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Year 2018


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Moulin-Frier, C., Fischer, T., Petit, M., Pointeau, G., Puigbo, J., Pattacini, U., Low, S. C., Camilleri, D., Nguyen, P., Hoffmann, M., Chang, H. J., Zambelli, M., Mealier, A., Damianou, A., Metta, G., Prescott, T. J., Demiris, Y., Dominey, P. F., Verschure, P. F. M. J., (2018). DAC-h3: A proactive robot cognitive architecture to acquire and express knowledge about the world and the self IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems in press

This paper introduces a cognitive architecture for a humanoid robot to engage in a proactive, mixed-initiative exploration and manipulation of its environment, where the initiative can originate from both the human and the robot. The framework, based on a biologically-grounded theory of the brain and mind, integrates a reactive interaction engine, a number of state-of-the art perceptual and motor learning algorithms, as well as planning abilities and an autobiographical memory. The architecture as a whole drives the robot behavior to solve the symbol grounding problem, acquire language capabilities, execute goal-oriented behavior, and express a verbal narrative of its own experience in the world. We validate our approach in human-robot interaction experiments with the iCub humanoid robot, showing that the proposed cognitive architecture can be applied in real time within a realistic scenario and that it can be used with naive users.

Keywords: Autobiographical Memory., Biology, Cognition, Cognitive Robotics, Computer architecture, Distributed Adaptive Control, Grounding, Human-Robot Interaction, Humanoid robots, Robot sensing systems, Symbol Grounding


Garreta, Elena, Montserrat, Nuria, Belmonte, Juan Carlos Izpisua, (2018). Kidney organoids for disease modeling Oncotarget 9, (16), 12552-12553

Thottacherry, Joseph Jose, Kosmalska, Anita Joanna, Elosegui-Artola, Alberto, Pradhan, Susav, Sharma, Sumit, Singh, Parvinder P., Guadamillas, Marta C., Chaudhary, Natasha, Vishwakarma, Ram, Trepat, Xavier, del Pozo, Miguel A., Parton, Robert G., Pullarkat, Pramod, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Mayor, Satyajit, (2018). Mechanochemical feedback and control of endocytosis and membrane tension bioRxiv In press

Plasma membrane tension is an important factor that regulates many key cellular processes. Membrane trafficking is tightly coupled to membrane tension and can modulate the latter by addition or removal of the membrane. However, the cellular pathway(s) involved in these processes are poorly understood. Although a number of endocytic processes function simultaneously at the cell surface, we find that a dynamin and clathrin-independent pathway, the CLIC/GEEC (CG) pathway, is rapidly and specifically upregulated upon reduction of tension. On the other hand, inhibition of the CG pathway results in lower membrane tension, while up regulation significantly enhances membrane tension. We find that vinculin, a well-studied mechanotransducer, mediates the tension-dependent regulation of the CG pathway. Vinculin negatively regulates a key CG pathway regulator, GBF1, at the plasma membrane in a tension dependent manner. Thus, the CG pathway operates in a negative feedback loop with membrane tension which leads to a homeostatic regulation of membrane tension.


Fumagalli, L., Esfandiar, A., Fabregas, R., Hu, S., Ares, P., Janardanan, A., Yang, Q., Radha, B., Taniguchi, T., Watanabe, K., Gomila, G., Novoselov, K. S., Geim, A. K., (2018). Anomalously low dielectric constant of confined water Science 360, (6395), 1339-1342

Theoretical studies predict that the inhibition of rotational motion of water near a solid surface will decrease its local dielectric constant. Fumagalli et al. fabricated thin channels in insulating hexagonal boron nitride on top of conducting graphene layers (see the Perspective by Kalinin). The channels, which varied in height from 1 to 300 nanometers, were filled with water and capped with a boron nitride layer. Modeling of the capacitance measurements made with an atomic force microscope tip revealed a surface-layer dielectric constant of 2, compared with the bulk value of 80 for water.Science, this issue p. 1339; see also p. 1302The dielectric constant ε of interfacial water has been predicted to be smaller than that of bulk water (ε ≈ 80) because the rotational freedom of water dipoles is expected to decrease near surfaces, yet experimental evidence is lacking. We report local capacitance measurements for water confined between two atomically flat walls separated by various distances down to 1 nanometer. Our experiments reveal the presence of an interfacial layer with vanishingly small polarization such that its out-of-plane ε is only ~2. The electrically dead layer is found to be two to three molecules thick. These results provide much-needed feedback for theories describing water-mediated surface interactions and the behavior of interfacial water, and show a way to investigate the dielectric properties of other fluids and solids under extreme confinement.


Hervera, A., De Virgiliis, F., Palmisano, I., Zhou, L., Tantardini, E., Kong, G., Hutson, T., Danzi, M. C., Perry, R. B. T., Santos, C. X. C., Kapustin, A. N., Fleck, R. A., Del Río, J. A., Carroll, T., Lemmon, V., Bixby, J. L., Shah, A. M., Fainzilber, M., Di Giovanni, S., (2018). Reactive oxygen species regulate axonal regeneration through the release of exosomal NADPH oxidase 2 complexes into injured axons Nature Cell Biology 20, (3), 307-319

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) contribute to tissue damage and remodelling mediated by the inflammatory response after injury. Here we show that ROS, which promote axonal dieback and degeneration after injury, are also required for axonal regeneration and functional recovery after spinal injury. We find that ROS production in the injured sciatic nerve and dorsal root ganglia requires CX3CR1-dependent recruitment of inflammatory cells. Next, exosomes containing functional NADPH oxidase 2 complexes are released from macrophages and incorporated into injured axons via endocytosis. Once in axonal endosomes, active NOX2 is retrogradely transported to the cell body through an importin-β1–dynein-dependent mechanism. Endosomal NOX2 oxidizes PTEN, which leads to its inactivation, thus stimulating PI3K–phosporylated (p-)Akt signalling and regenerative outgrowth. Challenging the view that ROS are exclusively involved in nerve degeneration, we propose a previously unrecognized role of ROS in mammalian axonal regeneration through a NOX2–PI3K–p-Akt signalling pathway.

Keywords: Adult neurogenesis, Endocytosis, Exocytosis, Monocytes and macrophages, Stress signalling


Uroz, Marina, Wistorf, Sabrina, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Conte, Vito, Sales-Pardo, Marta, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Guimerà, Roger, Trepat, Xavier, (2018). Regulation of cell cycle progression by cell–cell and cell–matrix forces Nature Cell Biology 20, (6), 646-654

It has long been proposed that the cell cycle is regulated by physical forces at the cell–cell and cell–extracellular matrix (ECM) interfaces. However, the evolution of these forces during the cycle has never been measured in a tissue, and whether this evolution affects cell cycle progression is unknown. Here, we quantified cell–cell tension and cell–ECM traction throughout the complete cycle of a large cell population in a growing epithelium. These measurements unveil temporal mechanical patterns that span the entire cell cycle and regulate its duration, the G1–S transition and mitotic rounding. Cells subjected to higher intercellular tension exhibit a higher probability to transition from G1 to S, as well as shorter G1 and S–G2–M phases. Moreover, we show that tension and mechanical energy are better predictors of the duration of G1 than measured geometric properties. Tension increases during the cell cycle but decreases 3 hours before mitosis. Using optogenetic control of contractility, we show that this tension drop favours mitotic rounding. Our results establish that cell cycle progression is regulated cooperatively by forces between the dividing cell and its neighbours.


Farré, R., Navajas, D., Montserrat, J. M., (2018). Is telemedicine a key tool for improving continuous positive airway pressure adherence in patients with sleep apnea? American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 197, (1), 12-14

Hernandez-Benitez, R., Llanos Martinez-Martinez, M., Lajara, J., Magistretti, P., Montserrat, N., Izpisua Belmonte, Juan Carlos, (2018). At the heart of genome editing and cardiovascular diseases Circulation Research 123, (2), 221-223

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the leading cause of death worldwide, but the knowledge and technologies for counteracting this disease may already be in our hands. Scientific advances over the past few years, such as the isolation and differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells, and the development of gene-editing tools, have enabled us to model CVD, but more importantly, may represent tools for CVD early diagnosis, patient stratification, and treatment.


Liu, Yiliu, Pujals, Sílvia, Stals, Patrick J. M., Paulöhrl, Thomas, Presolski, Stanislav I., Meijer, E. W., Albertazzi, Lorenzo, Palmans, Anja R. A., (2018). Catalytically active single-chain polymeric nanoparticles: Exploring their functions in complex biological media Journal of the American Chemical Society 140, (9), 3423-3433

Dynamic single-chain polymeric nanoparticles (SCPNs) are intriguing, bioinspired architectures that result from the collapse or folding of an individual polymer chain into a nanometer-sized particle. Here we present a detailed biophysical study on the behavior of dynamic SCPNs in living cells and an evaluation of their catalytic functionality in such a complex medium. We first developed a number of delivery strategies that allowed the selective localization of SCPNs in different cellular compartments. Live/dead tests showed that the SCPNs were not toxic to cells while spectral imaging revealed that SCPNs provide a structural shielding and reduced the influence from the outer biological media. The ability of SCPNs to act as catalysts in biological media was first assessed by investigating their potential for reactive oxygen species generation. With porphyrins covalently attached to the SCPNs, singlet oxygen was generated upon irradiation with light, inducing spatially controlled cell death. In addition, Cu(I)- and Pd(II)-based SCPNs were prepared and these catalysts were screened in vitro and studied in cellular environments for the carbamate cleavage reaction of rhodamine-based substrates. This is a model reaction for the uncaging of bioactive compounds such as cytotoxic drugs for catalysis-based cancer therapy. We observed that the rate of the deprotection depends on both the organometallic catalysts and the nature of the protective group. The rate reduces from in vitro to the biological environment, indicating a strong influence of biomolecules on catalyst performance. The Cu(I)-based SCPNs in combination with the dimethylpropargyloxycarbonyl protective group showed the best performances both in vitro and in biological environment, making this group promising in biomedical applications.


Patiño, Tania, Feiner-Gracia, Natalia, Arqué, Xavier, Miguel-López, Albert, Jannasch, Anita, Stumpp, Tom, Schäffer, Erik, Albertazzi, Lorenzo, Sánchez, Samuel, (2018). Influence of enzyme quantity and distribution on the self-propulsion of non-Janus urease-powered micromotors Journal of the American Chemical Society 140, (25), 7896-7903

The use of enzyme catalysis to power micro- and nanomachines offers unique features such as biocompatibility, versatility, and fuel bioavailability. Yet, the key parameters underlying the motion behavior of enzyme-powered motors are not completely understood. Here, we investigate the role of enzyme distribution and quantity on the generation of active motion. Two different micromotor architectures based on either polystyrene (PS) or polystyrene coated with a rough silicon dioxide shell (PS@SiO2) were explored. A directional propulsion with higher speed was observed for PS@SiO2 motors when compared to their PS counterparts. We made use of stochastically optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) to precisely detect single urease molecules conjugated to the micromotors surface with a high spatial resolution. An asymmetric distribution of enzymes around the micromotor surface was observed for both PS and PS@SiO2 architectures, indicating that the enzyme distribution was not the only parameter affecting the motion behavior. We quantified the number of enzymes present on the micromotor surface and observed a 10-fold increase in the number of urease molecules for PS@SiO2 motors compared to PS-based micromotors. To further investigate the number of enzymes required to generate a self-propulsion, PS@SiO2 particles were functionalized with varying amounts of urease molecules and the resulting speed and propulsive force were measured by optical tracking and optical tweezers, respectively. Surprisingly, both speed and force depended in a nonlinear fashion on the enzyme coverage. To break symmetry for active propulsion, we found that a certain threshold number of enzymes molecules per micromotor was necessary, indicating that activity may be due to a critical phenomenon. Taken together, these results provide new insights into the design features of micro/nanomotors to ensure an efficient development.


