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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Water can be dead, electrically speaking

Research led by the University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute, with the collaboration with IBEC, reveals that water that’s only a few molecules thick – like the water that covers every surface around us – behaves very differently to normal, ‘bulk’ water.

Water is one of the most fascinating substances on Earth.  At the heart of its many unusual properties is its high polarizability – that is, its strong response to an applied electric field.

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Bacteria need vitamins too

IBEC’s Bacterial infections: antimicrobial therapies group has revealed the essential role played by a vitamin in the development of a common bacterial biofilm.

This new knowledge could play a part in understanding the spread of these bacteria, which will help towards the better design of targeted antibacterial drugs.

P. aeruginosa bacteria cause chronic lung infections in patients with cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by forming a mature biofilm – in which cells stick to each other and can grow on many different surfaces – that lets them grow and adapt.

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Physical forces regulate cell division

Researchers at IBEC have discovered that cell division in epithelial tissues is regulated by mechanical forces.

This revelation could potentially open avenues to a greater understanding of the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in tumors, and their possible regulation by means of physical forces.

Publishing in the June edition of Nature Cell Biology, the research group of ICREA professor Xavier Trepat, group leader at IBEC and associate professor at the University of Barcelona (UB), describe how the mechanical state of epithelial tissues – the continuous sheets of cells that cover all the exposed surfaces of the body – is related to the cell cycle and cell division.

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Super-resolution imaging guides the design of biocompatible microswimmers

Two IBEC groups have clubbed together to combine their expertise and reveal new knowledge that could advance the design of micro- and nanomotors for applications in health.

By harnessing the unprecedented resolution of Lorenzo Albertazzi’s group’s STORM microscope, Samuel Sánchez’s group – in collaboration with Erik Schäffer’s group at the University of Tübingen – have been able to reveal new information about how their enzyme-powered nanomotors achieve motion.

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IBEC research on cover of Trends

Alberto Elosegui-Artola, Xavier Trepat and Pere Roca-Cusachs’ paper in Trends in Cell Biology has made the cover of the latest issue of the Cell-family journal.

In ‘Control of Mechanotransduction by Molecular Clutch Dynamics’, the IBEC researchers review how cell dynamics and mechanotransduction are driven by molecular clutch dynamics.
The molecular clutch hypothesis suggests a mechanism of coupling between integrins and actin during cell migration, whereby a series of bonds that dynamically engage and disengage link cells to their microenvironment.

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Young at heart: novel temporal window of cardiac regeneration

A study carried out at CMR[B] in collaboration with IBEC and the UB has established that the ability of the heart to regenerate after a wound is related to the stiffness of its cellular environment and not only to the proliferative capacity of the cardiac cells, narrowing the window of regeneration to 48 hours after birth.

The research, published in Science Advances, paves the way for the development of therapies based on the pharmacological modification of the extracellular matrix to promote tissue regeneration after a heart attack or stroke.

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Cells communicate by changing their environment

Researchers at IBEC and MIT have shown that cells could use their environment to mechanically communicate with each other within tissues. It’s a bit like when an army cadet pulls some rope netting taut so that his friend can safely ascend.

To nourish our organs and tissues, cells need to constantly detect and respond to the mechanical stimuli from their environment. Generally, cells that make up the tissues in our bodies are immersed in an extracellular matrix (ECM), ​​a biopolymer made of proteins and glycoproteins such as collagen or fibrin. This ECM provides the cells with a way to interact with other cells, obtain nutrients, eliminate waste and ultimately form an integral and functional tissue.

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