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Year 2019


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Grechuta, Klaudia, De La Torre, Javier, Rubio, Belé, Verschure, P., (2019). Challenging the boundaries of the physical self: purely distal cues in the environment impact body ownership bioRxiv , 672139

The unique ability to identify one’s own body and experience it as one’s own is fundamental in goal-oriented behavior and survival. However, the mechanisms underlying the so-called body ownership are yet not fully understood. The plasticity of body ownership has been studied using two experimental methods or their variations. Specifically, the Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI), where the tactile stimuli are externally generated, or the moving RHI which implies self-initiated movements. Grounded in these paradigms, evidence has demonstrated that body ownership is a product of bottom-up reception of self- and externally-generated multisensory information and top-down comparison between the predicted and the actual sensory stimuli. Crucially, provided the design of the current paradigms, where one of the manipulated cues always involves the processing of a proximal modality sensing the body or its surface (e.g., touch), the contribution of sensory signals which pertain to the environment remain elusive. Here we propose that, as any robust percept, body ownership depends on the integration and prediction of all the sensory stimuli, and therefore it will depend on the consistency of purely distal sensory signals pertaining to the environment. To test our hypothesis, we create an embodied goal-oriented task and manipulate the predictability of the surrounding environment by changing the congruency of purely distal multisensory cues while preserving bodily and action-driven signals entirely predictable. Our results empirically reveal that the way we represent our body is contingent upon all the sensory stimuli including purely distal and action-independent signals which pertain to the environment.


Freire, I. T., Arsiwalla, Xerxes, Puigbò, J. Y., Verschure, P., (2019). Modeling theory of mind in multi-agent games using adaptive feedback control ARXIV Computer Science, (Multiagent Systems), 1-30

A major challenge in cognitive science and AI has been to understand how autonomous agents might acquire and predict behavioral and mental states of other agents in the course of complex social interactions. How does such an agent model the goals, beliefs, and actions of other agents it interacts with? What are the computational principles to model a Theory of Mind (ToM)? Deep learning approaches to address these questions fall short of a better understanding of the problem. In part, this is due to the black-box nature of deep networks, wherein computational mechanisms of ToM are not readily revealed. Here, we consider alternative hypotheses seeking to model how the brain might realize a ToM. In particular, we propose embodied and situated agent models based on distributed adaptive control theory to predict actions of other agents in five different game theoretic tasks (Harmony Game, Hawk-Dove, Stag-Hunt, Prisoner's Dilemma and Battle of the Exes). Our multi-layer control models implement top-down predictions from adaptive to reactive layers of control and bottom-up error feedback from reactive to adaptive layers. We test cooperative and competitive strategies among seven different agent models (cooperative, greedy, tit-for-tat, reinforcement-based, rational, predictive and other's-model agents). We show that, compared to pure reinforcement-based strategies, probabilistic learning agents modeled on rational, predictive and other's-model phenotypes perform better in game-theoretic metrics across tasks. Our autonomous multi-agent models capture systems-level processes underlying a ToM and highlight architectural principles of ToM from a control-theoretic perspective.


Santos-Pata, Diogo, Zucca, Riccardo, Lopez Carral, Hector, Verschure, P., (2019). A simplified spiking model of grid-cell scale and intrinsic frequencies bioRxiv , 544882

The hexagonal tessellation pattern of grid cells scales up progressively along the dorsal-to-ventral axis of the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) layer II. This scaling gradient has been hypothesized to originate either from inter-population synaptic dynamics as postulated by attractor networks, from projected theta frequencies to different axis levels, as in oscillatory models, or from cellular dynamics dependent on hyperpolarization-activated cation currents. To test the hypothesis that intrinsic cellular properties account for the scale gradient as well as the different oscillatory frequencies observed along the dorsal-to-ventral axis, we have modeled and analyzed data from a population of grid cells simulated with spiking neurons interacting through low-dimensional attractor dynamics. To investigate the causal relationship between oscillatory frequencies and grid-scale increase, we analyzed the dominant frequencies of the membrane potential for cells with distinct after-spike dynamics. We observed that the intrinsic neuronal membrane properties of simulated cells could induce an increase of grid-scale when modulated by after-spike reset values. Differences in the membrane potential oscillatory frequency were observed along the simulated dorsal-to-ventral axis, suggesting that, rather than driving to the increase of grid-scale as proposed by interference models of grid cells, they are the result of intrinsic cellular properties of neurons at each axis level. Overall, our results suggest that the after-spike dynamics of cation currents may play a major role in determining the grid cells scale and that oscillatory frequencies are a consequence of intrinsic cellular properties that are specific to different levels of the dorsal-to-ventral axis in the MEC layer II.


Pérez-González, Carlos, Alert, Ricard, Blanch-Mercader, Carles, Gómez-González, Manuel, Kolodziej, Tomasz, Bazellieres, Elsa, Casademunt, Jaume, Trepat, Xavier, (2019). Active wetting of epithelial tissues Nature Physics 15, 79-88

Development, regeneration and cancer involve drastic transitions in tissue morphology. In analogy with the behaviour of inert fluids, some of these transitions have been interpreted as wetting transitions. The validity and scope of this analogy are unclear, however, because the active cellular forces that drive tissue wetting have been neither measured nor theoretically accounted for. Here we show that the transition between two-dimensional epithelial monolayers and three-dimensional spheroidal aggregates can be understood as an active wetting transition whose physics differs fundamentally from that of passive wetting phenomena. By combining an active polar fluid model with measurements of physical forces as a function of tissue size, contractility, cell–cell and cell–substrate adhesion, and substrate stiffness, we show that the wetting transition results from the competition between traction forces and contractile intercellular stresses. This competition defines a new intrinsic length scale that gives rise to a critical size for the wetting transition in tissues, a striking feature that has no counterpart in classical wetting. Finally, we show that active shape fluctuations are dynamically amplified during tissue dewetting. Overall, we conclude that tissue spreading constitutes a prominent example of active wetting—a novel physical scenario that may explain morphological transitions during tissue morphogenesis and tumour progression.


Schierwagen, Robert, Alvarez-Silva, Camila, Madsen, Mette Simone Aae, Kolbe, Carl Christian, Meyer, Carsten, Thomas, Daniel, Uschner, Frank Erhard, Magdaleno, Fernando, Jansen, Christian, Pohlmann, Alessandra, Praktiknjo, Michael, Hischebeth, Gunnar T., Molitor, Ernst, Latz, Eicke, Lelouvier, Benjamin, Trebicka, Jonel, Arumugam, Manimozhiyan, (2019). Circulating microbiome in blood of different circulatory compartments Gut In press,

Pose, Elisa, Trebicka, Jonel, Mookerjee, Rajeshwar P., Angeli, Paolo, Ginès, Pere, (2019). Statins: Old drugs as new therapy for liver diseases? Journal of Hepatology 70, (1), 194-202

In addition to lowering cholesterol levels, statins have pleiotropic effects, particularly anti-inflammatory, antiangiogenic, and antifibrotic, that may be beneficial in some chronic inflammatory conditions. Statins have only recently been investigated as a potential treatment option in chronic liver diseases because of concerns related to their safety in patients with impaired liver function. A number of experimental studies in animal models of liver diseases have shown that statins decrease hepatic inflammation, fibrogenesis and portal pressure. In addition, retrospective cohort studies in large populations of patients with cirrhosis and pre-cirrhotic conditions have shown that treatment with statins, with the purpose of decreasing high cholesterol levels, was associated with a reduced risk of disease progression, hepatic decompensation, hepatocellular carcinoma development, and death. These beneficial effects persisted after adjustment for disease severity and other potential confounders. Finally, a few randomised controlled trials have shown that treatment with simvastatin decreases portal pressure (two studies) and mortality (one study). Statin treatment was generally well tolerated but a few patients developed severe side effects, particularly rhabdomyolysis. Despite these promising beneficial effects, further randomised controlled trials in large series of patients with hard clinical endpoints should be performed before statins can be recommended for use in clinical practice.


Horteläo, Ana C., Carrascosa, Rafael, Murillo-Cremaes, Nerea, Patiño, Tania, Sánchez, Samuel, (2019). Targeting 3D bladder cancer spheroids with urease-powered nanomotors ACS Nano 13, (1), 429-439

Cancer is one of the main causes of death around the world, lacking efficient clinical treatments that generally present severe side effects. In recent years, various nanosystems have been explored to specifically target tumor tissues, enhancing the efficacy of cancer treatment and minimizing the side effects. In particular, bladder cancer is the ninth most common cancer worldwide and presents a high survival rate but serious recurrence levels, demanding an improvement in the existent therapies. Here, we present urease-powered nanomotors based on mesoporous silica nanoparticles that contain both polyethylene glycol and anti-FGFR3 antibody on their outer surface to target bladder cancer cells in the form of 3D spheroids. The autonomous motion is promoted by urea, which acts as fuel and is inherently present at high concentrations in the bladder. Antibody-modified nanomotors were able to swim in both simulated and real urine, showing a substrate-dependent enhanced diffusion. The internalization efficiency of the antibody-modified nanomotors into the spheroids in the presence of urea was significantly higher compared with antibody-modified passive particles or bare nanomotors. Furthermore, targeted nanomotors resulted in a higher suppression of spheroid proliferation compared with bare nanomotors, which could arise from the local ammonia production and the therapeutic effect of anti-FGFR3. These results hold significant potential for the development of improved targeted cancer therapy and diagnostics using biocompatible nanomotors.

Keywords: 3D cell culture, Bladder cancer, Enzymatic catalysis, Nanomachines, Nanomotors, Self-propulsion, Targeting


Patino, Tania, Porchetta, Alessandro, Jannasch, Anita, Lladó, Anna, Stumpp, Tom, Schäffer, Erik, Ricci, Francesco, Sánchez, Samuel, (2019). Self-sensing enzyme-powered micromotors equipped with pH-responsive DNA nanoswitches Nano Letters 19, (6), 3440-3447

Biocatalytic micro- and nanomotors have emerged as a new class of active matter self-propelled through enzymatic reactions. The incorporation of functional nanotools could enable the rational design of multifunctional micromotors for simultaneous real-time monitoring of their environment and activity. Herein, we report the combination of DNA nanotechnology and urease-powered micromotors as multifunctional tools able to swim, simultaneously sense the pH of their surrounding environment, and monitor their intrinsic activity. With this purpose, a FRET-labeled triplex DNA nanoswitch for pH sensing was immobilized onto the surface of mesoporous silica-based micromotors. During self-propulsion, urea decomposition and the subsequent release of ammonia led to a fast pH increase, which was detected by real-time monitoring of the FRET efficiency through confocal laser scanning microscopy at different time points (i.e., 30 s, 2 and 10 min). Furthermore, the analysis of speed, enzymatic activity, and propulsive force displayed a similar exponential decay, matching the trend observed for the FRET efficiency. These results illustrate the potential of using specific DNA nanoswitches not only for sensing the micromotors’ surrounding microenvironment but also as an indicator of the micromotor activity status, which may aid to the understanding of their performance in different media and in different applications.

Keywords: Micromotors, DNA-nanoswitch, pH detection, Self-propulsion, Nanosensors, Nanomotors


Wang, Lei, Hortelão, Ana C., Huang, Xin, Sánchez, Samuel, (2019). Lipase-powered mesoporous silica nanomotors for triglyceride degradation Angewandte Chemie International Edition 58, (24), 7992-7996

We report lipase-based nanomotors that are capable of enhanced Brownian motion over long periods of time in triglyceride solution and of degrading triglyceride droplets that mimic “blood lipids”. We achieved about 40 min of enhanced diffusion of lipase-modified mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNPs) through a biocatalytic reaction between lipase and its corresponding water-soluble oil substrate (triacetin) as fuel, which resulted in an enhanced diffusion coefficient (ca. 50 % increase) at low triacetin concentration (<10 mm). Lipase not only serves as the power engine but also as a highly efficient cleaner for the triglyceride droplets (e.g., tributyrin) in PBS solution, which could yield potential biomedical applications, for example, for dealing with diseases related to the accumulation of triglycerides, or for environmental remediation, for example, for the degradation of oil spills.

Keywords: Enzyme nanomotors, Lipase, Micromotors, Oil removal, Self-propulsion


Pacheco Estefan, D., Sánchez-Fibla, M., Duff, A., Principe, A., Rocamora, R., Zhang, H., Axmacher, N., Verschure, P., (2019). Coordinated representational reinstatement in the human hippocampus and lateral temporal cortex during episodic memory retrieval Nature Communications 10, (1), 2255

Theoretical models of episodic memory have proposed that retrieval depends on interactions between the hippocampus and neocortex, where hippocampal reinstatement of item-context associations drives neocortical reinstatement of item information. Here, we simultaneously recorded intracranial EEG from hippocampus and lateral temporal cortex (LTC) of epilepsy patients who performed a virtual reality spatial navigation task. We extracted stimulus-specific representations of both item and item-context associations from the time-frequency patterns of activity in hippocampus and LTC. Our results revealed a double dissociation of representational reinstatement across time and space: an early reinstatement of item-context associations in hippocampus preceded a later reinstatement of item information in LTC. Importantly, reinstatement levels in hippocampus and LTC were correlated across trials, and the quality of LTC reinstatement was predicted by the magnitude of phase synchronization between hippocampus and LTC. These findings confirm that episodic memory retrieval in humans relies on coordinated representational interactions within a hippocampal-neocortical network.


Arqué, Xavier, Romero-Rivera, Adrian, Feixas, Ferran, Patiño, Tania, Osuna, Sílvia, Sánchez, Samuel, (2019). Intrinsic enzymatic properties modulate the self-propulsion of micromotors Nature Communications 10, (1), 2826

Bio-catalytic micro- and nanomotors self-propel by the enzymatic conversion of substrates into products. Despite the advances in the field, the fundamental aspects underlying enzyme-powered self-propulsion have rarely been studied. In this work, we select four enzymes (urease, acetylcholinesterase, glucose oxidase, and aldolase) to be attached on silica microcapsules and study how their turnover number and conformational dynamics affect the self-propulsion, combining both an experimental and molecular dynamics simulations approach. Urease and acetylcholinesterase, the enzymes with higher catalytic rates, are the only enzymes capable of producing active motion. Molecular dynamics simulations reveal that urease and acetylcholinesterase display the highest degree of flexibility near the active site, which could play a role on the catalytic process. We experimentally assess this hypothesis for urease micromotors through competitive inhibition (acetohydroxamic acid) and increasing enzyme rigidity (β-mercaptoethanol). We conclude that the conformational changes are a precondition of urease catalysis, which is essential to generate self-propulsion.

Keywords: Biocatalysis, Immobilized enzymes, Molecular machines and motors


Cabré, Gisela, Garrido-Charles, Aida, Moreno, Miquel, Bosch, Miquel, Porta-de-la-Riva, Montserrat, Krieg, Michael, Gascón-Moya, Marta, Camarero, Núria, Gelabert, Ricard, Lluch, José M., Busqué, F., Hernando, Jordi, Gorostiza, Pau, Alibés, Ramon, (2019). Rationally designed azobenzene photoswitches for efficient two-photon neuronal excitation Nature Communications 10, (1), 907

Manipulation of neuronal activity using two-photon excitation of azobenzene photoswitches with near-infrared light has been recently demonstrated, but their practical use in neuronal tissue to photostimulate individual neurons with three-dimensional precision has been hampered by firstly, the low efficacy and reliability of NIR-induced azobenzene photoisomerization compared to one-photon excitation, and secondly, the short cis state lifetime of the two-photon responsive azo switches. Here we report the rational design based on theoretical calculations and the synthesis of azobenzene photoswitches endowed with both high two-photon absorption cross section and slow thermal back-isomerization. These compounds provide optimized and sustained two-photon neuronal stimulation both in light-scattering brain tissue and in Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes, displaying photoresponse intensities that are comparable to those achieved under one-photon excitation. This finding opens the way to use both genetically targeted and pharmacologically selective azobenzene photoswitches to dissect intact neuronal circuits in three dimensions.