García-Díaz, María, Birch, Ditlev, Wan, Feng, Mørck Nielsen, Hanne, (2018). The role of mucus as an invisible cloak to transepithelial drug delivery by nanoparticles Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 124, 107-124

Mucosal administration of drugs and drug delivery systems has gained increasing interest. However, nanoparticles intended to protect and deliver drugs to epithelial surfaces require transport through the surface-lining mucus. Translation from bench to bedside is particularly challenging for mucosal administration since a variety of parameters will influence the specific barrier properties of the mucus including the luminal fluids, the microbiota, the mucus composition and clearance rate, and the condition of the underlying epithelia. Besides, after administration, nanoparticles interact with the mucosal components, forming a biomolecular corona that modulates their behavior and fate after mucosal administration. These interactions are greatly influenced by the nanoparticle properties, and therefore different designs and surface-engineering strategies have been proposed. Overall, it is essential to evaluate these biomolecule-nanoparticle interactions by complementary techniques using complex and relevant mucus barrier matrices.

Keywords: Nanoparticle formulation strategies, Corona formation, Digestive tract, Respiratory tract, Luminal content, Methodologies, Analysis


Hortigüela, Verónica, Larrañaga, Enara, Cutrale, Francesco, Seriola, Anna, García-Díaz, María, Lagunas, Anna, Andilla, Jordi, Loza-Alvarez, Pablo, Samitier, Josep, Ojosnegros, Samuel, Martinez, Elena, (2018). Nanopatterns of surface-bound ephrinB1 produce multivalent ligand-receptor interactions that tune EphB2 receptor clustering Nano Letters 18, (1), 629-637

Here we present a nanostructured surface able to produce multivalent interactions between surface-bound ephrinB1 ligands and membrane EphB2 receptors. We created ephrinB1 nanopatterns of regular size (<30 nm in diameter) by using self-assembled diblock copolymers. Next, we used a statistically enhanced version of the Number and Brightness technique, which can discriminate - with molecular sensitivity - the oligomeric states of diffusive species to quantitatively track the EphB2 receptor oligomerization process in real time. The results indicate that a stimulation using randomly distributed surface-bound ligands was not sufficient to fully induce receptor aggregation. Conversely, when nanopatterned onto our substrates, the ligands effectively induced a strong receptor oligomerization. This presentation of ligands improved the clustering efficiency of conventional ligand delivery systems, as it required a 9-fold lower ligand surface coverage and included faster receptor clustering kinetics compared to traditional crosslinked ligands. In conclusion, nanostructured diblock copolymers constitute a novel strategy to induce multivalent ligand-receptor interactions leading to a stronger, faster, and more efficient receptor activation, thus providing a useful strategy to precisely tune and potentiate receptor responses. The efficiency of these materials at inducing cell responses can benefit applications such as the design of new bioactive materials and drug-delivery systems.


Elosegui-Artola, Alberto, Trepat, Xavier, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, (2018). Control of mechanotransduction by molecular clutch dynamics Trends in Cell Biology 28, (5), 356-367

The linkage of cells to their microenvironment is mediated by a series of bonds that dynamically engage and disengage, in what has been conceptualized as the molecular clutch model. Whereas this model has long been employed to describe actin cytoskeleton and cell migration dynamics, it has recently been proposed to also explain mechanotransduction (i.e., the process by which cells convert mechanical signals from their environment into biochemical signals). Here we review the current understanding on how cell dynamics and mechanotransduction are driven by molecular clutch dynamics and its master regulator, the force loading rate. Throughout this Review, we place a specific emphasis on the quantitative prediction of cell response enabled by combined experimental and theoretical approaches.


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.

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


Katuri, Jaideep, Uspal, William E., Simmchen, Juliane, Miguel-López, Albert, Sánchez, Samuel, (2018). Cross-stream migration of active particles Science Advances 4, (1), eaao1755

For natural microswimmers, the interplay of swimming activity and external flow can promote robust directed motion, for example, propulsion against (upstream rheotaxis) or perpendicular to the direction of flow. These effects are generally attributed to their complex body shapes and flagellar beat patterns. Using catalytic Janus particles as a model experimental system, we report on a strong directional response that occurs for spherical active particles in a channel flow. The particles align their propulsion axes to be nearly perpendicular to both the direction of flow and the normal vector of a nearby bounding surface. We develop a deterministic theoretical model of spherical microswimmers near a planar wall that captures the experimental observations. We show how the directional response emerges from the interplay of shear flow and near-surface swimming activity. Finally, adding the effect of thermal noise, we obtain probability distributions for the swimmer orientation that semiquantitatively agree with the experimental distributions.


Notari, M., Ventura-Rubio, A., Bedford-Guaus, S. J., Jorba, I., Mulero, L., Navajas, D., Martí, M., Raya, A., (2018). The local microenvironment limits the regenerative potential of the mouse neonatal heart Science Advances 4, (5), eaao5553

Neonatal mice have been shown to regenerate their hearts during a transient window of time of approximately 1 week after birth. However, experimental evidence for this phenomenon is not undisputed, because several laboratories have been unable to detect neonatal heart regeneration. We first confirmed that 1-day-old neonatal mice are indeed able to mount a robust regenerative response after heart amputation. We then found that this regenerative ability sharply declines within 48 hours, with hearts of 2-day-old mice responding to amputation with fibrosis, rather than regeneration. By comparing the global transcriptomes of 1- and 2-day-old mouse hearts, we found that most differentially expressed transcripts encode extracellular matrix components and structural constituents of the cytoskeleton. These results suggest that the stiffness of the local microenvironment, rather than cardiac cell-autonomous mechanisms, crucially determines the ability or inability of the heart to regenerate. Testing this hypothesis by pharmacologically decreasing the stiffness of the extracellular matrix in 3-day-old mice, we found that decreased matrix stiffness rescued the ability ofmice to regenerate heart tissue after apical resection. Together, our results identify an unexpectedly restricted time window of regenerative competence in the mouse neonatal heart and open new avenues for promoting cardiac regeneration by local modification of the extracellular matrix stiffness.


Gauthier, Nils C., Roca-Cusachs, Pere, (2018). Mechanosensing at integrin-mediated cell–matrix adhesions: from molecular to integrated mechanisms Current Opinion in Cell Biology 50, 20-26

Integrin-mediated adhesions between cells and the extracellular matrix are fundamental for cell function, and one of their main roles is to sense and respond to mechanical force. Here we discuss the different mechanisms that can confer mechanosensitivity to adhesions. We first address molecular mechanisms mediated by force-induced changes in molecular properties, such as binding dynamics or protein conformation. Then, we discuss recent evidence on how these mechanisms are integrated with cellular and extracellular parameters such as myosin and actin activity, membrane tension, and ECM properties, endowing cells with an exquisite ability to both detect and respond to physical and mechanical cues from their environment.


Bennett, Mark, Cantini, Marco, Reboud, Julien, Cooper, Jonathan M., Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Salmeron-Sanchez, Manuel, (2018). Molecular clutch drives cell response to surface viscosity Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115, (6), 1192-1197

Cell response to matrix rigidity has been explained by the mechanical properties of the actin-talin-integrin-fibronectin clutch. Here the molecular clutch model is extended to account for cell interactions with purely viscous surfaces (i.e., without an elastic component). Supported lipid bilayers present an idealized and controllable system through which to study this concept. Using lipids of different diffusion coefficients, the mobility (i.e., surface viscosity) of the presented ligands (in this case RGD) was altered by an order of magnitude. Cell size and cytoskeletal organization were proportional to viscosity. Furthermore, there was a higher number of focal adhesions and a higher phosphorylation of FAK on less-mobile (more-viscous) surfaces. Actin retrograde flow, an indicator of the force exerted on surfaces, was also seen to be faster on more mobile surfaces. This has consequential effects on downstream molecules; the mechanosensitive YAP protein localized to the nucleus more on less-mobile (more-viscous) surfaces and differentiation of myoblast cells was enhanced on higher viscosity. This behavior was explained within the framework of the molecular clutch model, with lower viscosity leading to a low force loading rate, preventing the exposure of mechanosensitive proteins, and with a higher viscosity causing a higher force loading rate exposing these sites, activating downstream pathways. Consequently, the understanding of how viscosity (regardless of matrix stiffness) influences cell response adds a further tool to engineer materials that control cell behavior.

Keywords: Matrix rigidity, Molecular clutch, Surface viscosity, Mechanotransduction, Cell differentiation


Ardizzone, Antonio, Kurhuzenkau, Siarhei, Illa-Tuset, Sílvia, Faraudo, Jordi, Bondar, Mykhailo, Hagan, David, Van Stryland, Eric W., Painelli, Anna, Sissa, Cristina, Feiner, Natalia, Albertazzi, Lorenzo, Veciana, Jaume, Ventosa, Nora, (2018). Nanostructuring lipophilic dyes in water using stable vesicles, quatsomes, as scaffolds and their use as probes for bioimaging Small 14, (16), 1703851

Abstract A new kind of fluorescent organic nanoparticles (FONs) is obtained using quatsomes (QSs), a family of nanovesicles proposed as scaffolds for the nanostructuration of commercial lipophilic carbocyanines (1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethyl-indocarbocyanine perchlorate (DiI), 1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethyl-indodicarbocyanine perchlorate (DiD), and 1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethyl-indotricarbocyanine iodide (DiR)) in aqueous media. The obtained FONs, prepared by a CO2-based technology, show excellent colloidal- and photostability, outperforming other nanoformulations of the dyes, and improve the optical properties of the fluorophores in water. Molecular dynamics simulations provide an atomistic picture of the disposition of the dyes within the membrane. The potential of QSs for biological imaging is demonstrated by performing superresolution microscopy of the DiI-loaded vesicles in vitro and in cells. Therefore, fluorescent QSs constitute an appealing nanomaterial for bioimaging applications.


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 & 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+.

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


Gumi-Audenis, Berta, Costa, Luca, Redondo-Morata, Lorena, Milhiet, Pierre-Emmanuel, Sanz, Fausto, Felici, Roberto, Giannotti, M. I., Carla, Francesco, (2018). In-plane molecular organization of hydrated single lipid bilayers: DPPC:cholesterol Nanoscale 10, 87-92

Understanding the physical properties of the cholesterol-phospholipid systems is essential to get a better knowledge on the function of each membrane constituent. We present a novel, simple and user-friendly setup that allows for straightforward grazing incidence X-rays diffraction characterization of hydrated individual supported lipid bilayers. This configuration minimizes the scattering from the liquid and allows the detection of the extremely weak diffracted signal of the membrane, enabling the differentiation of coexisting domains in DPPC:cholesterol single bilayers.


