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Year 2020


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Kyndiah, A., Leonardi, F., Tarantino, C., Cramer, T., Millan-Solsona, R., Garreta, E., Montserrat, N., Mas-Torrent, M., Gomila, G., (2020). Bioelectronic recordings of cardiomyocytes with accumulation mode electrolyte gated organic field effect transistors Biosensors and Bioelectronics 150, 111844

Organic electronic materials offer an untapped potential for novel tools for low-invasive electrophysiological recording and stimulation devices. Such materials combine semiconducting properties with tailored surface chemistry, elastic mechanical properties and chemical stability in water. In this work, we investigate solution processed Electrolyte Gated Organic Field Effect Transistors (EGOFETs) based on a small molecule semiconductor. We demonstrate that EGOFETs based on a blend of soluble organic semiconductor 2,8-Difluoro-5,11-bis(triethylsilylethynyl)anthradithiophene (diF-TES-ADT) combined with an insulating polymer show excellent sensitivity and long-term recording under electrophysiological applications. Our devices can stably record the extracellular potential of human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocyte cells (hPSCs-CMs) for several weeks. In addition, cytotoxicity tests of pharmaceutical drugs, such as Norepinephrine and Verapamil was achieved with excellent sensitivity. This work demonstrates that organic transistors based on organic blends are excellent bioelectronics transducer for extracellular electrical recording of excitable cells and tissues thus providing a valid alternative to electrochemical transistors.

Keywords: Bioelectronics, Cardiac cells, Organic electronics, Organic field effect transistors, Organic semiconducting blend


Maier, Martina, Ballester, Belén Rubio, Leiva Bañuelos, Nuria, Duarte Oller, Esther, Verschure, P., (2020). Adaptive conjunctive cognitive training (ACCT) in virtual reality for chronic stroke patients: a randomized controlled pilot trial Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 17, (1), 42

Current evidence for the effectiveness of post-stroke cognitive rehabilitation is weak, possibly due to two reasons. First, patients typically express cognitive deficits in several domains. Therapies focusing on specific cognitive deficits might not address their interrelated neurological nature. Second, co-occurring psychological problems are often neglected or not diagnosed, although post-stroke depression is common and related to cognitive deficits. This pilot trial aims to test a rehabilitation program in virtual reality that trains various cognitive domains in conjunction, by adapting to the patient’s disability and while investigating the influence of comorbidities.


Madrid-Gambin, Francisco, Oller-Moreno, Sergio, Fernandez, Luis, Bartova, Simona, Giner, Maria Pilar, Joyce, Christopher, Ferraro, Francesco, Montoliu, Ivan, Moco, Sofia, Marco, Santiago, (2020). AlpsNMR: an R package for signal processing of fully untargeted NMR-based metabolomics Bioinformatics revisar (no pdf) no en web general, revisar (no pdf) no en web general

NMR-based metabolomics is widely used to obtain metabolic fingerprints of biological systems. While targeted workflows require previous knowledge of metabolites, prior to statistical analysis, untargeted approaches remain a challenge. Computational tools dealing with fully untargeted NMR-based metabolomics are still scarce or not user-friendly. Therefore, we developed AlpsNMR (Automated spectraL Processing System for NMR), an R package that provides automated and efficient signal processing for untargeted NMR metabolomics. AlpsNMR includes spectra loading, metadata handling, automated outlier detection, spectra alignment and peak-picking, integration, and normalization. The resulting output can be used for further statistical analysis. AlpsNMR proved effective in detecting metabolite changes in a test case. The tool allows less experienced users to easily implement this workflow from spectra to a ready-to-use dataset in their routines.The AlpsNMR R package and tutorial is freely available to download from http://github.com/sipss/AlpsNMR under the MIT license.


Ferrer-Lluís, I., Castillo-Escario, Y., Montserrat, J. M., Jané, R., (2020). Analysis of smartphone triaxial accelerometry for monitoring sleep disordered breathing and sleep position at home IEEE Access 8, 71231 - 71244

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder in which repetitive upper airway obstructive events occur during sleep. These events can induce hypoxia, which is a risk factor for multiple cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. OSA is also known to be position-dependent in some patients, which is referred to as positional OSA (pOSA). Screening for pOSA is necessary in order to design more personalized and effective treatment strategies. In this article, we propose analyzing accelerometry signals, recorded with a smartphone, to detect and monitor OSA at home. Our objectives were to: (1) develop an algorithm for detecting thoracic movement associated with disordered breathing events; (2) compare the performance of smartphones as OSA monitoring tools with a type 3 portable sleep monitor; and (3) explore the feasibility of using smartphone accelerometry to retrieve reliable patient sleep position data and assess pOSA. Accelerometry signals were collected through simultaneous overnight acquisition using both devices with 13 subjects. The smartphone tool showed a high degree of concordance compared to the portable device and succeeded in estimating the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and classifying the severity level in most subjects. To assess the agreement between the two systems, an event-by-event comparison was performed, which found a sensitivity of 90% and a positive predictive value of 80%. It was also possible to identify pOSA by determining the ratio of events occurring in a specific position versus the time spent in that position during the night. These novel results suggest that smartphones are promising mHealth tools for OSA and pOSA monitoring at home.

Keywords: Accelerometry, Biomedical signal processing, mHealth, Monitoring, Sleep apnea, Sleep position, Smartphone


Wang, Lei, Song, Shidong, van Hest, Jan, Abdelmohsen, Loai K. E. A., Huang, Xin, Sánchez, Samuel, (2020). Biomimicry of cellular motility and communication based on synthetic soft-architectures Small 16, (27), 1907680

Cells, sophisticated membrane‐bound units that contain the fundamental molecules of life, provide a precious library for inspiration and motivation for both society and academia. Scientists from various disciplines have made great endeavors toward the understanding of the cellular evolution by engineering artificial counterparts (protocells) that mimic or initiate structural or functional cellular aspects. In this regard, several works have discussed possible building blocks, designs, functions, or dynamics that can be applied to achieve this goal. Although great progress has been made, fundamental—yet complex—behaviors such as cellular communication, responsiveness to environmental cues, and motility remain a challenge, yet to be resolved. Herein, recent efforts toward utilizing soft systems for cellular mimicry are summarized—following the main outline of cellular evolution, from basic compartmentalization, and biological reactions for energy production, to motility and communicative behaviors between artificial cell communities or between artificial and natural cell communities. Finally, the current challenges and future perspectives in the field are discussed, hoping to inspire more future research and to help the further advancement of this field.


Nonaka, P. N., Falcones, B., Farre, R., Artigas, A., Almendros, I., Navajas, D., (2020). Biophysically preconditioning mesenchymal stem cells improves treatment of ventilator-induced lung injury Archivos de Bronconeumología Archivos de Bronconeumologia , In press

Ferrer, Isidro, Andrés-Benito, Pol, Sala-Jarque, Julia, Gil, Vanessa, del Rio, José Antonio, (2020). Capacity for seeding and spreading of argyrophilic grain disease in a wild-type murine model; Comparisons with primary age-related tauopathy Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience 13, 101

Argyrophilic grain disease (AGD) is a common 4R-tauopathy, causing or contributing to cognitive impairment in the elderly. AGD is characterized neuropathologically by pre-tangles in neurons, dendritic swellings called grains, threads, thorn-shaped astrocytes, and coiled bodies in oligodendrocytes in the limbic system. AGD has a characteristic pattern progressively involving the entorhinal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, dentate gyrus, presubiculum, subiculum, hypothalamic nuclei, temporal cortex, and neocortex and brainstem, thus suggesting that argyrophilic grain pathology is a natural model of tau propagation. One series of WT mice was unilaterally inoculated in the hippocampus with sarkosyl-insoluble and sarkosyl-soluble fractions from “pure” AGD at the age of 3 or 7/12 months and killed 3 or 7 months later. Abnormal hyper-phosphorylated tau deposits were found in ipsilateral hippocampal neurons, grains (dots) in the hippocampus, and threads, dots and coiled bodies in the fimbria, as well as the ipsilateral and contralateral corpus callosum. The extension of lesions was wider in animals surviving 7 months compared with those surviving 3 months. Astrocytic inclusions were not observed at any time. Tau deposits were mainly composed of 4Rtau, but also 3Rtau. For comparative purposes, another series of WT mice was inoculated with sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from primary age-related tauopathy (PART), a pure neuronal neurofibrillary tangle 3Rtau + 4Rtau tauopathy involving the deep temporal cortex and limbic system. Abnormal hyper-phosphorylated tau deposits were found in neurons in the ipsilateral hippocampus, coiled bodies and threads in the fimbria, and the ipsilateral and contralateral corpus callosum, which extended with time along the anterior-posterior axis and distant regions such as hypothalamic nuclei and nuclei of the septum when comparing mice surviving 7 months with mice surviving 3 months. Astrocytic inclusions were not observed. Tau deposits were mainly composed of 4Rtau and 3Rtau. These results show the capacity for seeding and spreading of AGD tau and PART tau in the brain of WT mouse, and suggest that characteristics of host tau, in addition to those of inoculated tau, are key to identifying commonalities and differences between human tauopathies and corresponding murine models.

Keywords: Argyrophilic grain disease, Tauopathies, Tau, Seeding, Progression, Coiled Bodies, Primary age-related tauopathy


Muzio, Martina Di, Millan-Solsona, Ruben, Borrell, Jordi H., Fumagalli, Laura, Gomila, Gabriel, (2020). Cholesterol effect on the specific capacitance of submicrometric DOPC bilayer patches measured by in-liquid scanning dielectric microscopy Langmuir 36, (43), 12963–12972

The specific capacitance of biological membranes is a key physical parameter in bioelectricity that also provides valuable physicochemical information on composition, phase, or hydration properties. Cholesterol is known to modulate the physicochemical properties of biomembranes, but its effect on the specific capacitance has not been fully established yet. Here we use the high spatial resolution capabilities of in-liquid scanning dielectric microscopy in force detection mode to directly demonstrate that DOPC bilayer patches at 50% cholesterol concentration show a strong reduction of their specific capacitance with respect to pure DOPC bilayer patches. The reduction observed (around 35%) cannot be explained by the small increase in bilayer thickness (around 16%). We suggest that the reduction of the specific capacitance might be due to the dehydration of the polar head groups caused by the insertion of cholesterol molecules in the bilayer. The results reported confirm the potential of in-liquid SDM to study the electrical and physicochemical properties of lipid bilayers at very small scales (down to around 200 nm here), with implications in fields such as biophysics, bioelectricity, biochemistry, and biosensing.


Blanco-Almazan, D., Groenendaal, W., Lozano-Garcia, M., Estrada-Petrocelli, L., Lijnen, L., Smeets, C., Ruttens, D., Catthoor, F., Jané, R., (2020). Combining bioimpedance and myographic signals for the assessment of COPD during loaded breathing IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering Early publication

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is one of the most common chronic conditions. The current assessment of COPD requires a maximal maneuver during a spirometry test to quantify airflow limitations of patients. Other less invasive measurements such as thoracic bioimpedance and myographic signals have been studied as an alternative to classical methods as they provide information about respiration. Particularly, strong correlations have been shown between thoracic bioimpedance and respiratory volume. The main objective of this study is to investigate bioimpedance and its combination with myographic parameters in COPD patients to assess the applicability in respiratory disease monitoring. We measured bioimpedance, surface electromyography and surface mechanomyography in forty-three COPD patients during an incremental inspiratory threshold loading protocol. We introduced two novel features that can be used to assess COPD condition derived from the variation of bioimpedance and the electrical and mechanical activity during each respiratory cycle. These features demonstrate significant differences between mild and severe patients, indicating a lower inspiratory contribution of the inspiratory muscles to global respiratory ventilation in the severest COPD patients. In conclusion, the combination of bioimpedance and myographic signals provides useful indices to noninvasively assess the breathing of COPD patients.

Keywords: Bioimpedance, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Inspiratory threshold protocol, Myographic signals, Wearables


Gómez-Domínguez, D., Epifano, C., Miguel, F., Castaño, A. G., Vilaplana-Martí, B., Martín, A., Amarilla-Quintana, S., Bertrand, A. T., Bonne, G., Ramón-Azcón, J., Rodríguez-Milla, M. A., Pérez de Castro, I., (2020). Consequences of Lmna exon 4 mutations in myoblast function Cells 9, (5), 1286

Laminopathies are causally associated with mutations on the Lamin A/C gene (LMNA). To date, more than 400 mutations in LMNA have been reported in patients. These mutations are widely distributed throughout the entire gene and are associated with a wide range of phenotypes. Unfortunately, little is known about the mechanisms underlying the effect of the majority of these mutations. This is the case of more than 40 mutations that are located at exon 4. Using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, we generated a collection of Lmna exon 4 mutants in mouse C2C12 myoblasts. These cell models included different types of exon 4 deletions and the presence of R249W mutation, one of the human variants associated with a severe type of laminopathy, LMNA-associated congenital muscular dystrophy (L-CMD). We characterized these clones by measuring their nuclear circularity, myogenic differentiation capacity in 2D and 3D conditions, DNA damage, and levels of p-ERK and p-AKT (phosphorylated Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1/3 and AKT serine/threonine kinase 1). Our results indicated that Lmna exon 4 mutants showed abnormal nuclear morphology. In addition, levels and/or subcellular localization of different members of the lamin and LINC (LInker of Nucleoskeleton and Cytoskeleton) complex were altered in all these mutants. Whereas no significant differences were observed for ERK and AKT activities, the accumulation of DNA damage was associated to the Lmna p.R249W mutant myoblasts. Finally, significant myogenic differentiation defects were detected in the Lmna exon 4 mutants. These results have key implications in the development of future therapeutic strategies for the treatment of laminopathies.

Keywords: CRISPR, Laminopathy, LMNA, Nuclear envelope


La Montanara, Paolo, Hervera, Arnau, Baltussen, Lucas L., Hutson, Thomas H., Palmisano, Ilaria, De Virgiliis, Francesco, Kong, Guiping, Chadwick, Jessica, Gao, Yunan, Bartus, Katalin, Majid, Qasim A., Gorgoraptis, Nikos, Wong, Kingsley, Downs, Jenny, Pizzorusso, Tommaso, Ultanir, Sila K., Leonard, Helen, Yu, Hongwei, Millar, David S., Istvan, Nagy, Mazarakis, Nicholas D., Di Giovanni, Simone, (2020). Cyclin-dependent–like kinase 5 is required for pain signaling in human sensory neurons and mouse models Science Translational Medicine 12, (551), eaax4846

CDKL5 deficiency disorder (CDD) is a developmental encephalopathy caused by mutations in the cyclin-dependent–like kinase 5 (CDKL5) gene. Now, La Montanara et al. found that patients with CDD, in addition to the known symptoms, had altered pain sensitivity. Mechanistically, the authors found that CDKL5 is expressed in sensory neurons and regulates CaMKII-dependent TRPV1 signaling, thus affecting pain perception. In rodents, Cdkl5 deletion in sensory neurons resulted in reduced pain sensitivity. The results suggest that restoration of pain perception should be considered when developing therapies for treating CDD. Cyclin-dependent–like kinase 5 (CDKL5) gene mutations lead to an X-linked disorder that is characterized by infantile epileptic encephalopathy, developmental delay, and hypotonia. However, we found that a substantial percentage of these patients also report a previously unrecognized anamnestic deficiency in pain perception. Consistent with a role in nociception, we found that CDKL5 is expressed selectively in nociceptive dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons in mice and in induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS)–derived human nociceptors. CDKL5-deficient mice display defective epidermal innervation, and conditional deletion of CDKL5 in DRG sensory neurons impairs nociception, phenocopying CDKL5 deficiency disorder in patients. Mechanistically, CDKL5 interacts with calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II α (CaMKIIα) to control outgrowth and transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TRPV1)–dependent signaling, which are disrupted in both CDKL5 mutant murine DRG and human iPS–derived nociceptors. Together, these findings unveil a previously unrecognized role for CDKL5 in nociception, proposing an original regulatory mechanism for pain perception with implications for future therapeutics in CDKL5 deficiency disorder.