Cutrale, Francesco, Rodriguez, Daniel, Hortigüela, Verónica, Chiu, Chi-Li, Otterstrom, Jason, Mieruszynski, Stephen, Seriola, Anna, Larrañaga, Enara, Raya, Angel, Lakadamyali, Melike, Fraser, Scott E., Martinez, Elena, Ojosnegros, Samuel, (2019). Using enhanced number and brightness to measure protein oligomerization dynamics in live cells Nature Protocols 14, 616-638

Protein dimerization and oligomerization are essential to most cellular functions, yet measurement of the size of these oligomers in live cells, especially when their size changes over time and space, remains a challenge. A commonly used approach for studying protein aggregates in cells is number and brightness (N&B), a fluorescence microscopy method that is capable of measuring the apparent average number of molecules and their oligomerization (brightness) in each pixel from a series of fluorescence microscopy images. We have recently expanded this approach in order to allow resampling of the raw data to resolve the statistical weighting of coexisting species within each pixel. This feature makes enhanced N&B (eN&B) optimal for capturing the temporal aspects of protein oligomerization when a distribution of oligomers shifts toward a larger central size over time. In this protocol, we demonstrate the application of eN&B by quantifying receptor clustering dynamics using electron-multiplying charge-coupled device (EMCCD)-based total internal reflection microscopy (TIRF) imaging. TIRF provides a superior signal-to-noise ratio, but we also provide guidelines for implementing eN&B in confocal microscopes. For each time point, eN&B requires the acquisition of 200 frames, and it takes a few seconds up to 2 min to complete a single time point. We provide an eN&B (and standard N&B) MATLAB software package amenable to any standard confocal or TIRF microscope. The software requires a high-RAM computer (64 Gb) to run and includes a photobleaching detrending algorithm, which allows extension of the live imaging for more than an hour.


Castaño, Albert G., García-Díaz, María, Torras, Núria, Altay, Gizem, Comelles, Jordi, Martínez, Elena, (2019). Dynamic photopolymerization produces complex microstructures on hydrogels in a moldless approach to generate a 3D intestinal tissue model Biofabrication 11, (2), 025007

Epithelial tissues contain three-dimensional (3D) complex microtopographies that are essential for proper performance. These microstructures provide cells with the physicochemical cues needed to guide their self-organization into functional tissue structures. However, most in vitro models do not implement these 3D architectural features. The main problem is the availability of simple fabrication techniques that can reproduce the complex geometries found in native tissues on the soft polymeric materials required as cell culture substrates. In this study reaction-diffusion mediated photolithography is used to fabricate 3D microstructures with complex geometries on poly(ethylene glycol)-based hydrogels in a single step and moldless approach. By controlling fabrication parameters such as the oxygen diffusion/depletion timescales, the distance to the light source and the exposure dose, the dimensions and geometry of the microstructures can be well-defined. In addition, copolymerization of poly(ethylene glycol) with acrylic acid improves control of the dynamic reaction-diffusion processes that govern the free-radical polymerization of highly-diluted polymeric solutions. Moreover, acrylic acid allows adjusting the density of cell adhesive ligands while preserving the mechanical properties of the hydrogels. The method proposed is a simple, single-step, and cost-effective strategy for producing models of intestinal epithelium that can be easily integrated into standard cell culture platforms.


Ortega, María A., Fernández-Garibay, Xiomara, Castaño, Albert G., De Chiara, Francesco, Hernández-Albors, Alejandro, Balaguer-Trias, Jordina, Ramón-Azcón, Javier, (2019). Muscle-on-a-chip with an on-site multiplexed biosensing system for in situ monitoring of secreted IL-6 and TNF-α Lab on a Chip 19, 2568-2580

Despite the increasing number of organs-on-a-chip that have been developed in the past decade, limited efforts have been made to integrate a sensing system for in situ continual measurements of biomarkers from three-dimensional (3D) tissues. Here, we present a custom-made integrated platform for muscle cell stimulation under fluidic conditions connected with a multiplexed high-sensitivity electrochemical sensing system for in situ monitoring. To demonstrate this, we use our system to measure the release levels and release time of interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha in vitro by 3D muscle microtissue under electrical and biological stimulations. Our experimental design has enabled us to perform multiple time point measurements using functionalized screen-printed gold electrodes with sensitivity in the ng mL−1 range. This affordable setup is uniquely suited for monitoring factors released by 3D single cell types upon external stimulation for metabolic studies.


Ohui, K., Afanasenko, E., Bacher, F., Ting, R. L. X., Zafar, A., Blanco-Cabra, N., Torrents, E., Dömötör, O., May, N. V., Darvasiova, D., Enyedy, Éva A., Popovi, Reynisson, J., Rapta, P., Babak, M. V., Pastorin, G., Arion, V. B., (2019). New water-soluble copper(II) complexes with morpholine-thiosemicarbazone hybrids: Insights into the anticancer and antibacterial mode of action Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 62, (2), 512-530

Six morpholine-(iso)thiosemicarbazone hybrids HL1–HL6 and their Cu(II) complexes with good-to-moderate solubility and stability in water were synthesized and characterized. Cu(II) complexes [Cu(L1–6)Cl] (1–6) formed weak dimeric associates in the solid state, which did not remain intact in solution as evidenced by ESI-MS. The lead proligands and Cu(II) complexes displayed higher antiproliferative activity in cancer cells than triapine. In addition, complexes 2–5 were found to specifically inhibit the growth of Gram-positive bacteria Staphylococcus aureus with MIC50 values at 2–5 μg/mL. Insights into the processes controlling intracellular accumulation and mechanism of action were investigated for 2 and 5, including the role of ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) inhibition, endoplasmic reticulum stress induction, and regulation of other cancer signaling pathways. Their ability to moderately inhibit R2 RNR protein in the presence of dithiothreitol is likely related to Fe chelating properties of the proligands liberated upon reduction.


Sadowska, J. M., Guillem-Marti, J., Ginebra, M. P., (2019). The influence of physicochemical properties of biomimetic hydroxyapatite on the in vitro behavior of endothelial progenitor cells and their interaction with mesenchymal stem cells Advanced Healthcare Materials 8, (2), 1801138

Calcium phosphate (CaP) substrates are successfully used as bone grafts due to their osteogenic properties. However, the influence of the physicochemical features of CaPs in angiogenesis is frequently neglected despite it being a crucial process for bone regeneration. The present work focuses on analyzing the effects of textural parameters of biomimetic calcium deficient hydroxyapatite (CDHA) and sintered beta-tricalcium phosphate (β-TCP), such as specific surface area, surface roughness, and microstructure, on the behavior of rat endothelial progenitor cells (rEPCs) and their crosstalk with rat mesenchymal stem cells (rMSCs). The higher reactivity of CDHA results in low proliferation rates in monocultured and cocultured systems. This effect is especially pronounced for rMSCs alone, and for CDHA with a fine microstructure. In terms of angiogenic and osteogenic gene expressions, the upregulation of particular genes is especially enhanced for needle-like CDHA compared to plate-like CDHA and β-TCP, suggesting the importance not only of the chemistry of the substrate, but also of its textural features. Moreover, the coculture of rEPCs and rMSCs on needle-like CDHA results in early upregulation of osteogenic modulator, i.e., protein deglycase 1 might be a possible cause of overexpression of osteogenic-related genes on the same substrate.

Keywords: Angiogenesis, Calcium phosphates, Cocultures, Osteogenesis


Mestres, G., Fernandez-Yague, M. A., Pastorino, D., Montufar, E. B., Canal, C., Manzanares-Céspedes, M. C., Ginebra, M. P., (2019). In vivo efficiency of antimicrobial inorganic bone grafts in osteomyelitis treatments Materials Science and Engineering: C 97, 84-95

The purpose of the present work was to evaluate in vivo different antimicrobial therapies to eradicate osteomyelitis created in the femoral head of New Zealand rabbits. Five phosphate-based cements were evaluated: calcium phosphate cements (CPC) and calcium phosphate foams (CPF), both in their pristine form and loaded with doxycycline hyclate, and an intrinsic antimicrobial magnesium phosphate cement (MPC; not loaded with an antibiotic). The cements were implanted in a bone previously infected with Staphylococcus aureus to discern the effects of the type of antibiotic administration (systemic vs. local), porosity (microporosity, i.e. <5 μm vs. macroporosity, i.e. >5 μm) and type of antimicrobial mechanism (release of antibiotic vs. intrinsic antimicrobial activity) on the improvement of the health state of the infected animals. A new method was developed, with a more comprehensive composite score that integrates 5 parameters of bone infection, 4 parameters of bone structural integrity and 4 parameters of bone regeneration. This method was used to evaluate the health state of the infected animals, both before and after osteomyelitis treatment. The results showed that the composite score allows to discern statistically significant differences between treatments that individual evaluations were not able to identify. Despite none of the therapies completely eradicated the infection, it was observed that macroporous materials (CPF and CPFd, the latter loaded with doxycycline hyclate) and intrinsic antimicrobial MPC allowed a better containment of the osteomyelitis. This study provides novel insights to understand the effect of different antimicrobial therapies in vivo, and a promising comprehensive methodology to evaluate the health state of the animals was developed. We expect that the implementation of such methodology could improve the criteria to select a proper antimicrobial therapy.

Keywords: Calcium phosphate cements, Calcium phosphate foams, Drug delivery, In vivo, Magnesium phosphate cements, Osteomyelitis


Martinez, Elena, St-Pierre, Jean-Philippe, Variola, Fabio, (2019). Advanced bioengineering technologies for preclinical research Advances in Physics: X 4, (1), 1622451

ABSTRACTCurrent in vitro practices must overcome important challenges to compare favorably with human studies. The limited applicability of conventional in vitro assays and strategies can be explained by the fact that standard approaches do not enable recapitulation of the complexity of human tissues and physiological functions. To address this challenge, novel bioengineering tools, techniques and technologies are rapidly emerging to advance current fundamental knowledge and innovate in vitro practices. For example, organs-on-a-chip have recently appeared as a small-scale solution to overcome the transability, financial and ethical concerns associated with animal studies in drug discovery and development. In parallel, biomimetic interfaces are increasingly recapitulating 3D structures with tissue-like dynamic properties to allow in-depth investigation of disease mechanisms. This review aims at highlighting current bioengineering approaches poised to address the shortcomings of conventional in vitro research practices towards the generation of more effective solutions for improving human health.


Mestre, Rafael, Patiño, Tania, Barceló, Xavier, Anand, Shivesh, Pérez-Jiménez, Ariadna, Sánchez, Samuel, (2019). Force modulation and adaptability of 3D-bioprinted biological actuators based on skeletal muscle tissue Advanced Materials Technologies 4, (2), 1800631

Abstract The integration of biological systems into robotic devices might provide them with capabilities acquired from natural systems and significantly boost their performance. These abilities include real-time bio-sensing, self-organization, adaptability, or self-healing. As many muscle-based bio-hybrid robots and bio-actuators arise in the literature, the question of whether these features can live up to their expectations becomes increasingly substantial. Herein, the force generation and adaptability of skeletal-muscle-based bio-actuators undergoing long-term training protocols are analyzed. The 3D-bioprinting technique is used to fabricate bio-actuators that are functional, responsive, and have highly aligned myotubes. The bio-actuators are 3D-bioprinted together with two artificial posts, allowing to use it as a force measuring platform. In addition, the force output evolution and dynamic gene expression of the bio-actuators are studied to evaluate their degree of adaptability according to training protocols of different frequencies and mechanical stiffness, finding that their force generation could be modulated to different requirements. These results shed some light into the fundamental mechanisms behind the adaptability of muscle-based bio-actuators and highlight the potential of using 3D bioprinting as a rapid and cost-effective tool for the fabrication of custom-designed soft bio-robots.


Hortigüela, Verónica, Larrañaga, Enara, Lagunas, Anna, Acosta, Gerardo A., Albericio, Fernando, Andilla, Jordi, Loza-Alvarez, Pablo, Martínez, Elena, (2019). Large-area biomolecule nanopatterns on diblock copolymer surfaces for cell adhesion studies Nanomaterials 9, (4), 579

Cell membrane receptors bind to extracellular ligands, triggering intracellular signal transduction pathways that result in specific cell function. Some receptors require to be associated forming clusters for effective signaling. Increasing evidences suggest that receptor clustering is subjected to spatially controlled ligand distribution at the nanoscale. Herein we present a method to produce in an easy, straightforward process, nanopatterns of biomolecular ligands to study ligand–receptor processes involving multivalent interactions. We based our platform in self-assembled diblock copolymers composed of poly(styrene) (PS) and poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) that form PMMA nanodomains in a closed-packed hexagonal arrangement. Upon PMMA selective functionalization, biomolecular nanopatterns over large areas are produced. Nanopattern size and spacing can be controlled by the composition of the block-copolymer selected. Nanopatterns of cell adhesive peptides of different size and spacing were produced, and their impact in integrin receptor clustering and the formation of cell focal adhesions was studied. Cells on ligand nanopatterns showed an increased number of focal contacts, which were, in turn, more matured than those found in cells cultured on randomly presenting ligands. These findings suggest that our methodology is a suitable, versatile tool to study and control receptor clustering signaling and downstream cell behavior through a surface-based ligand patterning technique.


Altay, Gizem, Larrañaga, Enara, Tosi, Sébastien, Barriga, Francisco M., Batlle, Eduard, Fernández-Majada, Vanesa, Martínez, Elena, (2019). Self-organized intestinal epithelial monolayers in crypt and villus-like domains show effective barrier function Scientific Reports 9, (1), 10140

Intestinal organoids have emerged as a powerful in vitro tool for studying intestinal biology due to their resemblance to in vivo tissue at the structural and functional levels. However, their sphere-like geometry prevents access to the apical side of the epithelium, making them unsuitable for standard functional assays designed for flat cell monolayers. Here, we describe a simple method for the formation of epithelial monolayers that recapitulates the in vivo-like cell type composition and organization and that is suitable for functional tissue barrier assays. In our approach, epithelial monolayer spreading is driven by the substrate stiffness, while tissue barrier function is achieved by the basolateral delivery of medium enriched with stem cell niche and myofibroblast-derived factors. These monolayers contain major intestinal epithelial cell types organized into proliferating crypt-like domains and differentiated villus-like regions, closely resembling the in vivo cell distribution. As a unique characteristic, these epithelial monolayers form functional epithelial barriers with an accessible apical surface and physiologically relevant transepithelial electrical resistance values. Our technology offers an up-to-date and novel culture method for intestinal epithelium, providing an in vivo-like cell composition and distribution in a tissue culture format compatible with high-throughput drug absorption or microbe-epithelium interaction studies.