Alcaraz, J., Otero, J., Jorba, I., Navajas, D., (2018). Bidirectional mechanobiology between cells and their local extracellular matrix probed by atomic force microscopy Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology 73, 71-81

There is growing recognition that the mechanical interactions between cells and their local extracellular matrix (ECM) are central regulators of tissue development, homeostasis, repair and disease progression. The unique ability of atomic force microscopy (AFM) to probe quantitatively mechanical properties and forces at the nanometer or micrometer scales in all kinds of biological samples has been instrumental in the recent advances in cell and tissue mechanics. In this review we illustrate how AFM has provided important insights on our current understanding of the mechanobiology of cells, ECM and cell-ECM bidirectional interactions, particularly in the context of soft acinar tissues like the mammary gland or pulmonary tissue. AFM measurements have revealed that intrinsic cell micromechanics is cell-type specific, and have underscored the prominent role of β1 integrin/FAK(Y397) signaling and the actomyosin cytoskeleton in the mechanoresponses of both parenchymal and stromal cells. Moreover AFM has unveiled that the micromechanics of the ECM obtained by tissue decellularization is unique for each anatomical compartment, which may support both its specific function and cell differentiation. AFM has also enabled identifying critical mechanoregulatory proteins involved in branching morphogenesis (MMP14) and acinar differentiation (α3β1 integrin), and has clarified the role of altered tissue mechanics and architecture in a variety of pathologic conditions. Critical technical issues of AFM mechanical measurements like tip geometry effects are also discussed.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Beta1 integrin, Elastic modulus, Extracellular matrix, Morphogenesis, Tissue decellularization


Krivitsky, Adva, Polyak, Dina, Scomparin, Anna, Eliyahu, Shay, Ofek, Paula, Tiram, Galia, Kalinski, Hagar, Avkin-Nachum, Sharon, Feiner Gracia, N., Albertazzi, Lorenzo, Satchi-Fainaro, Ronit, (2018). Amphiphilic poly(α)glutamate polymeric micelles for systemic administration of siRNA to tumors Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine 14, (2), 303-315

RNAi therapeutics carried a great promise to the area of personalized medicine: the ability to target “undruggable” oncogenic pathways. Nevertheless, their efficient tumor targeting via systemic administration had not been resolved yet. Amphiphilic alkylated poly(α)glutamate amine (APA) can serve as a cationic carrier to the negatively-charged oligonucleotides. APA polymers complexed with siRNA to form round-shaped, homogenous and reproducible nano-sized polyplexes bearing ~50 nm size and slightly negative charge. In addition, APA:siRNA polyplexes were shown to be potent gene regulators in vitro. In light of these preferred physico-chemical characteristics, their performance as systemically-administered siRNA nanocarriers was investigated. Intravenously-injected APA:siRNA polyplexes accumulated selectively in tumors and did not accumulate in the lungs, heart, liver or spleen. Nevertheless, the polyplexes failed to induce specific mRNA degradation, hence neither reduction in tumor volume nor prolonged mice survival was seen.


Casellas, Nicolas M., Pujals, Sílvia, Bochicchio, Davide, Pavan, Giovanni M., Torres, Tomás, Albertazzi, Lorenzo, García-Iglesias, Miguel, (2018). From isodesmic to highly cooperative: Reverting the supramolecular polymerization mechanism in water by fine monomer design Chemical Communications 54, (33), 4112-4115

Two structurally-similar discotic molecules able to self-assemble in water, forming supramolecular fibers, are reported. While both self-assembled polymers are indistinguishable from a morphological point-of-view, a dramatic change in their polymerization mechanism is observed (i.e., one self-assemble via an isodesmic mechanism, while the other shows one of the highest cooperativity values).


Puigbò, J. Y., Maffei, G., Herreros, I., Ceresa, M., González Ballester, M. A., Verschure, P. F. M. J., (2018). Cholinergic behavior state-dependent mechanisms of neocortical gain control: A neurocomputational study Molecular Neurobiology 55, (1), 249-257

The embodied mammalian brain evolved to adapt to an only partially known and knowable world. The adaptive labeling of the world is critically dependent on the neocortex which in turn is modulated by a range of subcortical systems such as the thalamus, ventral striatum, and the amygdala. A particular case in point is the learning paradigm of classical conditioning where acquired representations of states of the world such as sounds and visual features are associated with predefined discrete behavioral responses such as eye blinks and freezing. Learning progresses in a very specific order, where the animal first identifies the features of the task that are predictive of a motivational state and then forms the association of the current sensory state with a particular action and shapes this action to the specific contingency. This adaptive feature selection has both attentional and memory components, i.e., a behaviorally relevant state must be detected while its representation must be stabilized to allow its interfacing to output systems. Here, we present a computational model of the neocortical systems that underlie this feature detection process and its state-dependent modulation mediated by the amygdala and its downstream target the nucleus basalis of Meynert. In particular, we analyze the role of different populations of inhibitory interneurons in the regulation of cortical activity and their state-dependent gating of sensory signals. In our model, we show that the neuromodulator acetylcholine (ACh), which is in turn under control of the amygdala, plays a distinct role in the dynamics of each population and their associated gating function serving the detection of novel sensory features not captured in the state of the network, facilitating the adjustment of cortical sensory representations and regulating the switching between modes of attention and learning.

Keywords: Acetylcholine, Inhibitory network, Neocortical circuits, Neuromodulation


Urrea, L., Segura, Miriam, Masuda-Suzukake, M., Hervera, A., Pedraz, L., Aznar, J. M. G., Vila, M., Samitier, J., Torrents, E., Ferrer, I., Gavín, R., Hagesawa, M., Del Río, J. A., (2018). Involvement of cellular prion protein in α-synuclein transport in neurons Molecular Neurobiology online, 1-14

The cellular prion protein, encoded by the gene Prnp, has been reported to be a receptor of β-amyloid. Their interaction is mandatory for neurotoxic effects of β-amyloid oligomers. In this study, we aimed to explore whether the cellular prion protein participates in the spreading of α-synuclein. Results demonstrate that Prnp expression is not mandatory for α-synuclein spreading. However, although the pathological spreading of α-synuclein can take place in the absence of Prnp, α-synuclein expanded faster in PrPC-overexpressing mice.

Keywords: Amyloid spreading, Microfluidic devices, Prnp, Synuclein


Matamoros-Angles, A., Gayosso, L. M., Richaud-Patin, Y., Di Domenico, A., Vergara, C., Hervera, A., Sousa, A., Fernández-Borges, N., Consiglio, A., Gavín, R., López de Maturana, R., Ferrer, I., López de Munain, A., Raya, A., Castilla, J., Sánchez-Pernaute, R., Del Río, J. A., (2018). iPS cell cultures from a Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker patient with the Y218N PRNP mutation recapitulate tau pathology Molecular Neurobiology online

Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker (GSS) syndrome is a fatal autosomal dominant neurodegenerative prionopathy clinically characterized by ataxia, spastic paraparesis, extrapyramidal signs and dementia. In some GSS familiar cases carrying point mutations in the PRNP gene, patients also showed comorbid tauopathy leading to mixed pathologies. In this study we developed an induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell model derived from fibroblasts of a GSS patient harboring the Y218N PRNP mutation, as well as an age-matched healthy control. This particular PRNP mutation is unique with very few described cases. One of the cases presented neurofibrillary degeneration with relevant Tau hyperphosphorylation. Y218N iPS-derived cultures showed relevant astrogliosis, increased phospho-Tau, altered microtubule-associated transport and cell death. However, they failed to generate proteinase K-resistant prion. In this study we set out to test, for the first time, whether iPS cell-derived neurons could be used to investigate the appearance of disease-related phenotypes (i.e, tauopathy) identified in the GSS patient.

Keywords: Cellular prion protein, Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker, Induced pluripotent stem cells, Tau


Beiert, T., Knappe, V., Tiyerili, V., Stöckigt, F., Effelsberg, V., Linhart, M., Steinmetz, M., Klein, S., Schierwagen, R., Trebicka, J., Roell, W., Nickenig, G., Schrickel, J. W., Andrié, R. P., (2018). Chronic lower-dose relaxin administration protects from arrhythmia in experimental myocardial infarction due to anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic properties International Journal of Cardiology 250, 21-28

Background: The peptide hormone relaxin-2 (RLX) exerts beneficial effects during myocardial ischemia, but functional data on lower-dose RLX in myocardial infarction (MI) is lacking. Therefore, we investigated the impact of 75 μg/kg/d RLX treatment on electrical vulnerability and left ventricular function in a mouse model of MI. Methods and results: Standardized cryoinfarction of the left anterior ventricular wall was performed in mice. A two week treatment period with vehicle or RLX via subcutaneously implanted osmotic minipumps was started immediately after MI. The relaxin receptor RXFP1 was expressed on ventricular/atrial cardiomyocytes, myofibroblasts, macrophages and endothelial but not vascular smooth muscle cells of small coronary vessels. RLX treatment resulted in a significant reduction of ventricular tachycardia inducibility (vehicle: 91%, RLX: 18%, p < 0.0001) and increased epicardial conduction velocity in the left ventricle and borderzone. Furthermore, left ventricular function following MI was improved in RLX treated mice (left ventricular ejection fraction; vehicle: 41.1 ± 1.9%, RLX: 50.5 ± 3.5%, p = 0.04). Interestingly, scar formation was attenuated by RLX with decreased transcript expression of connective tissue growth factor. Transcript levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 and interleukin-1β were upregulated in hearts of vehicle treated animals compared to mice without MI. Application of RLX attenuated this inflammatory response. In addition, macrophage infiltration was reduced in the borderzone of RLX treated mice. Conclusion: Treatment with lower-dose RLX in mice prevents post-infarction ventricular tachycardia due to attenuation of scar formation and cardiac inflammation. Therefore, RLX could be evaluated as new therapeutic option in the treatment of MI.

Keywords: Arrhythmia, Myocardial infarction, Relaxin-2, Ventricular tachycardia


Bregestovski, Piotr, Maleeva, Galyna, Gorostiza, Pau, (2018). Light-induced regulation of ligand-gated channel activity British Journal of Pharmacology 175, (11), 1892-1902

The control of ligand-gated receptors with light using photochromic compounds has evolved from the first handcrafted examples to accurate, engineered receptors, whose development is supported by rational design, high-resolution protein structures, comparative pharmacology and molecular biology manipulations. Photoswitchable regulators have been designed and characterized for a large number of ligand-gated receptors in the mammalian nervous system, including nicotinic acetylcholine, glutamate and GABA receptors. They provide a well-equipped toolbox to investigate synaptic and neuronal circuits in all-optical experiments. This focused review discusses the design and properties of these photoswitches, their applications and shortcomings and future perspectives in the field.


