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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Muro, Silvia, (2018). Alterations in cellular processes involving vesicular trafficking and implications in drug delivery Biomimetics 3, (3), 19

Endocytosis and vesicular trafficking are cellular processes that regulate numerous functions required to sustain life. From a translational perspective, they offer avenues to improve the access of therapeutic drugs across cellular barriers that separate body compartments and into diseased cells. However, the fact that many factors have the potential to alter these routes, impacting our ability to effectively exploit them, is often overlooked. Altered vesicular transport may arise from the molecular defects underlying the pathological syndrome which we aim to treat, the activity of the drugs being used, or side effects derived from the drug carriers employed. In addition, most cellular models currently available do not properly reflect key physiological parameters of the biological environment in the body, hindering translational progress. This article offers a critical overview of these topics, discussing current achievements, limitations and future perspectives on the use of vesicular transport for drug delivery applications.

Keywords: Cellular vesicles, Vesicle fusion, Fission and intracellular trafficking, Drug delivery systems and nanomedicines, Transcytosis and endocytosis of drugs carriers, Disease effects on vesicular trafficking, Drug effects on vesicular trafficking, Role of the biological environment


Fischer, Tobias, Puigbò, Jordi-Ysard, Camilleri, Daniel, Nguyen, Phuong D. H., Moulin-Frier, Clément, Lallée, Stéphane, Metta, Giorgio, Prescott, Tony J., Demiris, Yiannis, Verschure, P., (2018). iCub-HRI: A software framework for complex human-robot interaction scenarios on the iCub humanoid robot Frontiers in Robotics and AI , 5, (22), Article 22

Generating complex, human-like behaviour in a humanoid robot like the iCub requires the integration of a wide range of open source components and a scalable cognitive architecture. Hence, we present the iCub-HRI library which provides convenience wrappers for components related to perception (object recognition, agent tracking, speech recognition, touch detection), object manipulation (basic and complex motor actions) and social interaction (speech synthesis, joint attention) exposed as a C++ library with bindings for Java (allowing to use iCub-HRI within Matlab) and Python. In addition to previously integrated components, the library allows for simple extension to new components and rapid prototyping by adapting to changes in interfaces between components. We also provide a set of modules which make use of the library, such as a high-level knowledge acquisition module and an action recognition module. The proposed architecture has been successfully employed for a complex human-robot interaction scenario involving the acquisition of language capabilities, execution of goal-oriented behaviour and expression of a verbal narrative of the robot's experience in the world. Accompanying this paper is a tutorial which allows a subset of this interaction to be reproduced. The architecture is aimed at researchers familiarising themselves with the iCub ecosystem, as well as expert users, and we expect the library to be widely used in the iCub community.

Keywords: Robotics, iCub Humanoid, YARP, Software architecture, C++, Python, Java, Human-robot interaction


Bennett, Mark, Cantini, Marco, Reboud, Julien, Cooper, Jonathan M., Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Salmeron-Sanchez, Manuel, (2018). Molecular clutch drives cell response to surface viscosity Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115, (6), 1192-1197

Cell response to matrix rigidity has been explained by the mechanical properties of the actin-talin-integrin-fibronectin clutch. Here the molecular clutch model is extended to account for cell interactions with purely viscous surfaces (i.e., without an elastic component). Supported lipid bilayers present an idealized and controllable system through which to study this concept. Using lipids of different diffusion coefficients, the mobility (i.e., surface viscosity) of the presented ligands (in this case RGD) was altered by an order of magnitude. Cell size and cytoskeletal organization were proportional to viscosity. Furthermore, there was a higher number of focal adhesions and a higher phosphorylation of FAK on less-mobile (more-viscous) surfaces. Actin retrograde flow, an indicator of the force exerted on surfaces, was also seen to be faster on more mobile surfaces. This has consequential effects on downstream molecules; the mechanosensitive YAP protein localized to the nucleus more on less-mobile (more-viscous) surfaces and differentiation of myoblast cells was enhanced on higher viscosity. This behavior was explained within the framework of the molecular clutch model, with lower viscosity leading to a low force loading rate, preventing the exposure of mechanosensitive proteins, and with a higher viscosity causing a higher force loading rate exposing these sites, activating downstream pathways. Consequently, the understanding of how viscosity (regardless of matrix stiffness) influences cell response adds a further tool to engineer materials that control cell behavior.

Keywords: Matrix rigidity, Molecular clutch, Surface viscosity, Mechanotransduction, Cell differentiation


Pérez, Judit, Dulay, Samuel, Mir, M., Samitier, Josep, (2018). Molecular architecture for DNA wiring Biosensors and Bioelectronics 121, 54-61

Detection of the hybridisation events is of great importance in many different biotechnology applications such as diagnosis, computing, molecular bioelectronics, and among others. However, one important drawback is the low current of some redox reporters that limits their application. This paper demonstrates the powerful features of molecular wires, in particular the case of S-[4-[2-[4-(2-Phenylethynyl)phenyl]ethynyl]phenyl] thiol molecule and the key role that play the nanometric design of the capture probe linkers to achieve an efficient couple of the DNA complementary ferrocene label with the molecular wire for an effective electron transfer in co-immobilised self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) for DNA hybridisation detection. In this article, the length of the linker capture probe was studied for electron transfer enhancement from the ferrocene-motifs of immobilised molecules towards the electrode surface to obtain higher kinetics in the presence of thiolated molecular wires. The use of the right couple of capture probe linker and molecular wire has found to be beneficial as it helps to amplify eightfold the signal obtained.

Keywords: DNA hybridisation, Bioelectronics, Electron transfer rate constant, Molecular wires, Electrochemistry, Ferrocene, Biosensor


Navarro-Requena, Claudia, Weaver, Jessica D., Clark, Amy Y., Clift, Douglas A., Pérez-Amodio, Soledad, Castaño, Óscar, Zhou, Dennis W., García, Andrés J., Engel, Elisabeth, (2018). PEG hydrogel containing calcium-releasing particles and mesenchymal stromal cells promote vessel maturation Acta Biomaterialia 67, 53-65

The use of human mesenchymal stromal cells (hMSC) for treating diseased tissues with poor vascularization has received significant attention, but low cell survival has hampered its translation to the clinic. Bioglasses and glass-ceramics have also been suggested as therapeutic agents for stimulating angiogenesis in soft tissues, but these effects need further evaluation in vivo. In this study, calcium-releasing particles and hMSC were combined within a hydrogel to examine their vasculogenic potential in vitro and in vivo. The particles provided sustained calcium release and showed proangiogenic stimulation in a chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay. The number of hMSC encapsulated in a degradable RGD-functionalized PEG hydrogel containing particles remained constant over time and IGF-1 release was increased. When implanted in the epidydimal fat pad of immunocompromised mice, this composite material improved cell survival and stimulated vessel formation and maturation. Thus, the combination of hMSC and calcium-releasing glass-ceramics represents a new strategy to achieve vessel stabilization, a key factor in the revascularization of ischemic tissues. Statement of Significance: Increasing blood vessel formation in diseased tissues with poor vascularization is a current clinical challenge. Cell therapy using human mesenchymal stem cells has received considerable interest, but low cell survival has hampered its translation to the clinic. Bioglasses and glass-ceramics have been explored as therapeutic agents for stimulating angiogenesis in soft tissues, but these effects need further evaluation in vivo. By incorporating both human mesenchymal stem cells and glass-ceramic particles in an implantable hydrogel, this study provides insights into the vasculogenic potential in soft tissues of the combined strategies. Enhancement of vessel formation and maturation supports further investigation of this strategy.

Keywords: Calcium, Glass-ceramic particles, Vascularization, hMSC, Hydrogel


Badiola-Mateos, M., Hervera, A., del Río, J. A., Samitier, J., (2018). Challenges and future prospects on 3D in-vitro modeling of the neuromuscular circuit Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 6, Article 194

Movement of skeletal-muscle fibers is generated by the coordinated action of several cells taking part within the locomotion circuit (motoneurons, sensory-neurons, Schwann cells, astrocytes, microglia, and muscle-cells). Failures in any part of this circuit could impede or hinder coordinated muscle movement and cause a neuromuscular disease (NMD) or determine its severity. Studying fragments of the circuit cannot provide a comprehensive and complete view of the pathological process. We trace the historic developments of studies focused on in-vitro modeling of the spinal-locomotion circuit and how bioengineered innovative technologies show advantages for an accurate mimicking of physiological conditions of spinal-locomotion circuit. New developments on compartmentalized microfluidic culture systems (cμFCS), the use of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and 3D cell-cultures are analyzed. We finally address limitations of current study models and three main challenges on neuromuscular studies: (i) mimic the whole spinal-locomotion circuit including all cell-types involved and the evaluation of independent and interdependent roles of each one; (ii) mimic the neurodegenerative response of mature neurons in-vitro as it occurs in-vivo; and (iii) develop, tune, implement, and combine cμFCS, hiPSC, and 3D-culture technologies to ultimately create patient-specific complete, translational, and reliable NMD in-vitro model. Overcoming these challenges would significantly facilitate understanding the events taking place in NMDs and accelerate the process of finding new therapies.

Keywords: 3D-culture, Compartmentalized microfluidic culture systems (cμFCS), HiPSC, In-vitro models, Neuromuscular circuit


Torras, N., García-Díaz, M., Fernández-Majada, V., Martínez, E., (2018). Mimicking epithelial tissues in three-dimensional cell culture models Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 6, Article 197

Epithelial tissues are composed of layers of tightly connected cells shaped into complex three-dimensional (3D) structures such as cysts, tubules, or invaginations. These complex 3D structures are important for organ-specific functions and often create biochemical gradients that guide cell positioning and compartmentalization within the organ. One of the main functions of epithelia is to act as physical barriers that protect the underlying tissues from external insults. In vitro, epithelial barriers are usually mimicked by oversimplified models based on cell lines grown as monolayers on flat surfaces. While useful to answer certain questions, these models cannot fully capture the in vivo organ physiology and often yield poor predictions. In order to progress further in basic and translational research, disease modeling, drug discovery, and regenerative medicine, it is essential to advance the development of new in vitro predictive models of epithelial tissues that are capable of representing the in vivo-like structures and organ functionality more accurately. Here, we review current strategies for obtaining biomimetic systems in the form of advanced in vitro models that allow for more reliable and safer preclinical tests. The current state of the art and potential applications of self-organized cell-based systems, organ-on-a-chip devices that incorporate sensors and monitoring capabilities, as well as microfabrication techniques including bioprinting and photolithography, are discussed. These techniques could be combined to help provide highly predictive drug tests for patient-specific conditions in the near future.