Manconi, M., Manca, M. L., Escribano-Ferrer, E., Coma-Cros, E. M., Biosca, A., Lantero, E., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Fadda, A. M., Caddeo, C., (2019). Nanoformulation of curcumin-loaded eudragit-nutriosomes to counteract malaria infection by a dual strategy: Improving antioxidant intestinal activity and systemic efficacy International Journal of Pharmaceutics 556, 82-88

In this paper, nutriosomes (phospholipid vesicles associated with Nutriose® FM06) were modified to obtain new systems aimed at enhancing the efficacy of curcumin in counteracting malaria infection upon oral administration. Eudragit® L100, a pH-sensitive co-polymer, was added to these vesicles, thus obtaining eudragit-nutriosomes, to improve their in vivo performances. Liposomes without eudragit and nutriose were also prepared as a reference. Cryo-TEM images showed the formation of multicompartment vesicles, with mean diameter around 300 nm and highly negative zeta potential. Vesicles were stable in fluids mimicking the gastro-intestinal content due to the high phospholipid concentration and the presence of gastro-resistant eudragit and digestion-resistant nutriose. Eudragit-nutriosomes disclosed promising performances in vitro and in vivo: they maximized the ability of curcumin to counteract oxidative stress in intestinal cells (Caco-2), which presumably reinforced its systemic efficacy. Orally-administered curcumin-loaded eudragit-nutriosomes increased significantly the survival of malaria-infected mice relative to free curcumin-treated controls.

Keywords: Eudragit® L100, Nutriose® FM06, Nutriosomes, Curcumin, Oral administration, Malaria


de Goede, M., Dijkstra, M., Obregón, R., Ramón-Azcón, J., Martínez, E., Padilla, L., Mitjans, F., Garcia-Blanco, S. M., (2019). Al2O3 microring resonators for the detection of a cancer biomarker in undiluted urine Optics Express 27, (13), 18508-18521

Concentrations down to 3 nM of the rhS100A4 protein, associated with human tumor development, have been detected in undiluted urine using an integrated sensor based on microring resonators in the emerging Al2O3 photonic platform. The fabricated microrings were designed for operation in the C-band (λ = 1565 nm) and exhibited a high-quality factor in air of 3.2 × 105. The bulk refractive index sensitivity of the devices was ~100 nm/RIU (for TM polarization) with a limit of detection of ~10−6 RIU. A surface functionalization protocol was developed to allow for the selective binding of the monoclonal antibodies designed to capture the target biomarker to the surface of the Al2O3 microrings. The detection of rhS100A4 proteins at clinically relevant concentrations in urine is a big milestone towards the use of biosensors for the screening and early diagnosis of different cancers. Biosensors based on this microring technology can lead to portable, multiplexed and easy-to-use point of care devices.

Keywords: Distributed feedback lasers, Effective refractive index, Laser coupling, Polarization maintaining fibers, Refractive index, Scanning electron microscopy


Rafols-de-Urquia, M., Estrada, L., Estevez-Piorno, J., Sarlabous, L., Jane, R., Torres, A., (2019). Evaluation of a wearable device to determine cardiorespiratory parameters from surface diaphragm electromyography IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics Early Access

The use of wearable devices in clinical routines could reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of assessment in patients with chronic respiratory diseases. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the capacity of a Shimmer3 wearable device to extract reliable cardiorespiratory parameters from surface diaphragm electromyography (EMGdi). Twenty healthy volunteers underwent an incremental load respiratory test whilst EMGdi was recorded with a Shimmer3 wearable device (EMGdiW). Simultaneously, a second EMGdi (EMGdiL), inspiratory mouth pressure (Pmouth) and lead-I electrocardiogram (ECG) were recorded via a standard wired laboratory acquisition system. Different cardiorespiratory parameters were extracted from both EMGdiW and EMGdiL signals: heart rate, respiratory rate, respiratory muscle activity and mean frequency of EMGdi signals. Alongside these, similar parameters were also extracted from reference signals (Pmouth and ECG). High correlations were found between the data extracted from the EMGdiW and the reference signal data: heart rate (R = 0.947), respiratory rate (R = 0.940), respiratory muscle activity (R = 0.877), and mean frequency (R = 0.895). Moreover, similar increments in EMGdiW and EMGdiL activity were observed when Pmouth was raised, enabling the study of respiratory muscle activation. In summary, the Shimmer3 device is a promising and cost-effective solution for the ambulatory monitoring of respiratory muscle function in chronic respiratory diseases. IEEE

Keywords: Cardiorespiratory monitoring, Chronic respiratory diseases, Fixed sample entropy, Non-invasive respiratory monitoring, Surface diaphragm electromyography, Wearable wireless device


Nevola, Laura, Varese, Monica, Martín-Quirós, Andrés, Mari, Giacomo, Eckelt, Kay, Gorostiza, Pau, Giralt, Ernest, (2019). Targeted nanoswitchable inhibitors of protein-protein interactions involved in apoptosis ChemMedChem 14, 100-106

Progress in drug delivery is hampered by the lack of efficient strategies to target drugs with high specificity and precise spatiotemporal regulation. The remote control of nanoparticles and drugs with light allows controlling their action site and dosage. Peptide-based drugs are very specific, non-immunogenic and can be designed to cross the plasma membrane. In order to combine target specificity and remote control of drug action, here we describe a versatile strategy based on a generalized template to design nanoswitchable peptides that modulate protein-protein interactions with light. This approach is demonstrated to photomodulate two important targets involved in apoptosis (the interactions Bcl-xL/Bak and MDM2/p53), but can be applied to a large pool of therapeutically relevant protein-protein interactions mediated by alpha helical motifs. The template can be adjusted using readily available information about the hot spots (residues contributing most to the binding energy) at the protein-protein interface of interest.


Vidal, E., Buxadera-Palomero, J., Pierre, C., Manero, J. M., Ginebra, M. P., Cazalbou, S., Combes, C., Rupérez, E., Rodríguez, D., (2019). Single-step pulsed electrodeposition of calcium phosphate coatings on titanium for drug delivery Surface and Coatings Technology 358, 266-275

Metallic implants have some limitations related to bioactivity and bacteria colonization leading to infections. In this regard, calcium phosphate coatings can be used as carrier for drug delivery in order to improve the mentioned drawbacks. The present work proposes the introduction of an antibacterial agent in the course of a pulsed and reverse pulsed electrodeposition. Calcium phosphate coatings were prepared in 30 min using different pulse waveforms (unipolar-bipolar), current densities (2–5 mA/cm2) and temperatures (40–60 °C). Mechanical stability of the as-coated surfaces was studied in order to select the optimal electrodeposition conditions. Subsequently, selected coatings were loaded with an antiseptic agent, chlorhexidine digluconate (CHX), via a single-step co-deposition procedure. CHX concentration added to the electrolyte was adjusted to 3 mM based on the antibacterial efficacy of the loaded coatings evaluated in vitro with Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli bacteria strains. Whereas the same chlorhexidine concentration was added to the electrolyte, results showed that the amount of CHX loaded was different for each condition while release kinetics was maintained. The results of this work demonstrate that a pulsed co-deposition strategy has great potential to modulate local delivery of antibacterial agents such as chlorhexidine digluconate, which may prevent early phase infections of metallic implants after insertion.

Keywords: Antibacterial agent, Calcium phosphate, Characterization, Coating, Pulse electrodeposition, Titanium


Oliveira, V. R., Uriarte, J. J., Falcones, B., Zin, W. A., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I., (2019). Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide induces alveolar epithelial cell stiffening Journal of Biomechanics 83, 315-318

Introduction: Application of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is a widely employed model to mimic acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Available data regarding LPS-induced biomechanical changes on pulmonary epithelial cells are limited only to P. aeruginosa LPS. Considering that LPS from different bacteria could promote a specific mechanical response in epithelial cells, we aim to assess the effect of E. coli LPS, widely employed as a model of ARDS, in the biomechanics of alveolar epithelial cells. Methods: Young’s modulus (E) of alveolar epithelial cells (A549) was measured by atomic force microscopy every 5 min throughout 60 min of experiment after treatment with LPS from E. coli (100 μg/mL). The percentage of cells presenting actin stress fibers (F-actin staining) was also evaluated. Control cells were treated with culture medium and the values obtained were compared with LPS-treated cells for each time-point. Results: Application of LPS induced significant increase in E after 20 min (77%) till 60 min (104%) in comparison to controls. Increase in lung epithelial cell stiffness induced by LPS was associated with a higher number of cells presenting cytoskeletal remodeling. Conclusions: The observed effects of E. coli LPS on alveolar epithelial cells suggest that this widely-used LPS is able to promote a quick formation of actin stress fibers and stiffening cells, thereby facilitating the disruption of the pulmonary epithelial barrier.

Keywords: Acute respiratory distress syndrome model, Alveolar epithelium, Biomechanics, E. coli, Lipopolysaccharide


Ruzzene, G., Omelchenko, I., Schöl, E., Zakharova, A., Andrzejak, R. G. , (2019). Controlling chimera states via minimal coupling modification Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science 29, (5), 051103

We propose a method to control chimera states in a ring-shaped network of nonlocally coupled phase oscillators. This method acts exclusively on the network’s connectivity. Using the idea of a pacemaker oscillator, we investigate which is the minimal action needed to control chimeras. We implement the pacemaker choosing one oscillator and making its links unidirectional. Our results show that a pacemaker induces chimeras for parameters and initial conditions for which they do not form spontaneously. Furthermore, the pacemaker attracts the incoherent part of the chimera state, thus controlling its position. Beyond that, we find that these control effects can be achieved with modifications of the network’s connectivity that are less invasive than a pacemaker, namely, the minimal action of just modifying the strength of one connection allows one to control chimeras.

Keywords: Complex networks, Oscillators, Spatiotemporal phenomena


Pellequer, J. L., Parot, P., Navajas, D., Kumar, S., Svetli, Scheuring, S., Hu, J., Li, B., Engler, A., Sousa, S., Lekka, M., Szymo, Schillers, H., Odorico, M., Lafont, F., Janel, S., Rico, F., (2019). Fifteen years of Servitude et Grandeur to the application of a biophysical technique in medicine: The tale of AFMBioMed Journal of Molecular Recognition In press

AFMBioMed is the founding name under which international conferences and summer schools are organized around the application of atomic force microscopy in life sciences and nanomedicine. From its inception at the Atomic Energy Commission in Marcoule near 2004 to its creation in 2007 and to its 10th anniversary conference in Krakow, a brief narrative history of its birth and rise will demonstrate how and what such an organization brings to laboratories and the AFM community. With the current planning of the next AFMBioMed conference in Münster in 2019, it will be 15 years of commitment to these events.

Keywords: Atomic Force Microscopy, Single molecules, Biomechanics, Force spectroscopy, High-speed AFM, Imaging, Nanoindentation, Nanomedicine, Nanotoxicology


Palacín, J., Martínez, D., Clotet, E., Pallejà, T., Burgués, J., Fonollosa, J., Pardo, A., Marco, Santiago, (2019). Application of an array of metal-oxide semiconductor gas sensors in an assistant personal robot for early gas leak detection Sensors 19, (9), 1957

This paper proposes the application of a low-cost gas sensor array in an assistant personal robot (APR) in order to extend the capabilities of the mobile robot as an early gas leak detector for safety purposes. The gas sensor array is composed of 16 low-cost metal-oxide (MOX) gas sensors, which are continuously in operation. The mobile robot was modified to keep the gas sensor array always switched on, even in the case of battery recharge. The gas sensor array provides 16 individual gas measurements and one output that is a cumulative summary of all measurements, used as an overall indicator of a gas concentration change. The results of preliminary experiments were used to train a partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) classifier with air, ethanol, and acetone as output classes. Then, the mobile robot gas leak detection capabilities were experimentally evaluated in a public facility, by forcing the evaporation of (1) ethanol, (2) acetone, and (3) ethanol and acetone at different locations. The positive results obtained in different operation conditions over the course of one month confirmed the early detection capabilities of the proposed mobile system. For example, the APR was able to detect a gas leak produced inside a closed room from the external corridor due to small leakages under the door induced by the forced ventilation system of the building.

Keywords: Metal-oxide semiconductor, Gas sensor, Gas leak detection, Assistant personal robot, Mobile robot


Montero, Joan, (2019). The attack of the “seeding” clones Science Translational Medicine 11, (483), eaax0872

Tumor clone tracking in breast cancer xenografts identifies a small subset of circulating tumor cells as “seeders” associated with metastasis.


Grechuta, K., Rubio Ballester, B., Espín Munne, R., Usabiaga Bernal, T., Molina Hervás, B., Mohr, B., Pulvermüller, F., San Segundo, R., Verschure, P., (2019). Augmented dyadic therapy boosts recovery of language function in patients with nonfluent aphasia Stroke 50, (5), 1270-1274

Background and Purpose- Evidence suggests that therapy can be effective in recovering from aphasia, provided that it consists of socially embedded, intensive training of behaviorally relevant tasks. However, the resources of healthcare systems are often too limited to provide such treatment at sufficient dosage. Hence, there is a need for evidence-based, cost-effective rehabilitation methods. Here, we asked whether virtual reality-based treatment grounded in the principles of use-dependent learning, behavioral relevance, and intensity positively impacts recovery from nonfluent aphasia. Methods- Seventeen patients with chronic nonfluent aphasia underwent intensive therapy in a randomized, controlled, parallel-group trial. Participants were assigned to the control group (N=8) receiving standard treatment or to the experimental group (N=9) receiving augmented embodied therapy with the Rehabilitation Gaming System for aphasia. All Rehabilitation Gaming System for aphasia sessions were supervised by an assistant who monitored the patients but did not offer any elements of standard therapy. Both interventions were matched for intensity and materials. Results- Our results revealed that at the end of the treatment both groups significantly improved on the primary outcome measure (Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Examination: control group, P=0.04; experimental group, P=0.01), and the secondary outcome measure (lexical access-vocabulary test: control group, P=0.01; experimental group, P=0.007). However, only the Rehabilitation Gaming System for aphasia group improved on the Communicative Aphasia Log ( P=0.01). The follow-up assessment (week 16) demonstrated that while both groups retained vocabulary-related changes (control group, P=0.01; experimental group, P=0.007), only the Rehabilitation Gaming System for aphasia group showed therapy-induced improvements in language ( P=0.01) and communication ( P=0.05). Conclusions- Our results demonstrate the effectiveness of Rehabilitation Gaming System for aphasia for improving language and communication in patients with chronic aphasia suggesting that current challenges faced by the healthcare system in the treatment of stroke might be effectively addressed by augmenting traditional therapy with computer-based methods. Clinical Trial Registration- URL: https://www.clinicaltrials.gov . Unique identifier: NCT02928822.

Keywords: Aphasia, Embodied training, Neurological rehabilitation, Virtual reality


Blithikioti, C., Miquel, L., Batalla, A., Rubio, B., Maffei, G., Herreros, I., Gual, A., Verschure, P., Balcells-Oliveró, M., (2019). Cerebellar alterations in cannabis users: A systematic review Addiction Biology Online Version of Record before inclusion in an issue

Cannabis is the most used illicit substance in the world. As many countries are moving towards decriminalization, it is crucial to determine whether and how cannabis use affects human brain and behavior. The role of the cerebellum in cognition, emotion, learning, and addiction is increasingly recognized. Because of its high density in CB1 receptors, it is expected to be highly affected by cannabis use. The aim of this systematic review is to investigate how cannabis use affects cerebellar structure and function, as well as cerebellar‐dependent behavioral tasks. Three databases were searched for peer‐reviewed literature published until March 2018. We included studies that focused on cannabis effects on cerebellar structure, function, or cerebellar‐dependent behavioral tasks. A total of 348 unique records were screened, and 40 studies were included in the qualitative synthesis. The most consistent findings include (1) increases in cerebellar gray matter volume after chronic cannabis use, (2) alteration of cerebellar resting state activity after acute or chronic use, and (3) deficits in memory, decision making, and associative learning. Age of onset and higher exposure to cannabis use were frequently associated with increased cannabis‐induced alterations. Chronic cannabis use is associated with alterations in cerebellar structure and function, as well as with deficits in behavioral paradigms that involve the cerebellum (eg, eyeblink conditioning, memory, and decision making). Future studies should consider tobacco as confounding factor and use standardized methods for assessing cannabis use. Paradigms exploring the functional activity of the cerebellum may prove useful as monitoring tools of cannabis‐induced impairment.