Ferrer, I., García, M. A., González, I. L., Lucena, D. D., Villalonga, A. R., Tech, M. C., Llorens, F., Garcia-Esparcia, P., Martinez-Maldonado, A., Mendez, M. F., Escribano, B. T., Serra, J. J. B., Sabido, E., de la Torre Gómez, C., del Rio, J. A., (2018). Aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG): Not only tau phosphorylation in astrocytes Brain Pathology Early View Articles

Aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG) is defined by the presence of two types of tau-bearing astrocytes: thorn-shaped astrocytes (TSAs) and granular/fuzzy astrocytes in the brain of old-aged individuals. The present study is focused on TSAs in rare forms of ARTAG with no neuronal tau pathology or restricted to entorhinal and transentorhinal cortices, to avoid bias from associated tauopathies. TSAs show 4Rtau phosphorylation at several specific sites and abnormal tau conformation, but they lack ubiquitin and they are not immunostained with tau-C3 antibodies which recognize truncated tau at Asp421. Astrocytes in ARTAG have atrophic processes, reduced glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and increased superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) immunoreactivity. Gel electrophoresis and western blotting of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions reveal a pattern of phospho-tau in ARTAG characterized by two bands of 68 and 64 kDa, and several middle bands between 35 and 50 kDa which differ from what is seen in AD. Phosphoproteomics of dissected vulnerable regions identifies an increase of phosphorylation marks in a large number of proteins in ARTAG compared with controls. GFAP, aquaporin 4, several serine-threonine kinases, microtubule associated proteins and other neuronal proteins are among the differentially phosphorylated proteins in ARTAG thus suggesting a hyper-phosphorylation background that affects several molecules, including many kinases and proteins from several cell compartments and various cell types. Finally, present results show for the first time that tau seeding is produced in neurons of the hippocampal complex, astrocytes, oligodendroglia and along fibers of the corpus callosum, fimbria and fornix following inoculation into the hippocampus of wild type mice of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions enriched in hyper-phosphorylated tau from selected ARTAG cases. These findings show astrocytes as crucial players of tau seeding in tauopathies.

Keywords: ARTAG, Kinases, Phosphorylation, Seeding, Tau, Thorn-shaped astrocytes


Garcia-Esparcia, P., Koneti, A., Rodríguez-Oroz, M. C., Gago, B., del Rio, J. A., Ferrer, I., (2018). Mitochondrial activity in the frontal cortex area 8 and angular gyrus in Parkinson's disease and Parkinson's disease with dementia Brain Pathology 28, (1), 43-57

Altered mitochondrial function is characteristic in the substantia nigra in Parkinson's disease (PD). Information about mitochondria in other brain regions such as the cerebral cortex is conflicting mainly because most studies have not contemplated the possibility of variable involvement depending on the region, stage of disease progression and clinical symptoms such as the presence or absence of dementia. RT-qPCR of 18 nuclear mRNAs encoding subunits of mitochondrial complexes and 12 mRNAs encoding energy metabolism-related enzymes; western blotting of mitochondrial proteins; and analysis of enzymatic activities of complexes I, II, II, IV and V of the respiratory chain were assessed in frontal cortex area 8 and the angular gyrus of middle-aged individuals (MA), and those with incidental PD (iPD), long-lasting PD with parkinsonism without dementia (PD) and long-lasting PD with dementia (PDD). Up-regulation of several genes was found in frontal cortex area 8 in PD when compared with MA and in the angular gyrus in iPD when compared with MA. Marked down-regulation of genes encoding mitochondrial subunits and energy metabolism-related enzymes occurs in frontal cortex but only of genes coding for energy metabolism-related enzymes in the angular gyrus in PDD. Significant decrease in the protein expression levels of several mitochondrial subunits encoded by these genes occurs in frontal cortex area 8 and angular gyrus in PDD. Moreover, expression of MT-ND1 which is encoded by mitochondrial DNA is also reduced in PDD. Reduced enzymatic activity of complex III in frontal cortex area 8 and angular gyrus is observed in PD, but dramatic reduction in the activity of complexes I, II, II and IV in both regions characterizes PDD. Dementia in the context of PD is linked to region-specific deregulation of genomic genes encoding subunits of mitochondrial complexes and to marked reduction in the activity of mitochondrial complexes I, II, III and IV.

Keywords: Cerebral cortex, Dementia, Energy metabolism, Incidental PD, Mitochondria, Oxidative phosphorylation, Parkinson disease, PDD, Respiratory chain


Diez-Escudero, A., Espanol, M., Bonany, M., Lu, X., Persson, C., Ginebra, M. P., (2018). Heparinization of Beta Tricalcium Phosphate: Osteo-immunomodulatory Effects Advanced Healthcare Materials Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue)

Immune cells play a vital role in regulating bone dynamics. This has boosted the interest in developing biomaterials that can modulate both the immune and skeletal systems. In this study, calcium phosphates discs (i.e., beta-tricalcium phosphate, β-TCP) are functionalized with heparin to investigate the effects on immune and stem cell responses. The results show that the functionalized surfaces downregulate the release of hydrogen peroxide and proinflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin 1 beta) from human monocytes and neutrophils, compared to nonfunctionalized discs. The macrophages show both elongated and round shapes on the two ceramic substrates, but the morphology of cells on heparinized β-TCP tends toward a higher elongation after 72 h. The heparinized substrates support rat mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) adhesion and proliferation, and anticipate the differentiation toward the osteoblastic lineage as compared to β-TCP and control. The coupling between the inflammatory response and osteogenesis is assessed by culturing MSCs with the macrophage supernatants. The downregulation of inflammation in contact with the heparinized substrates induces higher expression of bone-related markers by MSCs.

Keywords: Calcium phosphates, Heparinization, Inflammation, Osteogenesis


Niederberger, Craig, Pellicer, Antonio, Cohen, Jacques, Gardner, David K., Palermo, Gianpiero D., O'Neill, Claire L., Chow, Stephen, Rosenwaks, Zev, Cobo, Ana, Swain, Jason E., Schoolcraft, William B., Frydman, René, Bishop, Lauren A., Aharon, Davora, Gordon, Catherine, New, Erika, Decherney, Alan, Tan, Seang Lin, Paulson, Richard J., Goldfarb, James M., Brännström, Mats, Donnez, Jacques, Silber, Sherman, Dolmans, Marie-Madeleine, Simpson, Joe Leigh, Handyside, Alan H., Munné, Santiago, Eguizabal, Cristina, Montserrat, Nuria, Izpisua Belmonte, Juan Carlos, Trounson, Alan, Simon, Carlos, Tulandi, Togas, Giudice, Linda C., Norman, Robert J., Hsueh, Aaron J., Sun, Yingpu, Laufer, Neri, Kochman, Ronit, Eldar-Geva, Talia, Lunenfeld, Bruno, Ezcurra, Diego, D'Hooghe, Thomas, Fauser, Bart C. J. M., Tarlatzis, Basil C., Meldrum, David R., Casper, Robert F., Fatemi, Human M., Devroey, Paul, Galliano, Daniela, Wikland, Matts, Sigman, Mark, Schoor, Richard A., Goldstein, Marc, Lipshultz, Larry I., Schlegel, Peter N., Hussein, Alayman, Oates, Robert D., Brannigan, Robert E., Ross, Heather E., Pennings, Guido, Klock, Susan C., Brown, Simon, Van Steirteghem, André, Rebar, Robert W., LaBarbera, Andrew R., (2018). Forty years of IVF Fertility and Sterility 110, (2), 185-324

This monograph, written by the pioneers of IVF and reproductive medicine, celebrates the history, achievements, and medical advancements made over the last 40 years in this rapidly growing field.


Basas, Jana, Palau, Marta, Ratia, Carlos, Luis Del Pozo, José, Martín-Gómez, María Teresa, Gomis, Xavier, Torrents, Eduard, Almirante, Benito, Gavaldà , Joan, (2018). High-dose daptomycin is effective as an antibiotic-lock therapy in a rabbit model of Staphylococcus epidermidis catheter-related infection Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 62, (2), e01777

Long-term catheter-related bloodstream infections (CRBSI) involving coagulase-negative Staphylococci are associated with poor patient outcomes, increased hospitalization and high treatment costs. The use of vancomycin-lock therapy has been an important step forward to treat these biofilms although failures appear in 20% of patients. In this study, we report that a high dose of daptomycin-lock therapy may offer a therapeutic advantage for these CRBSI in just 24 h of treatment.


Mata, A., Gil, V., Pérez-Clausell, J., Dasilva, M., González-Calixto, M. C., Soriano, E., García-Verdugo, J. M., Sanchez-Vives, M. V., Del Río, J. A., (2018). New functions of Semaphorin 3E and its receptor PlexinD1 during developing and adult hippocampal formation Scientific Reports 8, (1), 1381

The development and maturation of cortical circuits relies on the coordinated actions of long and short range axonal guidance cues. In this regard, the class 3 semaphorins and their receptors have been seen to be involved in the development and maturation of the hippocampal connections. However, although the role of most of their family members have been described, very few data about the participation of Semaphorin 3E (Sema3E) and its receptor PlexinD1 during the development and maturation of the entorhino-hippocampal (EH) connection are available. In the present study, we focused on determining their roles both during development and in adulthood. We determined a relevant role for Sema3E/PlexinD1 in the layer-specific development of the EH connection. Indeed, mice lacking Sema3E/PlexinD1 signalling showed aberrant layering of entorhinal axons in the hippocampus during embryonic and perinatal stages. In addition, absence of Sema3E/PlexinD1 signalling results in further changes in postnatal and adult hippocampal formation, such as numerous misrouted ectopic mossy fibers. More relevantly, we describe how subgranular cells express PlexinD1 and how the absence of Sema3E induces a dysregulation of the proliferation of dentate gyrus progenitors leading to the presence of ectopic cells in the molecular layer. Lastly, Sema3E mutant mice displayed increased network excitability both in the dentate gyrus and the hippocampus proper.

Keywords: Adult neurogenesis, Axon and dendritic guidance


Perea-Gil, I., Gálvez-Montón, C., Prat-Vidal, C., Jorba, I., Segú-Vergés, C., Roura, S., Soler-Botija, C., Iborra-Egea, O., Revuelta-López, E., Fernández, M. A., Farré, R., Navajas, D., Bayes-Genis, A., (2018). Head-to-head comparison of two engineered cardiac grafts for myocardial repair: From scaffold characterization to pre-clinical testing Scientific Reports 8, (1), 6708

Cardiac tissue engineering, which combines cells and supportive scaffolds, is an emerging treatment for restoring cardiac function after myocardial infarction (MI), although, the optimal construct remains a challenge. We developed two engineered cardiac grafts, based on decellularized scaffolds from myocardial and pericardial tissues and repopulated them with adipose tissue mesenchymal stem cells (ATMSCs). The structure, macromechanical and micromechanical scaffold properties were preserved upon the decellularization and recellularization processes, except for recellularized myocardium micromechanics that was ~2-fold stiffer than native tissue and decellularized scaffolds. Proteome characterization of the two acellular matrices showed enrichment of matrisome proteins and major cardiac extracellular matrix components, considerably higher for the recellularized pericardium. Moreover, the pericardial scaffold demonstrated better cell penetrance and retention, as well as a bigger pore size. Both engineered cardiac grafts were further evaluated in pre-clinical MI swine models. Forty days after graft implantation, swine treated with the engineered cardiac grafts showed significant ventricular function recovery. Irrespective of the scaffold origin or cell recolonization, all scaffolds integrated with the underlying myocardium and showed signs of neovascularization and nerve sprouting. Collectively, engineered cardiac grafts -with pericardial or myocardial scaffolds- were effective in restoring cardiac function post-MI, and pericardial scaffolds showed better structural integrity and recolonization capability.