Klein, L. M., Chang, J., Gu, W., Manekeller, S., Jansen, C., Lingohr, P., Praktiknjo, M., Kalf, J. C., Schulz, M., Spengler, U., Strassburg, C., Cárdenas, A., Arroyo, V., Trebicka, J., (2020). The development and outcome of acute-on-chronic liver failure after surgical interventions Liver Transplantation 26, (2), 227-237

Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is a syndrome with high short-term mortality. Precipitating events, including hemorrhage and infections, contribute to ACLF development, but the role of surgery remains unknown. We investigated the development of ACLF in patients with cirrhosis undergoing surgery. In total, 369 patients with cirrhosis were included in the study. The clinical and laboratory data were collected prior to and on days 1-2, 3-8, and 9-28, and at 3 and 12 months after surgery. Surgery type was classified as limited or extensive, as well as liver and nonliver surgery. A total of 39 patients had baseline ACLF. Surgery was performed during acute decompensation in 35% of the rest of the 330 patients, and 81 (24.5%) developed ACLF within 28 days after surgery. Surrogate markers of systemic inflammation were similar in patients who developed ACLF or not. Age, sex, serum sodium, baseline bacterial infection, and abdominal nonliver surgery were independent predictors for the development of ACLF after surgery. Patients who developed ACLF within 28 days after surgery had a higher mortality at 3, 6, and 12 months. Survival did not differ between patients with ACLF at surgery and those developing ACLF after surgery. Development of ACLF within 28 days after surgery and elevated alkaline phosphatase and international normalized ratio were independent predictors of 90-day mortality. Independent predictors of 1-year all-cause mortality were alkaline phosphatase, Model for End-Stage Liver Disease score, and preoperative hepatic encephalopathy, whereas nonliver surgery was associated with improved survival. ACLF frequently develops in patients with cirrhosis undergoing surgery, especially in those with active bacterial infection, lower serum sodium, and kidney or coagulation dysfunction. Prognoses of ACLF both at and after surgery are similarly poor. Patients with cirrhosis should be carefully managed perioperatively.


Fabregas, R., Gomila, G., (2020). Dielectric nanotomography based on electrostatic force microscopy: A numerical analysis Journal of Applied Physics 127, (2), 024301

Electrostatic force microscopy (EFM) can image nanoscale objects buried below the surface. Here, we theoretically show that this capability can be used to obtain nanotomographic information, i.e., the physical dimensions and dielectric properties, of buried nano-objects. These results constitute a first step toward implementing a nondestructive dielectric nanotomography technique based on EFM with applications in materials sciences and life sciences.


Lidón, Laia, Urrea, Laura, Llorens, Franc, Gil, Vanessa, Alvarez, Ignacio, Diez-Fairen, Monica, Aguilar, Miguel, Pastor, Pau, Zerr, Inga, Alcolea, Daniel, Lleó, Alberto, Vidal, Enric, Gavín, Rosalina, Ferrer, Isidre, Del Rio, Jose Antonio, (2020). Disease-specific changes in Reelin protein and mRNA in Nnurodegenerative diseases Cells 9, (5), 1252

Reelin is an extracellular glycoprotein that modulates neuronal function and synaptic plasticity in the adult brain. Decreased levels of Reelin activity have been postulated as a key factor during neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and in aging. Thus, changes in levels of full-length Reelin and Reelin fragments have been revealed in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and in post-mortem brains samples of AD patients with respect to non-AD patients. However, conflicting studies have reported decreased or unchanged levels of full-length Reelin in AD patients compared to control (nND) cases in post-mortem brains and CSF samples. In addition, a compelling analysis of Reelin levels in neurodegenerative diseases other than AD is missing. In this study, we analyzed brain levels of RELN mRNA and Reelin protein in post-mortem frontal cortex samples from different sporadic AD stages, Parkinson’s disease with dementia (PDD), and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD), obtained from five different Biobanks. In addition, we measured Reelin protein levels in CSF samples of patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), dementia, or sCJD diagnosis and a group of neurologically healthy cases. The results indicate an increase in RELN mRNA in the frontal cortex of advanced stages of AD and in sCJD(I) compared to controls. This was not observed in PDD and early AD stages. However, Reelin protein levels in frontal cortex samples were unchanged between nND and advanced AD stages and PDD. Nevertheless, they decreased in the CSF of patients with dementia in comparison to those not suffering with dementia and patients with MCI. With respect to sCJD, there was a tendency to increase in brain samples in comparison to nND and to decrease in the CSF with respect to nND. In conclusion, Reelin levels in CSF cannot be considered as a diagnostic biomarker for AD or PDD. However, we feel that the CSF Reelin changes observed between MCI, patients with dementia, and sCJD might be helpful in generating a biomarker signature in prodromal studies of unidentified dementia and sCJD.

Keywords: Reelin, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease dementia, a-synucleopathies, Cerebrospinal fluid


Marafon, G., Moretto, A., Zanuy, D., Alemán, C., Crisma, M., Toniolo, C., (2020). Effect on the conformation of a terminally blocked, (E) β,γ-unsaturated δ-amino acid residue induced by carbon methylation Journal of Organic Chemistry 85, (3), 1513-1524

Peptides are well-known to play a fundamental therapeutic role and to represent building blocks for numerous useful biomaterials. Stabilizing their active 3D-structure by appropriate modifications remains, however, a challenge. In this study, we have expanded the available literature information on the conformational propensities of a promising backbone change of a terminally blocked δ-amino acid residue, a dipeptide mimic, by replacing its central amide moiety with an (E) Cβ═Cγ alkene unit. Specifically, we have examined by DFT calculations, X-ray diffraction in the crystalline state, and FT-IR absorption/NMR spectroscopies in solution the extended vs folded preferences of analogues of this prototype system either unmodified or possessing single or multiple methyl group substituents on each of its four −CH2-CH═CH-CH2– main-chain carbon atoms. The theoretical and experimental results obtained clearly point to the conclusion that increasing the number of adequately positioned methylations will enhance the preference of the original sequence to fold, thus opening interesting perspectives in the design of conformationally constrained peptidomimetics.


Ruiz-Vega, G., Arias-Alpízar, K., de la Serna, E., Borgheti-Cardoso, L. N., Sulleiro, E., Molina, I., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Sánchez-Montalvá, A., del Campo, F. J., Baldrich, E., (2020). Electrochemical POC device for fast malaria quantitative diagnosis in whole blood by using magnetic beads, Poly-HRP and microfluidic paper electrodes Biosensors and Bioelectronics 150, 111925

Malaria, a parasitic infection caused by Plasmodium parasites and transmitted through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitos, is one of the main causes of mortality in many developing countries. Over 200 million new infections and nearly half a million deaths are reported each year, and more than three billion people are at risk of acquiring malaria worldwide. Nevertheless, most malaria cases could be cured if detected early. Malaria eradication is a top priority of the World Health Organisation. However, achieving this goal will require mass population screening and treatment, which will be hard to accomplish with current diagnostic tools. We report an electrochemical point-of-care device for the fast, simple and quantitative detection of Plasmodium falciparum lactate dehydrogenase (PfLDH) in whole blood samples. Sample analysis includes 5-min lysis to release intracellular parasites, and stirring for 5 more min with immuno-modified magnetic beads (MB) along with an immuno-modified signal amplifier. The rest of the magneto-immunoassay, including sample filtration, MB washing and electrochemical detection, is performed at a disposable paper electrode microfluidic device. The sensor provides PfLDH quantitation down to 2.47 ng mL−1 in spiked samples and for 0.006–1.5% parasitemias in Plasmodium-infected cultured red blood cells, and discrimination between healthy individuals and malaria patients presenting parasitemias >0.3%. Quantitative malaria diagnosis is attained with little user intervention, which is not achieved by other diagnostic methods.

Keywords: Electrochemical magneto-immunosensor, Malaria quantitative diagnosis, Paper microfluidic electrode, Plasmodium LDH, Point-of-care (POC) testing


Landa-Castro, Midori, Sebastián, Paula, Giannotti, Marina I., Serrà , Albert, Gómez, Elvira, (2020). Electrodeposition of nanostructured cobalt films from a deep eutectic solvent: Influence of the substrate and deposition potential range Electrochimica Acta 359, 136928

The purpose of this systematic study was to investigate the effects of specific substrates and potential conditions applied while tailoring the morphology and chemical composition of nanostructured Co films. In particular, Co electrodeposition in sustainable choline chloride-urea deep eutectic solvent was assessed, using glassy carbon and two metals widely employed in electrocatalysis and biocompatible purposes, Pt and Au, as substrates for modification with Co. Various in situ electrochemical techniques were combined with a broad range of ex-situ characterization and chemical-composition techniques for a detailed analysis of the prepared Co films. Among the results, nanostructured Co films with high extended active surface areas and variable composition of oxo and hydroxyl species could be tuned by simply modulating the applied potential limits, and without using additives or surfactant agents. The study highlights the effectiveness of using deep eutectic solvent as suitable electrolyte for surface modification by controlled deposition of nanostructured Co films with further application in electrocatalysis.

Keywords: Cobalt electrodeposition, Deep eutectic solvent, First growth stages, Substrate influence


van Moolenbroek, Guido T., Patiño, Tania, Llop, Jordi, Sánchez, Samuel, (2020). Engineering intelligent nanosystems for enhanced medical imaging Advanced Intelligent Systems 2, (10), 2000087

Medical imaging serves to obtain anatomical and physiological data, supporting medical diagnostics as well as providing therapeutic evaluation and guidance. A variety of contrast agents have been developed to enhance the recorded signals and to provide molecular imaging. However, fast clearance from the body or nonspecific biodistribution often limit their efficiency, constituting challenges that need to be overcome. Nanoparticle-based systems are currently emerging as versatile and highly integrated platforms providing improved circulating times, tissue specificity, high loading capacity for signaling moieties, and multimodal imaging features. Furthermore, nanoengineered devices can be tuned for specific applications and the development of responsive behaviors. Responses include in situ modulation of nanoparticle size, increased intratissue mobility through active propulsion of motorized particles, and active modulation of the particle surroundings such as the extracellular matrix for an improved penetration and retention at the desired locations. Once accumulated in the targeted tissue, smart nanoparticle-based contrast agents can provide molecular sensing of biomarkers or characteristics of the tissue microenvironment. In this case, the signal or contrast provided by the nanosystem is responsive to the presence or concentration of an analyte. Herein, recent developments of intelligent nanosystems to improve medical imaging are presented.


Burgués, Javier, Marco, Santiago, (2020). Environmental chemical sensing using small drones: A review Science of The Total Environment In Press, 141172

Recent advances in miniaturization of chemical instrumentation and in low-cost small drones are catalyzing exponential growth in the use of such platforms for environmental chemical sensing applications. The versatility of chemically sensitive drones is reflected by their rapid adoption in scientific, industrial, and regulatory domains, such as in atmospheric research studies, industrial emission monitoring, and in enforcement of environmental regulations. As a result of this interdisciplinarity, progress to date has been reported across a broad spread of scientific and non-scientific databases, including scientific journals, press releases, company websites, and field reports. The aim of this paper is to assemble all of these pieces of information into a comprehensive, structured and updated review of the field of chemical sensing using small drones. We exhaustively review current and emerging applications of this technology, as well as sensing platforms and algorithms developed by research groups and companies for tasks such as gas concentration mapping, source localization, and flux estimation. We conclude with a discussion of the most pressing technological and regulatory limitations in current practice, and how these could be addressed by future research.

Keywords: Unmanned aircraft systems, Remotely piloted aircraft systems, Chemical sensors, Gas sensors, Environmental monitoring, Industrial emission monitoring


Wang, Lei, Marciello, Marzia, Estévez-Gay, Miquel, Soto Rodriguez, Paul E. D., Luengo Morato, Yurena, Iglesias-Fernández, Javier, Huang, Xin, Osuna, Sílvia, Filice, Marco, Sánchez, Samuel, (2020). Enzyme conformation influences the performance of lipase-powered nanomotors Angewandte Chemie International Edition 59, (47), 21080-21087

Enzyme‐powered micro/nanomotors have myriads of potential applications in various areas. To efficiently reach those applications, it is necessary and critical to understand the fundamental aspects affecting the motion dynamics. Herein, we explored the impact of enzyme orientation on the performance of lipase-powered nanomotors by tuning the lipase immobilization strategies. The influence of the lipase orientation and lid conformation on substrate binding and catalysis was analyzed using molecular dynamics simulations. Besides, the motion performance indicates that the hydrophobic binding (via OTES) represents the best orienting strategy, providing 48.4 % and 95.4 % increase in diffusion coefficient compared to hydrophilic binding (via APTES) and Brownian motion (no fuel), respectively (with C[triacetin] of 100 mm). This work provides vital evidence for the importance of immobilization strategy and corresponding enzyme orientation for the catalytic activity and in turn, the motion performance of nanomotors, and is thus helpful to future applications.


Estrada-Petrocelli, L., Torres, A., Sarlabous, L., Rafols-de-Urquia, M., Ye-Lin, Y., Prats-Boluda, G., Jané, R., Garcia-Casado, J., (2020). Evaluation of respiratory muscle activity by means of concentric ring electrodes IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering Early publication

Surface electromyography (sEMG) can be used for the evaluation of respiratory muscle activity. Recording sEMG involves the use of surface electrodes in a bipolar configuration. However, electrocardiographic (ECG) interference and electrode orientation represent considerable drawbacks to bipolar acquisition. As an alternative, concentric ring electrodes (CREs) can be used for sEMG acquisition and offer great potential for the evaluation of respiratory muscle activity due to their enhanced spatial resolution and simple placement protocol, which does not depend on muscle fiber orientation. The aim of this work was to analyze the performance of CREs during respiratory sEMG acquisitions. Respiratory muscle sEMG was applied to the diaphragm and sternocleidomastoid muscles using a bipolar and a CRE configuration. Thirty-two subjects underwent four inspiratory load spontaneous breathing tests which was repeated after interchanging the electrode positions. We calculated parameters such as (1) spectral power and (2) median frequency during inspiration, and power ratios of inspiratory sEMG without ECG in relation to (3) basal sEMG without ECG ( Rins/noise ), (4) basal sEMG with ECG ( Rins/cardio ) and (5) expiratory sEMG without ECG ( Rins/exp ). Spectral power, R_ins/noise} and Rins/cardio increased with the inspiratory load. Significantly higher values (p<0.05) of Rins/cardio and significantly higher median frequencies were obtained for CREs. Rins/noise and Rins/exp were higher for the bipolar configuration only in diaphragm sEMG recordings, whereas no significant differences were found in the sternocleidomastoid recordings. Our results suggest that the evaluation of respiratory muscle activity by means of sEMG can benefit from the remarkably reduced influence of cardiac activity, the enhanced detection of the shift in frequency content and the axial isotropy of CREs which facilitates its placement.

Keywords: Concentric ring electrodes, Laplacian potential, Non-invasive respiratory monitoring, Respiratory muscles, Surface electromyography


Minguela, J., Slawik, S., Mücklich, F., Ginebra, M. P., Llanes, L., Mas-Moruno, C., Roa, J. J., (2020). Evolution of microstructure and residual stresses in gradually ground/polished 3Y-TZP Journal of the European Ceramic Society In press

A comprehensive study of progressively ground/polished 3Y-TZP was performed with the aim of better understanding the mechanisms driving the microstructural modifications observed after such procedures, and identifying the processing parameters leading to optimal microstructures (i.e. ageing-protective and damage-free). Gradually ground/polished surfaces were produced, yielding four different topographies of increasing roughness (grades 1–4) and two different textures (unidirectionally, U, and multidirectionally, M). Phase transformation, microstructure and residual stresses were investigated by means of advanced characterization techniques. It was found that low-roughness mildly ground/polished specimens (i.e. 2-M/U) presented a nanometric layer with the ageing-related protective features generally associated with coarsely ground specimens. A lower limit for grain refinement in terms of surface abrasion was also found, in which partial recrystallization took place (i.e. 1-M/U). A mathematical relation was established between average surface roughness (Sa), monoclinic volume fraction (Vm) and surface compressive residual stresses, demonstrating that if the processing parameters are controlled, both Vm and residual stresses can be predicted by the measurement of Sa.

