A scientific team led by IBEC and UAB manages to efficiently activate molecules located inside cell tissues using two-photon excitation of with infrared light lasers. The results of the study has been published in Nature Communications.
Having absolute control of the activity of a molecule in an organism. Deciding when, where and how a drug is activated. These are some of the goals expected to be reached with the so-called photoswitchable molecules, compounds that, in the presence of certain light waves, change their properties. Today, thanks to the results of a study led by the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) together with the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), the scientific community is one step closer to achieving this objective.
IBEC’s Smart Nano-Bio-Devices group have published a paper describing nanomotors that can attack 3D bladder cancer spheroids in vitro.
The nanomotors carry anti-FGFR3 on their outer surface, an antibody that not only enables cancerous cells to be specifically targeted, but also inhibits the fibroblast growth factor signaling pathway, suppressing tumor growth. Crucially, the fuel that gives the nanomotors the capability of autonomous motion is urea, which is present at high concentrations in the bladder – making these particular nanomotors a promising avenue for this particular cancer.
Researchers from the IBEC have created, for the first time, 3D organoid cultures from pluripotent stem cells, which resemble human embryonic kidney tissue during the second trimester of pregnancy.
Using biomaterials that mimic the embryonic microenvironment, researchers have also achieved mini-kidneys with relevant features for immediate use in renal disease modeling.
A study published today in Nature Materials reports how researchers from IBEC have created organoids, or mini-organs, that resemble the human embryonic kidney, and how these 3D cultures mimic essential aspects during the formation of the kidney, such as distribution, functionality and specific organization of cells.
Cell migration is an essential biological process that drives tissue and organ formation during embryo development, and also helps protect the body through immune response and wound healing mechanisms. The shape changes necessary for cell migration depends on dynamic organization and force generation from the cell’s internal actomyosin cytoskeleton, which is made up of structural actin filaments and contractile myosin motor proteins.
Reorganization of these components enables two mechanisms of cell migration.
IBEC’s Smart Nano-Bio-Devices group – the institute’s experts in micro- and nanorobots – have used 3D bioprinting to produce ‘biorobots’ made of biological elements such as muscle tissue.
These bio-inspired soft robotic devices could offer many more capabilities for movement and performance – such as real-time bio-sensing, self-organization, adaptability, or self-healing – than existing systems, which use solely artificial materials.
“Bio-inspired soft robotics is an exciting new discipline, as it may help us overcome the limitations of traditional robotic systems, such as flexibility, responsiveness and adaptability,” says Samuel Sanchez, group leader at IBEC and ICREA research professor.
IBEC’s Bacterial infections: antimicrobial therapies group have published two papers offering new hope in the urgent search for antimicrobials.
“We desperately need antimicrobials,” says Eduard Torrents. “Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health today, and the time is fast approaching when routine procedures will be much more risky.”
Not only have some common infections or illnesses become resistant to the antibiotics usually used to treat them, a really pressing medical problem now is the rapid rise of ‘superbugs’ or multidrug-resistant bacteria, which are immune to almost all of the antibiotics that are currently available.
Collaborating IBEC groups have published a study in Nature Communications that reveals that electron transfer can take place while a protein is approaching its partner site, and not only when the proteins are engaged, as was previously thought.
The results open up a new way of thinking about how proteins interact, and can have implications in a better understanding of many processes – such as photosynthesis, respiration and detoxification – in which electron transfer plays an important role.
The relocation of an electron from one chemical entity to another – electron transfer (ET) – doesn’t happen passively: electrons are carried individually by redox proteins.
An opinion piece by IBEC group leader Xavier Trepat has appeared in the News and Views section of the current issue of Nature, which is devoted to ‘Bottom-up biology’.
In his piece ‘Bottom does not explain top’, Xavier argues that understanding how complex biological structures – or even entire cells – are built can only provide a certain amount of insight into how biological systems function at higher levels of organization. There are many variables such as density, or even pathologies suffered by the subject, that affect cell behavior at the mesoscale – that is, at the longer, more ‘system-level’ scale than that of the individual components of an organism. Cells in a group, for example, can sense or respond to external stimuli that an individual cell cannot identify.
IBEC’s Biomedical Signal Processing and Interpretation (BIOSPIN) group have published a paper with King’s College London that offers new techniques to monitor COPD patients by non-invasive methods.
COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – is a progressive lung condition with no cure in which the patient’s airways become narrowed. Together with other mechanical abnormalities, airways obstruction increases the load on the respiratory muscles. This, in combination with respiratory muscle weakness in COPD patients, increases load-capacity imbalance and contributes to breathlessness. The IBEC group’s paper elucidates a new way of assessing inspiratory muscle function using mechanomyography, a non-invasive measure of muscle vibration associated with muscle contraction, jointly with surface electromyography.
Researchers at IBEC and IDIBELL have developed a light-regulated molecule that could improve chemotherapy treatments by controlling the activity of anticancer agents.
Chemotherapy – the use of cytotoxic agents to kill the rapidly proliferating cells in tumors – is one of our main tools in the fight against cancer. However, its effectiveness and the body’s tolerance of it is often dramatically limited: it can affect healthy areas rather than just the cancerous ones, which causes side effects.