Keywords: Behavior, Cannabis use, Cerebellum, Cognitive function, Structure


Bortolla, Roberta, Cavicchioli, Marco, Galli, Marco, Verschure, P., Maffei, Cesare, (2019). A comprehensive evaluation of emotional responsiveness in borderline personality disorder: a support for hypersensitivity hypothesis Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation 6, (1), 8

Background: Many experimental studies have evaluated Linehan’s biological emotional vulnerability in Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). However, some inconsistencies were observed in operationalizing and supporting its components. This study aims at clarifying which aspects of Linehan’s model are altered in BPD, considering a multimodal evaluation of processes concerned with emotional responsiveness (self-report, psychophysiology and eye-tracking). Methods: Forty-eight socio-emotional pictures were administered to 28 participants (14 BPD, 14 Healthy Controls, HCs), gender- and age-matched, by employing two different lengths of stimuli exposure (5 s and 15 s). Results: Our results supported the hypersensitivity hypothesis in terms of faster physiological responses and altered visual processing. Furthermore, hypersensitivity was associated with detailed socio-emotional contents. Hyperreactivity assumption was not experimentally sustained by physiological and self-report data. Ultimately, the slow return to emotional baseline was demonstrated as an impaired emotional modulation. Conclusions: Our data alternatively supported the hypersensitivity and the slow return to emotional baseline hypotheses, postulated by Linehan’s Biosocial model, rather than the hyperreactivity assumption. Results have been discussed in light of other BPD core psychopathological processes.

Keywords: Borderline personality disorder, Emotional vulnerability, Linehan’s model, Hypersensitivity, Slow return to emotional baseline


Ballester, B. R., Maier, M., Duff, A., Cameirão, M., Bermúdez, S., Duarte, E., Cuxart, A., Rodríguez, S., San Segundo Mozo, R. M., Verschure, P., (2019). A critical time window for recovery extends beyond one-year post-stroke Journal of neurophysiology 122, (1), 350-357

The impact of rehabilitation on post-stroke motor recovery and its dependency on the patient's chronicity remain unclear. The field has widely accepted the notion of a proportional recovery rule with a "critical window for recovery" within the first 3-6 mo poststroke. This hypothesis justifies the general cessation of physical therapy at chronic stages. However, the limits of this critical window have, so far, been poorly defined. In this analysis, we address this question, and we further explore the temporal structure of motor recovery using individual patient data from a homogeneous sample of 219 individuals with mild to moderate upper-limb hemiparesis. We observed that improvement in body function and structure was possible even at late chronic stages. A bootstrapping analysis revealed a gradient of enhanced sensitivity to treatment that extended beyond 12 mo poststroke. Clinical guidelines for rehabilitation should be revised in the context of this temporal structure. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Previous studies in humans suggest that there is a 3- to 6-mo "critical window" of heightened neuroplasticity poststroke. We analyze the temporal structure of recovery in patients with hemiparesis and uncover a precise gradient of enhanced sensitivity to treatment that expands far beyond the limits of the so-called critical window. These findings highlight the need for providing therapy to patients at the chronic and late chronic stages.

Keywords: Motor recovery, Neuroplasticity, Neurorehabilitation, Stroke recovery, Virtual reality


Montero, Joan, Gstalder, Cécile, Kim, Daniel J., Sadowicz, Dorota, Miles, Wayne, Manos, Michael, Cidado, Justin R., Paul Secrist, J., Tron, Adriana E., Flaherty, Keith, Stephen Hodi, F., Yoon, Charles H., Letai, Anthony, Fisher, David E., Haq, Rizwan, (2019). Destabilization of NOXA mRNA as a common resistance mechanism to targeted therapies Nature Communications 10, (1), 5157

Most targeted cancer therapies fail to achieve complete tumor regressions or attain durable remissions. To understand why these treatments fail to induce robust cytotoxic responses despite appropriately targeting oncogenic drivers, here we systematically interrogated the dependence of cancer cells on the BCL-2 family of apoptotic proteins after drug treatment. We observe that multiple targeted therapies, including BRAF or EGFR inhibitors, rapidly deplete the pro-apoptotic factor NOXA, thus creating a dependence on the anti-apoptotic protein MCL-1. This adaptation requires a pathway leading to destabilization of the NOXA mRNA transcript. We find that interruption of this mechanism of anti-apoptotic adaptive resistance dramatically increases cytotoxic responses in cell lines and a murine melanoma model. These results identify NOXA mRNA destabilization/MCL-1 adaptation as a non-genomic mechanism that limits apoptotic responses, suggesting that sequencing of MCL-1 inhibitors with targeted therapies could overcome such widespread and clinically important resistance.

Keywords: Cancer therapeutic resistance, Melanoma, Targeted therapies


Malandrino, Andrea, Trepat, Xavier, Kamm, Roger D., Mak, Michael, (2019). Dynamic filopodial forces induce accumulation, damage, and plastic remodeling of 3D extracellular matrices PLoS Computational Biology PLOS Computational Biology , 15, (4), e1006684

The mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM)–a complex, 3D, fibrillar scaffold of cells in physiological environments–modulate cell behavior and can drive tissue morphogenesis, regeneration, and disease progression. For simplicity, it is often convenient to assume these properties to be time-invariant. In living systems, however, cells dynamically remodel the ECM and create time-dependent local microenvironments. Here, we show how cell-generated contractile forces produce substantial irreversible changes to the density and architecture of physiologically relevant ECMs–collagen I and fibrin–in a matter of minutes. We measure the 3D deformation profiles of the ECM surrounding cancer and endothelial cells during stages when force generation is active or inactive. We further correlate these ECM measurements to both discrete fiber simulations that incorporate fiber crosslink unbinding kinetics and continuum-scale simulations that account for viscoplastic and damage features. Our findings further confirm that plasticity, as a mechanical law to capture remodeling in these networks, is fundamentally tied to material damage via force-driven unbinding of fiber crosslinks. These results characterize in a multiscale manner the dynamic nature of the mechanical environment of physiologically mimicking cell-in-gel systems.

Keywords: Collagens, Fibrin, Extracellular matrix, Cross-linking, Cell physiology, Deformation, Fluorescence imaging, Cell biology


Maier, Martina, Rubio Ballester, Belén, Duff, Armin, Duarte Oller, Esther, Verschure, P., (2019). Effect of specific over nonspecific VR-based rehabilitation on poststroke motor recovery: A systematic meta-analysis Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair 33, (2), 112-129

Background. Despite the rise of virtual reality (VR)-based interventions in stroke rehabilitation over the past decade, no consensus has been reached on its efficacy. This ostensibly puzzling outcome might not be that surprising given that VR is intrinsically neutral to its use—that is, an intervention is effective because of its ability to mobilize recovery mechanisms, not its technology. As VR systems specifically built for rehabilitation might capitalize better on the advantages of technology to implement neuroscientifically grounded protocols, they might be more effective than those designed for recreational gaming. Objective. We evaluate the efficacy of specific VR (SVR) and nonspecific VR (NSVR) systems for rehabilitating upper-limb function and activity after stroke. Methods. We conducted a systematic search for randomized controlled trials with adult stroke patients to analyze the effect of SVR or NSVR systems versus conventional therapy (CT). Results. We identified 30 studies including 1473 patients. SVR showed a significant impact on body function (standardized mean difference [SMD] = 0.23; 95% CI = 0.10 to 0.36; P = .0007) versus CT, whereas NSVR did not (SMD = 0.16; 95% CI = −0.14 to 0.47; P = .30). This result was replicated in activity measures. Conclusions. Our results suggest that SVR systems are more beneficial than CT for upper-limb recovery, whereas NSVR systems are not. Additionally, we identified 6 principles of neurorehabilitation that are shared across SVR systems and are possibly responsible for their positive effect. These findings may disambiguate the contradictory results found in the current literature.

Keywords: Stroke, Paresis, Virtual reality, Rehabilitation, Occupational therapy, Review


Lopez-Martinez, Montserrat, López-Ortiz, Manuel, Antinori, Maria Elena, Wientjes, Emilie, Nin-Hill, Alba, Rovira, Carme, Croce, Roberta, Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Gorostiza, Pau, (2019). Electrochemically gated long distance charge transport in photosystem I Angewandte Chemie International Edition Accepter Article

The transport of electrons along photosynthetic and respiratory chains involves a series of enzymatic reactions that are coupled through redox mediators, including proteins and small molecules. The use of native and synthetic redox probes is key to understand charge transport mechanisms, and to design bioelectronic sensors and solar energy conversion devices. However, redox probes have limited tunability to exchange charge at the desired electrochemical potentials (energy levels) and at different protein sites. Here, we take advantage of electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy (ECSTM) to control the Fermi level and nanometric position of the ECSTM probe in order to study electron transport in individual photosystem I (PSI) complexes. Current-distance measurements at different potentiostatic conditions indicate that PSI supports long-distance transport that is electrochemically gated near the redox potential of P700, with current extending farther under hole injection conditions.

Keywords: Current decay, ECSTM, Electrochemical gate, Electron transfer, Photosynthesis


Sarlabous, L., Estrada, L., Cerezo-Hernández, A., Leest, Sietske V. D., Torres, A., Jané, R., Duiverman, M., Garde, Ainara, (2019). Electromyography-based respiratory onset detection in COPD patients on non-invasive mechanical ventilation Entropy 21, (3), 258

To optimize long-term nocturnal non-invasive ventilation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, surface diaphragm electromyography (EMGdi) might be helpful to detect patient-ventilator asynchrony. However, visual analysis is labor-intensive and EMGdi is heavily corrupted by electrocardiographic (ECG) activity. Therefore, we developed an automatic method to detect inspiratory onset from EMGdi envelope using fixed sample entropy (fSE) and a dynamic threshold based on kernel density estimation (KDE). Moreover, we combined fSE with adaptive filtering techniques to reduce ECG interference and improve onset detection. The performance of EMGdi envelopes extracted by applying fSE and fSE with adaptive filtering was compared to the root mean square (RMS)-based envelope provided by the EMG acquisition device. Automatic onset detection accuracy, using these three envelopes, was evaluated through the root mean square error (RMSE) between the automatic and mean visual onsets (made by two observers). The fSE-based method provided lower RMSE, which was reduced from 298 ms to 264 ms when combined with adaptive filtering, compared to 301 ms provided by the RMS-based method. The RMSE was negatively correlated with the proposed EMGdi quality indices. Following further validation, fSE with KDE, combined with adaptive filtering when dealing with low quality EMGdi, indicates promise for detecting the neural onset of respiratory drive.

Keywords: Fixed sample entropy, Adaptive filtering, Root mean square, Diaphragm electromyography, Non-invasive mechanical ventilation, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


Bertuoli, Paula T., Ordoño, Jesús, Armelin, Elaine, Pérez-Amodio, Soledad, Baldissera, Alessandra F., Ferreira, Carlos A., Puiggalí, Jordi, Engel, Elisabeth, del Valle, Luis J., Alemán, Carlos, (2019). Electrospun conducting and biocompatible uniaxial and core–shell fibers having poly(lactic acid), poly(ethylene glycol), and polyaniline for cardiac tissue engineering ACS Omega 4, (2), 3660-3672

Electroactive and biocompatible fibrous scaffolds have been prepared and characterized using polyaniline (PAni) doped with dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid (DBSA) combined with poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and PLA/poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) mixtures. The composition of simple and core–shell fibers, which have been obtained by both uniaxial and coaxial electrospinning, respectively, has been corroborated by Fourier-transform infrared and micro-Raman spectroscopies. Morphological studies suggest that the incorporation of PEG enhances the packing of PLA and PAni chains, allowing the regulation of the thickness of the fibers. PAni and PEG affect the thermal and electrical properties of the fibers, both decreasing the glass transition temperature and increasing the electrical conductivity. Interestingly, the incorporation of PEG improves the PAni-containing paths associated with the conduction properties. Although dose response curves evidence the high cytotoxicity of PAni/DBSA, cell adhesion and cell proliferation studies on PLA/PAni fibers show a reduction of such harmful effects as the conducting polymer is mainly retained inside the fibers through favorable PAni···PLA interactions. The incorporation of PEG into uniaxial fibers resulted in an increment of the cell mortality, which has been attributed to its rapid dissolution into the culture medium and the consequent enhancement of PAni release. In opposition, the delivery of PAni decreases and, therefore, the biocompatibility of the fibers increases when a shell coating the PAni-containing system is incorporated through coaxial electrospinning. Finally, morphological and functional studies using cardiac cells indicated that these fibrous scaffolds are suitable for cardiac tissue engineering applications.


Castillo-Escario, Y., Ferrer-Lluis, I., Montserrat, J. M., Jané, R., (2019). Entropy analysis of acoustic signals recorded with a smartphone for detecting apneas and hypopneas: A comparison with a commercial system for home sleep apnea diagnosis IEEE Access 7, 128224-128241

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a prevalent disease, but most patients remain undiagnosed and untreated. Here we propose analyzing smartphone audio signals for screening OSA patients at home. Our objectives were to: (1) develop an algorithm for detecting silence events and classifying them into apneas or hypopneas; (2) evaluate the performance of this system; and (3) compare the information provided with a type 3 portable sleep monitor, based mainly on nasal airflow. Overnight signals were acquired simultaneously by both systems in 13 subjects (3 healthy subjects and 10 OSA patients). The sample entropy of audio signals was used to identify apnea/hypopnea events. The apnea-hypopnea indices predicted by the two systems presented a very high degree of concordance and the smartphone correctly detected and stratified all the OSA patients. An event-by-event comparison demonstrated good agreement between silence events and apnea/hypopnea events in the reference system (Sensitivity = 76%, Positive Predictive Value = 82%). Most apneas were detected (89%), but not so many hypopneas (61%). We observed that many hypopneas were accompanied by snoring, so there was no sound reduction. The apnea/hypopnea classification accuracy was 70%, but most discrepancies resulted from the inability of the nasal cannula of the reference device to record oral breathing. We provided a spectral characterization of oral and nasal breathing to correct this effect, and the classification accuracy increased to 82%. This novel knowledge from acoustic signals may be of great interest for clinical practice to develop new non-invasive techniques for screening and monitoring OSA patients at home.