Dols-Perez, Aurora, Fumagalli, Laura, Gomila, Gabriel, (2018). Interdigitation in spin-coated lipid layers in air Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 172, 400-406

In this study, we show that dry saturated phospholipid layers prepared by the spin-coating technique could present thinner regions associated to interdigitated phases under some conditions. The morphological characteristics of lipid layers of saturated phosphocholines, such as dilauroylphosphatidylcholine (DLPC), dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine (DMPC), dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) and distearoylphosphatidylcholine (DSPC), have been measured by Atomic Force Microscopy and revealed that the presence of interdigitated regions is not induced by the same parameters that induce them in hydrated samples. To achieve these results the effect of the lipid hidrocabonated chain length, the presence of alcohol in the coating solution, the spinning velocity and the presence of cholesterol were tested. We showed that DPPC and DSPC bilayers, on the one side, can show structures with similar height than interdigitated regions observed in hydrated samples, while, on the other side, DLPC and DMPC tend to show no evidence of interdigitation. Results indicate that the presence of interdigitated areas is due to the presence of lateral tensions and, hence, that they can be eliminated by releasing these tensions by, for instance, the addition of cholesterol. These results demonstrate that interdigitation in lipid layers is a rather general phenomena and can be observed in lipid bilayers in dry conditions.

Keywords: Spin-coating, Lipid layers, Atomic Force Microscopy, Interdigitation


Oller-Moreno, Sergio, Cominetti, Ornella, Galindo, Antonio Núñez, Irincheeva, Irina, Corthésy, John, Astrup, Arne, Saris, Wim H. M., Hager, Jörg, Kussmann, Martin, Dayon, Loïc, (2018). The differential plasma proteome of obese and overweight individuals undergoing a nutritional weight loss and maintenance intervention PROTEOMICS - Clinical Applications 12, (1), 1600150

Purpose : The nutritional intervention program “DiOGenes” focuses on how obesity can be prevented and treated from a dietary perspective. We generated differential plasma proteome profiles in the DiOGenes cohort to identify proteins associated with weight loss and maintenance and explore their relation to body mass index, fat mass, insulin resistance and sensitivity. Experimental Design : Relative protein quantification was obtained at baseline and after combined weight loss/maintenance phases using isobaric tagging and MS/MS. A Welch t-test determined proteins differentially present after intervention. Protein relationships with clinical variables were explored using univariate linear models, considering collection center, gender and age as confounding factors. Results : 473 subjects were measured at baseline and end of the intervention; 39 proteins were longitudinally differential. Proteins with largest changes were sex hormone-binding globulin, adiponectin, C-reactive protein, calprotectin, serum amyloid A, and proteoglycan 4 (PRG4), whose association with obesity and weight loss is known. We identified new putative biomarkers for weight loss/maintenance. Correlation between PRG4 and proline-rich acidic protein 1 (PRAP1) variation and Matsuda insulin sensitivity increment was showed. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance : MS-based proteomic analysis of a large cohort of non-diabetic overweight and obese individuals concomitantly identified known and novel proteins associated with weight loss and maintenance.

Keywords: Biomarker, Diabetes, Large-scale study, Mass spectrometry, Obesity, Proteomics


Menal, M. J., Jorba, I., Torres, M., Montserrat, J. M., Gozal, D., Colell, A., Piñol-Ripoll, G., Navajas, D., Almendros, I., Farré, R., (2018). Alzheimer's disease mutant mice exhibit reduced brain tissue stiffness compared to wild-type mice in both normoxia and following intermittent hypoxia mimicking sleep apnea Frontiers in Neurology 9, Article 1

Background: Evidence from patients and animal models suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and that AD is associated with reduced brain tissue stiffness. Aim: To investigate whether intermittent hypoxia (IH) alters brain cortex tissue stiffness in AD mutant mice exposed to IH mimicking OSA. Methods: Six-eight month old (B6C3-Tg(APPswe,PSEN1dE9)85Dbo/J) AD mutant mice and wild-type (WT) littermates were subjected to IH (21% O2 40 s to 5% O2 20 s; 6 h/day) or normoxia for 8 weeks. After euthanasia, the stiffness (E) of 200-μm brain cortex slices was measured by atomic force microscopy. Results: Two-way ANOVA indicated significant cortical softening and weight increase in AD mice compared to WT littermates, but no significant effects of IH on cortical stiffness and weight were detected. In addition, reduced myelin was apparent in AD (vs. WT), but no significant differences emerged in the cortex extracellular matrix components laminin and glycosaminoglycans when comparing baseline AD and WT mice. Conclusion: AD mutant mice exhibit reduced brain tissue stiffness following both normoxia and IH mimicking sleep apnea, and such differences are commensurate with increased edema and demyelination in AD.

Keywords: Animal model, Atomic force microscopy, Brain mechanics, Cortex stiffness, Neurodegenerative disease


Farré, N., Otero, J., Falcones, B., Torres, M., Jorba, I., Gozal, D., Almendros, I., Farré, R., Navajas, D., (2018). Intermittent hypoxia mimicking sleep apnea increases passive stiffness of myocardial extracellular matrix. A multiscale study Frontiers in Physiology 9, Article 1143

Background: Tissue hypoxia-reoxygenation characterizes obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a very prevalent respiratory disease associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Experimental studies indicate that intermittent hypoxia (IH) mimicking OSA induces oxidative stress and inflammation in heart tissue at the cell and molecular levels. However, it remains unclear whether IH modifies the passive stiffness of the cardiac tissue extracellular matrix (ECM). Aim: To investigate multiscale changes of stiffness induced by chronic IH in the ECM of left ventricular (LV) myocardium in a murine model of OSA. Methods: Two-month and 18-month old mice (N = 10 each) were subjected to IH (20% O2 40 s–6% O2 20 s) for 6 weeks (6 h/day). Corresponding control groups for each age were kept under normoxia. Fresh LV myocardial strips (~7 mm × 1 mm × 1 mm) were prepared, and their ECM was obtained by decellularization. Myocardium ECM macroscale mechanics were measured by performing uniaxial stress–strain tensile tests. Strip macroscale stiffness was assessed as the stress value (σ) measured at 0.2 strain and Young’s modulus (EM) computed at 0.2 strain by fitting Fung’s constitutive model to the stress–strain relationship. ECM stiffness was characterized at the microscale as the Young’s modulus (Em) measured in decellularized tissue slices (~12 μm tick) by atomic force microscopy. Results: Intermittent hypoxia induced a ~1.5-fold increase in σ (p < 0.001) and a ~2.5-fold increase in EM (p < 0.001) of young mice as compared with normoxic controls. In contrast, no significant differences emerged in Em among IH-exposed and normoxic mice. Moreover, the mechanical effects of IH on myocardial ECM were similar in young and aged mice. Conclusion: The marked IH-induced increases in macroscale stiffness of LV myocardium ECM suggests that the ECM plays a role in the cardiac dysfunction induced by OSA. Furthermore, absence of any significant effects of IH on the microscale ECM stiffness suggests that the significant increases in macroscale stiffening are primarily mediated by 3D structural ECM remodeling.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Heart mechanics, Myocardial stiffness, Obstructive sleep apnea, Tensile test, Ventricular strain


Fonollosa, Jordi, Solórzano, Ana, Marco, Santiago, (2018). Chemical sensor systems and associated algorithms for fire detection: A review Sensors 18, (2), 553

Indoor fire detection using gas chemical sensing has been a subject of investigation since the early nineties. This approach leverages the fact that, for certain types of fire, chemical volatiles appear before smoke particles do. Hence, systems based on chemical sensing can provide faster fire alarm responses than conventional smoke-based fire detectors. Moreover, since it is known that most casualties in fires are produced from toxic emissions rather than actual burns, gas-based fire detection could provide an additional level of safety to building occupants. In this line, since the 2000s, electrochemical cells for carbon monoxide sensing have been incorporated into fire detectors. Even systems relying exclusively on gas sensors have been explored as fire detectors. However, gas sensors respond to a large variety of volatiles beyond combustion products. As a result, chemical-based fire detectors require multivariate data processing techniques to ensure high sensitivity to fires and false alarm immunity. In this paper, we the survey toxic emissions produced in fires and defined standards for fire detection systems. We also review the state of the art of chemical sensor systems for fire detection and the associated signal and data processing algorithms. We also examine the experimental protocols used for the validation of the different approaches, as the complexity of the test measurements also impacts on reported sensitivity and specificity measures. All in all, further research and extensive test under different fire and nuisance scenarios are still required before gas-based fire detectors penetrate largely into the market. Nevertheless, the use of dynamic features and multivariate models that exploit sensor correlations seems imperative

Keywords: Fire detection, Gas sensor, Pattern recognition, Sensor fusion, Machine learning, Toxicants, Carbon monoxide, Hydrogen cyanide, Standard test fires, Transducers, Smoke


Farré, Ramon, Otero, Jordi, Almendros, Isaac, Navajas, Daniel, (2018). Bioengineered lungs: A challenge and an opportunity Archivos de Bronconeumología 54, (1), 31-38

Lung biofabrication is a new tissue engineering and regenerative development aimed at providing organs for potential use in transplantation. Lung biofabrication is based on seeding cells into an acellular organ scaffold and on culturing them in an especial purpose bioreactor. The acellular lung scaffold is obtained by decellularizing a non-transplantable donor lung by means of conventional procedures based on application of physical, enzymatic and detergent agents. To avoid immune recipient's rejection of the transplanted bioengineered lung, autologous bone marrow/adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells, lung progenitor cells or induced pluripotent stem cells are used for biofabricating the bioengineered lung. The bioreactor applies circulatory perfusion and mechanical ventilation with physiological parameters to the lung during biofabrication. These physical stimuli to the organ are translated into the stem cell local microenvironment - e.g. shear stress and cyclic stretch - so that cells sense the physiological conditions in normally functioning mature lungs. After seminal proof of concept in a rodent model was published in 2010, the hypothesis that lungs can be biofabricated is accepted and intense research efforts are being devoted to the topic. The current experimental evidence obtained so far in animal tests and in ex vivo human bioengineered lungs suggests that the date of first clinical tests, although not immediate, is coming. Lung bioengineering is a disrupting concept that poses a challenge for improving our basic science knowledge and is also an opportunity for facilitating lung transplantation in future clinical translation.

Keywords: Tissue engineering, Regenerative medicine, Lung transplantation, Lung repair, Lung regeneration


Páez-Avilés, C., van Rijnsoever, F. J., Juanola-Feliu, E., Samitier, J., (2018). Multi-disciplinarity breeds diversity: the influence of innovation project characteristics on diversity creation in nanotechnology Journal of Technology Transfer online, 1-24

Nanotechnology is an emerging and promising field of research. Creating sufficient technological diversity among its alternatives is important for the long-term success of nanotechnologies, as well as for other emerging technologies. Diversity prevents early lock-in, facilitates recombinant innovation, increases resilience, and allows market growth. Creation of new technological alternatives usually takes place in innovation projects in which public and private partners often collaborate. Currently, there is little empirical evidence about which characteristics of innovation projects influence diversity. In this paper we study the influence of characteristics of EU-funded nanotechnology projects on the creation of technological diversity. In addition to actor diversity and the network of the project, we also include novel variables that have a plausible influence on diversity creation: the degree of multi-disciplinarity of the project and the size of the joint knowledge base of project partners. We apply topic modelling (Latent Dirichlet allocation) as a novel method to categorize technological alternatives. Using an ordinal logistic regression model, our results show that the largest contribution to diversity comes from the multi-disciplinary nature of a project. The joint knowledge base of project partners and the geographical distance between them were positively associated with technological diversity creation. In contrast, the number and diversity of actors and the degree of clustering showed a negative association with technological diversity creation. These results extend current micro-level explanations of how the diversity of an emerging technology is created. The contribution of this study could also be helpful for policy makers to influence the level of diversity in a technological field, and hence to contribute to survival of emerging technologies.

