First measurements of forces driving collective cell migration unveil new principle in biology
Processes like tissue regeneration and cancer metastasis rely on groups of cells moving long distances without losing their cohesiveness, but how they do this has remained unknown. Now researchers from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and Harvard University have solved the mystery and unveiled a brand new phenomenon in biology.
We may be several steps closer to understanding one of the major pathologies that affects sufferers of cystic fibrosis, thanks to Senior researcher Eduard Torrents of IBEC’s Microbial biotechnology and host-pathogen interaction group.
In a study published this week in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal Infection and Immunity, Eduard and his collaborator in Stockholm, Britt-Marie Sjöberg, looked at DNA synthesis in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterial infection that is a frequent complication in many people with cystic fibrosis, and a common cause of death in those patients.
Wine fraud is a growing problem, with experts estimating that up to 10% of the wines offered to consumers in some European countries are of a lesser quality than the label claims.
It’s an issue that affects everyone from expert collectors to average consumers, and is such a concern in some countries that drastic measures have been taken: the Italian Carabinieri Corps, for instance, has educated 25 of their officers as sommeliers.
People can be brittle, transparent, shattered, or have a heart of glass. Now these attributes seem all the more appropriate following a discovery by researchers that migrating cells in our bodies behave in a remarkably similar way to glass when it is heated and cooled.
In a study published in PNAS, researcher Xavier Trepat from Barcelona’s Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia and his collaborators have been looking at collective cell migration, which occurs in our tissue for good or bad: during embryonic development or wound healing, for example, but on the other hand in cancer invasion.
Flick a switch, turn a knob or pull a lever and you’re operating an electromechanical device, albeit a complex one. Now an IBEC researcher and his collaborators have broken new ground with a proven concept for the first such electronic component to operate using just a single-molecule electrical contact.
In a study published in Nature Nanotechnology, Ismael Díez Pérez, a researcher in IBEC’s Nanoprobes and Nanoswitches group, and Prof. Nongjian Tao from Arizona State University describe their success in attempting to find a way to simulate the same electromechanical effects achieved on conventional electronics but in a single-molecule device that allows the accurate mechanical control of the current flow.
EU-funded project aims to improve treatment and prognosis of spinal diseases
Lower back pain is not only miserable and debilitating for the 25% of the population who suffer from it at some point during their lives, but it also has a detrimental effect on society and the economy. The problem costs the EU €7000 per inhabitant per year, and is one of the major causes of long-term absences from work.
IBEC researchers shed light on inhibitory molecules in neuroregeneration
It’s known that the development of neuronal diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease is connected with the levels of myelin – an insulating substance around nerve fibres – in the body, although the actual causes of these conditions remain unknown.
Maria Garcia-Parajo’s group has the first major paper to appear after the summer break with their 31 August publication in PNAS of ‘Direct mapping of nanoscale compositional connectivity on intact cell membranes’.
In their research into the cell membrane, where preorganised components give rise to strategic advantages for protein function and signaling, Maria and her Single Molecule Bionanophotonics team have been looking at lipid rafts – free-floating membrane regions of proteins and lipids – and have now demonstrated their cholesterol-mediated selective connectivity at the nanoscale.
Cellular prion protein (PrPc) plays an essential role in maintaining neurotransmitter homeostasis in the central nervous system. This discovery has been made possible by the observation that both a deficiency and an excess of the protein have a considerable effect on this homeostasis.
Surprisingly, in both cases, the central nervous excitability threshold is altered to such an extent that an epileptic seizure may result. Thanks to this discovery, we now have more tools at our disposal that can help us to deepen our basic understanding of epilepsy.