Keywords: 3D cell culture models, Biofabrication, Disease modeling, Drug screening, Epithelial barriers, Microengineered tissues, Organ-on-a-chip, Organoids


Casanellas, Ignasi, García-Lizarribar, Andrea, Lagunas, Anna, Samitier, Josep, (2018). Producing 3D biomimetic nanomaterials for musculoskeletal system regeneration Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 6, Article 128

The human musculoskeletal system is comprised mainly of connective tissues such as cartilage, tendon, ligaments, skeletal muscle and skeletal bone. These tissues support the structure of the body, hold and protect the organs, and are responsible of movement. Since it is subjected to continuous strain, the musculoskeletal system is prone to injury by excessive loading forces or aging, whereas currently available treatments are usually invasive and not always effective. Most of the musculoskeletal injuries require surgical intervention facing a limited post-surgery tissue regeneration, especially for widespread lesions. Therefore, many tissue engineering approaches have been developed tackling musculoskeletal tissue regeneration. Materials are designed to meet the chemical and mechanical requirements of the native tissue three-dimensional (3D) environment, thus facilitating implant integration while providing a good reabsorption rate. With biological systems operating at the nanoscale, nanoengineered materials have been developed to support and promote regeneration at the interprotein communication level. Such materials call for a great precision and architectural control in the production process fostering the development of new fabrication techniques. In this mini review, we would like to summarize the most recent advances in 3D nanoengineered biomaterials for musculoskeletal tissue regeneration, with especial emphasis on the different techniques used to produce them.

Keywords: Nanofiber, 3D printing, Musculoskeletal, Regeneration, Scaffold, Tissue Engineering, Stimuli-responsive


Puigbò, J. Y., Maffei, G., Herreros, I., Ceresa, M., González Ballester, M. A., Verschure, P. F. M. J., (2018). Cholinergic behavior state-dependent mechanisms of neocortical gain control: A neurocomputational study Molecular Neurobiology 55, (1), 249-257

The embodied mammalian brain evolved to adapt to an only partially known and knowable world. The adaptive labeling of the world is critically dependent on the neocortex which in turn is modulated by a range of subcortical systems such as the thalamus, ventral striatum, and the amygdala. A particular case in point is the learning paradigm of classical conditioning where acquired representations of states of the world such as sounds and visual features are associated with predefined discrete behavioral responses such as eye blinks and freezing. Learning progresses in a very specific order, where the animal first identifies the features of the task that are predictive of a motivational state and then forms the association of the current sensory state with a particular action and shapes this action to the specific contingency. This adaptive feature selection has both attentional and memory components, i.e., a behaviorally relevant state must be detected while its representation must be stabilized to allow its interfacing to output systems. Here, we present a computational model of the neocortical systems that underlie this feature detection process and its state-dependent modulation mediated by the amygdala and its downstream target the nucleus basalis of Meynert. In particular, we analyze the role of different populations of inhibitory interneurons in the regulation of cortical activity and their state-dependent gating of sensory signals. In our model, we show that the neuromodulator acetylcholine (ACh), which is in turn under control of the amygdala, plays a distinct role in the dynamics of each population and their associated gating function serving the detection of novel sensory features not captured in the state of the network, facilitating the adjustment of cortical sensory representations and regulating the switching between modes of attention and learning.

Keywords: Acetylcholine, Inhibitory network, Neocortical circuits, Neuromodulation


Sehgal, Poonam, Kong, Xinyu, Wu, Jun, Sunyer, Raimon, Trepat, Xavier, Leckband, Deborah, (2018). Epidermal growth factor receptor and integrins control force-dependent vinculin recruitment to E-cadherin junctions Journal of Cell Science 131, (6), jcs206656

This study reports novel findings that link E-cadherin (also known as CDH1)-mediated force-transduction signaling to vinculin targeting to intercellular junctions via epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and integrins. These results build on previous findings that demonstrated that mechanically perturbed E-cadherin receptors activate phosphoinositide 3-kinase and downstream integrins in an EGFR-dependent manner. Results of this study show that this EGFR-mediated kinase cascade controls the force-dependent recruitment of vinculin to stressed E-cadherin complexes – a key early signature of cadherin-based mechanotransduction. Vinculin targeting requires its phosphorylation at tyrosine 822 by Abl family kinases (hereafter Abl), but the origin of force-dependent Abl activation had not been identified. We now present evidence that integrin activation, which is downstream of EGFR signaling, controls Abl activation, thus linking E-cadherin to Abl through a mechanosensitive signaling network. These findings place EGFR and integrins at the center of a positive-feedback loop, through which force-activated E-cadherin signals regulate vinculin recruitment to cadherin complexes in response to increased intercellular tension.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.

Keywords: Cadherin, Epidermal growth factor receptor, Force transduction, Magnetic twisting cytometry, Vinculin, Integrin


Martí Coma-Cros, Elisabet, Biosca, Arnau, Lantero, Elena, Manca, Maria, Caddeo, Carla, Gutiérrez, Lucía, Ramírez, Miriam, Borgheti-Cardoso, Livia, Manconi, Maria, Fernàndez-Busquets, Xavier, (2018). Antimalarial activity of orally administered curcumin incorporated in Eudragit®-containing liposomes International Journal of Molecular Sciences 19, (5), 1361

Curcumin is an antimalarial compound easy to obtain and inexpensive, having shown little toxicity across a diverse population. However, the clinical use of this interesting polyphenol has been hampered by its poor oral absorption, extremely low aqueous solubility and rapid metabolism. In this study, we have used the anionic copolymer Eudragit® S100 to assemble liposomes incorporating curcumin and containing either hyaluronan (Eudragit-hyaluronan liposomes) or the water-soluble dextrin Nutriose® FM06 (Eudragit-nutriosomes). Upon oral administration of the rehydrated freeze-dried nanosystems administered at 25/75 mg curcumin·kg−1·day−1, only Eudragit-nutriosomes improved the in vivo antimalarial activity of curcumin in a dose-dependent manner, by enhancing the survival of all Plasmodium yoelii-infected mice up to 11/11 days, as compared to 6/7 days upon administration of an equal dose of the free compound. On the other hand, animals treated with curcumin incorporated in Eudragit-hyaluronan liposomes did not live longer than the controls, a result consistent with the lower stability of this formulation after reconstitution. Polymer-lipid nanovesicles hold promise for their development into systems for the oral delivery of curcumin-based antimalarial therapies.

Keywords: Malaria, Curcumin, Nanomedicine, Oral administration, Lipid nanovesicles, Eudragit, Nutriose, Hyaluronan, Plasmodium yoelii


Marrugo-Ramírez, José, Mir, M., Samitier, Josep, (2018). Blood-based cancer biomarkers in liquid biopsy: A promising non-invasive alternative to tissue biopsy International Journal of Molecular Sciences 19, (10), 2877

Cancer is one of the greatest threats facing our society, being the second leading cause of death globally. Currents strategies for cancer diagnosis consist of the extraction of a solid tissue from the affected area. This sample enables the study of specific biomarkers and the genetic nature of the tumor. However, the tissue extraction is risky and painful for the patient and in some cases is unavailable in inaccessible tumors. Moreover, a solid biopsy is expensive and time consuming and cannot be applied repeatedly. New alternatives that overcome these drawbacks are rising up nowadays, such as liquid biopsy. A liquid biopsy is the analysis of biomarkers in a non-solid biological tissue, mainly blood, which has remarkable advantages over the traditional method; it has no risk, it is non-invasive and painless, it does not require surgery and reduces cost and diagnosis time. The most studied cancer non-invasive biomarkers are circulating tumor cells (CTCs), circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), and exosomes. These circulating biomarkers play a key role in the understanding of metastasis and tumorigenesis, which could provide a better insight into the evolution of the tumor dynamics during treatment and disease progression. Improvements in isolation technologies, based on a higher grade of purification of CTCs, exosomes, and ctDNA, will provide a better characterization of biomarkers and give rise to a wide range of clinical applications, such as early detection of diseases, and the prediction of treatment responses due to the discovery of personalized tumor-related biomarkers

Keywords: Liquid biopsy, Cancer, Biomarkers, Non-invasive, Circulant tumor DNA (ctDNA), Circulant tumor cells (CTC)


Beiert, T., Knappe, V., Tiyerili, V., Stöckigt, F., Effelsberg, V., Linhart, M., Steinmetz, M., Klein, S., Schierwagen, R., Trebicka, J., Roell, W., Nickenig, G., Schrickel, J. W., Andrié, R. P., (2018). Chronic lower-dose relaxin administration protects from arrhythmia in experimental myocardial infarction due to anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic properties International Journal of Cardiology 250, 21-28

Background: The peptide hormone relaxin-2 (RLX) exerts beneficial effects during myocardial ischemia, but functional data on lower-dose RLX in myocardial infarction (MI) is lacking. Therefore, we investigated the impact of 75 μg/kg/d RLX treatment on electrical vulnerability and left ventricular function in a mouse model of MI. Methods and results: Standardized cryoinfarction of the left anterior ventricular wall was performed in mice. A two week treatment period with vehicle or RLX via subcutaneously implanted osmotic minipumps was started immediately after MI. The relaxin receptor RXFP1 was expressed on ventricular/atrial cardiomyocytes, myofibroblasts, macrophages and endothelial but not vascular smooth muscle cells of small coronary vessels. RLX treatment resulted in a significant reduction of ventricular tachycardia inducibility (vehicle: 91%, RLX: 18%, p < 0.0001) and increased epicardial conduction velocity in the left ventricle and borderzone. Furthermore, left ventricular function following MI was improved in RLX treated mice (left ventricular ejection fraction; vehicle: 41.1 ± 1.9%, RLX: 50.5 ± 3.5%, p = 0.04). Interestingly, scar formation was attenuated by RLX with decreased transcript expression of connective tissue growth factor. Transcript levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 and interleukin-1β were upregulated in hearts of vehicle treated animals compared to mice without MI. Application of RLX attenuated this inflammatory response. In addition, macrophage infiltration was reduced in the borderzone of RLX treated mice. Conclusion: Treatment with lower-dose RLX in mice prevents post-infarction ventricular tachycardia due to attenuation of scar formation and cardiac inflammation. Therefore, RLX could be evaluated as new therapeutic option in the treatment of MI.