Keywords: Innovation projects, Multi-disciplinarity, Nanotechnology, Social networks, Technological diversity, Topic models


Garreta, E., González, F., Montserrat, N., (2018). Studying kidney disease using tissue and genome engineering in human pluripotent stem cells Nephron 138, 48-59

Kidney morphogenesis and patterning have been extensively studied in animal models such as the mouse and zebrafish. These seminal studies have been key to define the molecular mechanisms underlying this complex multistep process. Based on this knowledge, the last 3 years have witnessed the development of a cohort of protocols allowing efficient differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) towards defined kidney progenitor populations using two-dimensional (2D) culture systems or through generating organoids. Kidney organoids are three-dimensional (3D) kidney-like tissues, which are able to partially recapitulate kidney structure and function in vitro. The current possibility to combine state-of-the art tissue engineering with clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated systems 9 (Cas9)-mediated genome engineering provides an unprecedented opportunity for studying kidney disease with hPSCs. Recently, hPSCs with genetic mutations introduced through CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome engineering have shown to produce kidney organoids able to recapitulate phenotypes of polycystic kidney disease and glomerulopathies. This mini review provides an overview of the most recent advances in differentiation of hPSCs into kidney lineages, and the latest implementation of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology in the organoid setting, as promising platforms to study human kidney development and disease.

Keywords: Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated systems 9, Disease modeling, Gene editing, Human pluripotent stem cells, Kidney genetics, Tissue engineering


Pacheco, D., Verschure, P. F. M. J., (2018). Long-term spatial clustering in free recall Memory Article in press

We explored the influence of space on the organisation of items in long-term memory. In two experiments, we asked our participants to explore a virtual environment and memorise discrete items presented at specific locations. Memory for those items was later on tested in immediate (T1) and 24 hours delayed (T2) free recall tests, in which subjects were asked to recall as many items as possible in any order. In experiment 2, we further examined the contribution of active and passive navigation in recollection dynamics. Results across experiments revealed a significant tendency for participants to consecutively recall items that were encountered in proximate locations during learning. Moreover, the degree of spatial organisation and the total number of items recalled were positively correlated in the immediate and the delayed tests. Results from experiment 2 indicated that the spatial clustering of items was independent of navigation types. Our results highlight the long-term stability of spatial clustering effects and their correlation with recall performance, complementing previous results collected in immediate or briefly delayed tests.

Keywords: Free recall, Spatial clustering, Spatial memory, Spatial navigation, Virtual reality


Casanellas, Ignasi, Lagunas, Anna, Tsintzou, Iro, Vida, Yolanda, Collado, Daniel, Pérez-Inestrosa, Ezequiel, Rodríguez-Pereira, Cristina, Magalhaes, Joana, Gorostiza, Pau, Andrades, José A., Becerra, José, Samitier, Josep, (2018). Dendrimer-based uneven nanopatterns to locally control surface adhesiveness: A method to direct chondrogenic differentiation Journal of Visualized Experiments Bioengineering, (131), e56347

Cellular adhesion and differentiation is conditioned by the nanoscale disposition of the extracellular matrix (ECM) components, with local concentrations having a major effect. Here we present a method to obtain large-scale uneven nanopatterns of arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD)-functionalized dendrimers that permit the nanoscale control of local RGD surface density. Nanopatterns are formed by surface adsorption of dendrimers from solutions at different initial concentrations and are characterized by water contact angle (CA), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and scanning probe microscopy techniques such as scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The local surface density of RGD is measured using AFM images by means of probability contour maps of minimum interparticle distances and then correlated with cell adhesion response and differentiation. The nanopatterning method presented here is a simple procedure that can be scaled up in a straightforward manner to large surface areas. It is thus fully compatible with cell culture protocols and can be applied to other ligands that exert concentration-dependent effects on cells.

Keywords: Bioengineering, Dendrimer, Nanopattern, Arginine-Glycine-Aspartic Acid (RGD), Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), Cell Adhesion, Mesenchymal Stem Cells (Mscs), Chondrogenesis


Munoz, J.J., Amat, D., Conte, V., (2018). Computation of forces from deformed visco-elastic biological tissues Inverse Problems 34, (4), 044001

Abstract We present a least-squares based inverse analysis of visco-elastic biological tissues. The proposed method computes the set of contractile forces (dipoles) at the cell boundaries that induce the observed and quantified deformations. We show that the computation of these forces requires the regularisation of the problem functional for some load configurations that we study here. The functional measures the error of the dynamic problem being discretised in time with a second-order implicit time-stepping and in space with standard finite elements. We analyse the uniqueness of the inverse problem and estimate the regularisation parameter by means of a L-curved criterion. We apply the methodology to a simple toy problem and to an in vivo set of morphogenetic deformations of the Drosophila embryo.


Villa, Katherine, Parmar, Jemish, Vilela, Diana, Sanchez, Samuel, (2018). Core-shell microspheres for the ultrafast degradation of estrogen hormone at neutral pH RSC Advances 8, (11), 5840-5847

In the past few years there has been growing concern about human exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. This kind of pollutants can bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms and lead to serious health problems, especially affecting child development. Many efforts have been devoted to achieving the efficient removal of such refractory organics. In this regard, a novel catalyst based on the combination of α-FeOOH and MnO2@MnCO3 catalysts has been developed by up-scalable techniques from cheap precursors and tested in the photo-Fenton-like degradation of an endocrine disruptor. Almost total degradation of 17α-ethynylestradiol hormone was achieved after only 2 min of simulated solar irradiation at neutral pH. The outstanding performance of FeOOH@MnO2@MnCO3 microspheres was mainly attributed to a larger generation of hydroxyl radicals, which are the primary mediators of the total oxidation for this hormone. This work contributes to the development of more cost-effective systems for the rapid and efficient removal of persistent organic pollutants present in sewage plant effluents under direct solar light.


Katuri, Jaideep, Caballero, David, Voituriez, R., Samitier, Josep, Sanchez, Samuel, (2018). Directed flow of micromotors through alignment interactions with micropatterned ratchets ACS Nano In press

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.


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.

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


Romeo, Agostino, Moya, Ana, Leung, Tammy S., Gabriel, Gemma, Villa, Rosa, Sánchez, Samuel, (2018). Inkjet printed flexible non-enzymatic glucose sensor for tear fluid analysis Applied Materials Today 10, 133-141

Here, we present a flexible and low-cost inkjet printed electrochemical sensor for enzyme-free glucose analysis. Versatility, short fabrication time and low cost make inkjet printing a valuable alternative to traditional sensor manufacturing techniques. We fabricated electro-chemical glucose sensors by inkjet printing electrodes on a flexible polyethylene terephthalate substrate. CuO microparticles were used to modify our electrodes, leading to a sensitive, stable and cost-effective platform for non-enzymatic detection of glucose. Selectivity, reproducibility, and life-time provided by the CuO functionalization demonstrated that these sensors are reliable tools for personalized diagnostics and self-assessment of an individual's health. The detection of glucose at concentrations matching that of tear fluid allows us to envisage applications in ocular diagnostics, where painless and non-invasive monitoring of diabetes can be achieved by analyzing glucose contained in tears.

Keywords: Inkjet printing, Non-enzymatic sensor, Glucose, Copper oxide, Tear analysis


Rodríguez, R., Cortés, R., Verónica Guamán, A., Pardo, A., Torralba, Y., Gómez, F., Roca, J., Barberà, J.A., Cascante, M., Marco, S., (2018). Instrumental drift removal in GC-MS data for breath analysis: the short-term and long-term temporal validation of putative biomarkers for COPD Journal of Breath Research Accepted Manuscript online

Abstract Breath analysis holds the promise of a non-invasive technique for the diagnosis of diverse respiratory conditions including COPD and lung cancer. Breath contains small metabolites that may be putative biomarkers of these conditions. However, the discovery of reliable biomarkers is a considerable challenge in the presence of both clinical and instrumental confounding factors. Among the latter, instrumental time drifts are highly relevant, as since question the short and long-term validity of predictive models. In this work we present a methodology to counter instrumental drifts using information from interleaved blanks for a case study of GC-MS data from breath samples. The proposed method includes feature filtering, and additive, multiplicative and multivariate drift corrections, the latter being based on Component Correction. Biomarker discovery was based on Genetic Algorithms in a filter configuration using Fisher´s ratio computed in the Partial Least Squares – Discriminant Analysis subspace as a figure of merit. Using our protocol, we have been able to find nine peaks that provide a statistically significant Area under the ROC Curve (AUC) of 0.75 for COPD discrimination. The method developed has been successfully validated using blind samples in short-term temporal validation. However, in the attempt to use this model for patient screening six months later was not successful. This negative result highlights the importance of increasing validation rigour when reporting biomarker discovery results.


Arsiwalla, Xerxes D., Verschure, Paul, (2018). Measuring the complexity of consciousness Frontiers in Neuroscience 12, (424), Article 424

The grand quest for a scientific understanding of consciousness has given rise to many new theoretical and empirical paradigms for investigating the phenomenology of consciousness as well as clinical disorders associated to it. A major challenge in this field is to formalize computational measures that can reliably quantify global brain states from data. In particular, information-theoretic complexity measures such as integrated information have been proposed as measures of conscious awareness. This suggests a new framework to quantitatively classify states of consciousness. However, it has proven increasingly difficult to apply these complexity measures to realistic brain networks. In part, this is due to high computational costs incurred when implementing these measures on realistically large network dimensions. Nonetheless, complexity measures for quantifying states of consciousness are important for assisting clinical diagnosis and therapy. This article is meant to serve as a lookup table of measures of consciousness, with particular emphasis on clinical applicability. We consider both, principle-based complexity measures as well as empirical measures tested on patients. We address challenges facing these measures with regard to realistic brain networks, and where necessary, suggest possible resolutions. We address challenges facing these measures with regard to realistic brain networks, and where necessary, suggest possible resolutions.

Keywords: Consciousness in the Clinic, Computational neuroscience, Complexity measures, Clinical Neuroscience, Measures of consciousness


Vilela, Diana, Cossío, Unai, Parmar, Jemish, Martínez-Villacorta, Angel M., Gómez-Vallejo, Vanessa, Llop, Jordi, Sánchez, Samuel, (2018). Medical imaging for the tracking of micromotors ACS Nano 12, (2), 1120-1227

Micro/nanomotors are useful tools for several biomedical applications, including targeted drug delivery and minimally invasive microsurgeries. However, major challenges such as in vivo imaging need to be addressed before they can be safely applied on a living body. Here, we show that positron emission tomography (PET), a molecular imaging technique widely used in medical imaging, can also be used to track a large population of tubular Au/PEDOT/Pt micromotors. Chemisorption of an iodine isotope onto the micromotor’s Au surface rendered them detectable by PET, and we could track their movements in a tubular phantom over time frames of up to 15 min. In a second set of experiments, micromotors and the bubbles released during self-propulsion were optically tracked by video imaging and bright-field microscopy. The results from direct optical tracking agreed with those from PET tracking, demonstrating that PET is a suitable technique for the imaging of large populations of active micromotors in opaque environments, thus opening opportunities for the use of this mature imaging technology for the in vivo localization of artificial swimmers.