Keywords: Grinding, Microstructure, Phase transformation, Residual stresses, Zirconia


Donnelly, Joanna L., Offenbartl-Stiegert, Daniel, Marín-Beloqui, José M., Rizzello, Loris, Battaglia, Guiseppe, Clarke, Tracey M., Howorka, Stefan, Wilden, Jonathan D., (2020). Exploring the relationship between BODIPY structure and spectroscopic properties to design fluorophores for bioimaging Chemistry - A European Journal 26, (4), 863-872

Designing chromophores for biological applications requires a fundamental understanding of how the chemical structure of a chromophore influences its photophysical properties. We here describe the synthesis of a library of BODIPY dyes, exploring diversity at various positions around the BODIPY core. The results show that the nature and position of substituents have a dramatic effect on the spectroscopic properties. Substituting in a heavy atom or adjusting the size and orientation of a conjugated system provides a means of altering the spectroscopic profiles with high precision. The insight from the structure–activity relationship was applied to devise a new BODIPY dye with rationally designed photochemical properties including absorption towards the near-infrared region. The dye also exhibited switch-on fluorescence to enable visualisation of cells with high signal-to-noise ratio without washing-out of unbound dye. The BODIPY-based probe is non-cytotoxic and compatible with staining procedures including cell fixation and immunofluorescence microscopy.


Park, D., Wershof, E., Boeing, S., Labernadie, A., Jenkins, R. P., George, S., Trepat, X., Bates, P. A., Sahai, E., (2020). Extracellular matrix anisotropy is determined by TFAP2C-dependent regulation of cell collisions Nature Materials Article in Press

The isotropic or anisotropic organization of biological extracellular matrices has important consequences for tissue function. We study emergent anisotropy using fibroblasts that generate varying degrees of matrix alignment from uniform starting conditions. This reveals that the early migratory paths of fibroblasts are correlated with subsequent matrix organization. Combined experimentation and adaptation of Vicsek modelling demonstrates that the reorientation of cells relative to each other following collision plays a role in generating matrix anisotropy. We term this behaviour ‘cell collision guidance’. The transcription factor TFAP2C regulates cell collision guidance in part by controlling the expression of RND3. RND3 localizes to cell–cell collision zones where it downregulates actomyosin activity. Cell collision guidance fails without this mechanism in place, leading to isotropic matrix generation. The cross-referencing of alignment and TFAP2C gene expression signatures against existing datasets enables the identification and validation of several classes of pharmacological agents that disrupt matrix anisotropy.

Keywords: Biomaterials – cells, Cell migration, Self-assembly, Tissues


Ferrer, Isidro, Andrés-Benito, Pol, Zelaya, Maria Victoria, Aguirre, Maria Elena Erro, Carmona, Margarita, Ausín, Karina, Lachén-Montes, Mercedes, Fernández-Irigoyen, Joaquín, Santamaría, Enrique, del Río, José Antonio, (2020). Familial globular glial tauopathy linked to MAPT mutations: molecular neuropathology and seeding capacity of a prototypical mixed neuronal and glial tauopathy Acta Neuropathologica 139, (4), 735-771

Globular glial tauopathy (GGT) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease involving the grey matter and white matter (WM) and characterized by neuronal deposition of hyper-phosphorylated, abnormally conformed, truncated, oligomeric 4Rtau in neurons and in glial cells forming typical globular astrocyte and oligodendrocyte inclusions (GAIs and GOIs, respectively) and coiled bodies. Present studies centre on four genetic GGT cases from two unrelated families bearing the P301T mutation in MAPT and one case of sporadic GGT (sGGT) and one case of GGT linked to MAPT K317M mutation, for comparative purposes. Clinical and neuropathological manifestations and biochemical profiles of phospho-tau are subjected to individual variations in patients carrying the same mutation, even in carriers of the same family, independently of the age of onset, gender, and duration of the disease. Immunohistochemistry, western blotting, transcriptomic, proteomics and phosphoproteomics, and intra-cerebral inoculation of brain homogenates to wild-type (WT) mice were the methods employed. In GGT cases linked to MAPT P301T mutation, astrocyte markers GFAP, ALDH1L1, YKL40 mRNA and protein, GJA1 mRNA, and AQ4 protein are significantly increased; glutamate transporter GLT1 (EAAT2) and glucose transporter (SLC2A1) decreased; mitochondrial pyruvate carrier 1 (MPC1) increased, and mitochondrial uncoupling protein 5 (UCP5) almost absent in GAIs in frontal cortex (FC). Expression of oligodendrocyte markers OLIG1 and OLIG2mRNA, and myelin-related genes MBP, PLP1, CNP, MAG, MAL, MOG, and MOBP are significantly decreased in WM; CNPase, PLP1, and MBP antibodies reveal reduction and disruption of myelinated fibres; and SMI31 antibodies mark axonal damage in the WM. Altered expression of AQ4, GLUC-t, and GLT-1 is also observed in sGGT and in GGT linked to MAPT K317M mutation. These alterations point to primary astrogliopathy and oligodendrogliopathy in GGT. In addition, GGT linked to MAPT P301T mutation proteotypes unveil a proteostatic imbalance due to widespread (phospho)proteomic dearrangement in the FC and WM, triggering a disruption of neuron projection morphogenesis and synaptic transmission. Identification of hyper-phosphorylation of variegated proteins calls into question the concept of phospho-tau-only alteration in the pathogenesis of GGT. Finally, unilateral inoculation of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions of GGT homogenates from GGT linked to MAPT P301T, sGGT, and GGT linked to MAPT K317M mutation in the hippocampus, corpus callosum, or caudate/putamen in wild-type mice produces seeding, and time- and region-dependent spreading of phosphorylated, non-oligomeric, and non-truncated 4Rtau and 3Rtau, without GAIs and GOIs but only of coiled bodies. These experiments prove that host tau strains are important in the modulation of cellular vulnerability and phenotypes of phospho-tau aggregates.

Keywords: Globular glial tauopathy, Tau, Astrogliopathy, Oligodendrogliopathy, Phosphoproteome, Seeding and spreading


Burgués, Javier, Marco, Santiago, (2020). Feature extraction for transient chemical sensor signals in response to turbulent plumes: Application to chemical source distance prediction Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical In press, 128235

This paper describes the design of a linear phase low-pass differentiator filter with a finite impulse response (FIR) for extracting transient features of gas sensor signals (the so-called “bouts”). The detection of these bouts is relevant for estimating the distance of a gas source in a turbulent plume. Our current proposal addresses the shortcomings of previous ‘bout’ estimation methods, namely: (i) they were based in non-causal digital filters precluding real time operation, (ii) they used non-linear phase filters leading to waveform distortions and (iii) the smoothing action was achieved by two filters in cascade, precluding an easy tuning of filter performance. The presented method is based on a low-pass FIR differentiator, plus proper post-processing, allowing easy algorithmic implementation for real-time robotic exploration. Linear phase filters preserve signal waveform in the bandpass region for maximum reliability concerning both ‘bout’ detection and amplitude estimation. As a case study, we apply the proposed filter to predict the source distance from recordings obtained with metal oxide (MOX) gas sensors in a wind tunnel. We first perform a joint optimization of the cut-off frequency of the filter and the bout amplitude threshold, for different wind speeds, uncovering interesting relationships between these two parameters. We demonstrate that certain combinations of parameters can reduce the prediction error to 8 cm (in a distance range of 1.45 m) improving previously reported performances in the same dataset by a factor of 2.5. These results are benchmarked against traditional source distance estimators such as the mean, variance and maximum of the response. We also study how the length of the measurement window affects the performance of different signal features, and how to select the filter parameters to make the predictive models more robust to changes in wind speed. Finally, we provide a MATLAB implementation of the bout detection algorithm and all analysis code used in this study.

Keywords: Gas sensors, Differentiator, Low pass filter, Metal oxide semiconductor, MOX sensors, Signal processing, Feature extraction, Gas source localization, Robotics


Sánchez-Fibla, M., Forestier, S., Moulin-Frier, C., Puigbò, J. Y., Verschure, P., (2020). From motor to visually guided bimanual affordance learning Adaptive Behavior Article first published online

The mechanisms of how the brain orchestrates multi-limb joint action have yet to be elucidated and few computational sensorimotor (SM) learning approaches have dealt with the problem of acquiring bimanual affordances. We propose a series of bidirectional (forward/inverse) SM maps and its associated learning processes that generalize from uni- to bimanual interaction (and affordances) naturally, reinforcing the motor equivalence property. The SM maps range from a SM nature to a solely sensory one: full body control, delta SM control (through small action changes), delta sensory co-variation (how body-related perceptual cues covariate with object-related ones). We make several contributions on how these SM maps are learned: (1) Context and Behavior-Based Babbling: generalizing goal babbling to the interleaving of absolute and local goals including guidance of reflexive behaviors; (2) Event-Based Learning: learning steps are driven by visual, haptic events; and (3) Affordance Gradients: the vectorial field gradients in which an object can be manipulated. Our modeling of bimanual affordances is in line with current robotic research in forward visuomotor mappings and visual servoing, enforces the motor equivalence property, and is also consistent with neurophysiological findings like the multiplicative encoding scheme.

Keywords: Affordances, Bimanual affordances, Goal babbling, Interlimb coordination, Motor equivalence, Sensorimotor learning


Burgués, Javier, Hernández, Victor, Lilienthal, Achim J., Marco, Santiago, (2020). Gas distribution mapping and source localization using a 3D grid of metal oxide semiconductor sensors Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 304, 127309

The difficulty to obtain ground truth (i.e. empirical evidence) about how a gas disperses in an environment is one of the major hurdles in the field of mobile robotic olfaction (MRO), impairing our ability to develop efficient gas source localization strategies and to validate gas distribution maps produced by autonomous mobile robots. Previous ground truth measurements of gas dispersion have been mostly based on expensive tracer optical methods or 2D chemical sensor grids deployed only at ground level. With the ever-increasing trend towards gas-sensitive aerial robots, 3D measurements of gas dispersion become necessary to characterize the environment these platforms can explore. This paper presents ten different experiments performed with a 3D grid of 27 metal oxide semiconductor (MOX) sensors to visualize the temporal evolution of gas distribution produced by an evaporating ethanol source placed at different locations in an office room, including variations in height, release rate and air flow. We also studied which features of the MOX sensor signals are optimal for predicting the source location, considering different lengths of the measurement window. We found strongly time-varying and counter-intuitive gas distribution patterns that disprove some assumptions commonly held in the MRO field, such as that heavy gases disperse along ground level. Correspondingly, ground-level gas distributions were rarely useful for localizing the gas source and elevated measurements were much more informative. We make the dataset and the code publicly available to enable the community to develop, validate, and compare new approaches related to gas sensing in complex environments.

Keywords: Mobile robotic olfaction, Metal oxide gas sensors, Signal processing, Sensor networks, Gas source localization, Gas distribution mapping


Lynch, Cian J., Bernad, Raquel, Martínez-Val, Ana, Shahbazi, Marta N., Nóbrega-Pereira, Sandrina, Calvo, Isabel, Blanco-Aparicio, Carmen, Tarantino, Carolina, Garreta, Elena, Richart-Ginés, Laia, Alcazar, Noelia, Graña-Castro, Osvaldo, Gómez-Lopez, Gonzalo, Aksoy, Irene, Muñoz-Martín, Maribel, Martinez, Sonia, Ortega, Sagrario, Prieto, Susana, Simboeck, Elisabeth, Camasses, Alain, Stephan-Otto Attolini, Camille, Fernandez, Agustin F., Sierra, Marta I., Fraga, Mario F., Pastor, Joaquin, Fisher, Daniel, Montserrat, Nuria, Savatier, Pierre, Muñoz, Javier, Zernicka-Goetz, Magdalena, Serrano, Manuel, (2020). Global hyperactivation of enhancers stabilizes human and mouse naive pluripotency through inhibition of CDK8/19 Mediator kinases Nature Cell Biology 22, (10), 1223-1238

Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) transition between cell states in vitro, reflecting developmental changes in the early embryo. PSCs can be stabilized in the naive state by blocking extracellular differentiation stimuli, particularly FGF–MEK signalling. Here, we report that multiple features of the naive state in human and mouse PSCs can be recapitulated without affecting FGF–MEK signalling or global DNA methylation. Mechanistically, chemical inhibition of CDK8 and CDK19 (hereafter CDK8/19) kinases removes their ability to repress the Mediator complex at enhancers. CDK8/19 inhibition therefore increases Mediator-driven recruitment of RNA polymerase II (RNA Pol II) to promoters and enhancers. This efficiently stabilizes the naive transcriptional program and confers resistance to enhancer perturbation by BRD4 inhibition. Moreover, naive pluripotency during embryonic development coincides with a reduction in CDK8/19. We conclude that global hyperactivation of enhancers drives naive pluripotency, and this can be achieved in vitro by inhibiting CDK8/19 kinase activity. These principles may apply to other contexts of cellular plasticity.


Pedraz, Lucas, Blanco-Cabra, Núria, Torrents, Eduard, (2020). Gradual adaptation of facultative anaerobic pathogens to microaerobic and anaerobic conditions The FASEB Journal 34, (2), 2912-2928

Many notable human pathogens are facultative anaerobes. These pathogens exhibit redundant metabolic pathways and a whole array of regulatory systems to adapt to changing oxygen levels. However, our knowledge of facultative anaerobic pathogens is mostly based on fully aerobic or anaerobic cultures, which does not reflect real infection conditions, while the microaerobic range remains understudied. Here, we examine the behavior of pathogenic and nonpathogenic strains of two facultative anaerobes, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, during the aerobic-anaerobic transition. To do so, we introduce a new technique named AnaeroTrans, in which we allow self-consumption of oxygen by steady-state cultures and monitor the system by measuring the gas-phase oxygen concentration. We explore the different behavior of the studied species toward oxygen and examine how this behavior is associated with the targeted infection sites. As a model, we characterize the adaptation profile of the ribonucleotide reductase network, a complex oxygen-dependent enzymatic system responsible for the generation of the deoxyribonucleotides. We also explore the actions of the most important anaerobic regulators and how these regulators influence bacterial fitness. Our results allow us to classify the different elements that compose the aerobic-anaerobic transition into reproducible stages, thus showing the different adaptation mechanisms of the studied species.


Calvo, Mireia, González, Rubèn, Seijas, Núria, Vela, Emili, Hernández, Carme, Batiste, Guillem, Miralles, Felip, Roca, Josep, Cano, Isaac, Jané, Raimon, (2020). Health outcomes from home hospitalization: Multisource predictive modeling Journal of Medical Internet Research 22, (10), e21367

Background: Home hospitalization is widely accepted as a cost-effective alternative to conventional hospitalization for selected patients. A recent analysis of the home hospitalization and early discharge (HH/ED) program at Hospital Clínic de Barcelona over a 10-year period demonstrated high levels of acceptance by patients and professionals, as well as health value-based generation at the provider and health-system levels. However, health risk assessment was identified as an unmet need with the potential to enhance clinical decision making. Objective: The objective of this study is to generate and assess predictive models of mortality and in-hospital admission at entry and at HH/ED discharge. Methods: Predictive modeling of mortality and in-hospital admission was done in 2 different scenarios: at entry into the HH/ED program and at discharge, from January 2009 to December 2015. Multisource predictive variables, including standard clinical data, patients’ functional features, and population health risk assessment, were considered. Results: We studied 1925 HH/ED patients by applying a random forest classifier, as it showed the best performance. Average results of the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC; sensitivity/specificity) for the prediction of mortality were 0.88 (0.81/0.76) and 0.89 (0.81/0.81) at entry and at home hospitalization discharge, respectively; the AUROC (sensitivity/specificity) values for in-hospital admission were 0.71 (0.67/0.64) and 0.70 (0.71/0.61) at entry and at home hospitalization discharge, respectively. Conclusions: The results showed potential for feeding clinical decision support systems aimed at supporting health professionals for inclusion of candidates into the HH/ED program, and have the capacity to guide transitions toward community-based care at HH discharge.