Keywords: Sleep apnea, Acoustics, Monitoring, Entropy, Sensors, Microphones, Acoustics, Biomedical signal processing, mHealth, Monitoring, Sleep apnea, Smartphone


Martinez, Dominique, Burgués, Javier, Marco, Santiago, (2019). Fast measurements with MOX sensors: A least-squares approach to blind deconvolution Sensors 19, (18), 4029

Metal oxide (MOX) sensors are widely used for chemical sensing due to their low cost, miniaturization, low power consumption and durability. Yet, getting instantaneous measurements of fluctuating gas concentration in turbulent plumes is not possible due to their slow response time. In this paper, we show that the slow response of MOX sensors can be compensated by deconvolution, provided that an invertible, parametrized, sensor model is available. We consider a nonlinear, first-order dynamic model that is mathematically tractable for MOX identification and deconvolution. By transforming the sensor signal in the log-domain, the system becomes linear in the parameters and these can be estimated by the least-squares techniques. Moreover, we use the MOX diversity in a sensor array to avoid training with a supervised signal. The information provided by two (or more) sensors, exposed to the same flow but responding with different dynamics, is exploited to recover the ground truth signal (gas input). This approach is known as blind deconvolution. We demonstrate its efficiency on MOX sensors recorded in turbulent plumes. The reconstructed signal is similar to the one obtained with a fast photo-ionization detector (PID). The technique is thus relevant to track a fast-changing gas concentration with MOX sensors, resulting in a compensated response time comparable to that of a PID.

Keywords: MOX sensors, Blind deconvolution, Blind identification, Least-squares, Turbulent plumes.


Marti-Muñoz, Joan, Xuriguera, Elena, Layton, John W., Planell, Josep A., Rankin, Stephen E., Engel, Elisabeth, Castaño, Oscar, (2019). Feasible and pure P2O5-CaO nanoglasses: An in-depth NMR study of synthesis for the modulation of the bioactive ion release Acta Biomaterialia 94, 574-584

The use of bioactive glasses (e.g. silicates, phosphates, borates) has demonstrated to be an effective therapy for the restoration of bone fractures, wound healing and vascularization. Their partial dissolution towards the surrounding tissue has shown to trigger positive bioactive responses, without the necessity of using growth factors or cell therapy, which reduces money-costs, side effects and increases their translation to the clinics. However, bioactive glasses often need from stabilizers (e.g. SiO44−, Ti4+, Co2+, etc.) that are not highly abundant in the body and which metabolization is not fully understood. In this study, we were focused on synthesizing pure calcium phosphate glasses without the presence of such stabilizers. We combined a mixture of ethylphosphate and calcium 2-methoxyethoxide to synthesize nanoparticles with different compositions and degradability. Synthesis was followed by an in-depth nuclear magnetic resonance characterization, complemented with other techniques that helped us to correlate the chemical structure of the glasses with their physiochemical properties and reaction mechanism. After synthesis, the organically modified xerogel (i.e. calcium monoethylphosphate) was treated at 200 or 350 °C and its solubility was maintained and controlled due to the elimination of organics, increase of phosphate-calcium interactions and phosphate polycondensation. To the best of our knowledge, we are reporting the first sol-gel synthesis of binary (P2O5-CaO) calcium phosphate glass nanoparticles in terms of continuous polycondensated phosphate chains structure without the addition of extra ions. The main goal is to straightforward the synthesis, to get a safer metabolization and to modulate the bioactive ion release. Additionally, we shed light on the chemical structure, reaction mechanism and properties of calcium phosphate glasses with high calcium contents, which nowadays are poorly understood. Statement of Significance The use of bioactive inorganic materials (i.e. bioactive ceramics, glass-ceramics and glasses) for biomedical applications is attractive due to their good integration with the host tissue without the necessity of adding exogenous cells or growth factors. In particular, degradable calcium phosphate glasses are completely resorbable, avoiding the retention in the body of the highly stable silica network of silicate glasses, and inducing a more controllable degradability than bioactive ceramics. However, most calcium phosphate glasses include the presence of stabilizers (e.g. Ti4+, Na+, Co2+), which metabolization is not fully understood and complicates their synthesis. The development of binary calcium phosphate glasses with controlled degradability reduces these limitations, offering a simple and completely metabolizable material with higher transfer to the clinics.

Keywords: Calcium phosphate glasses, Sol-gel process, NMR spectroscopy, Ion release, Biomaterials


Garreta, Elena, Prado, Patricia, Tarantino, Carolina, Oria, Roger, Fanlo, Lucia, Martí, Elisa, Zalvidea, Dobryna, Trepat, Xavier, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Gavaldà -Navarro, Aleix, Cozzuto, Luca, Campistol, Josep M., Izpisúa Belmonte, Juan Carlos, Hurtado del Pozo, Carmen, Montserrat, Nuria, (2019). Fine tuning the extracellular environment accelerates the derivation of kidney organoids from human pluripotent stem cells Nature Materials 18, 397-405

The generation of organoids is one of the biggest scientific advances in regenerative medicine. Here, by lengthening the time that human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) were exposed to a three-dimensional microenvironment, and by applying defined renal inductive signals, we generated kidney organoids that transcriptomically matched second-trimester human fetal kidneys. We validated these results using ex vivo and in vitro assays that model renal development. Furthermore, we developed a transplantation method that utilizes the chick chorioallantoic membrane. This approach created a soft in vivo microenvironment that promoted the growth and differentiation of implanted kidney organoids, as well as providing a vascular component. The stiffness of the in ovo chorioallantoic membrane microenvironment was recapitulated in vitro by fabricating compliant hydrogels. These biomaterials promoted the efficient generation of renal vesicles and nephron structures, demonstrating that a soft environment accelerates the differentiation of hPSC-derived kidney organoids.


Checa, M., Millan-Solsona, R., Gomila, G., (2019). Frequency-dependent force between ac-voltage-biased plates in electrolyte solutions Physical Review E 100, (2), 022604

We analyze the frequency dependence of the force between ac-voltage-biased plates in electrolyte solutions. To this end we solve analytically the Poisson-Nernst-Planck transport model in the dilute concentration and low voltage regime for a 1:1 symmetric electrolyte with blocking electrodes under a dc+ac applied voltage. The total force, which is the resultant of the electric and osmotic forces, shows a complex dependence on plate separation, frequency, ion concentration, and compact layer properties, different from that predicted from electrostatic current models or equivalent circuit models, due to the relevance of the osmotic force contribution in almost the whole range of frequencies. For the total dc force, we show that it decays at fixed ion concentration, linearly with plate separation for separations larger than a few times the Debye screening length. This linear dependence is due to the assumption about the conservation of the number of ions in the system. Moreover, the 1ω and 2ω ac harmonics of the total force show a broad peak at intermediate frequencies; it is centered at about the inverse of the charging time of the double layer capacitance, and covers the frequency range between the inverse of the diffusion time and the inverse of the electrolyte dielectric relaxation time. Finally, the 1ω ac harmonic component attains its high frequency asymptotic value at frequencies much higher than the inverse of the electrolyte dielectric relaxation time due to the very slow relaxation of the osmotic 1ω harmonic component at high frequencies. The derived analytical expressions for the total force remain valid up to voltages of the order of the thermal voltage, as has been assessed by means of numerical calculations. The numerical calculations are also used to explore the onset of higher force harmonics for larger applied voltages. Understanding the frequency dependence of the force acting on voltage-biased plates in electrolyte solutions can be of relevance for electrical actuation strategies in microelectromechanical systems and for the interpretation of some emerging electric scanning probe force microscopy techniques operating in electrolyte solutions.

Keywords: Electrochemistry, Statistical physics


Sánchez-Fibla, M., Forestier, S., Moulin-Frier, C., Puigbò, J. Y., Verschure, P., (2019). 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


Bloise, Ermelinda, Di Bello, Maria Pia, Mele, Giuseppe, Rizzello, Loris, (2019). A green method for the production of an efficient bioimaging nanotool Nanoscale Advances 1, (3), 1193-1199

The possibility of exploring basic biological phenomena requires the development of new and efficient bio-imaging tools. These should ideally combine the feasibility of production (potentially through the use of green chemistry) together with high targeting efficiency, low cytotoxicity, and optimal contrast characteristics. In this work, we developed nanovesicles based on cardanol, a natural and renewable byproduct of the cashew industry, and a fluorescent reporter was encapsulated in them through an environment-friendly synthesis method. In vitro investigations demonstrated that the cardanol nanovesicles are efficiently taken-up by both professional and non-professional phagocytic cells, which have been modeled in our approach by macrophages and HeLa cells, respectively. Co-localization studies show high affinity of the nanovesicles towards the cell plasma membrane. Moreover, metabolic assays confirmed that these nanostructures are biocompatible in a specific concentration range, and do not promote inflammation response in human macrophages. Stability studies carried out at different temperatures showed that the nanovesicles are stable at both 37 °C and 20 °C, while the formation of aggregates occurs when the nanodispersion is incubated at 4 °C. The results demonstrate the high potential of fluorescent cardanol nanovesicles as a green bioimaging tool, especially for investigating cell membrane dynamics.


Leguia, Marc G., Martínez, Cristina G. B., Malvestio, Irene, Campo, Adrià  Tauste, Rocamora, Rodrigo, Levnaji, Andrzejak, Ralph G., (2019). Inferring directed networks using a rank-based connectivity measure Physical Review E 99, (1), 012319

Inferring the topology of a network using the knowledge of the signals of each of the interacting units is key to understanding real-world systems. One way to address this problem is using data-driven methods like cross-correlation or mutual information. However, these measures lack the ability to distinguish the direction of coupling. Here, we use a rank-based nonlinear interdependence measure originally developed for pairs of signals. This measure not only allows one to measure the strength but also the direction of the coupling. Our results for a system of coupled Lorenz dynamics show that we are able to consistently infer the underlying network for a subrange of the coupling strength and link density. Furthermore, we report that the addition of dynamical noise can benefit the reconstruction. Finally, we show an application to multichannel electroencephalographic recordings from an epilepsy patient.


Kechagia, Jenny Z., Ivaska, Johanna, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, (2019). Integrins as biomechanical sensors of the microenvironment Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 20, (8), 457-473

Integrins, and integrin-mediated adhesions, have long been recognized to provide the main molecular link attaching cells to the extracellular matrix (ECM) and to serve as bidirectional hubs transmitting signals between cells and their environment. Recent evidence has shown that their combined biochemical and mechanical properties also allow integrins to sense, respond to and interact with ECM of differing properties with exquisite specificity. Here, we review this work first by providing an overview of how integrin function is regulated from both a biochemical and a mechanical perspective, affecting integrin cell-surface availability, binding properties, activation or clustering. Then, we address how this biomechanical regulation allows integrins to respond to different ECM physicochemical properties and signals, such as rigidity, composition and spatial distribution. Finally, we discuss the importance of this sensing for major cell functions by taking cell migration and cancer as examples.

Keywords: Cell migration, Extracellular matrix, Integrins, Mechanotransduction, Single-molecule biophysics


Chen, Tianchi, Callan-Jones, Andrew, Fedorov, Eduard, Ravasio, Andrea, Brugués, Agustí, Ong, Hui Ting, Toyama, Yusuke, Low, Boon Chuan, Trepat, Xavier, Shemesh, Tom, Voituriez, Raphaël, Ladoux, Benoît, (2019). Large-scale curvature sensing by directional actin flow drives cellular migration mode switching Nature Physics 15, (4), 393-402

Cell migration over heterogeneous substrates during wound healing or morphogenetic processes leads to shape changes driven by different organizations of the actin cytoskeleton and by functional changes including lamellipodial protrusions and contractile actin cables. Cells distinguish between cell-sized positive and negative curvatures in their physical environment by forming protrusions at positive curvatures and actin cables at negative curvatures; however, the cellular mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we report that concave edges promote polarized actin structures with actin flow directed towards the cell edge, in contrast to well-documented retrograde flow at convex edges. Anterograde flow and contractility induce a tension anisotropy gradient. A polarized actin network is formed, accompanied by a local polymerization–depolymerization gradient, together with leading-edge contractile actin cables in the front. These cables extend onto non-adherent regions while still maintaining contact with the substrate through focal adhesions. The contraction and dynamic reorganization of this actin structure allows forward movements enabling cell migration over non-adherent regions on the substrate. These versatile functional structures may help cells sense and navigate their environment by adapting to external geometric and mechanical cues.

Keywords: Biopolymers in vivo, Cellular motility


Checa, Marti, Millán, Rubén, Blanco, Núria, Torrents, Eduard, Fabregas, Rene, Gomila, Gabriel, (2019). Mapping the dielectric constant of a single bacterial cell at the nanoscale with scanning dielectric force volume microscopy Nanoscale Accepted Manuscript

Mapping the dielectric constant at the nanoscale of samples showing a complex topography, such as non-planar nanocomposite materials or single cells, poses formidable challenges to existing nanoscale dielectric microscopy techniques. Here we overcome these limitations by introducing Scanning Dielectric Force Volume Microscopy. This scanning probe microscopy technique is based on the acquisition of electrostatic force approach curves at every point of a sample and its post-processing and quantification by using a computational model that incorporates the actual measured sample topography. The technique provides quantitative nanoscale images of the local dielectric constant of the sample with unparalleled accuracy, spatial resolution and statistical significance, irrespectively of the complexity of its topography. We illustrate the potential of the technique by presenting a nanoscale dielectric constant map of a single bacterial cell, including its small-scale appendages. The bacterial cell shows three characteristic equivalent dielectric constant values, namely, εr,bac1=2.6±0.2, εr,bac2=3.6±0.4 and εr,bac3=4.9±0.5, which enable identifying different dielectric properties of the cell wall and of the cytoplasmatic region, as well as, the existence of variations in the dielectric constant along the bacterial cell wall itself. Scanning Dielectric Force Volume Microscopy is expected to have an important impact in Materials and Life Sciences where the mapping of the dielectric properties of samples showing complex nanoscale topographies is often needed.


Casanellas, Ignasi, Lagunas, Anna, Vida, Yolanda, Pérez-Inestrosa, Ezequiel, Andrades, José A., Becerra, José, Samitier, Josep, (2019). Matrix nanopatterning regulates mesenchymal differentiation through focal adhesion size and distribution according to cell fate Biomimetics 4, (2), 43

Extracellular matrix remodeling plays a pivotal role during mesenchyme patterning into different lineages. Tension exerted from cell membrane receptors bound to extracellular matrix ligands is transmitted by the cytoskeleton to the cell nucleus inducing gene expression. Here, we used dendrimer-based arginine–glycine–aspartic acid (RGD) uneven nanopatterns, which allow the control of local surface adhesiveness at the nanoscale, to unveil the adhesive requirements of mesenchymal tenogenic and osteogenic commitments. Cell response was found to depend on the tension resulting from cell–substrate interactions, which affects nuclear morphology and is regulated by focal adhesion size and distribution.

Keywords: Arginine–glycine–aspartic acid (RGD), Nanopattern, Mesenchymal stem cells, Tenogenesis, Osteogenesis, Cell nuclei, Focal adhesions


Infante, Elvira, Stannard, Andrew, Board, Stephanie J., Rico-Lastres, Palma, Rostkova, Elena, Beedle, Amy E. M., Lezamiz, Ainhoa, Wang, Yong Jian, Gulaidi Breen, Samuel, Panagaki, Fani, Sundar Rajan, Vinoth, Shanahan, Catherine, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Garcia-Manyes, Sergi, (2019). The mechanical stability of proteins regulates their translocation rate into the cell nucleus Nature Physics Epub ahead of print

A cell’s ability to react to mechanical stimuli is known to be affected by the transport of transcription factors, the proteins responsible for regulating transcription of DNA into RNA, across the membrane enveloping its nucleus. Yet the molecular mechanisms by which mechanical cues control this process remain unclear. Here we show that one such protein, myocardin-related transcription factor A (MRTFA), is imported into the nucleus at a rate that is inversely correlated with its nanomechanical stability, but independent of its thermodynamic stability. Attaching mechanically stable proteins to MRTFA results in reduced gene expression and the subsequent slowing down of cell migration. We conclude that the mechanical unfolding of proteins regulates their nuclear translocation rate, and highlight the role of the nuclear pore complex as a selective mechanosensor that is capable of detecting forces as low as 10 pN. The modulation of the mechanical stability of transcription factors may represent a general strategy for the control of gene expression.

