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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Improving in vitro models to study the human intestine

IBEC’s Biomimetic Systems for Cell Engineering group has published a review about possible new strategies to study drug absorption in the intestine in the high-ranking journal Trends in Molecular Medicine.

Together with their collaborators at the Universidade do Porto, Elena Martinez’s group examines the current state-of-the-art of cell-based intestinal models, which have been used for drug absorption and metabolism studies since the 1980s. However, current models, which use Caco-2 cells derived from human intestinal tumors, are not fully representative of the human small intestine.

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Nature Physics’ ‘Insight’ issue features IBEC/Crick article

A review by IBEC group leader and ICREA research professor Xavier Trepat is one of six featured in Nature Physics’ latest ‘Insight’ issue, ‘The Physics of Living Systems’, in which all the articles have been co-authored by a physicist and a biologist.

Penned together with collaborator Erik Sahai from London’s Francis Crick Institute, Xavier’s article, ‘Mesoscale physical principles of collective cell organization’, reviews recent evidence showing that cell and tissue dynamics are governed by mesoscale physical principles – force, density, shape, adhesion and self-propulsion.

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Biomaterials as signal-releasing platforms

IBEC’s Biomaterials for Regenerative Therapies group has published a review of the state-of-the-art in biomaterials for skin healing that proposes a move towards more personalized, in situ therapies.

Skin wound healing repairs and restore tissue through a complex process that involves different cells and signalling molecules that regulate cellular response and the remodelling of the extracellular matrix. Publishing in Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, the article begins by summarizing recent advances in therapies for healing that combine biomolecule signals such as growth factors and cytokines with cells.

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Inspiration from a carpenter’s toolbox

IBEC’s Smart-Nano-Bio-Devices and Nanobioengineering groups have joined forces to solve the problem of random movement of micro- and nanomotors.

Samuel Sanchez’s group has been forging ahead with its creation of self-propelling micro- and nanodevices in the last few years. These chemically powered ‘swimmers’ are self-propelled by catalytic reactions in fluids – which could be the fluids of our body, or water – and have a number of promising applications, such as targeted drug delivery, environmental remediation, or as pick-up and delivery agents in lab-on-a-chip devices.

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