Keywords: Home hospitalization, Health risk assessment, Predictive modeling, Chronic care, Integrated care, Modeling, Hospitalization, Health risk, Prediction, Mortality, Clinical decision support


Sohn, Lydia L., Schwille, Petra, Hierlemann, Andreas, Tay, Savas, Samitier, Josep, Fu, Jianping, Loskill, Peter, (2020). How can microfluidic and microfabrication approaches make experiments more physiologically relevant? Cell Systems In Press, Corrected ProofWhat are Corrected Proof articles?,

Microfabricated and microfluidic devices enable standardized handling, precise spatiotemporal manipulation of cells and liquids, and recapitulation of cellular environments, tissues, and organ-level biology. We asked researchers how these devices can make in vitro experiments more physiologically relevant.


Santos-Pata, Diogo, Ballester, Belen Rubio, Zucca, Riccardo, Filho, Carlos Stefano, Almeida, Sara Regina, Min, Li Li, Castellano, Gabriela, Verschure, P., (2020). Human CA1 and subiculum activity forecast stroke chronicity medRxiv ahead (pre-print - not valid)

Following a stroke, the brain undergoes a process of neuronal reorganization to compensate for structural damage and cope with functionality loss. Increases in stroke-induced neurogenesis rates in the dentate gyrus and neural migration from the hippocampus towards the affected site have been observed, suggesting that the hippocampus is involved in functionality gains and neural reorganization. Despite the observed hippocampal contributions to structural changes, the hippocampal physiology for stroke recovery has been poorly characterized. To this end, we measured resting-state whole-brain activity from non-hippocampal stroke survivors (n=13) during functional MRI scanning. Analysis of multiple hippocampal subregions revealed that the voxel activity of hippocampal readout sites (CA1 and subiculum) forecast the patient's chronicity stage stronger than early regions of the hippocampal circuit. Furthermore, we observed hemispheric-specific contributions to chronicity forecasting, raising the hypothesis that left and right hippocampus are functionally dissociable during recovery. In addition, we suggest that in contrast with whole-brain analysis, the monitoring of segregated and specialized sub-networks after stroke potentially reveals detailed aspects of stroke recovery. Altogether, our results shed light on the contribution of the subcortical-cortical interplay for neural reorganization and highlight new avenues for stroke rehabilitation.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.Funding StatementThis project has received funding from the European Union's H2020-EU research and innovation programme under grant agreement ID: 826421Author DeclarationsAll relevant ethical guidelines have been followed; any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained and details of the IRB/oversight body are included in the manuscript.YesAll necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived.YesI understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as ClinicalTrials.gov. I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance).Yes I have followed all appropriate research reporting guidelines and uploaded the relevant EQUATOR Network research reporting checklist(s) and other pertinent material as supplementary files, if applicable.YesData will be made public upon article acceptance.


Zoufaly, Alexander, Poglitsch, Marko, Aberle, Judith H., Hoepler, Wolfgang, Seitz, Tamara, Traugott, Marianna, Grieb, Alexander, Pawelka, Erich, Laferl, Hermann, Wenisch, Christoph, Neuhold, Stephanie, Haider, Doris, Stiasny, Karin, Bergthaler, Andreas, Puchhammer-Stoeckl, Elisabeth, Mirazimi, Ali, Montserrat, Nuria, Zhang, Haibo, Slutsky, Arthur S., Penninger, Josef M., (2020). Human recombinant soluble ACE2 in severe COVID-19 The Lancet Respiratory Medicine Online first,

Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the crucial severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) receptor and protects multiple tissues, including the lung, from injury as a regulator of the renin–angiotensin system.1 Therefore, ACE2 has become the focus of COVID-19 research and a plethora of drug development efforts. Among the novel compounds under development is human recombinant soluble ACE2 (hrsACE2 [APN01; Apeiron Biologics, Vienna, Austria]), which has two mechanisms of action that theoretically should be of benefit in COVID-19.2 The first involves binding the viral spike protein and thereby neutralising SARS-CoV-2,3 and the second is minimising injury to multiple organs, including the lungs, kidneys, and heart, because of unabated renin–angiotensin system hyperactivation and increased angiotensin II concentrations.4, 5, 6 hrsACE2 has been tested in 89 patients, namely in healthy volunteers in phase 1 studies and in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in phase 2 clinical studies, with a good safety profile.7, 8 Moreover, hrsACE2 can reduce SARS-CoV-2 load by a factor of 1000–5000 in in-vitro cell-culture experiments and engineered organoids, directly demonstrating that ACE2 can effectively neutralise SARS-CoV-2.3 We describe in this Case Report the first course of treatment with hrsACE2 of a patient with severe COVID-19.


Pijpers, Imke A. B., Cao, Shoupeng, Llopis-Lorente, Antoni, Zhu, Jianzhi, Song, Shidong, Joosten, Rick R. M., Meng, Fenghua, Friedrich, Heiner, Williams, David S., Sánchez, Samuel, van Hest, Jan C. M., Abdelmohsen, Loai K. E. A., (2020). Hybrid biodegradable nanomotors through compartmentalized synthesis Nano Letters 20, (6), 4472–4480

Designer particles that are embued with nanomachinery for autonomous motion have great potential for biomedical applications; however, their development is highly demanding with respect to biodegradability/compatibility. Previously, biodegradable propulsive machinery based on enzymes has been presented. However, enzymes are highly susceptible to proteolysis and deactivation in biological milieu. Biodegradable hybrid nanomotors powered by catalytic inorganic nanoparticles provide a proteolytically stable alternative to those based upon enzymes. Herein we describe the assembly of hybrid biodegradable nanomotors capable of transducing chemical energy into motion. Such nanomotors are constructed through a process of compartmentalized synthesis of inorganic MnO2 nanoparticles (MnPs) within the cavity of organic stomatocytes. We show that the nanomotors remain active in cellular environments and do not compromise cell viability. Effective tumor penetration of hybrid nanomotors is also demonstrated in proof-of-principle experiments. Overall, this work represents a new prospect for engineering of nanomotors that can retain their functionality within biological contexts.


Vila, A., Torras, N., Castaño, Albert G., García-Díaz, María, Comelles, Jordi, Pérez-Berezo, T., Corregidor, C., Castaño, O., Engel, E., Fernández-Majada, Vanesa, Martínez, Elena, (2020). Hydrogel co-networks of gelatine methacrylate and poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate sustain 3D functional in vitro models of intestinal mucosa Biofabrication 12, 025008

Mounting evidence supports the importance of the intestinal epithelial barrier and its permeability both in physiological and pathological conditions. Conventional in vitro models to evaluate intestinal permeability rely on the formation of tightly packed epithelial monolayers grown on hard substrates. These two-dimensional (2D) models lack the cellular and mechanical components of the non-epithelial compartment of the intestinal barrier, the stroma, which are key contributors to the barrier permeability in vivo. Thus, advanced in vitro models approaching the in vivo tissue composition are fundamental to improve precision in drug absorption predictions, to provide a better understanding of the intestinal biology, and to faithfully represent related diseases. Here, we generate photo-crosslinked gelatine methacrylate (GelMA) - poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogel co-networks that provide the required mechanical and biochemical features to mimic both the epithelial and stromal compartments of the intestinal mucosa, i.e., they are soft, cell adhesive and cell-loading friendly, and suitable for long-term culturing. We show that fibroblasts can be embedded in the GelMA-PEGDA hydrogels while epithelial cells can grow on top to form a mature epithelial monolayer that exhibits barrier properties which closely mimic those of the intestinal barrier in vivo, as shown by the physiologically relevant transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) and permeability values. The presence of fibroblasts in the artificial stroma compartment accelerates the formation of the epithelial monolayer and boosts the recovery of the epithelial integrity upon temporary barrier disruption, demonstrating that our system is capable of successfully reproducing the interaction between different cellular compartments. As such, our hydrogel co-networks offer a technologically simple yet sophisticated approach to produce functional three-dimensional (3D) in vitro models of epithelial barriers with epithelial and stromal cells arranged in a spatially relevant manner and near-physiological functionality.


Bortolla, R., Cavicchioli, M., Soler Rivaldi, J., Pascual Mateos, J.C., Verschure, P., Maffei, C., (2020). Hypersensitivity or hyperreactivity? An experimental investigation in Borderline Personality Disorder Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology 8, (1), 1-17

Objective: Starting from the controversial results showed by empirical research on Linehan’s Biosocial model of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), this study aims to empirically evaluate Linehan’s conceptualization of emotional hypersensitivity and hyperreactivity, as well as to investigate the role of pre-existing emotional states in BPD altered physiological responsivity. Methods: We asked 24 participants (BPD = 12; Healthy Controls = 12) to complete a self-reported questionnaire (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule) in order to assess their pre-task affective state. Subsequently, 36 emotional pictures from four valence categories (i.e. erotic, negative, positive, neutral) were administered while assessing participants self-reported and electrodermal responses. Results: BPD patients showed higher levels of pre-task negative affectivity as well as an enhanced physiological response to neutral stimuli. No main BPD group effect was found for the physiological data. Moreover, pre-task negative affectivity levels were exclusively related to physiological responses among BPD subjects. Discussion: Our findings supported the hypersensitivity hypothesis operationalized as an enhanced responsiveness to non-emotional cues. Hyperreactivity assumption was not supported. Conversely, our study revealed heightened physiological responses in relation to pre-existent negative emotional states in BPD. We discussed our results in the context of the putative pathological processes underlying BPD.

Keywords: Borderline Personality Disorder, Biosocial model, Hyperreactivity, Hypersensitivity, Negative affectivity, Physiology.


Castillo-Escario, Y., Rodríguez-Cañón, M., García-Alías, G., Jané, R., (2020). Identifying muscle synergies from reaching and grasping movements in rats IEEE Access 8, 62517-62530

Reaching and grasping (R&G) is a skilled voluntary movement which is critical for animals. In this work, we aim to identify muscle synergy patterns from R&G movements in rats and show how these patterns can be used to characterize such movements and investigate their consistency and repeatability. For that purpose, we analyzed the electromyographic (EMG) activity of five forelimb muscles recorded while the animals were engaged in R&G tasks. Our dataset included 200 R&G attempts from three different rats. Non-negative matrix factorization was used to decompose EMG signals and extract muscle synergies. We compared all pairs of attempts and created cross-validated models to study intra- and inter-subject variability. We found that three synergies were enough to accurately reconstruct the EMG envelopes. These muscle synergies and their corresponding activation coefficients were very similar for all the attempts in the database, providing a general pattern to describe the movement. Results suggested that the movement strategy adopted by an individual in its different attempts was highly repetitive, but also resembled the strategies adopted by the other animals. Inter-subject variability was not much higher than intra-subject variability. This study is a proof-of-concept, but the proposed approaches can help to establish whether there is a stereotyped pattern of neuromuscular activity in R&G movement in healthy rats, and the changes that occur in animal models of acute neurological injuries. Research on muscle synergies could elucidate motor control mechanisms, and lead to quantitative tools for evaluating upper limb motor impairment after an injury.

Keywords: Electromyography, Motor control, Muscle synergies, Reaching and grasping, Upper limb


Altay, Gizem, Tosi, Sébastien, García-Díaz, María, Martínez, Elena, (2020). Imaging the cell morphological response to 3D topography and curvature in engineered intestinal tissues Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 8, 294

While conventional cell culture methodologies have relied on flat, two-dimensional cell monolayers, three-dimensional engineered tissues are becoming increasingly popular. Often, engineered tissues can mimic the complex architecture of native tissues, leading to advancements in reproducing physiological functional properties. In particular, engineered intestinal tissues often use hydrogels to mimic villi structures. These finger-like protrusions of a few hundred microns in height have a well-defined topography and curvature. Here, we examined the cell morphological response to these villus-like microstructures at single-cell resolution using a novel embedding method that allows for the histological processing of these delicate hydrogel structures. We demonstrated that by using photopolymerisable poly(ethylene) glycol as an embedding medium, the villus-like microstructures were successfully preserved after sectioning with vibratome or cryotome. Moreover, high-resolution imaging of these sections revealed that cell morphology, nuclei orientation, and the expression of epithelial polarization markers were spatially encoded along the vertical axis of the villus-like microstructures and that this cell morphological response was dramatically affected by the substrate curvature. These findings, which are in good agreement with the data reported for in vivo experiments on the native tissue, are likely to be the origin of more physiologically relevant barrier properties of engineered intestinal tissues when compared with standard monolayer cultures. By showcasing this example, we anticipate that the novel histological embedding procedure will have a positive impact on the study of epithelial cell behavior on three-dimensional substrates in both physiological and pathological situations.

Keywords: Hydrogel scaffold, Confocal microscopy, Substrate curvature, Cell morphology, Cell orientation, Histological section, Small intestine, Villus


Steeves, A.J., Ho, W., Munisso, M.C., Lomboni, D.J., Larrañaga, E., Omelon, S., Martínez, Elena, Spinello, D., Variola, F., (2020). The implication of spatial statistics in human mesenchymal stem cell response to nanotubular architectures International Journal of Nanomedicine 15, 2151-2169

Introduction: In recent years there has been ample interest in nanoscale modifications of synthetic biomaterials to understand fundamental aspects of cell-surface interactions towards improved biological outcomes. In this study, we aimed at closing in on the effects of nanotubular TiO2 surfaces with variable nanotopography on the response on human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). Although the influence of TiO2 nanotubes on the cellular response, and in particular on hMSC activity, has already been addressed in the past, previous studies overlooked critical morphological, structural and physical aspects that go beyond the simple nanotube diameter, such as spatial statistics. Methods: To bridge this gap, we implemented an extensive characterization of nanotubular surfaces generated by anodization of titanium with a focus on spatial structural variables including eccentricity, nearest neighbour distance (NND) and Voronoi entropy, and associated them to the hMSC response. In addition, we assessed the biological potential of a two-tiered honeycomb nanoarchitecture, which allowed the detection of combinatory effects that this hierarchical structure has on stem cells with respect to conventional nanotubular designs. We have combined experimental techniques, ranging from Scanning Electron (SEM) and Atomic Force (AFM) microscopy to Raman spectroscopy, with computational simulations to characterize and model nanotubular surfaces. We evaluated the cell response at 6 hrs, 1 and 2 days by fluorescence microscopy, as well as bone mineral deposition by Raman spectroscopy, demonstrating substrate-induced differential biological cueing at both the short- and long-term. Results: Our work demonstrates that the nanotube diameter is not sufficient to comprehensively characterize nanotubular surfaces and equally important parameters, such as eccentricity and wall thickness, ought to be included since they all contribute to the overall spatial disorder which, in turn, dictates the overall bioactive potential. We have also demonstrated that nanotubular surfaces affect the quality of bone mineral deposited by differentiated stem cells. Lastly, we closed in on the integrated effects exerted by the superimposition of two dissimilar nanotubular arrays in the honeycomb architecture. Discussion: This work delineates a novel approach for the characterization of TiO2 nanotubes which supports the incorporation of critical spatial structural aspects that have been overlooked in previous research. This is a crucial aspect to interpret cellular behaviour on nanotubular substrates. Consequently, we anticipate that this strategy will contribute to the unification of studies focused on the use of such powerful nanostructured surfaces not only for biomedical applications but also in other technology fields, such as catalysis.