Keywords: Arrhythmia, Myocardial infarction, Relaxin-2, Ventricular tachycardia


Farré, N., Otero, J., Falcones, B., Torres, M., Jorba, I., Gozal, D., Almendros, I., Farré, R., Navajas, D., (2018). Intermittent hypoxia mimicking sleep apnea increases passive stiffness of myocardial extracellular matrix. A multiscale study Frontiers in Physiology 9, Article 1143

Background: Tissue hypoxia-reoxygenation characterizes obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a very prevalent respiratory disease associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Experimental studies indicate that intermittent hypoxia (IH) mimicking OSA induces oxidative stress and inflammation in heart tissue at the cell and molecular levels. However, it remains unclear whether IH modifies the passive stiffness of the cardiac tissue extracellular matrix (ECM). Aim: To investigate multiscale changes of stiffness induced by chronic IH in the ECM of left ventricular (LV) myocardium in a murine model of OSA. Methods: Two-month and 18-month old mice (N = 10 each) were subjected to IH (20% O2 40 s–6% O2 20 s) for 6 weeks (6 h/day). Corresponding control groups for each age were kept under normoxia. Fresh LV myocardial strips (~7 mm × 1 mm × 1 mm) were prepared, and their ECM was obtained by decellularization. Myocardium ECM macroscale mechanics were measured by performing uniaxial stress–strain tensile tests. Strip macroscale stiffness was assessed as the stress value (σ) measured at 0.2 strain and Young’s modulus (EM) computed at 0.2 strain by fitting Fung’s constitutive model to the stress–strain relationship. ECM stiffness was characterized at the microscale as the Young’s modulus (Em) measured in decellularized tissue slices (~12 μm tick) by atomic force microscopy. Results: Intermittent hypoxia induced a ~1.5-fold increase in σ (p < 0.001) and a ~2.5-fold increase in EM (p < 0.001) of young mice as compared with normoxic controls. In contrast, no significant differences emerged in Em among IH-exposed and normoxic mice. Moreover, the mechanical effects of IH on myocardial ECM were similar in young and aged mice. Conclusion: The marked IH-induced increases in macroscale stiffness of LV myocardium ECM suggests that the ECM plays a role in the cardiac dysfunction induced by OSA. Furthermore, absence of any significant effects of IH on the microscale ECM stiffness suggests that the significant increases in macroscale stiffening are primarily mediated by 3D structural ECM remodeling.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Heart mechanics, Myocardial stiffness, Obstructive sleep apnea, Tensile test, Ventricular strain


Pujol, E., Blanco-Cabra, N., Julián, E., Leiva, R., Torrents, E., Vázquez, S., (2018). Pentafluorosulfanyl-containing triclocarban analogs with potent antimicrobial activity Molecules 23, (11), 2853

Concerns have been raised about the long-term accumulating effects of triclocarban, a polychlorinated diarylurea widely used as an antibacterial soap additive, in the environment and in human beings. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration has recently banned it from personal care products. Herein, we report the synthesis, antibacterial activity and cytotoxicity of novel N,N′-diarylureas as triclocarban analogs, designed by reducing one or more chlorine atoms of the former and/or replacing them by the novel pentafluorosulfanyl group, a new bioisostere of the trifluoromethyl group, with growing importance in drug discovery. Interestingly, some of these pentafluorosulfanyl-bearing ureas exhibited high potency, broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive bacterial pathogens, and high selectivity index, while displaying a lower spontaneous mutation frequency than triclocarban. Some lines of evidence suggest a bactericidal mode of action for this family of compounds.

Keywords: Antibacterial, Gram-positive, N,N'-diarylureas, Pentafluorosulfanyl, Staphylococcus aureus, Triclocarban


Miquel, Joan, Santana, F., Palau, E., Vinagre, M., Langohr, K., Casals, A., Torrens, C., (2018). Retaining or excising the supraspinatus tendon in complex proximal humeral fractures treated with reverse prosthesis: a biomechanical analysis in two different designs Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery 138, (11), 1533-1539

We aimed to biomechanically evaluate the effect of the supraspinatus tendon on tuberosity stability using two different reverse shoulder arthroplasty (RSA) models for complex proximal humeral fractures (PHFs).

Keywords: Tuberosity reconstruction, Reverse shoulder arthroplasty, Supraspinatus, Cadaveric study, Rotator cuff excision, Complex proximal humeral fractures


Barbeck, Mike, Serra, Tiziano, Booms, Patrick, Stojanovic, Sanja, Najman, Stevo, Engel, Elisabeth, Sader, Robert, Kirkpatrick, Charles James, Navarro, Melba, Ghanaati, Shahram, (2017). Analysis of the in vitro degradation and the in vivo tissue response to bi-layered 3D-printed scaffolds combining PLA and biphasic PLA/bioglass components – Guidance of the inflammatory response as basis for osteochondral regeneration Bioactive Materials , 2, (4), 208-223

Abstract The aim of the present study was the in vitro and in vivo analysis of a bi-layered 3D-printed scaffold combining a PLA layer and a biphasic PLA/bioglass G5 layer for regeneration of osteochondral defects in vivo Focus of the in vitro analysis was on the (molecular) weight loss and the morphological and mechanical variations after immersion in SBF. The in vivo study focused on analysis of the tissue reactions and differences in the implant bed vascularization using an established subcutaneous implantation model in CD-1 mice and established histological and histomorphometrical methods. Both scaffold parts kept their structural integrity, while changes in morphology were observed, especially for the PLA/G5 scaffold. Mechanical properties decreased with progressive degradation, while the PLA/G5 scaffolds presented higher compressive modulus than PLA scaffolds. The tissue reaction to PLA included low numbers of BMGCs and minimal vascularization of its implant beds, while the addition of G5 lead to higher numbers of BMGCs and a higher implant bed vascularization. Analysis revealed that the use of a bi-layered scaffold shows the ability to observe distinct in vivo response despite the physical proximity of PLA and PLA/G5 layers. Altogether, the results showed that the addition of G5 enables to reduce scaffold weight loss and to increase mechanical strength. Furthermore, the addition of G5 lead to a higher vascularization of the implant bed required as basis for bone tissue regeneration mediated by higher numbers of BMGCs, while within the PLA parts a significantly lower vascularization was found optimally for chondral regeneration. Thus, this data show that the analyzed bi-layered scaffold may serve as an ideal basis for the regeneration of osteochondral tissue defects. Additionally, the results show that it might be able to reduce the number of experimental animals required as it may be possible to analyze the tissue response to more than one implant in one experimental animal.

Keywords: Bioactive glass, Polylactic acid (PLA), Bi-layer scaffold, Multinucleated giant cells, Bone substitute, Vascularization, Calcium phosphate glass


Elosegui-Artola, A., Andreu, I., Beedle, A. E. M., Lezamiz, A., Uroz, M., Kosmalska, A. J., Oria, R., Kechagia, J. Z., Rico-Lastres, P., Le Roux, A. L., Shanahan, C. M., Trepat, X., Navajas, D., Garcia-Manyes, S., Roca-Cusachs, P., (2017). Force triggers YAP nuclear entry by regulating transport across nuclear pores Cell , 171, (6), 1397-1410

YAP is a mechanosensitive transcriptional activator with a critical role in cancer, regeneration, and organ size control. Here, we show that force applied to the nucleus directly drives YAP nuclear translocation by decreasing the mechanical restriction of nuclear pores to molecular transport. Exposure to a stiff environment leads cells to establish a mechanical connection between the nucleus and the cytoskeleton, allowing forces exerted through focal adhesions to reach the nucleus. Force transmission then leads to nuclear flattening, which stretches nuclear pores, reduces their mechanical resistance to molecular transport, and increases YAP nuclear import. The restriction to transport is further regulated by the mechanical stability of the transported protein, which determines both active nuclear transport of YAP and passive transport of small proteins. Our results unveil a mechanosensing mechanism mediated directly by nuclear pores, demonstrated for YAP but with potential general applicability in transcriptional regulation. Force-dependent changes in nuclear pores control protein access to the nucleus.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Hippo pathway, Mechanosensing, Mechanotransduction, Molecular mechanical stability, Nuclear mechanics, Nuclear pores, Nuclear transport, Rigidity sensing, Transcription regulation


Agusil, Juan Pablo, Torras, Núria, Duch, Marta, Esteve, Jaume, Pérez-García, Lluïsa, Samitier, Josep, Plaza, José A., (2017). Highly anisotropic suspended planar-array chips with multidimensional sub-micrometric biomolecular patterns Advanced Functional Materials 27, 1605912

Suspended planar-array (SPA) chips embody millions of individual miniaturized arrays to work in extremely small volumes. Here, the basis of a robust methodology for the fabrication of SPA silicon chips with on-demand physical and chemical anisotropies is demonstrated. Specifically, physical traits are defined during the fabrication process with special focus on the aspect ratio, branching, faceting, and size gradient of the final chips. Additionally, the chemical attributes augment the functionality of the chips with the inclusion of complete coverage or patterns of selected biomolecules on the surface of the chips with contact printing techniques, offering an extremely high versatility, not only with the choice of the pattern shape and distribution but also in the choice of biomolecular inks to pattern. This approach increases the miniaturization of printed arrays in 3D structures by two orders of magnitude compared to those previously demonstrated. Finally, functional micrometric and sub-micrometric patterned features are demonstrated with an antibody binding assay with the recognition of the printed spots with labeled antibodies from solution. The selective addition of physical and chemical attributes on the suspended chips represents the basis for future biomedical assays performed within extremely small volumes.

Keywords: Microcontact printing, Microparticles, Molecular multiplexing, Polymer pen lithography, Silicon chip technology


Aragonès, Albert C., Medina, Ernesto, Ferrer-Huerta, Miriam, Gimeno, Nuria, Teixidó, Meritxell, Palma, Julio L., Tao, Nongjian, Ugalde, Jesus M., Giralt, Ernest, Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Mujica, Vladimiro, (2017). Measuring the spin-polarization power of a single chiral molecule Small 13, (2), 1602519

The electronic spin filtering capability of a single chiral helical peptide is measured. A ferromagnetic electrode source is employed to inject spin-polarized electrons in an asymmetric single-molecule junction bridging an α-helical peptide sequence of known chirality. The conductance comparison between both isomers allows the direct determination of the polarization power of an individual chiral molecule.

Keywords: Alpha-helical peptides, Chiral transport, Single-molecule wires, Spin-polarization power, Spin-polarized transmission


Santander-Nelli, M., Silva, C. P., Espinoza-Vergara, J., Silva, J. F., Olguín, C. F., Cortés-Arriagada, D., Zagal, J. H., Mendizabal, F., Díez-Pérez, I., Pavez, J., (2017). Tailoring electroactive surfaces by non-template molecular assembly. Towards electrooxidation of L-cysteine Electrochimica Acta , 254, 201-213

We have prepared a nanoelectrode ensemble containing vertically aligned single walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) using a non-template molecular self-assembling strategy. We used a bottom-up construction approach to assemble amino functionalized SWCNTs (af-SWCNTs) in a well-defined architecture. These af-SWCNTs were linked and vertically aligned to pre-formed self-assembled monolayers of 4-MBA. A Cobalt(II) tetracarboxyphthalocyanine (Co(COOH)4Pc) complex was covalently bonded to external portion of af-SWCNTs to complete the final nanoelectrode ensemble. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and Atomic Force Microcopy (AFM) confirmed the effectiveness of the assembling steps on the gold surface starting from the Au/MBA SAMs. The system Au/4-MBA/af-SWCNTs shows an interface with large ordered array, which exhibits a high activity for the electrooxidation of L-cysteine (L-cys). Theoretical calculations suggest that the incorporation of the af-SWCNTs increased the activity of the assembly to electronic transfer and it was observed that the electrooxidation reaction is energetically favorable.