Keywords: Biological physics, Biophysics, Chemistry, Nanoscience and technology


Williams, Charlotte Katherine, Zhu, Yunqing, Poma, Alessandro, Rizzello, Loris, Gouveia, Virginia, Ruiz Perez, Lorena, Battaglia, Guiseppe, (2019). Metabolic-active fully hydrolysable polymersomes Angewandte Chemie International Edition Accepted Article

The synthesis and aqueous self-assembly of a new class of amphiphilic aliphatic polyesters are presented. These AB block polyesters comprise polycaprolactone (hydrophobe) and an alternating polyester from succinic acid and an ether substituted epoxide (hydrophile). They self-assemble into biodegradable polymersomes capable of entering cells. Their degradation products are bioactive giving rise to differentiated cellular responses inducing stromal cell proliferation and macrophage apoptosis. Both effects emerge only when the copolymers enter cells as polymersomes and their magnitudes are size dependent.


Hernández-Albors, Alejandro, Castaño, Albert G., Fernández-Garibay, Xiomara, Ortega, María Alejandra, Balaguer, Jordina, Ramón-Azcón, Javier, (2019). Microphysiological sensing platform for an in-situ detection of tissue-secreted cytokines Biosensors and Bioelectronics: X 2, 100025

Understanding the protein-secretion dynamics from single, specific tissues is critical toward the advancement of disease detection and treatments. However, such secretion dynamics remain difficult to measure in vivo due to the uncontrolled contributions from other tissue populations. Here, we describe an integrated platform designed for the reliable, near real-time measurements of cytokines secreted from an in vitro single-tissue model. In our setup, we grow 3D biomimetic tissues to discretize cytokine source, and we separate them from a magnetic microbead-based biosensing system using a Transwell insert. This design integrates physiochemically controlled biological activity, high-sensitivity protein detection (LOD < 20 pg mL−1), and rapid protein diffusion to enable non-invasive, near real-time measurements. To showcase the specificity and sensitivity of the system, we use our setup to probe the inflammatory process related to the protein Interleukine 6 (IL-6) and to the Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-α). We show that our setup can monitor the time-dependence profile of IL-6 and TNF-α secretion that results from the electrical and chemical stimulation of 3D skeletal muscle tissues. We demonstrate a novel and affordable methodology for discretizing the secretion kinetics of specific tissues for advancing metabolic-disorder studies and drug-screening applications.

Keywords: Microphysiological tissues, Tissue engineering, Electrochemical, biosensors, Magnetic particles, Skeletal muscle, Electric stimulation


Santos-Pata, Diogo, Zucca, Riccardo, López-Carral, Héctor, Verschure, P., (2019). Modulating grid cell scale and intrinsic frequencies via slow high-threshold conductances: A simplified model Neural Networks 119, 66-73

Grid cells in the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) have known spatial periodic firing fields which provide a metric for the representation of self-location and path planning. The hexagonal tessellation pattern of grid cells scales up progressively along the MEC’s layer II dorsal-to-ventral axis. This scaling gradient has been hypothesized to originate either from inter-population synaptic dynamics as postulated by attractor networks, or from projected theta frequency waves to different axis levels, as in oscillatory models. Alternatively, cellular dynamics and specifically slow high-threshold conductances have been proposed to have an impact on the grid cell scale. To test the hypothesis that intrinsic hyperpolarization-activated cation currents account for both the scaled gradient and the oscillatory frequencies observed along the dorsal-to-ventral axis, we have modeled and analyzed data from a population of grid cells simulated with spiking neurons interacting through low-dimensional attractor dynamics. We observed that the intrinsic neuronal membrane properties of simulated cells were sufficient to induce an increase in grid scale and potentiate differences in the membrane potential oscillatory frequency. Overall, our results suggest that the after-spike dynamics of cation currents may play a major role in determining the grid cells’ scale and that oscillatory frequencies are a consequence of intrinsic cellular properties that are specific to different levels of the dorsal-to-ventral axis in the MEC layer II.

Keywords: Grid cells, Entorhinal, Hyperpolarization, Navigation, Space


Herreros, Ivan, Miquel, Laia, Blithikioti, Chrysanthi, Nuño, Laura, Rubio Ballester, Belen, Grechuta, Klaudia, Gual, Antoni, Balcells-Oliveró, Mercè, Verschure, P., (2019). Motor adaptation impairment in chronic cannabis users assessed by a visuomotor rotation task Journal of Clinical Medicine 8, (7), 1049

Background—The cerebellum has been recently suggested as an important player in the addiction brain circuit. Cannabis is one of the most used drugs worldwide, and its long-term effects on the central nervous system are not fully understood. No valid clinical evaluations of cannabis impact on the brain are available today. The cerebellum is expected to be one of the brain structures that are highly affected by prolonged exposure to cannabis, due to its high density in endocannabinoid receptors. We aim to use a motor adaptation paradigm to indirectly assess cerebellar function in chronic cannabis users (CCUs). Methods—We used a visuomotor rotation (VMR) task that probes a putatively-cerebellar implicit motor adaptation process together with the learning and execution of an explicit aiming rule. We conducted a case-control study, recruiting 18 CCUs and 18 age-matched healthy controls. Our main measure was the angular aiming error. Results—Our results show that CCUs have impaired implicit motor adaptation, as they showed a smaller rate of adaptation compared with healthy controls (drift rate: 19.3 +/− 6.8° vs. 27.4 +/− 11.6°; t(26) = −2.1, p = 0.048, Cohen’s d = −0.8, 95% CI = (−1.7, −0.15)). Conclusions—We suggest that a visuomotor rotation task might be the first step towards developing a useful tool for the detection of alterations in implicit learning among cannabis users.

Keywords: Cerebellum, Cannabis, Implicit motor learning, Motor adaptation, Visuomotor rotation


Sample, Matthew, Boulicault, Marion, Allen, Caley, Bashir, Rashid, Hyun, Insoo, Levis, Megan, Lowenthal, Caroline, Mertz, David, Montserrat, Nuria, Palmer, Megan J., Saha, Krishanu, Zartman, Jeremiah, (2019). Multi-cellular engineered living systems: building a community around responsible research on emergence Biofabrication 11, (4), 043001

Ranging from miniaturized biological robots to organoids, multi-cellular engineered living systems (M-CELS) pose complex ethical and societal challenges. Some of these challenges, such as how to best distribute risks and benefits, are likely to arise in the development of any new technology. Other challenges arise specifically because of the particular characteristics of M-CELS. For example, as an engineered living system becomes increasingly complex, it may provoke societal debate about its moral considerability, perhaps necessitating protection from harm or recognition of positive moral and legal rights, particularly if derived from cells of human origin. The use of emergence-based principles in M-CELS development may also create unique challenges, making the technology difficult to fully control or predict in the laboratory as well as in applied medical or environmental settings. In response to these challenges, we argue that the M-CELS community has an obligation to systematically address the ethical and societal aspects of research and to seek input from and accountability to a broad range of stakeholders and publics. As a newly developing field, M-CELS has a significant opportunity to integrate ethically responsible norms and standards into its research and development practices from the start. With the aim of seizing this opportunity, we identify two general kinds of salient ethical issues arising from M-CELS research, and then present a set of commitments to and strategies for addressing these issues. If adopted, these commitments and strategies would help define M-CELS as not only an innovative field, but also as a model for responsible research and engineering.

Keywords: Ethics, Society, Governance, Emergence, Moral considerability, Responsible innovation


Bolognesi, Benedetta, Faure, Andre J., Seuma, Mireia, Schmiedel, Jörrn M., Tartaglia, Gian Gaetano, Lehner, Ben, (2019). The mutational landscape of a prion-like domain Nature Communications 10, (1), 4162

Insoluble protein aggregates are the hallmarks of many neurodegenerative diseases. For example, aggregates of TDP-43 occur in nearly all cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). However, whether aggregates cause cellular toxicity is still not clear, even in simpler cellular systems. We reasoned that deep mutagenesis might be a powerful approach to disentangle the relationship between aggregation and toxicity. We generated >50,000 mutations in the prion-like domain (PRD) of TDP-43 and quantified their toxicity in yeast cells. Surprisingly, mutations that increase hydrophobicity and aggregation strongly decrease toxicity. In contrast, toxic variants promote the formation of dynamic liquid-like condensates. Mutations have their strongest effects in a hotspot that genetic interactions reveal to be structured in vivo, illustrating how mutagenesis can probe the in vivo structures of unstructured proteins. Our results show that aggregation of TDP-43 is not harmful but protects cells, most likely by titrating the protein away from a toxic liquid-like phase.

Keywords: Computational biology and bioinformatics, Genomics, Mechanisms of disease, Neurodegeneration, Systems biology


Riefolo, F., Matera, C., Garrido-Charles, A., Gomila, A., Sortino, R., Agnetta, L., Claro, E., Masgrau, R., Holzgrabe, U., Batlle, M., Decker, M., Guasch, E., Gorostiza, P., (2019). Optical control of cardiac function with a photoswitchable muscarinic agonist Journal of the American Chemical Society 141, (18), 7628-7636

Light-triggered reversible modulation of physiological functions offers the promise of enabling on-demand spatiotemporally controlled therapeutic interventions. Optogenetics has been successfully implemented in the heart, but significant barriers to its use in the clinic remain, such as the need for genetic transfection. Herein, we present a method to modulate cardiac function with light through a photoswitchable compound and without genetic manipulation. The molecule, named PAI, was designed by introduction of a photoswitch into the molecular structure of an M2 mAChR agonist. In vitro assays revealed that PAI enables light-dependent activation of M2 mAChRs. To validate the method, we show that PAI photoisomers display different cardiac effects in a mammalian animal model, and demonstrate reversible, real-time photocontrol of cardiac function in translucent wildtype tadpoles. PAI can also effectively activate M2 receptors using two-photon excitation with near-infrared light, which overcomes the scattering and low penetration of short-wave-length illumination, and offers new opportunities for intravital imaging and control of cardiac function.


Cendra, Maria del Mar, Blanco-Cabra, Núria, Pedraz, Lucas, Torrents, Eduard, (2019). Optimal environmental and culture conditions allow the in vitro coexistence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus in stable biofilms Scientific Reports 9, (1), 16284

The coexistence between species that occurs in some infections remains hard to achieve in vitro since bacterial fitness differences eventually lead to a single organism dominating the mixed culture. Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are major pathogens found growing together in biofilms in disease-affected lungs or wounds. Herein, we tested and analyzed different culture media, additives and environmental conditions to support P. aeruginosa and S. aureus coexistence in vitro. We have unraveled the potential of DMEM to support the growth of these two organisms in mature cocultured biofilms (three days old) in an environment that dampens the pH rise. Our conditions use equal initial inoculation ratios of both strains and allow the stable formation of separate S. aureus microcolonies that grow embedded in a P. aeruginosa biofilm, as well as S. aureus biofilm overgrowth when bovine serum albumin is added to the system. Remarkably, we also found that S. aureus survival is strictly dependent on a well-characterized phenomenon of oxygen stratification present in the coculture biofilm. An analysis of differential tolerance to gentamicin and ciprofloxacin treatment, depending on whether P. aeruginosa and S. aureus were growing in mono- or coculture biofilms, was used to validate our in vitro coculture conditions.

Keywords: Applied microbiology, Biofilms


Hervera, Arnau, Santos, Celio X., De Virgiliis, Francesco, Shah, Ajay M., Di Giovanni, Simone, (2019). Paracrine mechanisms of redox signalling for postmitotic cell and tissue regeneration Trends in Cell Biology 29, (6), 514-530

Adult postmitotic mammalian cells, including neurons and cardiomyocytes, have a limited capacity to regenerate after injury. Therefore, an understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying their regenerative ability is critical to advance tissue repair therapies. Recent studies highlight how redox signalling via paracrine cell-to-cell communication may act as a central mechanism coupling tissue injury with regeneration. Post-injury redox paracrine signalling can act by diffusion to nearby cells, through mitochondria or within extracellular vesicles, affecting specific intracellular targets such as kinases, phosphatases, and transcription factors, which in turn trigger a regenerative response. Here, we review redox paracrine signalling mechanisms in postmitotic tissue regeneration and discuss current challenges and future directions.


Lozano-García, M., Estrada, L., Jané, R., (2019). Performance evaluation of fixed sample entropy in myographic signals for inspiratory muscle activity estimation Entropy 21, (2), 183

Fixed sample entropy (fSampEn) has been successfully applied to myographic signals for inspiratory muscle activity estimation, attenuating interference from cardiac activity. However, several values have been suggested for fSampEn parameters depending on the application, and there is no consensus standard for optimum values. This study aimed to perform a thorough evaluation of the performance of the most relevant fSampEn parameters in myographic respiratory signals, and to propose, for the first time, a set of optimal general fSampEn parameters for a proper estimation of inspiratory muscle activity. Different combinations of fSampEn parameters were used to calculate fSampEn in both non-invasive and the gold standard invasive myographic respiratory signals. All signals were recorded in a heterogeneous population of healthy subjects and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients during loaded breathing, thus allowing the performance of fSampEn to be evaluated for a variety of inspiratory muscle activation levels. The performance of fSampEn was assessed by means of the cross-covariance of fSampEn time-series and both mouth and transdiaphragmatic pressures generated by inspiratory muscles. A set of optimal general fSampEn parameters was proposed, allowing fSampEn of different subjects to be compared and contributing to improving the assessment of inspiratory muscle activity in health and disease.

Keywords: Electromyography, Fixed sample entropy, Mechanomyography, Non-invasive physiological measurements, Oesophageal electromyography, Respiratory muscle


Maleeva, Galyna, Wutz, Daniel, Rustler, Karin, Nin-Hill, Alba, Rovira, Carme, Petukhova, Elena, Bautista-Barrufet, Antoni, Gomila-Juaneda, Alexandre, Scholze, Petra, Peiretti, Franck, Alfonso-Prieto, Mercedes, König, Burkhard, Gorostiza, Pau, Bregestovski, Piotr, (2019). A photoswitchable GABA receptor channel blocker British Journal of Pharmacology British journal of pharmacology , 176, (15), 2661-2677

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Anion-selective Cys-loop receptors (GABA and glycine receptors) provide the main inhibitory drive in the CNS. Both types of receptor operate via chloride-selective ion channels, though with different kinetics, pharmacological profiles, and localization. Disequilibrium in their function leads to a variety of disorders, which are often treated with allosteric modulators. The few available GABA and glycine receptor channel blockers effectively suppress inhibitory currents in neurons, but their systemic administration is highly toxic. With the aim of developing an efficient light-controllable modulator of GABA receptors, we constructed azobenzene-nitrazepam (Azo-NZ1), which is composed of a nitrazepam moiety merged to an azobenzene photoisomerizable group. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: The experiments were carried out on cultured cells expressing Cys-loop receptors of known subunit composition and in brain slices using patch-clamp. Site-directed mutagenesis and molecular modelling approaches were applied to evaluate the mechanism of action of Azo-NZ1. KEY RESULTS: At visible light, being in trans‐configuration, Azo-NZ1 blocked heteromeric α1/β2/γ2 GABAA receptors, ρ2 GABAA (GABAC), and α2 glycine receptors, whereas switching the compound into cis-state by UV illumination restored the activity. Azo-NZ1 successfully photomodulated GABAergic currents recorded from dentate gyrus neurons. We demonstrated that in trans-configuration, Azo-NZ1 blocks the Cl-selective ion pore of GABA receptors interacting mainly with the 2′ level of the TM2 region. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Azo-NZ1 is a soluble light-driven Cl-channel blocker, which allows photo-modulation of the activity induced by anion-selective Cys-loop receptors. Azo-NZ1 is able to control GABAergic postsynaptic currents and provides new opportunities to study inhibitory neurotransmission using patterned illumination.