Keywords: Nanotubes, Nanotopography, Spatial statistics, Stem cells, Bone quality


Altay, Gizem, Batlle, Eduard, Fernández-Majada, Vanesa, Martínez, Elena, (2020). In vitro self-organized mouse small intestinal epithelial monolayer protocol Bio-protocol 10, (3), e3514

Developing protocols to obtain intestinal epithelial monolayers that recapitulate in vivo physiology to overcome the limitations of the organoids’ closed geometry has become of great interest during the last few years. Most of the developed culture models showed physiological-relevant cell composition but did not prove self-renewing capacities. Here, we show a simple method to obtain mouse small intestine-derived epithelial monolayers organized into proliferative crypt-like domains, containing stem cells, and differentiated villus-like regions, closely resembling the in vivo cell composition and distribution. In addition, we adapted our model to a tissue culture format compatible with functional studies and prove close to physiological barrier properties of our in vitro epithelial monolayers. Thus, we have set-up a protocol to generate physiologically relevant intestinal epithelial monolayers to be employed in assays where independent access to both luminal and basolateral compartments is needed, such as drug absorption, intracellular trafficking and microbiome-epithelium interaction assays.

Keywords: Mouse intestinal organoids, Adult intestinal stem cells, Matrigel, Intestinal epithelial monolayer, In vitro intestinal epithelial model, Tissue-like functionality, TEER


Monteil, Vanessa, Kwon, Hyesoo, Prado, Patricia, Hagelkrüys, Astrid, Wimmer, Reiner A., Stahl, Martin, Leopoldi, Alexandra, Garreta, Elena, Hurtado Del Pozo, Carmen, Prosper, Felipe, Romero, Juan Pablo, Wirnsberger, Gerald, Zhang, Haibo, Slutsky, Arthur S., Conder, Ryan, Montserrat, Nuria, Mirazimi, Ali, Penninger, Josef M., (2020). Inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 infections in engineered human tissues using clinical-grade soluble human ACE2 Cell 181, (4), 905-913.e7

We have previously provided the first genetic evidence that angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the critical receptor for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), and ACE2 protects the lung from injury, providing a molecular explanation for the severe lung failure and death due to SARS-CoV infections. ACE2 has now also been identified as a key receptor for SARS-CoV-2 infections, and it has been proposed that inhibiting this interaction might be used in treating patients with COVID-19. However, it is not known whether human recombinant soluble ACE2 (hrsACE2) blocks growth of SARS-CoV-2. Here, we show that clinical grade hrsACE2 reduced SARS-CoV-2 recovery from Vero cells by a factor of 1,000-5,000. An equivalent mouse rsACE2 had no effect. We also show that SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect engineered human blood vessel organoids and human kidney organoids, which can be inhibited by hrsACE2. These data demonstrate that hrsACE2 can significantly block early stages of SARS-CoV-2 infections.

Keywords: COVID-19, Angiotensin converting enzyme 2, Blood vessels, Human organoids, Kidney, Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Spike glycoproteins, Treatment


Eixarch, Herena, Calvo-Barreiro, Laura, Costa, Carme, Reverter-Vives, Gemma, Castillo, Mireia, Gil, Vanessa, Del Río, José Antonio, Montalban, Xavier, Espejo, Carmen, (2020). Inhibition of the BMP signaling pathway ameliorated established clinical symptoms of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis Neurotherapeutics on-line publication

Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are secreted growth factors that belong to the transforming growth factor beta superfamily. BMPs have been implicated in physiological processes, but they are also involved in many pathological conditions. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated disease of the central nervous system (CNS); however, its etiology remains elusive. Some evidence points to BMPs as important players in the pathogenesis of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. In the present work, we studied the expression of BMP2, BMP4, BMP5, BMP6, BMP7, BMP type II receptor, and noggin in the immune system during different phases of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Major changes in the expression of BMPs took place in the initial phases of EAE. Indeed, those changes mainly affected BMP6 (whose expression was abrogated), BMP2, and BMP7 (whose expression was increased). In addition, we showed that in vivo inhibition of the BMP signaling pathway with small molecules ameliorated the already established clinical symptoms of EAE, as well as the CNS histopathological features. At the immune level, we observed an expansion of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) in mice treated with small molecules that inhibit the BMP signaling pathway. pDCs could play an important role in promoting the expansion of antigen-specific regulatory T cells. Altogether, our data suggest a role for BMPs in early immune events that take place in myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-induced EAE. In addition, the clinical outcome of the disease was improved when the BMP signaling pathway was inhibited in mice that presented established EAE symptoms.

Keywords: Bone morphogenetic protein, DMH1, Dorsomorphin, Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, Immune response, Multiple sclerosis.


Khurana, K., Guillem-Marti, J., Soldera, F., Mücklich, F., Canal, C., Ginebra, M. P., (2020). Injectable calcium phosphate foams for the delivery of Pitavastatin as osteogenic and angiogenic agent Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part B Applied Biomaterials Early View

Apatitic bone cements have been used as a clinical bone substitutes and drug delivery vehicles for therapeutic agents in orthopedic applications. This has led to their combination with different drugs with known ability to foster bone formation. Recent studies have evaluated Simvastatin for its role in enhanced bone regeneration, but its lipophilicity hampers incorporation and release to and from the bone graft. In this study, injectable calcium phosphate foams (i-CPF) based on α-tricalcium phosphate were loaded for the first time with Pitavastatin. The stability of the drug in different conditions relevant to this study, the effect of the drug on the i-CPFs properties, the release profile, and the in vitro biological performance with regard to mineralization and vascularization were investigated. Pitavastatin did not cause any changes in neither the micro nor the macro structure of the i-CPFs, which retained their biomimetic features. PITA-loaded i-CPFs showed a dose-dependent drug release, with early stage release kinetics clearly affected by the evolving microstructure due to the setting of cement. in vitro studies showed dose-dependent enhancement of mineralization and vascularization. Our findings contribute towards the design of controlled release with low drug dosing bone grafts: i-CPFs loaded with PITA as osteogenic and angiogenic agent.

Keywords: Controlled drug release, Endothelial progenitor cells, Mineralization, Rat mesenchymal stem cells, Vascularization


Trueba-Santiso, A., Fernández-Verdejo, D., Marco-Rius, I., Soder-Walz, J. M., Casabella, O., Vicent, T., Marco-Urrea, E., (2020). Interspecies interaction and effect of co-contaminants in an anaerobic dichloromethane-degrading culture Chemosphere 240, 124877

An anaerobic stable mixed culture dominated by bacteria belonging to the genera Dehalobacterium, Acetobacterium, Desulfovibrio, and Wolinella was used as a model to study the microbial interactions during DCM degradation. Physiological studies indicated that DCM was degraded in this mixed culture at least in a three-step process: i) fermentation of DCM to acetate and formate, ii) formate oxidation to CO2 and H2, and iii) H2/CO2 reductive acetogenesis. The 16S rRNA gene sequencing of cultures enriched with formate or H2 showed that Desulfovibrio was the dominant population followed by Acetobacterium, but sequences representing Dehalobacterium were only present in cultures amended with DCM. Nuclear magnetic resonance analyses confirmed that acetate produced from 13C-labelled DCM was marked at the methyl ([2–13C]acetate), carboxyl ([1–13C]acetate), and both ([1,2–13C]acetate) positions, which is in accordance to acetate formed by both direct DCM fermentation and H2/CO2 acetogenesis. The inhibitory effect of ten different co-contaminants frequently detected in groundwaters on DCM degradation was also investigated. Complete inhibition of DCM degradation was observed when chloroform, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, and diuron were added at 838, 400, and 107 μM, respectively. However, the inhibited cultures recovered the DCM degradation capability when transferred to fresh medium without co-contaminants. Findings derived from this work are of significant relevance to provide a better understanding of the synergistic interactions among bacteria to accomplish DCM degradation as well as to predict the effect of co-contaminants during anaerobic DCM bioremediation in groundwater. © 2019 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords: Bioremediation, Co-contaminants, Dehalobacterium, Dichloromethane, Inhibition


Manthe, Rachel L., Loeck, Maximilian, Bhowmick, Tridib, Solomon, Melani, Muro, Silvia, (2020). Intertwined mechanisms define transport of anti-ICAM nanocarriers across the endothelium and brain delivery of a therapeutic enzyme Journal of Controlled Release 324, 181-193

The interaction of drug delivery systems with tissues is key for their application. An example is drug carriers targeted to endothelial barriers, which can be transported to intra-endothelial compartments (lysosomes) or transcellularly released at the tissue side (transcytosis). Although carrier targeting valency influences this process, the mechanism is unknown. We studied this using polymer nanocarriers (NCs) targeted to intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), an endothelial-surface glycoprotein whose expression is increased in pathologies characterized by inflammation. A bell-shaped relationship was found between NC targeting valency and the rate of transcytosis, where high and low NC valencies rendered less efficient transcytosis rates than an intermediate valency formulation. In contrast, an inverted bell-shape relationship was found for NC valency and lysosomal trafficking rates. Data suggested a model where NC valency plays an opposing role in the two sub-processes involved in transcytosis: NC binding-uptake depended directly on valency and exocytosis-detachment was inversely related to this parameter. This is because the greater the avidity of the NC-receptor interaction the more efficient uptake becomes, but NC-receptor detachment post-transport is more compromised. Cleavage of the receptor at the basolateral side of endothelial cells facilitated NC transcytosis, likely by helping NC detachment post-transport. Since transcytosis encompasses both sets of events, the full process finds an optimum at the intersection of these inverted relationships, explaining the bell-shaped behavior. NCs also trafficked to lysosomes from the apical side and, additionally, from the basolateral side in the case of high valency NCs which are slower at detaching from the receptor. This explains the opposite behavior of NC valency for transcytosis vs. lysosomal transport. Anti-ICAM NCs were verified to traffic into the brain after intravenous injection in mice, and both cellular and in vivo data showed that intermediate valency NCs resulted in higher delivery of a therapeutic enzyme, acid sphingomyelinase, required for types A and B Niemann-Pick disease.

Keywords: Blood-brain barrier, ICAM-1-targeted nanocarriers, Targeting valency, Receptor-mediated transport, Lysosomal transcytosis destinations


Arqué, Xavier, Andrés, Xavier, Mestre, Rafael, Ciraulo, Bernard, Ortega Arroyo, Jaime, Quidant, Romain, Patiño, Tania, Sánchez, Samuel, (2020). Ionic species affect the self-propulsion of urease-powered micromotors Research 2020, 2424972

Enzyme-powered motors self-propel through the catalysis of in situ bioavailable fuels, which makes them excellent candidates for biomedical applications. However, fundamental issues like their motion in biological fluids and the understanding of the propulsion mechanism are critical aspects to be tackled before a future application in biomedicine. Herein, we investigated the physicochemical effects of ionic species on the self-propulsion of urease-powered micromotors. Results showed that the presence of PBS, NaOH, NaCl, and HEPES reduced self-propulsion of urease-powered micromotors pointing towards ion-dependent mechanisms of motion. We studied the 3D motion of urease micromotors using digital holographic microscopy to rule out any motor-surface interaction as the cause of motion decay when salts are present in the media. In order to protect and minimize the negative effect of ionic species on micromotors’ performance, we coated the motors with methoxypolyethylene glycol amine (mPEG) showing higher speed compared to noncoated motors at intermediate ionic concentrations. These results provide new insights into the mechanism of urease-powered micromotors, study the effect of ionic media, and contribute with potential solutions to mitigate the reduction of mobility of enzyme-powered micromotors.


Casanellas, Ignasi, Lagunas, Anna, Vida, Yolanda, Pérez-Inestrosa, Ezequiel, Andrades, J. A., Becerra, J., Samitier, Josep, (2020). The Janus role of adhesion in chondrogenesis International Journal of Molecular Sciences 21, (15), 5269

Tackling the first stages of the chondrogenic commitment is essential to drive chondrogenic differentiation to healthy hyaline cartilage and minimize hypertrophy. During chondrogenesis, the extracellular matrix continuously evolves, adapting to the tissue adhesive requirements at each stage. Here, we take advantage of previously developed nanopatterns, in which local surface adhesiveness can be precisely tuned, to investigate its effects on prechondrogenic condensation. Fluorescence live cell imaging, immunostaining, confocal microscopy and PCR analysis are used to follow the condensation process on the nanopatterns. Cell tracking parameters, condensate morphology, cell–cell interactions, mechanotransduction and chondrogenic commitment are evaluated in response to local surface adhesiveness. Results show that only condensates on the nanopatterns of high local surface adhesiveness are stable in culture and able to enter the chondrogenic pathway, thus highlighting the importance of controlling cell–substrate adhesion in the tissue engineering strategies for cartilage repair.

Keywords: Dendrimer, Nanopatterning, RGD, Mesenchymal cell condensation, Cell–cell interactions, YAP, Chondrogenesis


Duran, Jordi, Brewer, M. Kathryn, Hervera, Arnau, Gruart, Agnès, del Rio, Jose Antonio, Delgado-García, José M., Guinovart, Joan J., (2020). Lack of astrocytic glycogen alters synaptic plasticity but not seizure susceptibility Molecular Neurobiology on-line publication

Brain glycogen is mainly stored in astrocytes. However, recent studies both in vitro and in vivo indicate that glycogen also plays important roles in neurons. By conditional deletion of glycogen synthase (GYS1), we previously developed a mouse model entirely devoid of glycogen in the central nervous system (GYS1Nestin-KO). These mice displayed altered electrophysiological properties in the hippocampus and increased susceptibility to kainate-induced seizures. To understand which of these functions are related to astrocytic glycogen, in the present study, we generated a mouse model in which glycogen synthesis is eliminated specifically in astrocytes (GYS1Gfap-KO). Electrophysiological recordings of awake behaving mice revealed alterations in input/output curves and impaired long-term potentiation, similar, but to a lesser extent, to those obtained with GYS1Nestin-KO mice. Surprisingly, GYS1Gfap-KO mice displayed no change in susceptibility to kainate-induced seizures as determined by fEPSP recordings and video monitoring. These results confirm the importance of astrocytic glycogen in synaptic plasticity.

Keywords: Astrocyte, Epilepsy, Glycogen, Long-term potentiation, Metabolism, Plasticity.


Hortelão , Ana C., García-Jimeno, Sonia, Cano-Sarabia, Mary, Patiño, Tania, Maspoch, Daniel, Sánchez, Samuel, (2020). LipoBots: Using liposomal vesicles as protective shell of urease-based nanomotors Advanced Functional Materials 30, (42), 2002767

Abstract Developing self-powered nanomotors made of biocompatible and functional components is of paramount importance in future biomedical applications. Herein, the functional features of LipoBots (LBs) composed of a liposomal carrier containing urease enzymes for propulsion, including their protective properties against acidic conditions and their on-demand triggered activation, are reported. Given the functional nature of liposomes, enzymes can be either encapsulated or coated on the surface of the vesicles. The influence of the location of urease on motion dynamics is first studied, finding that the surface-urease LBs undergo self-propulsion whereas the encapsulated-urease LBs do not. However, adding a percolating agent present in the bile salts to the encapsulated-urease LBs triggers active motion. Moreover, it is found that when both types of nanomotors are exposed to a medium of similar pH found in the stomach, the surface-urease LBs lose activity and motion capabilities, while the encapsulated-urease LBs retain activity and mobility. The results for the protection enzyme activity through encapsulation within liposomes and in situ triggering of the motion of LBs upon exposure to bile salts may open new avenues for the use of liposome-based nanomotors in drug delivery, for example, in the gastrointestinal tract, where bile salts are naturally present in the intestine.