Keywords: Bottom-up construction, DFT, Modified electrode, Molecular assembly, SAMs, Single walled carbon nanotube


Gugutkov, D., Gustavsson, J., Cantini, M., Salmeron-Sánchez, M., Altankov, G., (2017). Electrospun fibrinogen-PLA nanofibres for vascular tissue engineering Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine , 11, (10), 2774-2784

Here we report on the development of a new type of hybrid fibrinogen-polylactic acid (FBG-PLA) nanofibres (NFs) with improved stiffness, combining the good mechanical properties of PLA with the excellent cell recognition properties of native FBG. We were particularly interested in the dorsal and ventral cell response to the nanofibres' organization (random or aligned), using human umbilical endothelial cells (HUVECs) as a model system. Upon ventral contact with random NFs, the cells developed a stellate-like morphology with multiple projections. The well-developed focal adhesion complexes suggested a successful cellular interaction. However, time-lapse analysis shows significantly lowered cell movements, resulting in the cells traversing a relatively short distance in multiple directions. Conversely, an elongated cell shape and significantly increased cell mobility were observed in aligned NFs. To follow the dorsal cell response, artificial wounds were created on confluent cell layers previously grown on glass slides and covered with either random or aligned NFs. Time-lapse analysis showed significantly faster wound coverage (within 12 h) of HUVECs on aligned samples vs. almost absent directional migration on random ones. However, nitric oxide (NO) release shows that endothelial cells possess lowered functionality on aligned NFs compared to random ones, where significantly higher NO production was found. Collectively, our studies show that randomly organized NFs could support the endothelization of implants while aligned NFs would rather direct cell locomotion for guided neovascularization.

Keywords: Electrospun nanofibers, Endothelial cells, Fibrinogen, Guided cellular behavior, Polylactic acid, Vascular tissue engineering


Juarez, A., Villa, J. A., Lanza, V. F., Lázaro, B., Cruz, F., Alvarez, H. M., Moncalián, G., (2017). Nutrient starvation leading to triglyceride accumulation activates the Entner Doudoroff pathway in Rhodococcus jostii RHA1 Microbial Cell Factories , 16, 35

Background: Rhodococcus jostii RHA1 and other actinobacteria accumulate triglycerides (TAG) under nutrient starvation. This property has an important biotechnological potential in the production of sustainable oils. Results: To gain insight into the metabolic pathways involved in TAG accumulation, we analysed the transcriptome of R jostii RHA1 under nutrient-limiting conditions. We correlate these physiological conditions with significant changes in cell physiology. The main consequence was a global switch from catabolic to anabolic pathways. Interestingly, the Entner-Doudoroff (ED) pathway was upregulated in detriment of the glycolysis or pentose phosphate pathways. ED induction was independent of the carbon source (either gluconate or glucose). Some of the diacylglycerol acyltransferase genes involved in the last step of the Kennedy pathway were also upregulated. A common feature of the promoter region of most upregulated genes was the presence of a consensus binding sequence for the cAMP-dependent CRP regulator. Conclusion: This is the first experimental observation of an ED shift under nutrient starvation conditions. Knowledge of this switch could help in the design of metabolomic approaches to optimize carbon derivation for single cell oil production.

Keywords: CRP, Entner-Doudoroff pathway, Nutrient starvation, Rhodococcus, RNA-Seq, Triacylglycerol


Diez-Escudero, A., Espanol, M., Montufar, E. B., Di Pompo, G., Ciapetti, G., Baldini, N., Ginebra, M. P., (2017). Focus ion beam/scanning electron microscopy characterization of osteoclastic resorption of calcium phosphate substrates Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods , 23, (2), 118-124

This article presents the application of dual focused ion beam/scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM) imaging for preclinical testing of calcium phosphates with osteoclast precursor cells and how this high-resolution imaging technique is able to reveal microstructural changes at a level of detail previously not possible. Calcium phosphate substrates, having similar compositions but different microstructures, were produced using low-and high-Temperature processes (biomimetic calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite [CDHA] and stoichiometric sintered hydroxyapatite, respectively). Human osteoclast precursor cells were cultured for 21 days before evaluating their resorptive potential on varying microstructural features. Alternative to classical morphological evaluation of osteoclasts (OC), FIB-SEM was used to observe the subjacent microstructure by transversally sectioning cells and observing both the cells and the substrates. Resorption pits, indicating OC activity, were visible on the smoother surface of high-Temperature sintered hydroxyapatite. FIB-SEM analysis revealed signs of acidic degradation on the grain surface under the cells, as well as intergranular dissolution. No resorption pits were evident on the surface of the rough CDHA substrates. However, whereas no degradation was detected by FIB sections in the material underlying some of the cells, early stages of OC-mediated acidic degradation were observed under cells with more spread morphology. Collectively, these results highlight the potential of FIB to evaluate the resorptive activity of OC, even in rough, irregular, or coarse surfaces where degradation pits are otherwise difficult to visualize.

Keywords: Bone Regeneration, Calcium Phosphate, Focus Ion Beam, Osteoclast, Resorption, Scanning Electron Microscopy


Castellanos, M. I., Guillem-Marti, J., Mas-Moruno, C., Díaz-Ricart, M., Escolar, G., Ginebra, M. P., Gil, F. J., Pegueroles, M., Manero, J. M., (2017). Cell adhesive peptides functionalized on CoCr alloy stimulate endothelialization and prevent thrombogenesis and restenosis Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A , 105, (4), 973-983

Immobilization of bioactive peptide sequences on CoCr surfaces is an effective route to improve endothelialization, which is of great interest for cardiovascular stents. In this work, we explored the effect of physical and covalent immoblization of RGDS, YIGSR and their equimolar combination peptides on endothelial cells (EC) and smooth muscle cell (SMC) adhesion and on thrombogenicity. We extensively investigated using RT-qPCR, the expression by ECs cultured on functionalised CoCr surfaces of different genes. Genes relevant for adhesion (ICAM-1 and VCAM-1), vascularization (VEGFA, VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2) and anti-thrombogenicity (tPA and eNOS) were over-expressed in the ECs grown to covalently functionalized CoCr surfaces compared to physisorbed and control surfaces. Pro-thrombogenic genes expression (PAI-1 and vWF) decreased over time. Cell co-cultures of ECs/SMCs found that functionalization increased the amount of adhered ECs onto modified surfaces compared to plain CoCr, independently of the used peptide and the strategy of immobilization. SMCs adhered less compared to ECs in all surfaces. All studied peptides showed a lower platelet cell adhesion compared to TCPS. Covalent functionalization of CoCr surfaces with an equimolar combination of RGDS and YIGSR represented prevailing strategy to enhance the early stages of ECs adhesion and proliferation, while preventing SMCs and platelet adhesion.

Keywords: Cell coculture, CoCr alloy, Functionalization, Gene expression, Platelet adhesion


Giménez, A., Uriarte, J. J., Vieyra, J., Navajas, D., Alcaraz, J., (2017). Elastic properties of hydrogels and decellularized tissue sections used in mechanobiology studies probed by atomic force microscopy Microscopy Research and Technique , 80, (1), 85-96

The increasing recognition that tissue elasticity is an important regulator of cell behavior in normal and pathologic conditions such as fibrosis and cancer has driven the development of cell culture substrata with tunable elasticity. Such development has urged the need to quantify the elastic properties of these cell culture substrata particularly at the nanometer scale, since this is the relevant length scale involved in cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) mechanical interactions. To address this need, we have exploited the versatility of atomic force microscopy to quantify the elastic properties of a variety of cell culture substrata used in mechanobiology studies, including floating collagen gels, ECM-coated polyacrylamide gels, and decellularized tissue sections. In this review we summarize major findings in this field from our group within the context of the state-of-the-art in the field, and provide a critical discussion on the applicability and complementarity of currently available cell culture assays with tunable elasticity. In addition, we briefly describe how the limitations of these assays provide opportunities for future research, which is expected to continue expanding our understanding of the mechanobiological aspects that support both normal and diseased conditions.

Keywords: 3D culture, Atomic force microscopy, Elastic modulus, Extracellular matrix, Polyacrylamide


Obregón, R., Ramón-Azcón, J., Ahadian, S., (2017). Nanofiber composites in blood vessel tissue engineering Nanofiber Composites for Biomedical Applications (ed. Ramalingam, M., Ramakrishna, S.), Elsevier (Duxford, UK) Woodhead Publishing Series in Biomaterials, 483-506

Tissue engineering (TE) aims to restore function or replace damaged tissue through biological principles and engineering. Nanofibers are attractive substrates for tissue regeneration applications because they structurally mimic the native extracellular matrix. Composite nanofibers, which are hybrid nanofibers blended from natural and synthetic polymers, represent a major advancement in TE and regenerative medicine, since they take advantage of the physical properties of the synthetic polymer and the bioactivity of the natural polymer while minimizing the disadvantages of both. Although various nanofibrous matrices have been applied to almost all the areas of TE, in this chapter we will focus on nanofiber composites scaffolds for vascular TE.

Keywords: Blood vessels, Nanofiber composite, Tissue engineering, Vascularized tissue


Aragonès, A. C., Aravena, D., Cerdá, J. I., Acís-Castillo, Z., Li, H., Real, J. A., Sanz, F., Hihath, J., Ruiz, E., Díez-Pérez, I., (2016). Large conductance switching in a single-molecule device through room temperature spin-dependent transport Nano Letters 16, (1), 218-226

Controlling the spin of electrons in nanoscale electronic devices is one of the most promising topics aiming at developing devices with rapid and high density information storage capabilities. The interface magnetism or spinterface resulting from the interaction between a magnetic molecule and a metal surface, or vice versa, has become a key ingredient in creating nanoscale molecular devices with novel functionalities. Here, we present a single-molecule wire that displays large (>10000%) conductance switching by controlling the spin-dependent transport under ambient conditions (room temperature in a liquid cell). The molecular wire is built by trapping individual spin crossover FeII complexes between one Au electrode and one ferromagnetic Ni electrode in an organic liquid medium. Large changes in the single-molecule conductance (>100-fold) are measured when the electrons flow from the Au electrode to either an α-up or a β-down spin-polarized Ni electrode. Our calculations show that the current flowing through such an interface appears to be strongly spin-polarized, thus resulting in the observed switching of the single-molecule wire conductance. The observation of such a high spin-dependent conductance switching in a single-molecule wire opens up a new door for the design and control of spin-polarized transport in nanoscale molecular devices at room temperature.

