain

Scientists from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia develop a technique that enables them to work out the specific function of a neuronal receptor according to its location in the brain. The study, published in PNAS, is based on the activation of photoswitchable drugs with micrometric precision and offers new opportunities in neurobiology.

Schizophrenia, depression, myasthenia… Many neurological diseases are due to the malfunctioning of a neuronal receptor. These proteins, also known as neuroreceptors, are responsible for sending and detecting neurotransmitters, chemical substances that allow communication between neurons.

Read more…

Binucleated cells could be the key in heart regeneration

A research team led by the IBEC, in collaboration with the CMR [B], discovers a mechanism that generates binucleated cells.This mechanism has been identified during the regeneration of the heart of the zebrafish, and could be associated with the extraordinary regenerative power of this animal.

After an acute heart lesion, such as a myocardial infarction, the human heart is unable to regenerate. The adult cardiac cells cannot grow and divide to replace the damaged ones, and the lesion becomes irreversible. But this does not happen in all animals. A freshwater fish native to Southeast Asia, known as a zebrafish, can completely regenerate its heart even after 20% ventricular amputation.

Read more…

The hippocampus orchestrates the cerebral process that allows us to recall memories

For the first time in humans, researchers from IBEC have simultaneously recorded the brain activity of the two key areas linked to memory: the hippocampus and the neocortex.

This study was made possible thanks to the voluntary participation of epilepsy patients who, due to their disease, have intracranial electrode implants. Making use of virtual reality, the participants performed spatial memory tasks.
The taste of your favourite snack after school, your first kiss, that time you partied until dawn… Memories are a way of travelling into the past. Despite how easy it can be to remember a situation, the cerebral process taking place is complex and continues to be, for the most part, a mystery.

Read more…

Researchers from the IBEC develop a Virtual Reality system to treat speech disorders

Researchers from the IBEC have developed a virtual reality-based system for rehabilitating patients with Broca’s aphasia. RGSa has been proven to improve communicative frequency and effectiveness in daily life, as well as sustaining improvements in testing after an 8-week period.

Rehabilitation to recover speech after brain damage is efficient, provided that it is carried out intensively, and can be included in relevant behavioural tasks. However, limited resources in healthcare systems cannot always provide said treatment in sufficient doses. Achieving a cost-effective, evidence-based rehabilitation method is one of the objectives targeted by the SPECS research group.

Read more…

Moldless approach to generate 3D intestinal tissue model using hydrogels

The Biomimetic systems for cell engineering group has developed a new method to generate 3D intestinal tissue using hydrogels. This new in vitro model has been improved by providing cells with a more physiologically realistic environment, including tissue architecture, cell-matrix interactions and chemical signalling while remaining compatible with standard cell characterization techniques.

Epithelial tissues contain complex three-dimensional microtopographies that are essential for their proper performance. These 3D microstructures provide cells with the physicochemical and mechanical signals needed to guide their self-organization into functional tissue structures and are key to their proper functioning.

Read more…

A step forward in using nanoparticles to fight bacterial resistance

The Bacterial Infections: Antimicrobial Therapies group from IBEC, led by Eduard Torrents, has designed a new method that, for the first time, makes it possible to check antimicrobial treatment efficacy in the presence of nanoparticles.This new technique has recently been published in the Journal of Nanobiotechnology..

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the main threats facing global healthcare today. According to data from the WHO, there are an increasing number of infections (pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea) that are more difficult to treat given that many antibiotics have lost their effectiveness. The root of this problem lies in the excessive use and misuse of antibiotics, which causes bacteria to become resistant to them. As a result, antibiotics are no longer effective.

Read more…

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

A scientific team led by IBEC and UAB manages to efficiently activate molecules located inside cell tissues using two-photon excitation of with infrared light lasers. The results of the study has been published in Nature Communications.

Having absolute control of the activity of a molecule in an organism. Deciding when, where and how a drug is activated. These are some of the goals expected to be reached with the so-called photoswitchable molecules, compounds that, in the presence of certain light waves, change their properties. Today, thanks to the results of a study led by the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) together with the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), the scientific community is one step closer to achieving this objective.

Read more…

Urea-powered nanomotors a promising therapy for bladder cancer

IBEC’s Smart Nano-Bio-Devices group have published a paper describing nanomotors that can attack 3D bladder cancer spheroids in vitro.

The nanomotors carry anti-FGFR3 on their outer surface, an antibody that not only enables cancerous cells to be specifically targeted, but also inhibits the fibroblast growth factor signaling pathway, suppressing tumor growth. Crucially, the fuel that gives the nanomotors the capability of autonomous motion is urea, which is present at high concentrations in the bladder – making these particular nanomotors a promising avenue for this particular cancer.

Read more…

IBEC researchers generate mini-kidneys vascularized from stem cells

Researchers from the IBEC have created, for the first time, 3D organoid cultures from pluripotent stem cells, which resemble human embryonic kidney tissue during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Using biomaterials that mimic the embryonic microenvironment, researchers have also achieved mini-kidneys with relevant features for immediate use in renal disease modeling.
A study published today in Nature Materials reports how researchers from IBEC have created organoids, or mini-organs, that resemble the human embryonic kidney, and how these 3D cultures mimic essential aspects during the formation of the kidney, such as distribution, functionality and specific organization of cells.

Read more…

Large-scale curvature sensing by directional actin flow drives cellular migration mode switching

Cell migration is an essential biological process that drives tissue and organ formation during embryo development, and also helps protect the body through immune response and wound healing mechanisms. The shape changes necessary for cell migration depends on dynamic organization and force generation from the cell’s internal actomyosin cytoskeleton, which is made up of structural actin filaments and contractile myosin motor proteins.

Reorganization of these components enables two mechanisms of cell migration.

Read more…