Parmar, Jemish, Vilela, Diana, Villa, Katherine, Wang, Joseph, Sanchez, Samuel, (2018). Micro- and nanomotors as active environmental microcleaners and sensors Journal of the American Chemical Society In press

The quest to provide clean water to the entire population has led to a tremendous boost in the development of environmental nanotechnology. Towards this end, micro/nanomotors are emerging as attractive tools to improve the removal of various pollutants. The micro/nanomotors are either designed with functional materials in their structure, or are modified to target pollutants. The active motion of these motors improves the mixing and mass transfer, greatly enhancing the rate of various remediation processes. Their motion can also be used as an indicator of the presence of a pollutant for sensing purposes. In this Perspective, we discuss different chemical aspects of micromotors mediated environmental clean-up and sensing strategies along with their scalability, reuse and cost associated challenges.


Burgués, Javier, Marco, Santiago, (2018). Multivariate estimation of the limit of detection by orthogonal partial least squares in temperature-modulated MOX sensors Analytica Chimica Acta In Press, Accepted Manuscript

Metal oxide semiconductor (MOX) sensors are usually temperature-modulated and calibrated with multivariate models such as Partial Least Squares (PLS) to increase the inherent low selectivity of this technology. The multivariate sensor response patterns exhibit heteroscedastic and correlated noise, which suggests that maximum likelihood methods should outperform PLS. One contribution of this paper is the comparison between PLS and maximum likelihood principal components regression (MLPCR) in MOX sensors. PLS is often criticized by the lack of interpretability when the model complexity increases beyond the chemical rank of the problem. This happens in MOX sensors due to cross-sensitivities to interferences, such as temperature or humidity and non-linearity. Additionally, the estimation of fundamental figures of merit, such as the limit of detection (LOD), is still not standardized in multivariate models. Orthogonalization methods, such as Orthogonal Projection to Latent Structures (O-PLS), have been successfully applied in other fields to reduce the complexity of PLS models. In this work, we propose a LOD estimation method based on applying the well-accepted univariate LOD formulas to the scores of the first component of an orthogonal PLS model. The resulting LOD is compared to the multivariate LOD range derived from error-propagation. The methodology is applied to data extracted from temperature-modulated MOX sensors (FIS SB-500-12 and Figaro TGS 3870-A04), aiming at the detection of low concentrations of carbon monoxide in the presence of uncontrolled humidity (chemical noise). We found that PLS models were simpler and more accurate than MLPCR models. Average LOD values of 0.79 ppm (FIS) and 1.06 ppm (Figaro) were found using the approach described in this paper. These values were contained within the LOD ranges obtained with the error-propagation approach. The mean LOD increased to 1.13 ppm (FIS) and 1.59 ppm (Figaro) when considering validation samples collected two weeks after calibration, which represents a 43% and 46% degradation, respectively. The orthogonal score-plot was a very convenient tool to visualize MOX sensor data and to validate the LOD estimates.

Keywords: Metal oxide sensors, Partial least squares, Orthogonal projection to latent structures, Maximum likelihood principal component regression, Limit of detection, Temperature modulation


Xuan, Mingjun, Mestre, Rafael, Gao, Changyong, Zhou, Chang, He, Qiang, Sánchez, Samuel, (2018). Noncontinuous super-diffusive dynamics of a light-activated nanobottle motor Angewandte Chemie International Edition 57, (23), 6838-6842

Abstract We report a carbonaceous nanobottle (CNB) motor for near infrared (NIR) light-driven jet propulsion. The bottle structure of the CNB motor is fabricated by soft-template-based polymerization. Upon illumination with NIR light, the photothermal effect of the CNB motor carbon shell causes a rapid increase in the temperature of the water inside the nanobottle and thus the ejection of the heated fluid from the open neck, which propels the CNB motor. The occurrence of an explosion, the on/off motion, and the swing behavior of the CNB motor can be modulated by adjusting the NIR light source. Moreover, we simulated the physical field distribution (temperature, fluid velocity, and pressure) of the CNB motor to demonstrate the mechanism of NIR light-driven jet propulsion. This NIR light-powered CNB motor exhibits fuel-free propulsion and control of the swimming velocity by external light and has great potential for future biomedical applications.


Navarro-Requena, Claudia, Weaver, Jessica D., Clark, Amy Y., Clift, Douglas A., Pérez-Amodio, Soledad, Castaño, Óscar, Zhou, Dennis W., García, Andrés J., Engel, Elisabeth, (2018). PEG hydrogel containing calcium-releasing particles and mesenchymal stromal cells promote vessel maturation Acta Biomaterialia In Press, Corrected Proof

The use of human mesenchymal stromal cells (hMSC) for treating diseased tissues with poor vascularization has received significant attention, but low cell survival has hampered its translation to the clinic. Bioglasses and glass-ceramics have also been suggested as therapeutic agents for stimulating angiogenesis in soft tissues, but these effects need further evaluation in vivo. In this study, calcium-releasing particles and hMSC were combined within a hydrogel to examine their vasculogenic potential in vitro and in vivo. The particles provided sustained calcium release and showed proangiogenic stimulation in a chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay. The number of hMSC encapsulated in a degradable RGD-functionalized PEG hydrogel containing particles remained constant over time and IGF-1 release was increased. When implanted in the epidydimal fat pad of immunocompromised mice, this composite material improved cell survival and stimulated vessel formation and maturation. Thus, the combination of hMSC and calcium-releasing glass-ceramics represents a new strategy to achieve vessel stabilization, a key factor in the revascularization of ischemic tissues. Statement of Significance: Increasing blood vessel formation in diseased tissues with poor vascularization is a current clinical challenge. Cell therapy using human mesenchymal stem cells has received considerable interest, but low cell survival has hampered its translation to the clinic. Bioglasses and glass-ceramics have been explored as therapeutic agents for stimulating angiogenesis in soft tissues, but these effects need further evaluation in vivo. By incorporating both human mesenchymal stem cells and glass-ceramic particles in an implantable hydrogel, this study provides insights into the vasculogenic potential in soft tissues of the combined strategies. Enhancement of vessel formation and maturation supports further investigation of this strategy.

Keywords: Calcium, Glass-ceramic particles, Vascularization, hMSC, Hydrogel


Gumí-Audenis, Berta, Costa, Luca, Ferrer-Tasies, Lidia, Ratera, Imma, Ventosa, Nora, Sanz, Fausto, Giannotti, Marina I., (2018). Pulling lipid tubes from supported bilayers unveils the underlying substrate contribution to the membrane mechanics Nanoscale Advance Article,

Cell processes like endocytosis, membrane resealing, signaling and transcription involve conformational changes which depend on the chemical composition and the physicochemical properties of the lipid membrane. The better understanding of the mechanical role of lipids in cell membrane force-triggered and sensing mechanisms has recently become the focus of attention. Different membrane models and experimental methodologies are commonly explored. While general approaches involve controlled vesicle deformation using micropipettes or optical tweezers, due to the local and dynamic nature of the membrane, high spatial resolution atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been widely used to study the mechanical compression and indentation of supported lipid bilayers (SLBs). However, the substrate contribution remains unkown. Here, we demonstrate how pulling lipid tubes with an AFM out of model SLBs can be used to assess the nanomechanics of SLBs through the evaluation of the tube growing force (Ftube), allowing for very local evaluation with high spatial and force resolution of the lipid membrane tension. We first validate this approach to determine the contribution of different phospholipids, by varying the membrane composition, in both one-component and phase-segregated membranes. Finally, we successfully assess the contribution of the underlying substrate to the membrane mechanics, demonstrating that SLB models may represent an intermediate scenario between a free membrane (blebs) and a cytoskeleton supported membrane.


Llorens, F., Thüne, K., Martí, E., Kanata, E., Dafou, D., Díaz-Lucena, D., Vivancos, A., Shomroni, O., Zafar, S., Schmitz, M., Michel, U., Fernández-Borges, N., Andréoletti, O., del Río, J. A., Díez, J., Fischer, A., Bonn, S., Sklaviadis, T., Torres, J. M., Ferrer, I., Zerr, I., (2018). Regional and subtype-dependent miRNA signatures in sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are accompanied by alterations in miRNA silencing machinery and biogenesis Plos Pathogens PLoS Pathogens , 14, (1), e1006802

Increasing evidence indicates that microRNAs (miRNAs) are contributing factors to neurodegeneration. Alterations in miRNA signatures have been reported in several neurodegenerative dementias, but data in prion diseases are restricted to ex vivo and animal models. The present study identified significant miRNA expression pattern alterations in the frontal cortex and cerebellum of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD) patients. These changes display a highly regional and disease subtype-dependent regulation that correlates with brain pathology. We demonstrate that selected miRNAs are enriched in sCJD isolated Argonaute(Ago)-binding complexes in disease, indicating their incorporation into RNA-induced silencing complexes, and further suggesting their contribution to disease-associated gene expression changes. Alterations in the miRNA-mRNA regulatory machinery and perturbed levels of miRNA biogenesis key components in sCJD brain samples reported here further implicate miRNAs in sCJD gene expression (de)regulation. We also show that a subset of sCJD-altered miRNAs are commonly changed in Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and fatal familial insomnia, suggesting potential common mechanisms underlying these neurodegenerative processes. Additionally, we report no correlation between brain and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) miRNA-profiles in sCJD, indicating that CSF-miRNA profiles do not faithfully mirror miRNA alterations detected in brain tissue of human prion diseases. Finally, utilizing a sCJD MM1 mouse model, we analyzed the miRNA deregulation patterns observed in sCJD in a temporal manner. While fourteen sCJD-related miRNAs were validated at clinical stages, only two of those were changed at early symptomatic phase, suggesting that the miRNAs altered in sCJD may contribute to later pathogenic processes. Altogether, the present work identifies alterations in the miRNA network, biogenesis and miRNA-mRNA silencing machinery in sCJD, whereby contributions to disease mechanisms deserve further investigation.


Del Río, J. A., Ferrer, Isidre, Gavín, R., (2018). Role of cellular prion protein in interneuronal amyloid transmission Progress in Neurobiology In Press, Accepted Manuscript

Several studies have indicated that certain misfolded amyloids composed of tau, β-amyloid or α-synuclein can be transferred from cell to cell, suggesting the contribution of mechanisms reminiscent of those by which infective prions spread through the brain. This process of a ‘prion-like’ spreading between cells is also relevant as a novel putative therapeutic target that could block the spreading of proteinaceous aggregates throughout the brain which may underlie the progressive nature of neurodegenerative diseases. The relevance of β-amyloid oligomers and cellular prion protein (PrPC) binding has been a focus of interest in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). At the molecular level, β-amyloid/PrPC interaction takes place in two differently charged clusters of PrPC. In addition to β-amyloid, participation of PrPC in α-synuclein binding and brain spreading also appears to be relevant in α-synucleopathies. This review summarizes current knowledge about PrPC as a putative receptor for amyloid proteins and the physiological consequences of these interactions..