Mas, S., Torro, A., Fernández, L., Bec, N., Gongora, C., Larroque, C., Martineau, P., de Juan, A., Marco, S., (2020). MALDI imaging mass spectrometry and chemometric tools to discriminate highly similar colorectal cancer tissues Talanta 208, 120455

Intratumour heterogeneity due to cancer cell clonal evolution and microenvironment composition and tumor differences due to genetic variations between patients suffering of the same cancer pathology play a crucial role in patient response to therapies. This study is oriented to show that matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization-Mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI), combined with an advanced multivariate data processing pipeline can be used to discriminate subtle variations between highly similar colorectal tumors. To this aim, experimental tumors reproducing the emergence of drug-resistant clones were generated in athymic mice using subcutaneous injection of different mixes of two isogenic cell lines, the irinotecan-resistant HCT116-SN50 (R) and its sibling human colon adenocarcinoma sensitive cell line HCT116 (S). Because irinotecan-resistant and irinotecan-sensitive are derived from the same original parental HCT116 cell line, their genetic characteristics and molecular compositions are closely related. The multivariate data processing pipeline proposed relies on three steps: (a) multiset multivariate curve resolution (MCR) to separate biological contributions from background; (b) multiset K-means segmentation using MCR scores of the biological contributions to separate between tumor and necrotic parts of the tissues; and (c) partial-least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) applied to tumor pixel spectra to discriminate between R and S tumor populations. High levels of correct classification rates (0.85), sensitivity (0.92) and specificity (0.77) for the PLS-DA classification model were obtained. If previously labelled tissue is available, the multistep modeling strategy proposed constitutes a good approach for the identification and characterization of highly similar phenotypic tumor subpopulations that could be potentially applicable to any kind of cancer tissue that exhibits substantial heterogeneity. © 2019 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords: Chemometrics, Colorectal cancer, MALDI imaging, Multivariate analysis, Tumor heterogeneity


Millán, Rubén, Checa, Marti, Fumagalli, Laura, Gomila, Gabriel, (2020). Mapping the capacitance of self-assembled monolayers at metal/electrolyte interfaces at the nanoscale by In-liquid scanning dielectric microscopy Nanoscale In press

Organic self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) at metal/electrolyte interfaces have been thoroughly investigated both from fundamental and applied points of views. A relevant figure of merit of metal/SAM/electrolyte interfaces is the specific capacitance, which determines the charge that can be accumulated at the metal electrode. Here, we show that the specific capacitance of non-uniform alkanethiol SAMs at gold/electrolyte interfaces can be quantitatively measured and mapped at the nanoscale with in-liquid Scanning Dielectric Microscopy in force detection mode. We show that sub-100 nm spatial resolution in ultrathin (< 1 nm) SAMs can be achieved, largely improving the performance of current sensing characterization techniques. Present results open the access to study the dielectric properties of metal/SAM/electrolyte interfaces at scales that have remained unexplored until now.


Comelles, Jordi, Fernández-Majada, Vanesa, Berlanga-Navarro, Nuria, Acevedo, Verónica, Paszkowska, Karolina, Martínez, Elena, (2020). Microfabrication of poly(acrylamide) hydrogels with independently controlled topography and stiffness Biofabrication Accepted Manuscript

The stiffness and topography of a cell's extracellular matrix are physical cues that play a key role in regulating processes that determine cellular fate and function. While substrate stiffness can dictate cell differentiation lineage, migration, and self-organization, topographical features can change the cell's differentiation profile or migration ability. Although both physical cues are present and intrinsic to the native tissues in vivo, in vitro studies have been hampered by the lack of technological set-ups that would be compatible with cell culture and characterization. In vitro studies therefore either focused on screening stiffness effects in cells cultured on flat substrates or on determining topography effects in cells cultured onto hard materials. Here, we present a reliable, microfabrication method to obtain well defined topographical structures of micrometer size (5-10 µm) on soft polyacrylamide hydrogels with tunable mechanical stiffness (3-145 kPa) that closely mimic the in vivo situation. Topographically microstructured polyacrylamide hydrogels are polymerized by capillary force lithography using flexible materials as molds. The topographical microstructures are resistant to swelling, can be conformally functionalized by extracellular matrix proteins and sustain the growth of cell lines (fibroblasts and myoblasts) and primary cells (mouse intestinal epithelial cells). Our method can independently control stiffness and topography, which allows to individually assess the contribution of each physical cue to cell response or to explore potential synergistic effects. We anticipate that our fabrication method will be of great utility in tissue engineering and biophysics, especially for applications where the use of complex in vivo-like environments is of paramount importance.


Freire, Ismael T., Moulin-Frier, Clement, Sanchez-Fibla, Marti, Arsiwalla, Xerxes D., Verschure, P., (2020). Modeling the formation of social conventions from embodied real-time interactions PLoS ONE PLOS ONE , 15, (6), e0234434

What is the role of real-time control and learning in the formation of social conventions? To answer this question, we propose a computational model that matches human behavioral data in a social decision-making game that was analyzed both in discrete-time and continuous-time setups. Furthermore, unlike previous approaches, our model takes into account the role of sensorimotor control loops in embodied decision-making scenarios. For this purpose, we introduce the Control-based Reinforcement Learning (CRL) model. CRL is grounded in the Distributed Adaptive Control (DAC) theory of mind and brain, where low-level sensorimotor control is modulated through perceptual and behavioral learning in a layered structure. CRL follows these principles by implementing a feedback control loop handling the agent’s reactive behaviors (pre-wired reflexes), along with an Adaptive Layer that uses reinforcement learning to maximize long-term reward. We test our model in a multi-agent game-theoretic task in which coordination must be achieved to find an optimal solution. We show that CRL is able to reach human-level performance on standard game-theoretic metrics such as efficiency in acquiring rewards and fairness in reward distribution.


Kyndiah, Adrica, Checa, Martí, Leonardi, Francesca, Millan-Solsona, Ruben, Di Muzio, Martina, Tanwar, Shubham, Fumagalli, Laura, Mas-Torrent, Marta, Gomila, Gabriel, (2020). Nanoscale mapping of the conductivity and interfacial capacitance of an electrolyte-gated organic field-effect transistor under operation Advanced Functional Materials , (), 2008032

Probing nanoscale electrical properties of organic semiconducting materials at the interface with an electrolyte solution under externally applied voltages is key in the field of organic bioelectronics. It is demonstrated that the conductivity and interfacial capacitance of the active channel of an electrolyte-gated organic field‐effect transistor (EGOFET) under operation can be probed at the nanoscale using scanning dielectric microscopy in force detection mode in liquid environment. Local electrostatic force versus gate voltage transfer characteristics are obtained on the device and correlated with the global current–voltage transfer characteristics of the EGOFET. Nanoscale maps of the conductivity of the semiconducting channel show the dependence of the channel conductivity on the gate voltage and its variation along the channel due to the space charge limited conduction. The maps reveal very small electrical heterogeneities, which correspond to local interfacial capacitance variations due to an ultrathin non-uniform insulating layer resulting from a phase separation in the organic semiconducting blend. Present results offer insights into the transduction mechanism at the organic semiconductor/electrolyte interfaces at scales down to ≈100 nm, which can bring substantial optimization of organic electronic devices for bioelectronic applications such as electrical recording on excitable cells or label-free biosensing.


Sala-Jarque, Julia, Mesquida-Veny, Francina, Badiola-Mateos, Maider, Samitier, Josep, Hervera, Arnau, del Río, José Antonio, (2020). Neuromuscular activity induces paracrine signaling and triggers axonal regrowth after injury in microfluidic lab-on-chip devices Cells 9, (2), 302

Peripheral nerve injuries, including motor neuron axonal injury, often lead to functional impairments. Current therapies are mostly limited to surgical intervention after lesion, yet these interventions have limited success in restoring functionality. Current activity-based therapies after axonal injuries are based on trial-error approaches in which the details of the underlying cellular and molecular processes are largely unknown. Here we show the effects of the modulation of both neuronal and muscular activity with optogenetic approaches to assess the regenerative capacity of cultured motor neuron (MN) after lesion in a compartmentalized microfluidic-assisted axotomy device. With increased neuronal activity, we observed an increase in the ratio of regrowing axons after injury in our peripheral-injury model. Moreover, increasing muscular activity induces the liberation of leukemia inhibitory factor and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor in a paracrine fashion that in turn triggers axonal regrowth of lesioned MN in our 3D hydrogel cultures. The relevance of our findings as well as the novel approaches used in this study could be useful not only after axotomy events but also in diseases affecting MN survival.

Keywords: Neuromuscular junction, Microfluidics, Axotomy, Paracrine signaling


Diaz-Lucena, Daniela, Escaramis, G., Villar-Piqué, Anna, Hermann, Peter, Schmitz, Matthias, Varges, Daniela, Santana, Isabel, del Rio, José Antonio, Martí, E., Ferrer, Isidre, Baldeiras, I., Zerr, Inga, Llorens, Franc, (2020). A new tetra-plex fluorimetric assay for the quantification of cerebrospinal fluid β-amyloid42, total-tau, phospho-tau and α-synuclein in the differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative dementia Journal of Neurology 267, (9), 2567-2581

Background: Differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative dementia is currently supported by biomarkers including cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tests. Among them, CSF total-tau (t-tau), phosphorylated tau (p-tau) and β-amyloid42 (Aβ42) are considered core biomarkers of neurodegeneration. In the present work, we hypothesize that simultaneous assessment of these biomarkers together with CSF α-synuclein (α-syn) will significantly improve the differential diagnostic of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. To that aim, we characterized the analytical and clinical performance of a new tetra-plex immunoassay that simultaneously quantifies CSF Aβ42, t-tau, p-tau and α-syn in the differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative dementia. Methods: Biomarkers' concentrations were measured in neurological controls (n = 38), Alzheimer's disease (n = 35), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (n = 37), vascular dementia (n = 28), dementia with Lewy bodies/Parkinson's disease dementia (n = 27) and frontotemporal dementia (n = 34) using the new tetra-plex assay and established single-plex assays. Biomarker's performance was evaluated and diagnostic accuracy in the discrimination of diagnostic groups was determined using partial least squares discriminant analysis. Results: The tetra-plex assay presented accuracies similar to individual single-plex assays with acceptable analytical performance. Significant correlations were observed between tetra-plex and single-plex assays. Using partial least squares discriminant analysis, Alzheimer's disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease were well differentiated, reaching high accuracies in the discrimination from the rest of diagnostic groups. Conclusions: The new tetra-plex assay coupled with multivariate analytical approaches becomes a valuable asset for the differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative dementia and related applications.

Keywords: Neurodegenerative dementia, Cerebrospinal fluid, Biomarker, Amyloid beta, Total-tau, Phospho-tau, α-Synuclein, Multiplexing


De Matteis, Valeria, Rizzello, Loris, (2020). Noble metals and soft bio-inspired nanoparticles in retinal diseases treatment: A perspective Cells 9, (3), 679

We are witnessing an exponential increase in the use of different nanomaterials in a plethora of biomedical fields. We are all aware of how nanoparticles (NPs) have influenced and revolutionized the way we supply drugs or how to use them as therapeutic agents thanks to their tunable physico-chemical properties. However, there is still a niche of applications where NP have not yet been widely explored. This is the field of ocular delivery and NP-based therapy, which characterizes the topic of the current review. In particular, many efforts are being made to develop nanosystems capable of reaching deeper sections of the eye such as the retina. Particular attention will be given here to noble metal (gold and silver), and to polymeric nanoparticles, systems consisting of lipid bilayers such as liposomes or vesicles based on nonionic surfactant. We will report here the most relevant literature on the use of different types of NPs for an efficient delivery of drugs and bio-macromolecules to the eyes or as active therapeutic tools.

Keywords: Bio-inspired NPs, Drug delivery, Noble metals NPs, Retinal diseases


Rustler, Karin, Gomila, Alexandre, Maleeva, Galyna, Gorostiza, Pau, Bregestovski, Piotr, König, Burkhard, (2020). Optical Control of GABAA Receptors with a Fulgimide-Based Potentiator Chemistry - A European Journal Accepted Articles,

Optogenetic and photopharmacological tools to manipulate neuronal inhibition have limited efficacy and reversibility. We report the design, synthesis, and biological evaluation of Fulgazepam, a fulgimide derivative of benzodiazepine that behaves as a pure potentiator of ionotropic γ-aminobutyric acid receptors (GABA A Rs) and displays full and reversible photoswitching in vitro and in vivo. The compound enables high-resolution studies of GABAergic neurotransmission, and phototherapies based on localized, acute, and reversible neuroinhibition.


Gomila, Alexandre M. J., Rustler, Karin, Maleeva, Galyna, Nin-Hill, Alba, Wutz, Daniel, Bautista-Barrufet, Antoni, Rovira, Xavier, Bosch, Miquel, Mukhametova, Elvira, Petukhova, Elena, Ponomareva, Daria, Mukhamedyarov, Marat, Peiretti, Franck, Alfonso-Prieto, Mercedes, Rovira, Carme, König, Burkhard, Bregestovski, Piotr, Gorostiza, Pau, (2020). Photocontrol of endogenous glycine receptors in vivo Cell Chemical Biology In press

Glycine receptors (GlyRs) are indispensable for maintaining excitatory/inhibitory balance in neuronal circuits that control reflexes and rhythmic motor behaviors. Here we have developed Glyght, a GlyR ligand controlled with light. It is selective over other Cys-loop receptors, is active in vivo, and displays an allosteric mechanism of action. The photomanipulation of glycinergic neurotransmission opens new avenues to understanding inhibitory circuits in intact animals and to developing drug-based phototherapies.

Keywords: Glycine receptors, Photopharmacology, Optopharmacology, Inhibitory neurotransmission, CNS, Photoswitch


del Rio, Jose A., Ferrer, Isidre, (2020). Potential of microfluidics and lab-on-chip platforms to improve understanding of “prion-like” protein assembly and behavior Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 8, 570692

Human aging is accompanied by a relevant increase in age-associated chronic pathologies, including neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases. The appearance and evolution of numerous neurodegenerative diseases is paralleled by the appearance of intracellular and extracellular accumulation of misfolded proteins in affected brains. In addition, recent evidence suggests that most of these amyloid proteins can behave and propagate among neural cells similarly to infective prions. In order to improve understanding of the seeding and spreading processes of these “prion-like” amyloids, microfluidics and 3D lab-on-chip approaches have been developed as highly valuable tools. These techniques allow us to monitor changes in cellular and molecular processes responsible for amyloid seeding and cell spreading and their parallel effects in neural physiology. Their compatibility with new optical and biochemical techniques and their relative availability have increased interest in them and in their use in numerous laboratories. In addition, recent advances in stem cell research in combination with microfluidic platforms have opened new humanized in vitro models for myriad neurodegenerative diseases affecting different cellular targets of the vascular, muscular, and nervous systems, and glial cells. These new platforms help reduce the use of animal experimentation. They are more reproducible and represent a potential alternative to classical approaches to understanding neurodegeneration. In this review, we summarize recent progress in neurobiological research in “prion-like” protein using microfluidic and 3D lab-on-chip approaches. These approaches are driven by various fields, including chemistry, biochemistry, and cell biology, and they serve to facilitate the development of more precise human brain models for basic mechanistic studies of cell-to-cell interactions and drug discovery.

Keywords: Lab-On-Chip, Amyloid propagation, Microfluidics, Fibril, Seeding, Spreading, Prion-like, Prionoid


Palacio, F., Fonollosa, J., burgués, J., Gomez, J. M., Marco, S., (2020). Pulsed-temperature metal oxide gas sensors for microwatt power consumption IEEE Access 8, 70938-70946

Metal Oxide (MOX) gas sensors rely on chemical reactions that occur efficiently at high temperatures, resulting in too-demanding power requirements for certain applications. Operating the sensor under a Pulsed-Temperature Operation (PTO), by which the sensor heater is switched ON and OFF periodically, is a common practice to reduce the power consumption. However, the sensor performance is degraded as the OFF periods become larger. Other research works studied, generally, PTO schemes applying waveforms to the heater with time periods of seconds and duty cycles above 20%. Here, instead, we explore the behaviour of PTO sensors working under aggressive schemes, reaching power savings of 99% and beyond with respect to continuous heater stimulation. Using sensor sensitivity and the limit of detection, we evaluated four Ultra Low Power (ULP) sensors under different PTO schemes exposed to ammonia, ethylene, and acetaldehyde. Results show that it is possible to operate the sensors with total power consumption in the range of microwatts. Despite the aggressive power reduction, sensor sensitivity suffers only a moderate decline and the limit of detection may degrade up to a factor five. This is, however, gas-dependent and should be explored on a case-by-case basis since, for example, the same degradation has not been observed for ammonia. Finally, the run-in time, i.e., the time required to get a stable response immediately after switching on the sensor, increases when reducing the power consumption, from 10 minutes to values in the range of 10–20 hours for power consumptions smaller than 200 microwatts.