Keywords: Density functional calculations, Magnetoresistance, Single-molecule junctions, Spin orbit coupling, Spin-crossover complexes, Spinterface, STM break-junction


Tahirbegi, I.B., Pardo, W.A., Alvira, M., Mir, M., Samitier, J., (2016). Amyloid Aβ 42, a promoter of magnetite nanoparticle formation in Alzheimer's disease Nanotechnology 27, (46), 465102

The accumulation of iron oxides - mainly magnetite - with amyloid peptide is a key process in the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the mechanism for biogeneration of magnetite inside the brain of someone with AD is still unclear. The iron-storing protein ferritin has been identified as the main magnetite-storing molecule. However, accumulations of magnetite in AD are not correlated with an increase in ferritin, leaving this question unresolved. Here we demonstrate the key role of amyloid peptide Aβ 42, one of the main hallmarks of AD, in the generation of magnetite nanoparticles in the absence of ferritin. The capacity of amyloid peptide to bind and concentrate iron hydroxides, the basis for the formation of magnetite, benefits the spontaneous synthesis of these nanoparticles, even under unfavorable conditions for their formation. Using scanning and transmission electron microscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy and magnetic force microscopy we characterized the capacity of amyloid peptide Aβ 42 to promote magnetite formation.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease (AD), amyloid peptide Ab42, magnetite nanoparticle, metallobiomolecule, iron oxide, neurodegenerative brain diseases


A. R. Dalton, J., Lans, I., Rovira, X., Malhaire, F., Gómez-Santacana, X., Pittolo, S., Gorostiza, P., Llebaria, A., Goudet, C., Pin, J-P., Giraldo, J., (2016). Shining light on an mGlu5 photoswitchable NAM: A theoretical perspective Current Neuropharmacology , 14, (5), 441-454

Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) are important drug targets because of their involvement in several neurological diseases. Among mGluRs, mGlu5 is a particularly high-profile target because its positive or negative allosteric modulation can potentially treat schizophrenia or anxiety and chronic pain, respectively. Here, we computationally and experimentally probe the functional binding of a novel photoswitchable mGlu5 NAM, termed alloswitch-1, which loses its NAM functionality under violet light. We show alloswitch-1 binds deep in the allosteric pocket in a similar fashion to mavoglurant, the co-crystallized NAM in the mGlu5 transmembrane domain crystal structure. Alloswitch-1, like NAM 2-Methyl-6-(phenylethynyl)pyridine (MPEP), is significantly affected by P655M mutation deep in the allosteric pocket, eradicating its functionality. In MD simulations, we show alloswitch-1 and MPEP stabilize the co-crystallized water molecule located at the bottom of the allosteric site that is seemingly characteristic of the inactive receptor state. Furthermore, both NAMs form H-bonds with S809 on helix 7, which may constitute an important stabilizing interaction for NAM-induced mGlu5 inactivation. Alloswitch-1, through isomerization of its amide group from trans to cis is able to form an additional interaction with N747 on helix 5. This may be an important interaction for amide-containing mGlu5 NAMs, helping to stabilize their binding in a potentially unusual cis-amide state. Simulated conformational switching of alloswitch-1 in silico suggests photoisomerization of its azo group from trans to cis may be possible within the allosteric pocket. However, photoexcited alloswitch-1 binds in an unstable fashion, breaking H-bonds with the protein and destabilizing the co-crystallized water molecule. This suggests photoswitching may have destabilizing effects on mGlu5 binding and functionality.

Keywords: Allosteric modulation, Docking, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Molecular dynamics, Mutation, Protein structure, Transmembrane domain


Tomas-Roig, J., Piscitelli, F., Gil, V., del Río, J. A., Moore, T. P., Agbemenyah, H., Salinas-Riester, G., Pommerenke, C., Lorenzen, S., Beißbarth, T., Hoyer-Fender, S., Di Marzo, V., Havemann-Reinecke, U., (2016). Social defeat leads to changes in the endocannabinoid system: An overexpression of calreticulin and motor impairment in mice Behavioural Brain Research , 303, 34-43

Prolonged and sustained stimulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis have adverse effects on numerous brain regions, including the cerebellum. Motor coordination and motor learning are essential for animal and require the regulation of cerebellar neurons. The G-protein-coupled cannabinoid CB1 receptor coordinates synaptic transmission throughout the CNS and is of highest abundance in the cerebellum. Accordingly, the aim of this study was to investigate the long-lasting effects of chronic psychosocial stress on motor coordination and motor learning, CB1 receptor expression, endogenous cannabinoid ligands and gene expression in the cerebellum. After chronic psychosocial stress, motor coordination and motor learning were impaired as indicated the righting reflex and the rota-rod. The amount of the endocannabinoid 2-AG increased while CB1 mRNA and protein expression were downregulated after chronic stress. Transcriptome analysis revealed 319 genes differentially expressed by chronic psychosocial stress in the cerebellum; mainly involved in synaptic transmission, transmission of nerve impulse, and cell-cell signaling. Calreticulin was validated as a stress candidate gene. The present study provides evidence that chronic stress activates calreticulin and might be one of the pathological mechanisms underlying the motor coordination and motor learning dysfunctions seen in social defeat mice.

Keywords: Psychosocial stress, Cerebellum, Calreticulin, Endocannabinoid system, Behavior, RNA seq.


da Palma, R. K., Nonaka, P. N., Campillo, N., Uriarte, J. J., Urbano, J. J., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Oliveira, L. V. F., (2016). Behavior of vascular resistance undergoing various pressure insufflation and perfusion on decellularized lungs Journal of Biomechanics 49, (7), 1230-1232

Bioengineering of functional lung tissue by using whole lung scaffolds has been proposed as a potential alternative for patients awaiting lung transplant. Previous studies have demonstrated that vascular resistance (Rv) could be altered to optimize the process of obtaining suitable lung scaffolds. Therefore, this work was aimed at determining how lung inflation (tracheal pressure) and perfusion (pulmonary arterial pressure) affect vascular resistance. This study was carried out using the lungs excised from 5 healthy male Sprague-Dawley rats. The trachea was cannulated and connected to a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device to provide a tracheal pressure ranging from 0 to 15cmH2O. The pulmonary artery was cannulated and connected to a controlled perfusion system with continuous pressure (gravimetric level) ranging from 5 to 30cmH2O. Effective Rv was calculated by ratio of pulmonary artery pressure (P PA) by pulmonary artery flow (V'PA). Rv in the decellularized lungs scaffolds decreased at increasing V' PA, stabilizing at a pulmonary arterial pressure greater than 20cmH2O. On the other hand, CPAP had no influence on vascular resistance in the lung scaffolds after being subjected to pulmonary artery pressure of 5cmH2O. In conclusion, compared to positive airway pressure, arterial lung pressure markedly influences the mechanics of vascular resistance in decellularized lungs.

Keywords: Decellularized lung, Scaffolds, Vascular resistance


Pla-Roca, M., Altay, G., Giralt, X., Casals, A., Samitier, J., (2016). Design and development of a microarray processing station (MPS) for automated miniaturized immunoassays Biomedical Microdevices , 18, (4)

Here we describe the design and evaluation of a fluidic device for the automatic processing of microarrays, called microarray processing station or MPS. The microarray processing station once installed on a commercial microarrayer allows automating the washing, and drying steps, which are often performed manually. The substrate where the assay occurs remains on place during the microarray printing, incubation and processing steps, therefore the addressing of nL volumes of the distinct immunoassay reagents such as capture and detection antibodies and samples can be performed on the same coordinate of the substrate with a perfect alignment without requiring any additional mechanical or optical re-alignment methods. This allows the performance of independent immunoassays in a single microarray spot.

Keywords: Automation, Customization, High-throughput screening, Immunoassays, Microarrays


Lagunas, Anna, Martinez, Elena, Samitier, Josep, (2015). Surface-bound molecular gradients for the high throughput screening of cell responses Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 3, Article 132

Chemical gradient surfaces are described as surfaces with a gradually varying composition along their length. Continuous chemical gradients have recently been proposed as alternative to discrete microarrays for the high throughput screening of the effects of ligand concentration in cells. Here we review some of the most recent examples in which gradients have been used to evaluate the effect of a varying ligand concentration in cell adhesion, morphology, growth and differentiation of cells, including some of our recent findings. They show the importance of the organization of ligands at the nanoscale, which is highlighted by abrupt changes in cell behavior at critical concentration thresholds.

Keywords: Cell Adhesion, Cell Differentiation, Cell growth, Cell morphology, Molecular gradient


Aragonès, Albert C., Darwish, Nadim, Im, JongOne, Lim, Boram, Choi, Jeongae, Koo, Sangho, Díez-Pérez, Ismael, (2015). Fine-tuning of single-molecule conductance by tweaking both electronic structure and conformation of side substituents Chemistry – A European Journal , 21, (21), 7716-7720

Herein, we describe a method to fine-tune the conductivity of single-molecule wires by employing a combination of chemical composition and geometrical modifications of multiple phenyl side groups as conductance modulators embedded along the main axis of the electronic pathway. We have measured the single-molecule conductivity of a novel series of phenyl-substituted carotenoid wires whose conductivity can be tuned with high precision over an order of magnitude range by modulating both the electron-donating character of the phenyl substituent and its dihedral angle. It is demonstrated that the electronic communication between the phenyl side groups and the molecular wire is maximized when the phenyl groups are twisted closer to the plane of the conjugated molecular wire. These findings can be refined to a general technique for precisely tuning the conductivity of molecular wires.

Keywords: Carotenoids, Conductance, Self-assembly, Single-molecule studies, STM break junction


Ponce, I., Aragonès, A. C., Darwish, Nadrim, Pla-Vilanova, P., Oñate, R., Rezende, M. C., Zagal, J. H., Sanz, F., Pavez, J., Díez-Pérez, I., (2015). Building nanoscale molecular wires exploiting electrocatalytic interactions Electrochimica Acta , 179, 611-167

Herein, we present a novel method to design nanoscale molecular wires by exploiting well-established electrocatalytic molecular platforms based on metallophthalocyanine blocks. Metallophthalocyanines exhibit high catalytic activity for a wide variety of electrochemical reactions of practical interests. To this aim, metallophthalocyanine molecules can be attached to an electrode surface via a conjugated mercaptopyridine axial ligand that provides (i) stable chemical binding to the metal surface through the thiol-anchoring group, and (ii) a good electrical communication between the metallophthalocyanine ring and the electrode surface. Our previous work demonstrates that long mercaptopyridinium blocks act as excellent linkers in such electrocatalytic platform, resulting in an optimal electrocatalytic activity of the metallophthalocyanine unit. Here we profit from this optimized electrocatalytic molecular platform to design new molecular wires that connect a metal nanoscale junction in a highly efficient and tunable way. To this aim, we use an STM break-junction approach to control the formation of a nanometric gap between two Au electrodes, both functionalized with mercaptopyridinium (bottom) and mercaptopyridine (top). When metallophthalocyanine is introduced into the functionalized metal nanojunction, stable molecular connections between the two electrodes are formed through axial coordination to the top and bottom pyridine moieties. We show that the highest conductance of the resulting nanoscale molecular wire corresponds to an Fe-phthalocyanine as compare to a Cu-phthalocyanine, which follows the electrocatalytic trend for such molecular systems. These results not only demonstrate a new strategy to design new families of highly conductive and tunable nanoscale molecular wires, but it also brings a new nanoscale electrical platform to help understanding some fundamental mechanistic aspects of molecular electrocatalysis.

Keywords: Single-molecule wires, Metallophthalocyanine, Electrocatalytic molecular platform, Molecular Electronics, STM break-junction


Pla-Vilanova, P., Aragonès, A. C., Ciampi, S., Sanz, F., Darwish, N., Diez-Perez, I., (2015). The spontaneous formation of single-molecule junctions via terminal alkynes Nanotechnology 26, 381001

Herein, we report the spontaneous formation of single-molecule junctions via terminal alkyne contact groups. Self-assembled monolayers that form spontaneously from diluted solutions of 1, 4-diethynylbenzene (DEB) were used to build single-molecule contacts and assessed using the scanning tunneling microscopy-break junction technique (STM-BJ). The STM-BJ technique in both its dynamic and static approaches was used to characterize the lifetime (stability) and the conductivity of a single-DEB wire. It is demonstrated that single-molecule junctions form spontaneously with terminal alkynes and require no electrochemical control or chemical deprotonation. The alkyne anchoring group was compared against typical contact groups exploited in single-molecule studies, i.e. amine (benzenediamine) and thiol (benzendithiol) contact groups. The alkyne contact showed a conductance magnitude comparable to that observed with amine and thiol groups. The lifetime of the junctions formed from alkynes were only slightly less than that of thiols and greater than that observed for amines. These findings are important as (a) they extend the repertoire of chemical contacts used in single-molecule measurements to 1-alkynes, which are synthetically accessible and stable and (b) alkynes have a remarkable affinity toward silicon surfaces, hence opening the door for the study of single-molecule transport on a semiconducting electronic platform.