Roux, Anabel-Lise Lee, Quiroga, Xarxa, Walani, Nikhil, Arroyo, Marino, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, (2019). The plasma membrane as a mechanochemical transducer Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 374, (1779), 20180221

Cells are constantly submitted to external mechanical stresses, which they must withstand and respond to. By forming a physical boundary between cells and their environment that is also a biochemical platform, the plasma membrane (PM) is a key interface mediating both cellular response to mechanical stimuli, and subsequent biochemical responses. Here, we review the role of the PM as a mechanosensing structure. We first analyse how the PM responds to mechanical stresses, and then discuss how this mechanical response triggers downstream biochemical responses. The molecular players involved in PM mechanochemical transduction include sensors of membrane unfolding, membrane tension, membrane curvature or membrane domain rearrangement. These sensors trigger signalling cascades fundamental both in healthy scenarios and in diseases such as cancer, which cells harness to maintain integrity, keep or restore homeostasis and adapt to their external environment.

Keywords: Plasma membrane, Mechanotransduction, Membrane tension, Mechanosensor


de la Mata, Ana, Mateos-Timoneda, Miguel A., Nieto-Miguel, Teresa, Galindo, Sara, López-Paniagua, Marina, Planell, Josep A., Engel, Elisabeth, Calonge, Margarita, (2019). Poly-l/dl-lactic acid films functionalized with collagen IV as carrier substrata for corneal epithelial stem cells Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 177, 121-129

Limbal epithelial stem cells (LESCs) are responsible for the renewal of corneal epithelium. Cultivated limbal epithelial transplantation is the current treatment of choice for restoring the loss or dysfunction of LESCs. To perform this procedure, a substratum is necessary for in vitro culturing of limbal epithelial cells and their subsequent transplantation onto the ocular surface. In this work, we evaluated poly-L/DL-lactic acid 70:30 (PLA) films functionalized with type IV collagen (col IV) as potential in vitro carrier substrata for LESCs. We first demonstrated that PLA-col IV films were biocompatible and suitable for the proliferation of human corneal epithelial cells. Subsequently, limbal epithelial cell suspensions, isolated from human limbal rings, were cultivated using culture medium that did not contain animal components. The cells adhered significantly faster to PLA-col IV films than to tissue culture plastic (TCP). The mRNA expression levels for the LESC specific markers, K15, P63α and ABCG2 were similar or greater (significantly in the case of K15) in limbal epithelial cells cultured on PLA-col IV films than limbal epithelial cells cultured on TCP. The percentage of cells expressing the corneal (K3, K12) and the LESC (P63α, ABCG2) specific markers was similar for both substrata. These results suggest that the PLA-col IV films promoted LESC attachment and helped to maintain their undifferentiated stem cell phenotype. Consequently, these substrata offer an alternative for the transplantation of limbal cells onto the ocular surface.

Keywords: Corneal epithelium, Collagen IV, Limbal stem cells, Polylactic acid, Tissue engineering


Stover, Elizabeth H., Baco, Maria B., Cohen, Ofir, Li, Yvonne Y., Christie, Elizabeth L., Bagul, Mukta, Goodale, Amy, Lee, Yenarae, Pantel, Sasha, Rees, Matthew G., Wei, Guo, Presser, Adam G., Gelbard, Maya K., Zhang, Weiqun, Zervantonakis, Ioannis K., Bhola, Patrick D., Ryan, Jeremy, Guerriero, Jennifer L., Montero, Joan, Liang, Felice J., Cherniack, Andrew D., Piccioni, Federica, Matulonis, Ursula A., Bowtell, David D. L., Sarosiek, Kristopher A., Letai, Anthony, Garraway, Levi A., Johannessen, Cory M., Meyerson, Matthew, (2019). Pooled Genomic Screens Identify Anti-apoptotic Genes as Targetable Mediators of Chemotherapy Resistance in Ovarian Cancer Molecular Cancer Research

High-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) is often sensitive to initial treatment with platinum and taxane combination chemotherapy, but most patients relapse with chemotherapy-resistant disease. To systematically identify genes modulating chemotherapy response, we performed pooled functional genomic screens in HGSOC cell lines treated with cisplatin, paclitaxel, or cisplatin plus paclitaxel. Genes in the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis were among the top candidate resistance genes in both gain-of-function and loss-of-function screens. In an open reading frame overexpression screen, followed by a mini-pool secondary screen, anti-apoptotic genes including BCL2L1 (BCL-XL) and BCL2L2 (BCL-W) were associated with chemotherapy resistance. In a CRISPR-Cas9 knockout screen, loss of BCL2L1 decreased cell survival whereas loss of proapoptotic genes promoted resistance. To dissect the role of individual anti-apoptotic proteins in HGSOC chemotherapy response, we evaluated overexpression or inhibition of BCL-2, BCL-XL, BCL-W, and MCL1 in HGSOC cell lines. Overexpression of anti-apoptotic proteins decreased apoptosis and modestly increased cell viability upon cisplatin or paclitaxel treatment. Conversely, specific inhibitors of BCL-XL, MCL1, or BCL-XL/BCL-2, but not BCL-2 alone, enhanced cell death when combined with cisplatin or paclitaxel. Anti-apoptotic protein inhibitors also sensitized HGSOC cells to the poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitor olaparib. These unbiased screens highlight anti-apoptotic proteins as mediators of chemotherapy resistance in HGSOC, and support inhibition of BCL-XL and MCL1, alone or combined with chemotherapy or targeted agents, in treatment of primary and recurrent HGSOC.Implications: Anti-apoptotic proteins modulate drug resistance in ovarian cancer, and inhibitors of BCL-XL or MCL1 promote cell death in combination with chemotherapy.


Caballero, David, Pinto, Inês Mendes, Rubinstein, Boris Y., Samitier, Josep, (2019). Protrusion membrane pearling emerges during 3D cell division Physical Biology 16, (6), 066009

Cell division is accompanied by dramatic changes in shape that ultimately lead to the physical separation of one cell into two. In 2D microenvironments, cells round up and remain adhered onto the substrate by thin retraction fibers during division. In contrast, in 3D environments, cells divide exhibiting long protrusions that guide the orientation of the division axis. However, the mechanism of cell division in three dimensions still remains poorly understood. Here we report the spontaneous formation of transient quasiperiodic membrane pearling on extended mitotic protrusions during 3D cell division. Protrusion membrane pearling may be initiated by the non-uniform distribution of focal adhesions and consequent stationary instability of the protrusive membrane. Overall, membrane pearling emergence may provide insights into a novel modality of 3D cell division with potential physiological relevance.


Caballero, David, Pinto, Ines, Rubinstein, Boris, Samitier, Josep, (2019). Protrusion membrane pearling emerges during three-dimensional cell division Physical Biology 16, (6), 066009

Cell division is accompanied by dramatic changes in shape that ultimately lead to the physical separation of one cell into two. In two-dimensional microenvironments, cells round up and remain adhered onto the substrate by thin retraction fibers during division. In contrast, in three-dimensional environments, cells divide exhibiting long protrusions that guide the orientation of the division axis. However, the mechanism of cell division in three dimensions still remains poorly understood. Here we report the spontaneous formation of transient quasiperiodic membrane pearling on extended mitotic protrusions during three-dimensional cell division. Protrusion membrane pearling may be initiated by the non-uniform distribution of focal adhesions and consequent stationary instability of the protrusive membrane. Overall, membrane pearling emergence may provide insights into a novel modality of three-dimensional cell division with potential physiological relevance.


Rubio Ballester, Belen, Duff, Armin, Maier, Martina, Cameirao, Monica, Bermudez, Sergi, Duarte, Esther, Cuxart, Ampar, Rodriguez, Susana, Verschure, Paul F. M. J., (2019). Revealing an extended critical window of recovery post-stroke bioRxiv (pre-print server) , 458745

The impact of rehabilitation on post-stroke motor recovery and its dependency on the patient's chronicity remain unclear. The existence and regularity of a, so called, proportional recovery rule across a range of functional deficits and therapies supports the notion that functional interventions have little or no impact beyond spontaneous recovery rates in a 'critical window of recovery' which lasts from 3 to 6 months post-stroke. In this meta-analysis, we apply a bootstrap analysis method to assess the overall impact of a specific VR-based rehabilitation protocol for the upper extremities on a homogeneous sample of 219 individuals with hemiparesis at various stages post stroke. Our analysis uncovers a precise gradient of sensitivity to treatment that expands more than one year beyond the limits of the so-called 'critical window of recovery'. These findings redefine the limits of the so-called 'critical window of recovery' and suggest that stroke-derived plasticity mechanisms do facilitate functional recovery even at the chronic and late chronic stage.


Pittolo, Silvia, Lee, Hyojung, Lladó, Anna, Tosi, Sébastien, Bosch, Miquel, Bardia, Lídia, Gómez-Santacana, Xavier, Llebaria, Amadeu, Soriano, Eduardo, Colombelli, Julien, Poskanzer, Kira E., Perea, Gertrudis, Gorostiza, Pau, (2019). Reversible silencing of endogenous receptors in intact brain tissue using two-photon pharmacology Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 116, (27), 13680-13689

The physiological activity of proteins is often studied with loss-of-function genetic approaches, but the corresponding phenotypes develop slowly and can be confounding. Photopharmacology allows direct, fast, and reversible control of endogenous protein activity, with spatiotemporal resolution set by the illumination method. Here, we combine a photoswitchable allosteric modulator (alloswitch) and 2-photon excitation using pulsed near-infrared lasers to reversibly silence metabotropic glutamate 5 (mGlu5) receptor activity in intact brain tissue. Endogenous receptors can be photoactivated in neurons and astrocytes with pharmacological selectivity and with an axial resolution between 5 and 10 µm. Thus, 2-photon pharmacology using alloswitch allows investigating mGlu5-dependent processes in wild-type animals, including synaptic formation and plasticity, and signaling pathways from intracellular organelles.

Keywords: Photopharmacology, Photoactivation, Pharmacological selectivity, Functional silencing, 2-photon pharmacology


Grechuta, Klaudia, Ulysse, Laura, Rubio Ballester, Belen, Verschure, Paul, (2019). Self beyond the body: task-relevant distal cues modulate performance and body ownership bioRxiv (pre-print server) , 361022

The understanding of Body Ownership (BO) largely relies on the Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI) where synchronous stroking of real and Rubber Hands (RH) leads to an illusion of ownership of RH provided physical, anatomical, postural and spatial plausibility of the two body-parts. RHI also occurs during visuomotor synchrony, in particular, when the visual feedback of virtual arm movements follows the trajectory of the instantiated motor command. Hence BO seems to result from a bottom-up integration of afferent and efferent proximal multisensory evidence, and top-down prediction of both externally and self-generated signals, which occurs when the predictions about upcoming sensory signals are accurate. In motor control, the differential processing of predicted and actual sensory consequences of self-generated actions is addressed by, the so-called, Forward Model (FM). Based on an efference copy or corollary discharge, FM issues predictions about the sensory consequences of motor commands and compares them with the actual outcome. The discrepancies (Sensory Prediction Errors, SPEs) are used to correct the action on the consecutive trial and provide new estimates of the current state of the body and the environment. Here, we propose that BO might be computed by FMs, and therefore, it might depend on their consistency, specifically, in contexts where the sensory feedback is self-generated. Crucially, to reduce SPE, FMs integrate both proximal (proprioceptive) and distal (vision, audition) sensory cues relevant to the task. Thus, if BO depends on the consistency of FMs, it would be compromised by the incongruency of not only proximal but also distal cues. To test our hypothesis, we devised an embodied VR-based task where action outcomes were signaled by distinct auditory cues. By manipulating the cues with respect to their spatiotemporal congruency and valence, we show that distal feedback which violates predictions about action outcomes compromises both BO and performance. These results demonstrate that BO is influenced by not only efferent and afferent cues which pertain to the body itself but also those arising outside of the body and suggest that in goal-oriented tasks BO might result from a computation of FM.


Lozano, H., Millán-Solsona, R., Fabregas, R., Gomila, G., (2019). Sizing single nanoscale objects from polarization forces Scientific Reports 9, (1), 14142

Sizing natural or engineered single nanoscale objects is fundamental in many areas of science and technology. To achieve it several advanced microscopic techniques have been developed, mostly based on electron and scanning probe microscopies. Still for soft and poorly adhered samples the existing techniques face important challenges. Here, we propose an alternative method to size single nanoscale objects based on the measurement of its electric polarization. The method is based on Electrostatic Force Microscopy measurements combined with a specifically designed multiparameter quantification algorithm, which gives the physical dimensions (height and width) of the nanoscale object. The proposed method is validated with ~50 nm diameter silver nanowires, and successfully applied to ~10 nm diameter bacterial polar flagella, an example of soft and poorly adhered nanoscale object. We show that an accuracy comparable to AFM topographic imaging can be achieved. The main advantage of the proposed method is that, being based on the measurement of long-range polarization forces, it can be applied without contacting the sample, what is key when considering poorly adhered and soft nanoscale objects. Potential applications of the proposed method to a wide range of nanoscale objects relevant in Material, Life Sciences and Nanomedicine is envisaged.

Keywords: Characterization and analytical techniques, Imaging techniques


Burgués, Javier, Hernández, Victor, Lilienthal, Achim J., Marco, Santiago, (2019). Smelling nano aerial vehicle for gas source localization and mapping Sensors 19, (3), 478

This paper describes the development and validation of the currently smallest aerial platform with olfaction capabilities. The developed Smelling Nano Aerial Vehicle (SNAV) is based on a lightweight commercial nano-quadcopter (27 g) equipped with a custom gas sensing board that can host up to two in situ metal oxide semiconductor (MOX) gas sensors. Due to its small form-factor, the SNAV is not a hazard for humans, enabling its use in public areas or inside buildings. It can autonomously carry out gas sensing missions of hazardous environments inaccessible to terrestrial robots and bigger drones, for example searching for victims and hazardous gas leaks inside pockets that form within the wreckage of collapsed buildings in the aftermath of an earthquake or explosion. The first contribution of this work is assessing the impact of the nano-propellers on the MOX sensor signals at different distances to a gas source. A second contribution is adapting the ‘bout’ detection algorithm, proposed by Schmuker et al. (2016) to extract specific features from the derivative of the MOX sensor response, for real-time operation. The third and main contribution is the experimental validation of the SNAV for gas source localization (GSL) and mapping in a large indoor environment (160 m2) with a gas source placed in challenging positions for the drone, for example hidden in the ceiling of the room or inside a power outlet box. Two GSL strategies are compared, one based on the instantaneous gas sensor response and the other one based on the bout frequency. From the measurements collected (in motion) along a predefined sweeping path we built (in less than 3 min) a 3D map of the gas distribution and identified the most likely source location. Using the bout frequency yielded on average a higher localization accuracy than using the instantaneous gas sensor response (1.38 m versus 2.05 m error), however accurate tuning of an additional parameter (the noise threshold) is required in the former case. The main conclusion of this paper is that a nano-drone has the potential to perform gas sensing tasks in complex environments.