Keywords: Robot sensing systems, Temperature sensors, Heating systems, Gas detectors, Power demand, Sensitivity, Electronic nose, gas sensors, low-power operation, machine olfaction, pulsed-temperature operation, temperature modulation


Gavín, Rosalina, Lidón, Laia, Ferrer, Isidre, del Río, José Antonio, (2020). The quest for cellular prion protein functions in the aged and neurodegenerating brain Cells 9, (3), 591

Cellular (also termed ‘natural’) prion protein has been extensively studied for many years for its pathogenic role in prionopathies after misfolding. However, neuroprotective properties of the protein have been demonstrated under various scenarios. In this line, the involvement of the cellular prion protein in neurodegenerative diseases other than prionopathies continues to be widely debated by the scientific community. In fact, studies on knock-out mice show a vast range of physiological functions for the protein that can be supported by its ability as a cell surface scaffold protein. In this review, we first summarize the most commonly described roles of cellular prion protein in neuroprotection, including antioxidant and antiapoptotic activities and modulation of glutamate receptors. Second, in light of recently described interaction between cellular prion protein and some amyloid misfolded proteins, we will also discuss the molecular mechanisms potentially involved in protection against neurodegeneration in pathologies such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases.

Keywords: Prion, Tau, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Neuroprotection


Ferrer, I., Zelaya, M. V., Aguiló García, M., Carmona, M., López-González, I., Andrés-Benito, P., Lidón, L., Gavín, R., Garcia-Esparcia, P., del Rio, J. A., (2020). Relevance of host tau in tau seeding and spreading in tauopathies Brain Pathology 30, (2), 298-318

Human tau seeding and spreading occur following intracerebral inoculation of brain homogenates obtained from tauopathies in transgenic mice expressing natural or mutant tau, and in wild-type (WT) mice. The present study was geared to learning about the patterns of tau seeding, the cells involved and the characteristics of tau following intracerebral inoculation of homogenates from primary age-related tauopathy (PART: neuronal 4Rtau and 3Rtau), aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG: astrocytic 4Rtau) and globular glial tauopathy (GGT: 4Rtau with neuronal deposits and specific tau inclusions in astrocytes and oligodendrocytes). For this purpose, young and adult WT mice were inoculated unilaterally in the hippocampus or in the lateral corpus callosum with sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from PART, ARTAG and GGT cases, and were killed at variable periods of three to seven months. Brains were processed for immunohistochemistry in paraffin sections. Tau seeding occurred in the ipsilateral hippocampus and corpus callosum and spread to the septal nuclei, periventricular hypothalamus and contralateral corpus callosum, respectively. Tau deposits were mainly found in neurons, oligodendrocytes and threads; the deposits were diffuse or granular, composed of phosphorylated tau, tau with abnormal conformation and 3Rtau and 4Rtau independently of the type of tauopathy. Truncated tau at the aspartic acid 421 and ubiquitination were absent. Tau deposits had the characteristics of pre-tangles. A percentage of intracellular tau deposits co-localized with active (phosphorylated) tau kinases p38 and ERK 1/2. Present study shows that seeding and spreading of human tau into the brain of WT mice involves neurons and glial cells, mainly oligodendrocytes, thereby supporting the idea of a primary role of oligodendrogliopathy, together with neuronopathy, in the progression of tauopathies. In addition, it suggests that human tau inoculation modifies murine tau metabolism with the production and deposition of 3Rtau and 4Rtau, and by activation of specific tau kinases in affected cells.

Keywords: Aging-related tau astrogliopathy, Globular glial tauopathy, Primary age-related tauopathy, Seeding, Spreading, Tau, Tauopathies


Rodríguez-Pereira, Cristina, Lagunas, Anna, Casanellas, Ignasi, Vida, Yolanda, Pérez-Inestrosa, Ezequiel, Andrades, José A., Becerra, José, Samitier, Josep, Blanco, Francisco J., Magalhães, Joana, (2020). RGD-dendrimer-poly(L-lactic) acid nanopatterned substrates for the early chondrogenesis of human mesenchymal stromal cells derived from osteoarthritic and healthy donors Materials 13, (10), 2247

Aiming to address a stable chondrogenesis derived from mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) to be applied in cartilage repair strategies at the onset of osteoarthritis (OA), we analyzed the effect of arginine–glycine–aspartate (RGD) density on cell condensation that occurs during the initial phase of chondrogenesis. For this, we seeded MSC-derived from OA and healthy (H) donors in RGD-dendrimer-poly(L-lactic) acid (PLLA) nanopatterned substrates (RGD concentrations of 4 × 10−9, 10−8, 2.5 × 10−8, and 10−2 w/w), during three days and compared to a cell pellet conventional three-dimensional culture system. Molecular gene expression (collagens type-I and II–COL1A1 and COL2A1, tenascin-TNC, sex determining region Y-box9-SOX9, and gap junction protein alpha 1–GJA1) was determined as well as the cell aggregates and pellet size, collagen type-II and connexin 43 proteins synthesis. This study showed that RGD-tailored first generation dendrimer (RGD-Cys-D1) PLLA nanopatterned substrates supported the formation of pre-chondrogenic condensates from OA- and H-derived human bone marrow-MSCs with enhanced chondrogenesis regarding the cell pellet conventional system (presence of collagen type-II and connexin 43, both at the gene and protein level). A RGD-density dependent trend was observed for aggregates size, in concordance with previous studies. Moreover, the nanopatterns’ had a higher effect on OA-derived MSC morphology, leading to the formation of bigger and more compact aggregates with improved expression of early chondrogenic markers.

Keywords: Cell condensation, Gap junctions, RGD-density, Chondrogenic differentiation, Osteoarthritis


Kaang, Byung Kwon, Mestre, Rafael, Kang, Dong-Chang, Sánchez, Samuel, Kim, Dong-Pyo, (2020). Scalable and integrated flow synthesis of triple-responsive nano-motors via microfluidic Pickering emulsification Applied Materials Today 21, 100854

Artificial micro-/nano-motors are tiny machines as newly emerging tools capable of achieving numerous tasks. In principle, the self-phoretic motions require asymmetric structures in geometry and chemistry. However, conventional production techniques suffered from complex and time consuming multi-step process in low uniformity, and difficult to endow multi-functions into motors. This work disclosed a continuous-flow synthesis of triple-responsive (thermophoretic, chemical and magnetic movement) nano-motors (m-SiO2/Fe3O4-Pdop/Pt) via microfluidic Pickering emulsification in a process of integrated and scalable manner. The droplet microfluidic process allows efficient self-assembly of the silica nanoparticles surrounding the spherical interface of resin droplet, rendering excellent Pickering efficiency and reproducibility, and followed by anisotropic decoration of polydopamine (Pdop) and Pt catalyst in a serial flow process. The obtained Janus nanoparticles reveal double- or triple-responsive self-propulsions with synergic mobility by combining thermophoresis powered by light, catalytic driven motion in H2O2 or magnetic movement by magnet. Further, a non-metallic polydopamine based thermophoretic motion as well as an automated nano-cleaner for rapid water purification by dye removal are convincingly functioned. Finally, this novel integrated flow strategy proves a scalable manufacturing production (> 0.7 g hr−1) of the nano-motors using inexpensive single microreactor, fulfilling quantitative and qualitative needs for versatile applications.

Keywords: Microfluidics Pickering emulsions, Triple-responsive motor, Adsorbent


Xu, D., Wang, Y., Liang, C., You, Y., Sanchez, S., Ma, X., (2020). Self-propelled micro/nanomotors for on-demand biomedical cargo transportation Small 16, (27), 1902464

Micro/nanomotors (MNMs) are miniaturized machines that can perform assigned tasks at the micro/nanoscale. Over the past decade, significant progress has been made in the design, preparation, and applications of MNMs that are powered by converting different sources of energy into mechanical force, to realize active movement and fulfill on-demand tasks. MNMs can be navigated to desired locations with precise controllability based on different guidance mechanisms. A considerable research effort has gone into demonstrating that MNMs possess the potential of biomedical cargo loading, transportation, and targeted release to achieve therapeutic functions. Herein, the recent advances of self-propelled MNMs for on-demand biomedical cargo transportation, including their self-propulsion mechanisms, guidance strategies, as well as proof-of-concept studies for biological applications are presented. In addition, some of the major challenges and possible opportunities of MNMs are identified for future biomedical applications in the hope that it may inspire future research.

Keywords: Biomedical applications, Cargo transportation, Guidance strategies, Micro/nanomotors, Self-propulsion


De Corato, Marco, Arqué, Xavier, Patiño, Tania, Arroyo, Marino, Sánchez, Samuel, Pagonabarraga, Ignacio, (2020). Self-propulsion of active colloids via ion release: Theory and experiments Physical Review Letters 124, (10), 108001

We study the self-propulsion of a charged colloidal particle that releases ionic species using theory and experiments. We relax the assumptions of thin Debye length and weak nonequilibrium effects assumed in classical phoretic models. This leads to a number of unexpected features that cannot be rationalized considering the classic phoretic framework: an active particle can reverse the direction of motion by increasing the rate of ion release and can propel even with zero surface charge. Our theory predicts that there are optimal conditions for self-propulsion and a novel regime in which the velocity is insensitive to the background electrolyte concentration. The theoretical results quantitatively capture the salt-dependent velocity measured in our experiments using active colloids that propel by decomposing urea via a surface enzymatic reaction.


Torner, M., Mangal, A., Scharnagl, H., Jansen, C., Praktiknjo, M., Queck, A., Gu, W., Schierwagen, R., Lehmann, J., Uschner, F. E., Graf, C., Strassburg, C. P., Fernandez, J., Stojakovic, T., Woitas, R., Trebicka, J., (2020). Sex specificity of kidney markers to assess prognosis in cirrhotic patients with TIPS Liver International 40, (1), 186-193

Background & Aims: Renal function assessed by creatinine is a key prognostic factor in cirrhotic patients. However, creatinine is influenced by several factors, rendering interpretation difficult in some situations. This is especially important in early stages of renal dysfunction where renal impairment might not be accompanied by an increase in creatinine. Other parameters, such as cystatin C (CysC) and beta‐trace protein (BTP), have been evaluated to fill this gap. However, none of these studies have considered the role of the patient's sex. The present study analysed CysC and BTP to evaluate their prognostic value and differentiate them according to sex. Patients and methods: CysC and BTP were measured in 173 transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS)-patients from the NEPTUN-STUDY(NCT03628807) and analysed their relationship with mortality and sex. Propensity score for age, MELD, etiology and TIPS indication was used. Results: Cystatin C and BTP showed excellent correlations with creatinine values at baseline and follow-up. CysC was an independent predictor of overall mortality (HR = 1.66(1.33-2.06)) with an AUC of 0.75 and identified a cut-off of 1.55 mg/L in the whole cohort. Interestingly, CysC was significantly lower in females, also after propensity score matching. In males, the only independent predictor was the creatinine level (HR = 1.54(1.25-1.58)), while in females CysC levels independently predicted mortality (HR = 3.17(1.34-7.52)). Conclusion: This study demonstrates for the first time that in TIPS-patients creatinine predicts mortality in males better than in females, whereas CysC is a better predictor of mortality in females. These results may influence future clinical decisions on therapeutic options for example, allocation for liver transplantation in TIPS-patients.

Keywords: Beta-trace protein, Cirrhosis, Cystatin C, Portal hypertension, Renal function


Puigbò, J. Y., Arsiwalla, X. D., González-Ballester, M. A., Verschure, P., (2020). Switching operation modes in the neocortex via cholinergic neuromodulation Molecular Neurobiology 57, (1), 139-149

In order to deal with the uncertainty in the world, our brains need to be able to flexibly switch between the exploration of new sensory representations and exploitation of previously acquired ones. This requires forming accurate estimations of what and how much something is expected. While modeling has allowed for the development of several ways to form predictions, how the brain could implement those is still under debate. Here, we recognize acetylcholine as one of the main neuromodulators driving learning based on uncertainty, promoting the exploration of new sensory representations. We identify its interactions with cortical inhibitory interneurons and derive a biophysically grounded computational model able to capture and learn from uncertainty. This model allows us to understand inhibition beyond gain control by suggesting that different interneuron subtypes either encode predictions or estimate their uncertainty, facilitating detection of unexpected cues. Moreover, we show how acetylcholine-like neuromodulation uniquely interacts with global and local sources of inhibition, disrupting perceptual certainty and promoting the rapid acquisition of new perceptual cues. Altogether, our model proposes that cortical acetylcholine favors sensory exploration over exploitation in a cortical microcircuit dedicated to estimating sensory uncertainty.


Lidón, Laia, Vergara, Cristina, Ferrer, Isidro, Hernández, Félix, Ávila, Jesús, del Rio, Jose A., Gavín, Rosalina, (2020). Tau protein as a new regulator of cellular prion protein transcription Molecular Neurobiology 57, (10), 4170-4186

Cellular prion protein (PrPC) is largely responsible for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) when it becomes the abnormally processed and protease resistant form PrPSC. Physiological functions of PrPC include protective roles against oxidative stress and excitotoxicity. Relevantly, PrPC downregulates tau levels, whose accumulation and modification are a hallmark in the advance of Alzheimer's disease (AD). In addition to the accumulation of misfolded proteins, in the initial stages of AD-affected brains display both increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) markers and levels of PrPC. However, the factors responsible for the upregulation of PrPC are unknown. Thus, the aim of this study was to uncover the different molecular actors promoting PrPC overexpression. In order to mimic early stages of AD, we used β-amyloid-derived diffusible ligands (ADDLs) and tau cellular treatments, as well as ROS generation, to elucidate their particular roles in human PRNP promoter activity. In addition, we used specific chemical inhibitors and site-specific mutations of the PRNP promoter sequence to analyze the contribution of the main transcription factors involved in PRNP transcription under the analyzed conditions. Our results revealed that tau is a new modulator of PrPC expression independently of ADDL treatment and ROS levels. Lastly, we discovered that the JNK/c-jun-AP-1 pathway is involved in increased PRNP transcription activity by tau but not in the promoter response to ROS.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease, Cellular prion protein, Promoter, Tau, Tauopathies


Monferrer, Ezequiel, Martínn-Vañó, Susana, Carretero, Aitor, Garcíaa-Lizarribar, Andrea, Burgos-Panadero, Rebeca, Navarro, Samuel, Samitier, Josep, Noguera, Rosa, (2020). A three-dimensional bioprinted model to evaluate the effect of stiffness on neuroblastoma cell cluster dynamics and behavior Scientific Reports 10, (1), 6370

Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinted culture systems allow to accurately control microenvironment components and analyze their effects at cellular and tissue levels. The main objective of this study was to identify, quantify and localize the effects of physical-chemical communication signals between tumor cells and the surrounding biomaterial stiffness over time, defining how aggressiveness increases in SK-N-BE(2) neuroblastoma (NB) cell line. Biomimetic hydrogels with SK-N-BE(2) cells, methacrylated gelatin and increasing concentrations of methacrylated alginate (AlgMA 0%, 1% and 2%) were used. Young’s modulus was used to define the stiffness of bioprinted hydrogels and NB tumors. Stained sections of paraffin-embedded hydrogels were digitally quantified. Human NB and 1% AlgMA hydrogels presented similar Young´s modulus mean, and orthotopic NB mice tumors were equally similar to 0% and 1% AlgMA hydrogels. Porosity increased over time; cell cluster density decreased over time and with stiffness, and cell cluster occupancy generally increased with time and decreased with stiffness. In addition, cell proliferation, mRNA metabolism and antiapoptotic activity advanced over time and with stiffness. Together, this rheological, optical and digital data show the potential of the 3D in vitro cell model described herein to infer how intercellular space stiffness patterns drive the clinical behavior associated with NB patients.

