Staff member


Jordi Otero Díaz

Postdoctoral Researcher
Cellular and Respiratory Biomechanics
jotero@ibecbarcelona.eu
+34 934 031 184
Staff member publications

Campillo, N., Falcones, B., Otero, J., Colina, R., Gozal, D., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I., (2019). Differential oxygenation in tumor microenvironment modulates macrophage and cancer cell crosstalk: Novel experimental settingand proof of concept Frontiers in Oncology 9, 43

Hypoxia is a common characteristic of many solid tumors that has been associated with tumor aggressiveness. Limited diffusion of oxygen generates a gradient of oxygen availability from the blood vessel to the interstitial space and may underlie the recruitment of macrophages fostering cancer progression. However, the available data based on the recruitment of circulating cells to the tumor microenvironment has been so far carried out by conventional co-culture systems which ignore the hypoxic gradient between the vessel to the tumor interstitium. Here, we have designed a novel easy-to-build cell culture device that enables evaluation of cellular cross-talk and cell migration while they are being simultaneously exposed to different oxygenation environments. As a proof-of-concept of the potential role of differential oxygenation among interacting cells we have evaluated the activation and recruitment of macrophages in response to hypoxic melanoma, breast, and kidney cancer cells. We found that hypoxic melanoma and breast cancer cells co-cultured with normoxic macrophages enhanced their directional migration. By contrast, hypoxic kidney cells were not able to increase their recruitment. We also identified well-described hypoxia-induced pathways which could contribute in the immune cell recruitment (VEGFA and PTGS2 genes). Moreover, melanoma and breast cancer increased their proliferation. However, oxygenation levels affected neither kidney cancer cell proliferation nor gene expression, which in turn resulted in no significant changes in macrophage migration and polarization. Therefore, the cell culture device presented here provides an excellent opportunity for researchers to reproduce the in vivo hypoxic gradients in solid tumors and to study their role in recruiting circulating cells to the tumor in specific types of cancer.

Keywords: Hypoxia gradient, Macrophage motility, Models of host-tumor interactions, Novel assay technology, Tumor progression


Almendros, I., Otero, J., Falcones, B., Marhuenda, E., Navajas, D., Farre, R., (2019). Lung extracellular matrix hydrogels for mesenchymal stem cells 3d bioprinting Mechanisms of lung injury and repair Transactions of the Annual Meeting of the Society for Biomaterials and the Annual International Biomaterials Symposium (ESR 2019 Congress) , European Respiratory Society (Madrid, Spain) 54, PA3859

Introduction: The role of lung mesenchymal stem cells (L-MSCs) in pulmonary diseases remain to be fully elucidated. A relevant open question is to understand the crosstalk between L-MSCs and lung extracellular matrix (L-ECM). To this end, a suitable 3D model including MSCs and L-ECM is of high interest. Aim: To study how L-MSCs can be 3D bioprinted, cultured and harvested from L-ECM hydrogels. Methods: L-MSCs were isolated from Sprague-Dawley rats following established protocols. Porcine lungs were decellularized by a detergent-based procedure. The resulting L-ECM was freeze-dried, milled in liquid nitrogen and enzymatically digested by pepsin. After pH neutralization, resulting pre-gels were mixed with L-MSCs and 3D bioprinted by using F-127 as structural and sacrificial hydrogel. Cells were harvested from the 3D hydrogel by digestion with collagenase after 7 days of 3D culture and reseeded in standard plastic 2D culture plates. Cell viability and spatial distribution within the hydrogel was evaluated by live/dead (Thermo Scientific, MA, USA) staining and laser scanning confocal imaging. Biological activity was evaluated by hydrogel contraction assays. Results: Viability higher than 90% and homogenous 3D spatial distribution of L-MSCs were observed. Cells contracted the hydrogel up to 75% of their original size, showing that L-MSCs had an active interaction with the L-ECM. Recovered L-MSCs from the bioprinted structures were able to spread and proliferate when reseeded in plastic. Conclusion: Cell-laden hydrogels based on L-ECM can be used as bioink to build realistic 3D models for studying cell-matrix crosstalk in respiratory diseases.