Keywords: Ferrocene, Molecular electronics, Single-molecule electronics, Single-molecule junctions, Singlemolecule contacts, STM-break junction, Terminal alkyne


Barniol-Xicota, M., Escandell, A., Valverde, E., Julián, E., Torrents, E., Vázquez, S., (2015). Antibacterial activity of novel benzopolycyclic amines Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry , 23, (2), 290-296

Staphylococcus aureus, especially strains resistant to multiple antibiotics, is a major pathogen for humans and animals. In this paper we have synthesized and evaluated the antibacterial activity of a new series of benzopolycyclic amines. Some of them exhibited μM MIC values against Staphylococcus aureus and other bacteria, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus MRSA. Compound 8 that displayed a good selectivity index, showed to be active in eliminating bacterial cells forming a preexisting biofilm.

Keywords: Antibacterials, Minimal biofilm inhibitory concentration, Polycyclic compounds, Staphylococcus aureus


da Palma, R. K., Campillo, N., Uriarte, J. J., Oliveira, L. V. F., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2015). Pressure- and flow-controlled media perfusion differently modify vascular mechanics in lung decellularization Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials , 49, 69-79

Organ biofabrication is a potential future alternative for obtaining viable organs for transplantation. Achieving intact scaffolds to be recellularized is a key step in lung bioengineering. Perfusion of decellularizing media through the pulmonary artery has shown to be effective. How vascular perfusion pressure and flow vary throughout lung decellularization, which is not well known, is important for optimizing the process (minimizing time) while ensuring scaffold integrity (no barotrauma). This work was aimed at characterizing the pressure/flow relationship at the pulmonary vasculature and at how effective vascular resistance depends on pressure- and flow-controlled variables when applying different methods of media perfusion for lung decellularization. Lungs from 43 healthy mice (C57BL/6; 7-8 weeks old) were investigated. After excision and tracheal cannulation, lungs were inflated at 10cmH2O airway pressure and subjected to conventional decellularization with a solution of 1% sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). Pressure (PPA) and flow (V'PA) at the pulmonary artery were continuously measured. Decellularization media was perfused through the pulmonary artery: (a) at constant PPA=20cmH2O or (b) at constant V'PA=0.5 and 0.2ml/min. Effective vascular resistance was computed as Rv=PPA/V'PA. Rv (in cmH2O/(ml/min)); mean±SE) considerably varied throughout lung decellularization, particularly for pressure-controlled perfusion (from 29.1±3.0 in baseline to a maximum of 664.1±164.3 (p<0.05), as compared with flow-controlled perfusion (from 49.9±3.3 and 79.5±5.1 in baseline to a maximum of 114.4±13.9 and 211.7±70.5 (p<0.05, both), for V'PA of 0.5 and 0.2ml/min respectively. Most of the media infused to the pulmonary artery throughout decellularization circulated to the airways compartment across the alveolar-capillary membrane. This study shows that monitoring perfusion mechanics throughout decellularization provides information relevant for optimizing the process time while ensuring that vascular pressure is kept within a safety range to preserve the organ scaffold integrity.

Keywords: Acellular lung, Fluid mechanics, Lung bioengineering, Lung scaffold, Organ biofabrication, Tissue engineering, Vascular resistance


Arvizu-Rodríguez, L. E., Palacios-Padrós, A., Chalé-Lara, F., Fernández-Muñoz, J. L., Díez-Pérez, I., Sanz, F., Espinosa-Faller, F. J., Sandoval, J., Caballero-Briones, F., (2015). Phase and surface modification by electrochemical post deposition treatments in ultrasonic-assisted CuInSe2/Cu electrodeposited films Chalcogenide Letters , 12, (10), 537-545

CuInSe2 films were prepared onto Cu-cladded substrates by ultrasonic-assisted electrodeposition using different bath compositions and a fixed deposition potential of E=-1500 mV vs Ag/AgCl. In situ electrochemical treatments named selenization and electrocrystallization, in a Se4+ electrolyte were applied to modify the morphology, film structure and the phase composition. Films were characterized by scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy and photocurrent response. A Cu2-xSe layer develops as the electrode is introduced into the electrolyte. The presence of Cu-In, In-Se, Cu-Se, cubic, hexagonal and tetragonal CuInSe2 phases as well as elemental In and Se was observed. After selenization, partial phase dissolution and Se deposition is observed and after the electrocrystallization treatment the secondary phases such as Cu-Se, Cu-In, In and Se reduce substantially and the grain sizes increase, as well as the photocurrent response. Phase diagrams are constructed for each set of films and reaction mechanisms are proposed to explain the phase evolution.

Keywords: CuInSe2, Electrodeposition, In situ electrochemical treatments, Phase composition, Surface modification


Oller-Moreno, S., Singla-Buxarrais, G., Jiménez-Soto, J. M., Pardo, Antonio, Garrido-Delgado, R., Arce, L., Marco, Santiago, (2015). Sliding window multi-curve resolution: Application to gas chromatography - Ion Mobility Spectrometry Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 15th International Meeting on Chemical Sensors , Elsevier (Buenos Aires, Argentina) 217, 13-21

Abstract Blind Source Separation (BSS) techniques aim to extract a set of source signals from a measured mixture in an unsupervised manner. In the chemical instrumentation domain source signals typically refer to time-varying analyte concentrations, while the measured mixture is the set of observed spectra. Several techniques exist to perform BSS on Ion Mobility Spectrometry, being Simple-to-use interactive self-modeling mixture analysis (SIMPLISMA) and Multivariate Curve Resolution (MCR) the most commonly used. The addition of a multi-capillary gas chromatography column using the ion mobility spectrometer as detector has been proposed in the past to increase chemical resolution. Short chromatography times lead to high levels of co-elution, and ion mobility spectra are key to resolve them. For the first time, BSS techniques are used to deconvolve samples of the gas chromatography - ion mobility spectrometry tandem. We propose a method to extract spectra and concentration profiles based on the application of MCR in a sliding window. Our results provide clear concentration profiles and pure spectra, resolving peaks that were not detected by the conventional use of MCR. The proposed technique could also be applied to other hyphenated instruments with similar strong co-elutions.

Keywords: Blind Source Separation, Multivariate Curve Resolution, Ion Mobility Spectrometry, Gas Chromatography, Hyphenated instrumentation, SIMPLISMA, co-elution


de Oñate, L., Garreta, E., Tarantino, C., Martínez, Elena, Capilla, E., Navarro, I., Gutiérrez, J., Samitier, J., Campistol, J.M., Muñoz-Cánovas, P., Montserrat, N., (2015). Research on skeletal muscle diseases using pluripotent stem cells Muscle Cell and Tissue (ed. Sakuma, K.), InTech (Rijeka, Croatia) , 333-357

The generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), especially the generation of patient-derived pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) suitable for disease modelling in vitro, opens the door for the potential translation of stem-cell related studies into the clinic. Successful replacement, or augmentation, of the function of damaged cells by patient-derived differentiated stem cells would provide a novel cell-based therapy for skeletal muscle-related diseases. Since iPSCs resemble human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in their ability to generate cells of the three germ layers, patient-specific iPSCs offer definitive solutions for the ethical and histo-incompatibility issues related to hESCs. Indeed human iPSC (hiPSC)-based autologous transplantation is heralded as the future of regenerative medicine. Interestingly, during the last years intense research has been published on disease-specific hiPSCs derivation and differentiation into relevant tissues/organs providing a unique scenario for modelling disease progression, to screen patient-specific drugs and enabling immunosupression-free cell replacement therapies. Here, we revise the most relevant findings in skeletal muscle differentiation using mouse and human PSCs. Finally and in an effort to bring iPSC technology to the daily routine of the laboratory, we provide two different protocols for the generation of patient-derived iPSCs.

Keywords: Pluripotent stem cells, Myogenic differentiation, Disease modelling, Patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells, Muscular dystrophy


Darwish, Nadim., Aragonès, A. C., Darwish, T., Ciampi, S., Díez-Pérez, I., (2014). Multi-responsive photo- and chemo-electrical single-molecule switches Nano Letters 14, (12), 7064-7070

Incorporating molecular switches as the active components in nanoscale electrical devices represents a current challenge in molecular electronics. It demands key requirements that need to be simultaneously addressed including fast responses to external stimuli and stable attachment of the molecules to the electrodes while mimicking the operation of conventional electronic components. Here, we report a single-molecule switching device that responds electrically to optical and chemical stimuli. A light pointer or a chemical signal can rapidly and reversibly induce the isomerization of bifunctional spiropyran derivatives in the bulk reservoir and, consequently, switch the electrical conductivity of the single-molecule device between a low and a high level. The spiropyran derivatives employed are chemically functionalized such that they can respond in fast but practical time scales. The unique multistimuli response and the synthetic versatility to control the switching schemes of this single-molecule device suggest spiropyran derivatives as key candidates for molecular circuitry.

Keywords: Molecular Electronics, Multi-Responsive Molecular Switches, Photo- and Chemo-Switches Spiropyran, Single-Molecule Conductance, STM Break-Junction, Electronic equipment, Isomerization, Molecular electronics, Photochromism, Electrical conductivity, Electronic component, Molecular switches, Single-molecule conductances, Single-molecule devices, Spiropyran derivatives, Spiropyrans, STM Break-Junction, Molecules


Álvarez, Z., Castaño, O., Castells, A. A., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Planell, J. A., Engel, E., Alcántara, S., (2014). Neurogenesis and vascularization of the damaged brain using a lactate-releasing biomimetic scaffold Biomaterials 35, (17), 4769-4781

Regenerative medicine strategies to promote recovery following traumatic brain injuries are currently focused on the use of biomaterials as delivery systems for cells or bioactive molecules. This study shows that cell-free biomimetic scaffolds consisting of radially aligned electrospun poly-l/dl lactic acid (PLA70/30) nanofibers release l-lactate and reproduce the 3D organization and supportive function of radial glia embryonic neural stem cells. The topology of PLA nanofibers supports neuronal migration while l-lactate released during PLA degradation acts as an alternative fuel for neurons and is required for progenitor maintenance. Radial scaffolds implanted into cavities made in the postnatal mouse brain fostered complete implant vascularization, sustained neurogenesis, and allowed the long-term survival and integration of the newly generated neurons. Our results suggest that the endogenous central nervous system is capable of regeneration through the invivo dedifferentiation induced by biophysical and metabolic cues, with no need for exogenous cells, growth factors, or genetic manipulation.