Keywords: Robotics, Signal processing, Electronics, Gas source localization, Gas distribution mapping, Gas sensors, Drone, UAV, MOX sensor, Quadcopter


Cabré, Gisela, Garrido-Charles, Aida, González-Lafont, Àngels, Moormann, Widukind, Langbehn, Daniel, Egea, David, Lluch, José M., Herges, Rainer, Alibés, Ramon, Busqué, Félix, Gorostiza, Pau, Hernando, Jordi, (2019). Synthetic photoswitchable neurotransmitters based on bridged azobenzenes Organic Letters 21, (10), 3780-3784

Photoswitchable neurotransmitters of ionotropic kainate receptors were synthesized by tethering a glutamate moiety to disubstituted C2-bridged azobenzenes, which were prepared through a novel methodology that allows access to diazocines with higher yields and versatility. Because of the singular properties of these photochromes, photoisomerizable compounds were obtained with larger thermal stability for their inert cis isomer than for their biologically activity trans state. This enabled selective neuronal firing upon irradiation without background activity in the dark.


De Matteis, Valeria, Cascione, Mariafrancesca, Toma, Chiara Cristina, Pellegrino, Paolo, Rizzello, Loris, Rinaldi, Rosaria, (2019). Tailoring cell morphomechanical perturbations through metal oxide nanoparticles Nanoscale Research Letters 14, (1), 109

The nowadays growing use of nanoparticles (NPs) in commercial products does not match a comprehensive understanding of their potential harmfulness. More in vitro investigations are required to address how the physicochemical properties of NPs guide their engulfment within cells and their intracellular trafficking, fate, and toxicity. These nano-bio interactions have not been extensively addressed yet, especially from a mechanical viewpoint. Cell mechanic is a critical indicator of cell health because it regulates processes like cell migration, tissue integrity, and differentiation via cytoskeleton rearrangements. Here, we investigated in vitro the elasticity perturbation of Caco-2 and A549 cell lines, in terms of Young’s modulus modification induced by SiO2NPS and TiO2NPS. TiO2NPs demonstrated stronger effects on cell elasticity compared to SiO2NPs, as they induced significant morphological and morphometric changes in actin network. TiO2NPS increased the elasticity in Caco-2 cells, while opposite effects have been observed on A549 cells. These results demonstrate the existence of a correlation between the alteration of cell elasticity and NPs toxicity that depends, in turn, on the NPs physicochemical properties and the specific cell tested.


Uroz, Marina, Garcia-Puig, Anna, Tekeli, Isil, Elosegui-Artola, Alberto, Abenza, Juan F., Marín-Llauradó, Ariadna, Pujals, Silvia, Conte, Vito, Albertazzi, Lorenzo, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Raya, Ángel, Trepat, Xavier, (2019). Traction forces at the cytokinetic ring regulate cell division and polyploidy in the migrating zebrafish epicardium Nature Materials 18, 1015-1023

Epithelial repair and regeneration are driven by collective cell migration and division. Both cellular functions involve tightly controlled mechanical events, but how physical forces regulate cell division in migrating epithelia is largely unknown. Here we show that cells dividing in the migrating zebrafish epicardium exert large cell–extracellular matrix (ECM) forces during cytokinesis. These forces point towards the division axis and are exerted through focal adhesions that connect the cytokinetic ring to the underlying ECM. When subjected to high loading rates, these cytokinetic focal adhesions prevent closure of the contractile ring, leading to multi-nucleation through cytokinetic failure. By combining a clutch model with experiments on substrates of different rigidity, ECM composition and ligand density, we show that failed cytokinesis is triggered by adhesion reinforcement downstream of increased myosin density. The mechanical interaction between the cytokinetic ring and the ECM thus provides a mechanism for the regulation of cell division and polyploidy that may have implications in regeneration and cancer.


Roki, N., Tsinas, Z., Solomon, M., Bowers, J., Getts, R. C., Muro, S., (2019). Unprecedently high targeting specificity toward lung ICAM-1 using 3DNA nanocarriers Journal of Controlled Release 305, 41-49

DNA nanostructures hold great potential for drug delivery. However, their specific targeting is often compromised by recognition by scavenger receptors involved in clearance. In our previous study in cell culture, we showed targeting specificity of a 180 nm, 4-layer DNA-built nanocarrier called 3DNA coupled with antibodies against intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), a glycoprotein overexpressed in the lungs in many diseases. Here, we examined the biodistribution of various 3DNA formulations in mice. A formulation consisted of 3DNA whose outer-layer arms were hybridized to secondary antibody-oligonucleotide conjugates. Anchoring IgG on this formulation reduced circulation and kidney accumulation vs. non-anchored IgG, while increasing liver and spleen clearance, as expected for a nanocarrier. Anchoring anti-ICAM changed the biodistribution of this antibody similarly, yet this formulation specifically accumulated in the lungs, the main ICAM-1 target. Since lung targeting was modest (2-fold specificity index over IgG formulation), we pursued a second preparation involving direct hybridization of primary antibody-oligonucleotide conjugates to 3DNA. This formulation had prolonged stability in serum and showed a dramatic increase in lung distribution: the specificity index was 424-fold above a matching IgG formulation, 144-fold more specific than observed for PLGA nanoparticles of similar size, polydispersity, ζ-potential and antibody valency, and its lung accumulation increased with the number of anti-ICAM molecules per particle. Immunohistochemistry showed that anti-ICAM and 3DNA components colocalized in the lungs, specifically associating with endothelial markers, without apparent histological changes. The degree of in vivo targeting for anti-ICAM/3DNA-nanocarriers is unprecedented, for which this platform technology holds great potential to develop future therapeutic applications.

Keywords: 3DNA, DNA nanostructure, Drug nanocarrier, Endothelial and lung targeting, ICAM-1, In vivo biodistribution


Mas, S., Torro, A., Bec, N., Fernández, L., Erschov, G., Gongora, C., Larroque, C., Martineau, P., de Juan, A., Marco, S., (2019). Use of physiological information based on grayscale images to improve mass spectrometry imaging data analysis from biological tissues Analytica Chimica Acta In Press, Accepted Manuscript

The characterization of cancer tissues by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-mass spectrometry images (MALDI-MSI) is of great interest because of the power of MALDI-MS to understand the composition of biological samples and the imaging side that allows for setting spatial boundaries among tissues of different nature based on their compositional differences. In tissue-based cancer research, information on the spatial location of necrotic/tumoral cell populations can be approximately known from grayscale images of the scanned tissue slices. This study proposes as a major novelty the introduction of this physiologically-based information to help in the performance of unmixing methods, oriented to extract the MS signatures and distribution maps of the different tissues present in biological samples. Specifically, the information gathered from grayscale images will be used as a local rank constraint in Multivariate Curve Resolution-Alternating Least Squares (MCR-ALS) for the analysis of MALDI-MSI of cancer tissues. The use of this constraint, setting absence of certain kind of tissues only in clear zones of the image, will help to improve the performance of MCR-ALS and to provide a more reliable definition of the chemical MS fingerprint and location of the tissues of interest. The general strategy to address the analysis of MALDI-MSI of cancer tissues will involve the study of the MCR-ALS results and the posterior use of MCR-ALS scores as dimensionality reduction for image segmentation based on K-means clustering. The resolution method will provide the MS signatures and their distribution maps for each tissue in the sample. Then, the resolved distribution maps for each biological component (MCR scores) will be submitted as initial information to K-means clustering for image segmentation to obtain information on the boundaries of the different tissular regions in the samples studied. MCR-ALS prior to K-means not only provides the desired dimensionality reduction, but additionally resolved non-biological signal contributions are not used and the weight given to the different biological components in the segmentation process can be modulated by suitable preprocessing methods.

Keywords: MCR-ALS, K-means, Local rank constraints, MALDI-MSI, Grayscale images


Feitosa, J. A., Stefano Filho, C. A., Casseb, R. F., Camargo, A., Martins, B. S. G., Ballester, B. R., Omedas, P., Verschure, P., Oberg, T. D., Min, L. L., Castellano, G., (2019). Complex network changes during a virtual reality rehabilitation protocol following stroke: A case study NER 2019 9th International IEEE/EMBS Conference on Neural Engineering , IEEE (San Francisco, USA) , 891-894

Stroke is one of the main causes of disabilities caused by injuries to the human central nervous system, yielding a wide range of mild to severe impairments that can compromise sensorimotor and cognitive functions. Although rehabilitation protocols may improve function of stroke survivors, patients often reach plateaus while undergoing therapy. Recently, virtual reality (VR) technologies have been paired with traditional rehabilitation aiming to improve function recovery after stroke. Aiming to better understand structural brain changes due to VR rehabilitation protocols, we modeled the brain as a graph and extracted three measures representing the network's topology: degree, clustering coefficient and betweenness centrality (BC). In this single case study, our results indicate that all metrics increased on the ipsilesional hemisphere, while remaining about the same at the contrale-sional site. Particularly, the number of functional connections increased in the lesion area overtime. In addition, the BC displayed the highest variations, and in brain regions related to the patient's cognitive and motor impairments; hence, we argue that this measure could be regarded as an indicative for brain plasticity mechanisms.


Maier, M., Low, S. C., Ballester, B. R., Bañuelos, N. L., Oller, E. D., Verschure, P., (2019). Depression modulates attentional processing after stroke Biosystems & Biorobotics International Conference on NeuroRehabilitation - Converging Clinical and Engineering Research on Neurorehabilitation III , Springer, Cham (Pisa, Italy) 21, 702-706

Depression is a common sequela after stroke and has severe implications on a patient’s life. Post-stroke depression has been linked to cognitive impairment, but the mechanisms that lead to this deficit are not well understood. We tested 18 chronic stroke patients with depression in a psychophysical task to evaluate their attentional processing under varying cognitive loads. We found that the level of depression had no effect on the unconscious, bottom-up components of attentional processing but did influence the top-down ones. These results support the notion that depression might act like an additional cognitive load, impeding the conscious processes and responses although the information has been unconsciously processed.


Vouloutsi, V., Grechuta, K., Verschure, P., (2019). Evaluation of the facial expressions of a humanoid robot Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 8th International Conference, Living Machines 2019 (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) , Springer International Publishing (Nara, Japan) 11556, 365-368

Facial expressions are salient social features that crucial in communication, and humans are capable of reading the messages faces convey and the emotions they display. Robots that interact with humans will need to employ similar communication channels for successful interactions. Here, we focus on the readability of the facial expressions of a humanoid robot. We conducted an online survey where participants evaluated emotional stimuli and assessed the robot’s expressions. Results suggest that the robot’s facial expressions are correctly recognised and the appraisal of the robots expressive elements are consistent with the literature.

Keywords: Emotion recognition, Facial expressions, Human-robot interaction


Arsiwalla, X. D., Freire, I. T., Vouloutsi, V., Verschure, P., (2019). Latent morality in algorithms and machines Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 8th International Conference, Living Machines 2019 (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) , Springer, Cham (Nara, Japan) 11556, 309-315

Can machines be endowed with morality? We argue that morality in the descriptive or epistemic sense can be extended to artificial systems. Following arguments from evolutionary game-theory, we identify two main ingredients required to operationalize this notion of morality in machines. The first, being a group theory of mind, and the second, being an assignment of valence. We make the case for the plausibility of these operations in machines without reference to any form of intentionality or consciousness. The only systems requirements needed to support the above two operations are autonomous goal-directed action and the ability to interact and learn from the environment. Following this we have outlined a theoretical framework based on conceptual spaces and valence assignments to gauge latent morality in autonomous machines and algorithms.

Keywords: Autonomous systems, Ethics of algorithms, Goal-directed action, Philosophy of morality, Qualia, Theory of mind


Amil, A. F., Maffei, G., Puigbò, J. Y., Arsiwalla, X. D., Verschure, P., (2019). Robust postural stabilization with a biomimetic hierarchical control architecture Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 8th International Conference, Living Machines 2019 (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) , Springer, Cham (Nara, Japan) 11556, 321-324

Fast online corrections during anticipatory movements are a signature of robustness in biological motor control. In this regard, a previous study suggested that anticipatory postural control can be recast as a sensory-sensory predictive process, where hierarchically connected cerebellar microcircuits reflect the causal sequence of events preceding a postural disturbance. Hence, error monitoring signals from higher sensory layers inform lower layers about violations of expectations, affording fast corrections when the normal sequence is broken. Here we generalize this insight and prove that the proposed hierarchical control architecture can deal with different types of alterations in the causal structure of the environment, therefore extending the limits of performance.

Keywords: Anticipatory control, Cerebellum, Control architecture, Robustness


Gumí-Audenis, B., Giannotti, M. I., (2019). Structural and mechanical characterization of supported model membranes by AFM Biomimetic Lipid Membranes: Fundamentals, Applications, and Commercialization (ed. Kök, Fatma N., Arslan Yildiz, Ahu, Inci, Fatih), Springer International Publishing (Cham, Germany) , 1-27

Several cellular processes, including adhesion, signaling and transcription, endocytosis, and membrane resealing, among others, involve conformational changes such as bending, vesiculation, and tubulation. These mechanisms generally involve membrane separation from the cytoskeleton as well as strong bending, for which the membrane chemical composition and physicochemical properties, often highly localized and dynamic, are key players. The mechanical role of the lipid membrane in force triggered (or sensing) mechanisms in cells is important, and understanding the lipid bilayers’ physical and mechanical properties is essential to comprehend their contribution to the overall membrane. Atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based experimental approaches have been to date very valuable to deepen into these aspects. As a stand-alone, high-resolution imaging technique and force transducer with the possibility to operate in aqueous environment, it defies most other surface instrumentation in ease of use, sensitivity and versatility. In this chapter, we introduce the different AFM-based methods to assess topological and nanomechanical information on model membranes, specifically to supported lipid bilayers (SLBs), including several examples ranging from pure phospholipid homogeneous bilayers to multicomponent and phase-separated SLBs, increasing the bilayer complexity, in the direction of mimicking biological membranes.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Force spectroscopy, Model membranes, Nanomechanics, Supported lipid bilayers


Martinez-Hernandez, Uriel, Vouloutsi, Vasiliki, Mura, Anna, Mangan, Michael, Asada, Minoru, Prescott, T. J., Verschure, P., (2019). Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems 8th International Conference, Living Machines 2019, Nara, Japan, July 9–12, 2019, Proceedings , Springer, Cham (Lausanne, Switzerland) 11556, 1-384

This book constitutes the proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems, Living Machines 2019, held in Nara, Japan, in July 2019. The 26 full and 16 short papers presented in this volume were carefully reviewed and selected from 45 submissions. They deal with research on novel life-like technologies inspired by the scientific investigation of biological systems, biomimetics, and research that seeks to interface biological and artificial systems to create biohybrid systems.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence, Biomimetics, Computer architecture, Human robot interaction, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Humanoid robot, Image processing, Learning algorithms, Mobile robots, Multipurpose robots, Neural networks, Quadruped robots, Reinforcement learning, Robot learning, Robotics, Robots, Sensor, Sensors, Swarm robotics, User interfaces