Keywords: Lung mechanics, Experimental approaches


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


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


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


González, L., Otero, J., Agusil, J. P., Samitier, J., Adan, J., Mitjans, F., Puig-Vidal, M., (2014). Micropattern of antibodies imaged by shear force microscopy: Comparison between classical and jumping modes Ultramicroscopy , 136, 176-184

Quartz tuning fork devices are increasingly being used as nanosensors in Scanning Probe Microscopy. They offer some benefits with respect to standard microfabricated cantilevers in certain experimental setups including the study of biomolecules under physiological conditions. In this work, we compare three different working modes for imaging micropatterned antibodies with quartz tuning fork sensors: apart from the classical amplitude and frequency modulation strategies, for first time the jumping mode is implemented using tuning forks. Our results show that the molecules suffer less degradation when working in the jumping mode, due to the reduction of the interaction forces.


Birhane, Y., Otero, J., Pérez-Murano, F., Fumagalli, L., Gomila, G., Bausells, J., (2014). Batch fabrication of insulated conductive scanning probe microscopy probes with reduced capacitive coupling Microelectronic Engineering , 119, 44-47

We report a novel fabrication process for the batch fabrication of insulated conductive scanning probe microscopy (SPM) probes for electrical and topographic characterization of soft samples in liquid media at the nanoscale. The whole SPM probe structure is insulated with a dielectric material except at the very tip end and at the contact pad area to minimize the leakage current in liquid. Additionally, the geometry of the conducting layer in the probe cantilever and substrate is engineered to reduce the parasitic capacitance coupling with the sample. The electrical characterization of the probes has shown that parasitic capacitances are significantly reduced as compared to fully metallized cantilevers.

Keywords: Conductive scanning probe microscopy (C-SPM), EFM, SECM, SECM-AFM, SIM


Otero, J., Baños, R., González, L., Torrents, E., Juárez, A., Puig-Vidal, M., (2013). Quartz tuning fork studies on the surface properties of Pseudomonas aeruginosa during early stages of biofilm formation Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 102, 117-123

Scanning probe microscopy techniques are powerful tools for studying the nanoscale surface properties of biofilms, such as their morphology and mechanical behavior. Typically, these studies are conducted using atomic force microscopy probes, which are force nanosensors based on microfabricated cantilevers. In recent years, quartz tuning fork (QTF) probes have been used in morphological studies due to their better performance in certain experiments with respect to standard AFM probes. In the present work QTF probes were used to measure not only the morphology but also the nanomechanical properties of Pseudomonas aeruginosa during early stages of biofilm formation. Changes in bacterium size and the membrane spring constant were determined in biofilms grown for 20, 24 and 28. h on gold with and without glucose in the culture media. The results obtained using the standard AFM and QTF probes were compared. Both probes showed that the bacteria forming the biofilm increased in size over time, but that there was no dependence on the presence of glucose in the culture media. On the other hand, the spring constant increased over time and there was a clear difference between biofilms grown with and without glucose. This is the first time that QTF probes have been used to measure the nanomechanical properties of microbial cell surfaces and the results obtained highlight their potential for studying biological samples beyond topographic measurements.


Otero, J., Puig-Vidal, M., Frigola, M., Casals, A., (2009). Micro-to-nano optical resolution in a multirobot nanobiocharacterization station 2009 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, IROS 2009 IEEE RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems , IEEE (St. Louis, USA) , 5357-5362

A multi-robot cooperation station for nano-bio characterization of biological specimens is presented. The station is composed of two long travel range and high resolution robots equipped with self-sensing nanoprobes that are able to cooperate with each other and with standard AFM systems, over a common sample. The robots are guided by the use of an upright high-depth-of-field optical microscope to perform complex nano-bio characterization experiments. To achieve the required precision between the two robots reference frames, specific image processing techniques are needed. One of the tips is dedicated to acquire the topography of the sample at nano scale while the second probe performs the biocharacterization experiments. The obtained results show that the two robots can cooperate within the required resolution in bacterial nanomechanical characterization while high resolution topographic images are acquired.

Keywords: AFM