Keywords: Lactate, Nanofibers, Neural stem cells, Neurogenesis, Regeneration, Vascularization


Artés, Juan M., López-Martínez, Montserrat, Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Sanz, Fausto, Gorostiza, Pau, (2014). Conductance switching in single wired redox proteins Small 10, (13), 2537-2541

Switching events in the current flowing through individual redox proteins, (azurin) spontaneously wired between two electrodes, are studied using an electrochemical scanning tunneling microscope (ECSTM). These switching events in the current–time trace are characterized using conductance histograms, and reflect the intrinsic redox thermodynamic dispersion in the azurin population. This conductance switching may pose limitations to miniaturizing redox protein-based devices.

Keywords: Bioelectronics, Protein transistors, Molecular junctions, Switches, STM


Artés, J. M., López-Martínez, M., Díez-Pérez, I., Sanz, F., Gorostiza, P., (2014). Nanoscale charge transfer in redox proteins and DNA: Towards biomolecular electronics Electrochimica Acta , 140, 83-95

Understanding how charges move through and between biomolecules is a fundamental question that constitutes the basis for many biological processes. On the other hand, it has potential applications in the design of sensors based on biomolecules and single molecule devices. In this review we introduce the study of the electron transfer (ET) process in biomolecules, providing an overview of the fundamental theory behind it and the different experimental approaches. The ET in proteins is introduced by reviewing a complete electronic characterization of a redox protein (azurin) using electrochemical scanning tunnelling microscopy (ECSTM). The ET process in DNA is overviewed and results from different experimental approaches are discussed. Finally, future directions in the study of the ET process in biomolecules are introduced as well as examples of possible technological applications.

Keywords: Bioelectrochemistry, Biomolecular electronics, Charge transfer, Nanobiodevice, Single-molecule junction


Gomila, G., Gramse, G., Fumagalli, L., (2014). Finite-size effects and analytical modeling of electrostatic force microscopy applied to dielectric films Nanotechnology 25, (25), 255702 (11)

A numerical analysis of the polarization force between a sharp conducting probe and a dielectric film of finite lateral dimensions on a metallic substrate is presented with the double objective of (i) determining the conditions under which the film can be approximated by a laterally infinite film and (ii) proposing an analytical model valid in this limit. We show that, for a given dielectric film, the critical diameter above which the film can be modeled as laterally infinite depends not only on the probe geometry, as expected, but mainly on the film thickness. In particular, for films with intermediate to large thicknesses (>100 nm), the critical diameter is nearly independent from the probe geometry and essentially depends on the film thickness and dielectric constant following a relatively simple phenomenological expression. For films that can be considered as laterally infinite, we propose a generalized analytical model valid in the thin-ultrathin limit (<20-50 nm) that reproduces the numerical calculations and the experimental data. Present results provide a general framework under which accurate quantification of electrostatic force microscopy measurements on dielectric films on metallic substrates can be achieved.

Keywords: Dielectric constant, Dielectric films, Electrostatic force microscopy, Quantification, Analytical models, Electric force microscopy, Electrostatic force, Film thickness, Permittivity, Probes, Substrates, Ultrathin films, Accurate quantifications, Electrostatic force microscopy, Finite size effect, Lateral dimension, Metallic substrate, Numerical calculation, Polarization forces, Quantification, Dielectric films


Rajzer, I., Menaszek, E., Kwiatkowski, R., Planell, J. A., Castaño, O., (2014). Electrospun gelatin/poly(ε-caprolactone) fibrous scaffold modified with calcium phosphate for bone tissue engineering Materials Science and Engineering: C 44, 183-190

In this study gelatin (Gel) modified with calcium phosphate nanoparticles (SG5) and polycaprolactone (PCL) were used to prepare a 3D bi-layer scaffold by collecting electrospun PCL and gelatin/SG5 fibers separately in the same collector. The objective of this study was to combine the desired properties of PCL and Gel/SG5 in the same scaffold in order to enhance mineralization, thus improving the ability of the scaffold to bond to the bone tissue. The scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and the wide angle X-ray diffraction (WAXD) measurements confirmed that SG5 nanoparticles were successfully incorporated into the fibrous gelatin matrix. The composite Gel/SG5/PCL scaffold exhibited more enhanced mechanical properties than individual Gel and Gel/SG5 scaffolds. The presence of SG5 nanoparticles accelerated the nucleation and growth of apatite crystals on the surface of the composite Gel/SG5/PCL scaffold in simulated body fluid (SBF). The osteoblast response in vitro to developed electrospun scaffolds (PCL and Gel/SG5/PCL) was investigated by using normal human primary NHOst cell lines. NHOst cell culture studies showed that higher alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity and better mineralization were obtained in the case of composite materials than in pure PCL scaffolds. The mechanically strong PCL scaffold served as a skeleton, while the Gel/SG5 fibers facilitated cell spreading and mineralization of the scaffold.

Keywords: Bilayer fibrous scaffold, Ceramic nanoparticles, Electrospinning, Gelatin, Polycaprolactone, Biomechanics, Bone, Calcium phosphate, Cell culture, Electrospinning, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, Mechanical properties, Mineralogy, Nanoparticles, Phosphatases, Polycaprolactone, Scanning electron microscopy, X ray diffraction, Polycaprolactone, Alkaline phosphatase activity, Bone tissue engineering, Calcium phosphate nanoparticles, Ceramic nanoparticles, Fibrous scaffolds, Gelatin, Simulated body fluids, Wide-angle x-ray diffraction, Electrospuns, Scaffolds (biology), Electrospinning


Vaca, R., Aranda, J., (2014). Approximating coupler curves using strip trees Advanced Numerical Methods II 11th World Congress on Computational Mechanics (WCCM XI) 5th European Conference on Computational Mechanics (ECCM V) 6th European Conference on Computational Fluid Dynamics (ECFD VI) , CIMNE (Barcelona, Spain) , 1-2

For the mechanisms considered under the title linkages, coupler curve is the path traced by one of the point on the coupler link considered as an output of the mechanism which is joined to a fixed link. The equation of the coupler curve generated can be obtained solving a set of equations which describes distance constancy between all points of a mechanism and this coupler curve is the eliminant of these equations. The proposal to this work is to approximate coupler curves using strip trees.

Keywords: Coupler curves, Strip tress, Distance geometry, Affine arithmetics, Planar linkages


Aviles, A. I., Marban, A., Sobrevilla, P., Fernandez, Josep, Casals, A., (2014). A recurrent neural network approach for 3D vision-based force estimation IPTA 2014 4th International Conference on Image Processing Theory, Tools and Applications (IPTA) , IEEE (Paris, France) , 1-6

Robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery has demonstrated its benefits in comparison with traditional procedures. However, one of the major drawbacks of current robotic system approaches is the lack of force feedback. Apart from space restrictions, the main problems of using force sensors are their high cost and the biocompatibility. In this work a proposal based on Vision Based Force Measurement is presented, in which the deformation mapping of the tissue is obtained using the `2−Regularized Optimization class, and the force is estimated via a recurrent neural network that has as inputs the kinematic variables and the deformation mapping. Moreover, the capability of RNN for predicting time series is used in order to deal with tool occlusions. The highlights of this proposal, according to the results, are: knowledge of material properties are not necessary, there is no need of adding extra sensors and a good trade-off between accuracy and efficiency has been achieved.

Keywords: Force estimation, Regularized optimization, Deformable tracking, Recurrent neural network


Rigat, L., Elizalde, A., Del Portillo, H. A., Homs-Corbera, A., Samitier, J., (2014). Selective cell culturing step using laminar co-flow to enhance cell culture in splenon-on-a-chip biomimetic platform MicroTAS 2014 18th International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences , CBMS (San Antonio, USA) , 769-771

Constant evolution and improvements on areas such as tissue engineering, microfluidics and nanotechnology have made it possible to partially close the gap between conventional in vitro cell cultures and animal model-based studies. A step forward in this field concerns organ-on-chip technologies, capable of reproducing the most relevant physiological features of an organ in a microfluidic platform. In this work we have exploited the capabilities of laminar co-flow inside our biomimetic platform, the splenon-on-a-chip, in order to enhance cell culture inside its channels to better mimic the spleen's environment. © 14CBMS.

Keywords: Cell culture, Co-flow, Laminar flow, Organ-on-a-chip, Spleen


Urra, O., Casals, A., Jané, R., (2014). Synergy analysis as a tool to design and assess an effective stroke rehabilitation Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 36th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Chicago, USA) , 3550-3553

The poor rehabilitation success rate, including the cases of ineffective and detrimental adaptations, make stroke a leading cause of disability. Thus, it is essential to recognize the mechanisms driving healthy motor recovery to improve such rate. Stroke alters the Synergy Architecture (SA), the modular muscle control system. So SA analysis may constitute a powerful tool to design and assess rehabilitation procedures. However, current impairment scales do not consider the patient's neuromuscular state. To gain insights into this hypothesis, we recorded multiple myoelectric signals from upper-limb muscles, in healthy subjects, while executing a set of common rehabilitation exercises. We found that SA reveals optimized motor control strategies and the positive effects of the use of visual feedback (VF) on motor control. Furthermore we demonstrate that the right and left arm's SA share the basic structure within the same subject, so we propose using the unaffected limb's SA as a reference motion pattern to be reached through rehabilitation.

Keywords: Bars, Electromyography, Motor drives, Neuromuscular, Vectors, Visualization


Tahirbegi, Islam Bogachan, Mir, Monica, Samitier, Josep, (2013). Real-time monitoring of ischemia inside stomach Biosensors and Bioelectronics 40, (1), 323-328

The low pH in the gastric juice of the stomach makes it difficult to fabricate stable and functional all-solid-state pH ISE sensors to sense ischemia, mainly because of anion interference and adhesion problem between the ISE membrane and the electrode surface. In this work, the adhesion of ISE membrane on solid surface at low pH was improved by modifying the surface with a conductive substrate containing hydrophilic and hydrophobic groups. This creates a stable and robust candidate for low pH applications. Moreover, anion interference problem at low pH was solved by integration of all-solid-state ISE and internal reference electrodes on an array. So, the same tendencies of anion interferences for all-solid-state ISE and all-solid-state reference electrodes cancel each other in differential potentiometric detection. The developed sensor presents a novel all-solid-state potentiometric, miniaturized and mass producible pH ISE sensor for detecting ischemia on the stomach tissue on an array designed for endoscopic applications.

Keywords: Index Medicus


Riggio, C., Nocentini, S., Catalayud, M. P., Goya, G. F., Cuschieri, A., Raffa, V., del Río, J. A., (2013). Generation of magnetized olfactory ensheathing cells for regenerative studies in the central and peripheral nervous tissue International Journal of Molecular Sciences 14, (6), 10852-10868

As olfactory receptor axons grow from the peripheral to the central nervous system (CNS) aided by olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), the transplantation of OECs has been suggested as a plausible therapy for spinal cord lesions. The problem with this hypothesis is that OECs do not represent a single homogeneous entity, but, instead, a functionally heterogeneous population that exhibits a variety of responses, including adhesion and repulsion during cell-matrix interactions. Some studies report that the migratory properties of OECs are compromised by inhibitory molecules and potentiated by chemical gradients. In this paper, we report a system based on modified OECs carrying magnetic nanoparticles as a proof of concept experiment enabling specific studies aimed at exploring the potential of OECs in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Our studies have confirmed that magnetized OECs (i) survive well without exhibiting stress-associated cellular responses; (ii) in vitro, their migration can be modulated by magnetic fields; and (iii) their transplantation in organotypic slices of spinal cord and peripheral nerve showed positive integration in the model. Altogether, these findings indicate the therapeutic potential of magnetized OECs for CNS injuries.

