3D bioprinted robots

IBEC’s Smart Nano-Bio-Devices group – the institute’s experts in micro- and nanorobots – have used 3D bioprinting to produce ‘biorobots’ made of biological elements such as muscle tissue.

These bio-inspired soft robotic devices could offer many more capabilities for movement and performance – such as real-time bio-sensing, self-organization, adaptability, or self-healing – than existing systems, which use solely artificial materials.

“Bio-inspired soft robotics is an exciting new discipline, as it may help us overcome the limitations of traditional robotic systems, such as flexibility, responsiveness and adaptability,” says Samuel Sanchez, group leader at IBEC and ICREA research professor.

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Proteins can transfer electrons at a distance

Collaborating IBEC groups have published a study in Nature Communications that reveals that electron transfer can take place while a protein is approaching its partner site, and not only when the proteins are engaged, as was previously thought.

The results open up a new way of thinking about how proteins interact, and can have implications in a better understanding of many processes – such as photosynthesis, respiration and detoxification – in which electron transfer plays an important role.

The relocation of an electron from one chemical entity to another – electron transfer (ET) – doesn’t happen passively: electrons are carried individually by redox proteins.

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Is the bottom-up approach enough to understand a whole system?

An opinion piece by IBEC group leader Xavier Trepat has appeared in the News and Views section of the current issue of Nature, which is devoted to ‘Bottom-up biology’.

In his piece ‘Bottom does not explain top’, Xavier argues that understanding how complex biological structures – or even entire cells – are built can only provide a certain amount of insight into how biological systems function at higher levels of organization. There are many variables such as density, or even pathologies suffered by the subject, that affect cell behavior at the mesoscale – that is, at the longer, more ‘system-level’ scale than that of the individual components of an organism. Cells in a group, for example, can sense or respond to external stimuli that an individual cell cannot identify.

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IBEC celebrates COPD breakthroughs on World COPD Day

IBEC’s Biomedical Signal Processing and Interpretation (BIOSPIN) group have published a paper with King’s College London that offers new techniques to monitor COPD patients by non-invasive methods.

COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – is a progressive lung condition with no cure in which the patient’s airways become narrowed. Together with other mechanical abnormalities, airways obstruction increases the load on the respiratory muscles. This, in combination with respiratory muscle weakness in COPD patients, increases load-capacity imbalance and contributes to breathlessness. The IBEC group’s paper elucidates a new way of assessing inspiratory muscle function using mechanomyography, a non-invasive measure of muscle vibration associated with muscle contraction, jointly with surface electromyography.

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IBEC researchers uncover strategy to reduce chemotherapy side effects

Researchers at IBEC and IDIBELL have developed a light-regulated molecule that could improve chemotherapy treatments by controlling the activity of anticancer agents.

Chemotherapy – the use of cytotoxic agents to kill the rapidly proliferating cells in tumors – is one of our main tools in the fight against cancer. However, its effectiveness and the body’s tolerance of it is often dramatically limited: it can affect healthy areas rather than just the cancerous ones, which causes side effects.

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Scientists discover super-stretchy cells

One of the most enviable features of superheroes is their ability to stretch their bodies beyond imaginable limits. In a study published today in Nature, scientists have discovered that our cells can do just that.

With every beat of the heart and every breath into the lungs, cells in our body are routinely subjected to extreme stretching. This stretching is even more pronounced when cells shape our organs at the embryo stage, and when they invade tissues through narrow pores during cancer metastasis – but how cells undergo such large deformations without breaking has remained a mystery until now.

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Your face is pushed forward from the back of your head

The embryonic stem cells that form faces – neural crest cells – use an unexpected mechanism to develop our facial features, according to a new UCL-led study involving IBEC researchers.

By identifying how these cells move, the researchers’ findings could help understand how facial defects, such as cleft palate and facial palsy, occur.

This newly described mechanism is likely to be found in other cell movement processes, such as cancer invasion during metastasis or wound healing, so the findings may pave the way to developing a range of new therapies for these, too.

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Stone me!

The Signal and Information Processing for Sensing Systems group have revealed a new analytical technique that can be used to measure cannabinoids in plants and tobacco.

Working with the University of Cordoba, Santiago Marco’s group tackled the limitations of current analytical techniques used to determine cannabinoids in Cannabis sativa L. plants, which mostly rely on chromatography-based methods, which involve separating the components in fluid.

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The way tumor cells expand challenges current physics

Researchers from IBEC and UB have discovered that the way tumor cells expand defies the laws of physics.

In an article published today in Nature Physics, the researchers have challenged our current understanding of the discipline and developed a new framework that could help predict the conditions under which tumors initiate metastasis.

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Sleep apnea could promote tumor growth in the young

A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine has revealed that sleep apnea could promote the growth of lung cancer in younger individuals.

Researchers from IBEC, the University of Barcelona and Hospital Clinic show that, contrary to expectation, age could be a protective factor against the rapid tumor development induced by this respiratory disturbance of sleep and its immediate consequence, intermittent hypoxia.

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