Keywords: Biomaterials - cells, Paediatric cancer


Cilloni, Daniela, Petiti, Jessica, Campia, Valentina, Podestà , Marina, Squillario, Margherita, Montserrat, Nuria, Bertaina, Alice, Sabatini, Federica, Carturan, Sonia, Berger, Massimo, Saglio, Francesco, Bandini, Giuseppe, Bonifazi, Francesca, Fagioli, Franca, Moretta, Lorenzo, Saglio, Giuseppe, Verri, Alessandro, Barla, Annalisa, Locatelli, Franco, Frassoni, Francesco, (2020). Transplantation induces profound changes in the transcriptional asset of hematopoietic stem cells: Identification of specific signatures using machine learning techniques Journal of Clinical Medicine 9, (6), 1670

During the phase of proliferation needed for hematopoietic reconstitution following transplantation, hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPC) must express genes involved in stem cell self-renewal. We investigated the expression of genes relevant for self-renewal and expansion of HSPC (operationally defined as CD34+ cells) in steady state and after transplantation. Specifically, we evaluated the expression of ninety-one genes that were analyzed by real-time PCR in CD34+ cells isolated from (i) 12 samples from umbilical cord blood (UCB); (ii) 15 samples from bone marrow healthy donors; (iii) 13 samples from bone marrow after umbilical cord blood transplant (UCBT); and (iv) 29 samples from patients after transplantation with adult hematopoietic cells. The results show that transplanted CD34+ cells from adult cells acquire an asset very different from transplanted CD34+ cells from cord blood. Multivariate machine learning analysis (MMLA) showed that four specific gene signatures can be obtained by comparing the four types of CD34+ cells. In several, but not all cases, transplanted HSPC from UCB overexpress reprogramming genes. However, these remarkable changes do not alter the commitment to hematopoietic lineage. Overall, these results reveal undisclosed aspects of transplantation biology.

Keywords: Hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell, Cord blood, Stem cell transplantation


Velasco, Ferran, Fernandez-Costa, Juan M., Neves, Luisa, Ramon Azcon, Javier, (2020). Volumetric CNT-doped Gelatin-Cellulose scaffold for skeletal muscle tissue engineering Nanoscale Advances 2, 2885-2896

Currently, the fabrication of scaffolds for engineered skeletal muscle tissue is unable to reach the millimeter size. The main drawbacks are the poor nutrients diffusion, lack of internal structure to align precursor cells as well as poor mechanical and electric properties. Herein, we present a combination of gelatin-carboxymethyl cellulose materials polymerised by a cryogelation process that allowed us to reach scaffold fabrication up to millimeters size and solve the main problems related with large size muscle tissue constructs. 1) By incorporating carbon nanotubes (CNT) we can improve the electrical properties of the scaffold, thereby enhancing tissue maturation when applying an electric pulse stimulus (EPS). 2) We have fabricated an anisotropic internal three-dimensional microarchitecture pore distribution with high aligned morphology to enhance cells alignment, cell fusion and myotubes formation. With this set up, we were able to generate a fully functional skeletal muscle tissue using a combination of EPS and our doped-biocomposite scaffold and obtain a mature tissue in a millimeter scale. We also characterized pore distribution, swelling, stiffness and conductivity of the scaffold. Moreover, we proved that the cells are viable and able to fuse in a three-dimensional (3D) functional myotubes throughout the scaffold. In conclusion, we fabricate a biocompatible and customizable scaffold for 3D cell culture suitable for a wide range of application such as organ-on-a-chip, drug screening, transplantation and disease modelling.


Rodriguez, J., Schulz, S., Voss, A., Giraldo, B. F., (2020). Cardiorespiratory and vascular variability analysis to classify patients with ischemic and dilated cardiomyopathy* Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC) 42nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Montreal, Canada) , 2764-2767

Heart diseases are the leading cause of death in developed countries. Ascertaining the etiology of cardiomyopathies is still a challenge. The objective of this study was to classify cardiomyopathy patients through cardio, respiratory and vascular variability analysis, considering the vascular activity as the input and output of the baroreflex response. Forty-one cardiomyopathy patients (CMP) classified as ischemic (ICM, 24 patients) and dilated (DCM, 17 patients) were analyzed. Thirty-nine elderly control subjects (CON) were used as reference. From the electrocardiographic, respiratory flow, and blood pressure signals, following temporal series were extracted: beat-to-beat intervals (BBI), total respiratory cycle time series (TT), and end– systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressure amplitudes, respectively. Three-dimensional representation of the cardiorespiratory and vascular activities was characterized geometrically, by fitting a polygon that contains 95% of data, and by statistical descriptive indices. The best classifiers were used to build support vector machine models. The optimal model to classify ICM versus DCM patients achieved 92.7% accuracy, 94.1% sensitivity, and 91.7% specificity. When comparing CMP patients and CON subjects, the best model achieved 86.2% accuracy, 82.9% sensitivity, and 89.7% specificity. These results suggest a limited ability of cardiac and respiratory systems response to regulate the vascular variability in these patients.

Keywords: Time series analysis, Support vector machines, Blood pressure, Sensitivity, Indexes, Electrocardiography, Kernel


Solà-Soler, J., Giraldo, B. F., (2020). Comparison of ECG-eerived respiration estimation methods on healthy subjects in function of recording site and subject position and gender Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC) 42nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Montreal, Canada) , 2650-2653

Respiration rate can be assessed by analyzing respiratory changes of the electrocardiogram (ECG). Several methods can be applied to derive the respiratory signal from the ECG (EDR signal). In this study, four EDR estimation methods based on QRS features were analyzed. A database with 44 healthy subjects (16 females) in supine and sitting positions was analyzed. Respiratory flow and ECG recordings on leads I, II, III and a Chest lead was studied. A QR slope-based method, an RS slope-based method, an QRS angle-based method and an QRS area-based method were applied. Their performance was evaluated by the correlation coefficient with the reference respiratory volume signal. Significantly higher correlation coefficients in the range r = 0.77 – 0.86 were obtained with the Chest lead for all methods. The EDR estimation method based on the QRS angle provided the highest similarity with the volume signal for all recording leads and subject positions. We found no statistically significant differences according to gender or subject position.Clinical Relevance— This work analyzes the EDR signal from four electrocardiographic leads to obtain the respiratory signal and contributes to a simplified analysis of respiratory activity.

Keywords: Electrocardiography, Lead, Estimation, Correlation coefficient, Databases, Heart, Correlation


Blancas, Maria, Valero, Cristina, Mura, Anna, Vouloutsi, Vasiliki, Verschure, P., (2020). "CREA": An inquiry-based methodology to teach robotics to children Robotics in Education International Conference on Robotics in Education (RiE) , Springer International Publishing (Vienna, Austria) Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing (AISC, volume 1023), 45-51

Learning programming and robotics offers the opportunity to practice problem-solving, creativity, and team-work and it provides important competencies to train for the 21st century. However, programming can be challenging, and children may encounter difficulties in learning the syntax or using the coding environment. To address this issue, we have developed a methodology for teaching programming, design and robotics based on inquiry-based learning and hands-on oriented activities together with visual programming. We have applied and evaluated this new methodology within the extracurricular activity of an international elementary school in Barcelona. Our findings showed acquisition and learning of technical language, understanding of electronics devices, understanding the mapping of coding into action via the robot’s behavior. This suggests that our approach is a valid and effective teaching methodology for the instructional design of robotics and programming.

Keywords: Educational technology, Instructional design, Robotics


Romero, D., Jané, R., (2020). Hypoxia-induced effects on ECG depolarization by time warping analysis during recurrent obstructive apnea Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC) 42nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Montreal, Canada) , 2626-2629

In this work, we evaluated a non-linear approach to estimate morphological variations in ECG depolarization, in the context of intermittent hypoxia (IH). Obstructive apnea sequences were provoked for 15 minutes in anesthetized Sprague-Dawley rats, alternating with equal periods of normal breathing, in a recurrent obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) model. Each apnea episode lasted 15 s, while the frequency used for each sequence was randomly selected. Average heartbeats obtained before the start and at the end of each episode, were delineated to extract only the QRS wave. Then, the segmented QRS waves were non-linearly aligned using the dynamic time warping (DWT) algorithm. Morphological QRS changes in both the amplitude and temporal domains were estimated from this alignment procedure. The hypoxic and basal segments were analyzed using ECG (lead I) recordings acquired during the experiment. To assess the effects of IH over time, the changes relative to the basal QRS wave were determined, in the intervals prior to each successive events until the end of the experiment. The results showed a progressive increase in the amplitude and time-domain morphological markers of the QRS wave along the experiment, which were strongly correlated with the changes in traditional QRS markers (r ≈ 0.9). Significant changes were found between pre-apnea and hypoxic measures only for the time-domain analysis (p<0.001), probably due to the short duration of the simulated apnea episodes.Clinical relevance Increased variability in ECG depolarization morphology during recurrent hypoxic episodes would be closely related to the expression of cardiovascular dysfunction in OSA patients.

Keywords: Electrocardiography, Rats, Heart rate variability, Sleep apnea, Protocols, Heuristic algorithms


Estrada-Petrocelli, L., Jané, R., Torres, A., (2020). Neural respiratory drive estimation in respiratory sEMG with cardiac arrhythmias Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC) 42nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Montreal, Canada) , 2748-2751

Neural respiratory drive as measured by the electromyography allows the study of the imbalance between the load on respiratory muscles and its capacity. Surface respiratory electromyography (sEMG) is a non-invasive tool used for indirectly assessment of NRD. It also provides a way to evaluate the level and pattern of respiratory muscle activation. The prevalence of electrocardiographic activity (ECG) in respiratory sEMG signals hinders its proper evaluation. Moreover, the occurrence of abnormal heartbeats or cardiac arrhythmias in respiratory sEMG measures can make even more challenging the NRD estimation. Respiratory sEMG can be evaluated using the fixed sample entropy (fSampEn), a technique which is less affected by cardiac artefacts. The aim of this work was to investigate the performance of the fSampEn, the root mean square (RMS) and the average rectified value (ARV) on respiratory sEMG signals with supraventricular arrhythmias (SVA) for NRD estimation. fSampEn, ARV and RMS parameters increased as the inspiratory load increased during the test. fSampEn was less influenced by ECG with SVAs for the NRD estimation showing a greater response to respiratory sEMG, reflected with a higher percentage increase with increasing load (228 % total increase, compared to 142 % and 135 % for ARV and RMS, respectively).

Keywords: Electrocardiography, Muscles, Electrodes, Estimation, Band-pass filters, Electromyography, Heart beat


Lozano-García, M., Nuhic, J., Moxham, J., Rafferty, G. F., Jolley, C. J., Jané, R., (2020). Performance evaluation of fixed sample entropy for lung sound intensity estimation Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC) 42nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Montreal, Canada) , 2740-2743

Lung sound (LS) signals are often contaminated by impulsive artifacts that complicate the estimation of lung sound intensity (LSI) using conventional amplitude estimators. Fixed sample entropy (fSampEn) has proven to be robust to cardiac artifacts in myographic respiratory signals. Similarly, fSampEn is expected to be robust to artifacts in LS signals, thus providing accurate LSI estimates. However, the choice of fSampEn parameters depends on the application and fSampEn has not previously been applied to LS signals. This study aimed to perform an evaluation of the performance of the most relevant fSampEn parameters on LS signals, and to propose optimal fSampEn parameters for LSI estimation. Different combinations of fSampEn parameters were analyzed in LS signals recorded in a heterogeneous population of healthy subjects and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients during loaded breathing. The performance of fSampEn was assessed by means of its cross-covariance with flow signals, and optimal fSampEn parameters for LSI estimation were proposed.

Keywords: Large scale integration, Lung, Estimation, Entropy, Loading, Robustness, Diseases


Wang, S., Hu, Y., Burgués, J., Marco, S., Liu, S.-L., (2020). Prediction of gas concentration using gated recurrent neural networks 2nd IEEE International Conference on Artificial Intelligence Circuits and Systems (AICAS) , IEEE (Genova, Italy) , 178-182

Low-cost gas sensors allow for large-scale spatial monitoring of air quality in the environment. However they require calibration before deployment. Methods such as multivariate regression techniques have been applied towards sensor calibration. In this work, we propose instead, the use of deep learning methods, particularly, recurrent neural networks for predicting the gas concentrations based on the outputs of these sensors. This paper presents a first study of using Gated Recurrent Unit (GRU) neural network models for gas concentration prediction. The GRU networks achieve on average, a 44.69% and a 25.17% RMSE improvement in concentration prediction on a gas dataset when compared with Support Vector Regression (SVR) and Multilayer Perceptron (MLP) models respectively. With the current advances in deep network hardware accelerators, these networks can be combined with the sensors for a compact embedded system suitable for edge applications.

Keywords: Robot sensing systems, Predictive models, Logic gates, Gas detectors, Training, Temperature measurement, Support vector machines


Lozano-García, M., Davidson, C. M., Prieto-Ramón, C., Moxham, J., Rafferty, G. F., Jolley, C. J., Jané, R., (2020). Spatial distribution of normal lung sounds in healthy individuals under varied inspiratory load and flow conditions Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC) 42nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Montreal, Canada) , 2744-2747

Respiratory sounds yield pertinent information about respiratory function in both health and disease. Normal lung sound intensity is a characteristic that correlates well with airflow and it can therefore be used to quantify the airflow changes and limitations imposed by respiratory diseases. The dual aims of this study are firstly to establish whether previously reported asymmetries in normal lung sound intensity are affected by varying the inspiratory threshold load or the airflow of respiration, and secondly to investigate whether fixed sample entropy can be used as a valid measure of lung sound intensity. Respiratory sounds were acquired from twelve healthy individuals using four contact microphones on the posterior skin surface during an inspiratory threshold loading protocol and a varying airflow protocol. The spatial distribution of the normal lung sounds intensity was examined. During the protocols explored here the normal lung sound intensity in the left and right lungs in healthy populations was found to be similar, with asymmetries of less than 3 dB. This agrees with values reported in other studies. The fixed sample entropy of the respiratory sound signal was also calculated and compared with the gold standard root mean square representation of lung sound intensity showing good agreement.


Redondo-Morata, Lorena, Losada-Pérez, Patricia, Giannotti, Marina Inés, (2020). Lipid bilayers: Phase behavior and nanomechanics Current Topics in Membranes (ed. Levitan, Irena, Trache, Andreea), Academic Press (Berlin, Germany) 86, 1-55

Lipid membranes are involved in many physiological processes like recognition, signaling, fusion or remodeling of the cell membrane or some of its internal compartments. Within the cell, they are the ultimate barrier, while maintaining the fluidity or flexibility required for a myriad of processes, including membrane protein assembly. The physical properties of in vitro model membranes as model cell membranes have been extensively studied with a variety of techniques, from classical thermodynamics to advanced modern microscopies. Here we review the nanomechanics of solid-supported lipid membranes with a focus in their phase behavior. Relevant information obtained by quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) as complementary techniques in the nano/mesoscale interface is presented. Membrane morphological and mechanical characterization will be discussed in the framework of its phase behavior, phase transitions and coexistence, in simple and complex models, and upon the presence of cholesterol.

Keywords: Lipid phase behavior, Phase transition, Phase coexistence, Nanomechanics, Thermodynamics, Atomic force microscopy (AFM), Quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D)


Haick, H., Vishinking, R., di Natale, C., Marco, S., (2020). Sensor Systems Breathborne Biomarkers and the Human Volatilome (ed. Beauchamp, J., Davis, C., Pleil, J.), Elsevier (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) , 201-202