Keywords: Cellular prion protein, Amyloid, Proteinaceous species, ‘prion-like’ spreading, Spreading, Neurodegeneration


Sebastian, P., Giannotti, M. I., Gómez, E., Feliu, J. M., (2018). Surface Sensitive Nickel Electrodeposition in Deep Eutectic Solvent ACS Applied Energy Materials Article ASAP

The first steps of nickel electrodeposition in a deep eutectic solvent (DES) are analyzed in detail. Several substrates from glassy carbon to Pt(111) were investigated pointing out the surface sensitivity of the nucleation and growth mechanism. For that, cyclic voltammetry and chronoamperometry, in combination with scanning electron microscopy (SEM), were employed. X-ray diffraction (XRD) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) were used to more deeply analyze the Ni deposition on Pt substrates. In a 0.1 M NiCl2 + DES solution (at 70 °C), the nickel deposition on glassy carbon takes place within the potential limits of the electrode in the blank solution. Although, the electrochemical window of Pt|DES is considerably shorter than on glassy carbon|DES, it was still sufficient for the nickel deposition. On the Pt electrode, the negative potential limit was enlarged while the nickel deposit grew, likely because of the lower catalytic activity of the nickel toward the reduction of the DES. At lower overpotentials, different hydrogenated Ni structures were favored, most likely because of the DES co-reduction on the Pt substrate. Nanometric metallic nickel grains of rounded shape were obtained on any substrate, as evidenced by the FE-SEM. Passivation phenomena, related to the formation of Ni oxide and Ni hydroxylated species, were observed at high applied overpotentials. At low deposited charge, on Pt(111) the AFM measurements showed the formation of rounded nanometric particles of Ni, which rearranged and formed small triangular arrays at sufficiently low applied overpotential. This particle pattern was induced by the ⟨111⟩ orientation and related to surface sensitivity of the nickel deposition in DES. The present work provides deep insights into the Ni electrodeposition mechanism in the selected deep eutectic solvent.

Keywords: AFM, Deep eutectic solvent, Glassy carbon, Nanostructures, Nickel electrodeposition, Platinum electrode, Pt(111), SEM, Surface sensitive


M. de Goede, M. Dijkstra, R. Obregón, E. Martínez, S. M. García-Blanco, (2018). High quality factor Al2O3 microring resonators for on-chip sensing applications Proceedings SPIE. Integrated Optics: Devices, Materials, and Technologies XXII SPIE OPTO , SPIE (California, USA) 10535, 7

Microring resonators find many applications for on-chip integrated optical sensors. Their spectral response contains resonance dips that shift due to variations of the optical path length of the microring probed. Numerous examples of such microring resonator sensors in the SOI, Si3N4 and SiON waveguide technologies have been reported for the detection of bulk refractive index variations and the label-free detection of biomarkers. Al2O3 is an alternative waveguide technology that exhibits low optical propagation losses, is transparent over a large spectral range extending from the visible to the mid-IR and permits co-doping with active rare-earth ions, which enables the co-integration of active devices on the chip. In this work an Al2O3 microring resonator sensor was developed for the label-free detection of protein biomarkers. The uncladded microring with a radius of 200 μm had a measured quality factor of 3.2 × 105 at 1550 nm. Submerging the devices in water decreased the quality factor to 45 × 103. This corresponds with propagation losses in the rings of 0.6 dB/cm and 5.7 dB/cm respectively. The bulk refractive index sensitivity of the sensor was determined by flowing NaCl dissolved in water in different concentrations. A sensitivity of 102.3 ± 0.5 nm/RIU with a corresponding limit of detection of 1.6 × 10-6 RIU was demonstrated for TM polarized light. High affinity human monoclonal antibodies mAb S100A4 were immobilized on the sensor to detect the S100A4 protein biomarker down to 12 nM concentrations. These results demonstrate the feasibility of this material for label-free optical biosensors.


Mestre, Rafael, Patiño, Tania, Barceló, Xavier, Sanchez, Samuel, (2018). 3D Bioprinted muscle-based bio-actuators: Force adaptability due to training Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 7th International Conference, Living Machines 2018 , Springer International Publishing (Paris, France) Living Machines 2018, 316-320

The integration of biological tissue and artificial materials plays a fundamental role in the development of biohybrid soft robotics, a subfield in the field of soft robotics trying to achieve a higher degree of complexity by taking advantage of the exceptional capabilities of biological systems, like self-healing or responsiveness to external stimuli. In this work, we present a proof-of-concept 3D bioprinted bio-actuator made of skeletal muscle tissue and PDMS, which can act as a force measuring platform. The 3D bioprinting technique, which has not been used for the development of bio-actuators, offers unique versatility by allowing a simple, biocompatible and fast fabrication of hybrid multi-component systems. Furthermore, we prove controllability of contractions and functionality of the bio-actuator after applying electric pulses by measuring the exerted forces. We observe an increased force output in time, suggesting improved maturation of the tissue, opening up possibilities for force adaptability or modulation due to prolonged electrical stimuli.


Estrada, L., Torres, A., Sarlabous, L., Jané, R., (2017). Onset and offset estimation of the neural inspiratory time in surface diaphragm electromyography: A pilot study in healthy subjects IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics 22, (1), 67-76

This study evaluates the onset and offset of neural inspiratory time estimated from surface diaphragm electromyographic (EMGdi) recordings. EMGdi and airflow signals were recorded in ten healthy subjects according to two respiratory protocols based on respiratory rate (RR) increments, from 15 to 40 breaths per minute (bpm), and fractional inspiratory time (Ti/Ttot) decrements, from 0.54 to 0.18. The analysis of diaphragm electromyographic (EMGdi) signal amplitude is an alternative approach for the quantification of neural respiratory drive (NRD). The EMGdi amplitude was estimated using the fixed sample entropy computed over a 250 ms moving window of the EMGdi signal (EMGdifse). The neural onset was detected through a dynamic threshold over the EMGdifse using the kernel density estimation method, while neural offset was detected by finding when the EMGdifse had decreased to 70 % of the peak value reached during inspiration. The Bland-Altman analysis between airflow and neural onsets showed a global bias of 46 ms in the RR protocol and 22 ms in the Ti/Ttot protocol. The Bland-Altman analysis between airflow and neural offsets reveals a global bias of 11 ms in the RR protocol and -2 ms in the Ti/Ttot protocol. The relationship between pairs of RR values (Pearson’s correlation coefficient of 0.99, Bland- Altman limits of -2.39 to 2.41 bpm, and mean bias of 0.01 bpm) and between pairs of Ti/Ttot values (Pearson’s correlation coefficient of 0.86, Bland-Altman limits of -0.11 to 0.10, and mean bias of -0.01) showed a good agreement. In conclusion, we propose a method for determining neural onset and neural offset based on non-invasive recordings of the electrical activity of the diaphragm that requires no filtering of cardiac muscle interference.

Keywords: Kernel density estimation (KDE),, Surface diaphragm electromyographic,, (EMGdi) signal,, Inspiratory time,, Neural respiratory drive (NRD),, Neural inspiratory time,, Fixed sample entropy (fSampEn)


Urbano, Jessica Julioti, da Palma, Renata Kelly, de Lima, Flávia Mafra, Fratini, Paula, Guimaraes, Leticia Lopes, Uriarte, Juan J., Alvarenga, Letícia Heineck, Miglino, Maria Angelica, Vieira, Rodolfo de Paula, Prates, Renato Araujo, Navajas, Daniel, Farré, Ramon, Oliveira, Luis Vicente Franco, (2017). Effects of two different decellularization routes on the mechanical properties of decellularized lungs PLoS ONE 12, (6), e0178696

Considering the limited number of available lung donors, lung bioengineering using whole lung scaffolds has been proposed as an alternative approach to obtain lungs suitable for transplantation. However, some decellularization protocols can cause alterations on the structure, composition, or mechanical properties of the lung extracellular matrix. Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare the acellular lung mechanical properties when using two different routes through the trachea and pulmonary artery for the decellularization process. This study was performed by using the lungs excised from 30 healthy male C57BL/6 mice, which were divided into 3 groups: tracheal decellularization (TDG), perfusion decellularization (PDG), and control groups (CG). Both decellularized groups were subjected to decellularization protocol with a solution of 1% sodium dodecyl sulfate. The behaviour of mechanical properties of the acellular lungs was measured after decellularization process. Static (Est) and dynamic (Edyn) elastances were obtained by the end-inspiratory occlusion method. TDG and PDG showed reduced Est and Edyn elastances after lung decellularization. Scanning electron microscopy showed no structural changes after lung decellularization of the TDG and PDG. In conclusion, was demonstrated that there is no significant difference in the behaviour of mechanical properties and extracellular matrix of the decellularized lungs by using two different routes through the trachea and pulmonary artery.


Hindriks, Rikkert, Schmiedt, Joscha, Arsiwalla, Xerxes D., Peter, Alina, Verschure, Paul F. M. J., Fries, Pascal, Schmid, Michael C., Deco, Gustavo, (2017). Linear distributed source modeling of local field potentials recorded with intra-cortical electrode arrays PLoS ONE 12, (12), e0187490

Planar intra-cortical electrode (Utah) arrays provide a unique window into the spatial organization of cortical activity. Reconstruction of the current source density (CSD) underlying such recordings, however, requires “inverting” Poisson’s equation. For inter-laminar recordings, this is commonly done by the CSD method, which consists in taking the second-order spatial derivative of the recorded local field potentials (LFPs). Although the CSD method has been tremendously successful in mapping the current generators underlying inter-laminar LFPs, its application to planar recordings is more challenging. While for inter-laminar recordings the CSD method seems reasonably robust against violations of its assumptions, is it unclear as to what extent this holds for planar recordings. One of the objectives of this study is to characterize the conditions under which the CSD method can be successfully applied to Utah array data. Using forward modeling, we find that for spatially coherent CSDs, the CSD method yields inaccurate reconstructions due to volume-conducted contamination from currents in deeper cortical layers. An alternative approach is to “invert” a constructed forward model. The advantage of this approach is that any a priori knowledge about the geometrical and electrical properties of the tissue can be taken into account. Although several inverse methods have been proposed for LFP data, the applicability of existing electroencephalographic (EEG) and magnetoencephalographic (MEG) inverse methods to LFP data is largely unexplored. Another objective of our study therefore, is to assess the applicability of the most commonly used EEG/MEG inverse methods to Utah array data. Our main conclusion is that these inverse methods provide more accurate CSD reconstructions than the CSD method. We illustrate the inverse methods using event-related potentials recorded from primary visual cortex of a macaque monkey during a motion discrimination task.


Garreta, Elena, Sanchez, Sonia, Lajara, Jeronimo, Montserrat, Nuria, Belmonte, Juan Carlos Izpisua, (2015). Roadblocks in the path of iPSC to the vlinic Current Transplantation Reports 5, (1), 14-18

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The goal of this paper is to highlight the major challenges in the translation of human pluripotent stem cells into a clinical setting. RECENT FINDINGS: Innate features from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) positioned these patient-specific cells as an unprecedented cell source for regenerative medicine applications. Immunogenicity of differentiated iPSCs requires more research towards the definition of common criteria for the evaluation of innate and host immune responses as well as in the generation of standardized protocols for iPSC generation and differentiation. The coming years will resolve ongoing clinical trials using both human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and hiPSCs providing exciting information for the optimization of potential clinical applications of stem cell therapies. SUMMARY: Rapid advances in the field of iPSCs generated high expectations in the field of regenerative medicine. Understanding therapeutic applications of iPSCs certainly needs further investigation on autologous/allogenic iPSC transplantation.