Keywords: Magnetic nanoparticle, Nerve regeneration, Olfactory ensheathing cell, Organotypic culture


Peñuelas, O., Melo, E., Sánchez, C., Sánchez, I., Quinn, K., Ferruelo, A., Pérez-Vizcaíno, F., Esteban, A., Navajas, D., Nin, N., Lorente, J. A., Farré, R., (2013). Antioxidant effect of human adult adipose-derived stromal stem cells in alveolar epithelial cells undergoing stretch Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology , 188, (1), 1-8

Introduction: Alveolar epithelial cells undergo stretching during mechanical ventilation. Stretch can modify the oxidative balance in the alveolar epithelium. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the antioxidant role of human adult adipose tissue-derived stromal cells (hADSCs) when human alveolar epithelial cells were subjected to injurious cyclic overstretching. Methods: A549 cells were subjected to biaxial stretch (0-15% change in surface area for 24. h, 0.2. Hz) with and without hADSCs. At the end of the experiments, oxidative stress was measured as superoxide generation using positive nuclear dihydroethidium (DHE) staining, superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in cell lysates, 8-isoprostane concentrations in supernatant, and 3-nitrotyrosine by indirect immunofluorescence in fixed cells. Results: Cyclically stretching of AECs induced a significant decrease in SOD activity, and an increase in 8-isoprostane concentrations, DHE staining and 3-nitrotyrosine staining compared with non-stretched cells. Treatment with hADSCs significantly attenuated stretch-induced changes in SOD activity, 8-isoprostane concentrations, DHE and 3-nitrotyrosine staining. Conclusion: These data suggest that hADSCs have an anti-oxidative effect in human alveolar epithelial cells undergoing cyclic stretch.

Keywords: Acute lung injury, Cyclic stretch, Human adipose-derived stromal stem cells, Oxidative stress


Giraldo, B. F., Tellez, J. P., Herrera, S., Benito, S., (2013). Analysis of heart rate variability in elderly patients with chronic heart failure during periodic breathing CinC 2013 Computing in Cardiology Conference (CinC) , IEEE (Zaragoza, Spain) , 991-994

Assessment of the dynamic interactions between cardiovascular signals can provide valuable information that improves the understanding of cardiovascular control. Heart rate variability (HRV) analysis is known to provide information about the autonomic heart rate modulation mechanism. Using the HRV signal, we aimed to obtain parameters for classifying patients with and without chronic heart failure (CHF), and with periodic breathing (PB), non-periodic breathing (nPB), and Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSR) patterns. An electrocardiogram (ECG) and a respiratory flow signal were recorded in 36 elderly patients: 18 patients with CHF and 18 patients without CHF. According to the clinical criteria, the patients were classified into the follow groups: 19 patients with nPB pattern, 7 with PB pattern, 4 with Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSR), and 6 non-classified patients (problems with respiratory signal). From the HRV signal, parameters in the time and frequency domain were calculated. Frequency domain parameters were the most discriminant in comparisons of patients with and without CHF: PTot (p = 0.02), PLF (p = 0.022) and fpHF (p = 0.021). For the comparison of the nPB vs. CSR patients groups, the best parameters were RMSSD (p = 0.028) and SDSD (p = 0.028). Therefore, the parameters appear to be suitable for enhanced diagnosis of decompensated CHF patients and the possibility of developed periodic breathing and a CSR pattern.

Keywords: cardiovascular system, diseases, electrocardiography, frequency-domain analysis, geriatrics, medical signal processing, patient diagnosis, pneumodynamics, signal classification, Cheyne-Stokes respiration patterns, ECG, autonomic heart rate modulation mechanism, cardiovascular control, cardiovascular signals, chronic heart failure, decompensated CHF patients, dynamic interaction assessment, elderly patients, electrocardiogram, enhanced diagnosis, frequency domain parameters, heart rate variability analysis, patient classification, periodic breathing, respiratory flow signal recording, Electrocardiography, Frequency modulation, Frequency-domain analysis, Heart rate variability, Senior citizens, Standards


Arcentales, A., Voss, A., Caminal, P., Bayes-Genis, A., Domingo, M. T., Giraldo, B. F., (2013). Characterization of patients with different ventricular ejection fractions using blood pressure signal analysis CinC 2013 Computing in Cardiology Conference (CinC) , IEEE (Zaragoza, Spain) , 795-798

Ischemic and dilated cardiomyopathy are associated with disorders of myocardium. Using the blood pressure (BP) signal and the values of the ventricular ejection fraction, we obtained parameters for stratifying cardiomyopathy patients as low- and high-risk. We studied 48 cardiomyopathy patients characterized by NYHA ≥2: 19 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and 29 patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy (ICM). The left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) percentage was used to classify patients in low risk (LR: LVEF > 35%, 17 patients) and high risk (HR: LVEF ≤ 35%, 31 patients) groups. From the BP signal, we extracted the upward systolic slope (BPsl), the difference between systolic and diastolic BP (BPA), and systolic time intervals (STI). When we compared the LR and HR groups in the time domain analysis, the best parameters were standard deviation (SD) of 1=STI, kurtosis (K) of BPsl, and K of BPA. In the frequency domain analysis, very low frequency (VLF) and high frequency (HF) bands showed statistically significant differences in comaprisons of LR and HR groups. The area under the curve of power spectral density was the best parameter in all classifications, and particularly in the very-low-and high- frequency bands (p <; 0.001). These parameters could help to improve the risk stratification of cardiomyopathy patients.

Keywords: blood pressure measurement, cardiovascular system, diseases, medical disorders, medical signal processing, statistical analysis, time-domain analysis, BP signal, HR groups, LR groups, blood pressure signal analysis, cardiomyopathy patients, diastolic BP, dilated cardiomyopathy, frequency domain analysis, high-frequency bands, ischemic cardiomyopathy, left ventricular ejection fraction, low-frequency bands, myocardium disorders, patient characterization, power spectral density curve, standard deviation, statistical significant differences, systolic BP, systolic slope, systolic time intervals, time domain analysis, ventricular ejection fraction, Abstracts, Databases, Parameter extraction, Telecommunication standards, Time-frequency analysis


Giraldo, B. F., Tellez, J. P., Herrera, S., Benito, S., (2013). Study of the oscillatory breathing pattern in elderly patients Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 35th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Osaka, Japan) , 5228-5231

Some of the most common clinical problems in elderly patients are related to diseases of the cardiac and respiratory systems. Elderly patients often have altered breathing patterns, such as periodic breathing (PB) and Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSR), which may coincide with chronic heart failure. In this study, we used the envelope of the respiratory flow signal to characterize respiratory patterns in elderly patients. To study different breathing patterns in the same patient, the signals were segmented into windows of 5 min. In oscillatory breathing patterns, frequency and time-frequency parameters that characterize the discriminant band were evaluated to identify periodic and non-periodic breathing (PB and nPB). In order to evaluate the accuracy of this characterization, we used a feature selection process, followed by linear discriminant analysis. 22 elderly patients (7 patients with PB and 15 with nPB pattern) were studied. The following classification problems were analyzed: patients with either PB (with and without apnea) or nPB patterns, and patients with CSR versus PB, CSR versus nPB and PB versus nPB patterns. The results showed 81.8% accuracy in the comparisons of nPB and PB patients, using the power of the modulation peak. For the segmented signal, the power of the modulation peak, the frequency variability and the interquartile ranges provided the best results with 84.8% accuracy, for classifying nPB and PB patients.

Keywords: cardiovascular system, diseases, feature extraction, geriatrics, medical signal processing, oscillations, pneumodynamics, signal classification, time-frequency analysis, Cheyne-Stokes respiration, apnea, cardiac systems, chronic heart failure, classification problems, discriminant band, diseases, elderly patients, feature selection process, frequency variability, interquartile ranges, linear discriminant analysis, nonperiodic breathing, oscillatory breathing pattern, periodic breathing, respiratory How signal, respiratory systems, signal segmentation, time 5 min, time-frequency parameters, Accuracy, Aging, Frequency modulation, Heart, Senior citizens, Time-frequency analysis


Guo, S., Artés, J. M., Díez-Pérez, I., (2013). Electrochemically-gated single-molecule electrical devices Electrochimica Acta 63rd Annual Meeting of the International Society of Electrochemistry , Elsevier (Prague, Czech Republic) 110, 741-753

In the last decade, single-molecule electrical contacts have emerged as a new experimental platform that allows exploring charge transport phenomena in individual molecular blocks. This novel tool has evolved into an essential element within the Molecular Electronics field to understand charge transport processes in hybrid (bio)molecule/electrode interfaces at the nanoscale, and prospect the implementation of active molecular components into functional nanoscale optoelectronic devices. Within this area, three-terminal single-molecule devices have been sought, provided that they are highly desired to achieve full functionality in logic electronic circuits. Despite the latest experimental developments offer consistent methods to bridge a molecule between two electrodes (source and drain in a transistor notation), placing a third electrode (gate) close to the single-molecule electrical contact is still technically challenging. In this vein, electrochemically-gated single-molecule devices have emerged as an experimentally affordable alternative to overcome these technical limitations. In this review, the operating principle of an electrochemically-gated single-molecule device is presented together with the latest experimental methodologies to built them and characterize their charge transport characteristics. Then, an up-to-date comprehensive overview of the most prominent examples will be given, emphasizing on the relationship between the molecular structure and the final device electrical behaviour.

Keywords: Electrochemical gate, Electrochemical switches, NDR, Single-molecule junctions, Unipolar/ambipolar FETs


Govoni, Leonardo, Dellaca, Raffaele L., Penuelas, Oscar, Bellani, Giacomo, Artigas, Antonio, Ferrer, Miquel, Navajas, Daniel, Pedotti, Antonio, Farre, Ramon, (2012). Actual performance of mechanical ventilators in ICU: a multicentric quality control study Medical Devices: Evidence and Research , 5, 111-119

Even if the performance of a given ventilator has been evaluated in the laboratory under very well controlled conditions, inappropriate maintenance and lack of long-term stability and accuracy of the ventilator sensors may lead to ventilation errors in actual clinical practice. The aim of this study was to evaluate the actual performances of ventilators during clinical routines. A resistance (7.69 cmH(2)O/L/s) - elastance (100 mL/cmH(2)O) test lung equipped with pressure, flow, and oxygen concentration sensors was connected to the Y-piece of all the mechanical ventilators available for patients in four intensive care units (ICUs; n = 66). Ventilators were set to volume-controlled ventilation with tidal volume = 600 mL, respiratory rate = 20 breaths/minute, positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) = 8 cmH(2)O, and oxygen fraction = 0.5. The signals from the sensors were recorded to compute the ventilation parameters. The average standard deviation and range (min-max) of the ventilatory parameters were the following: inspired tidal volume = 607 36 (530-723) mL, expired tidal volume = 608 36 (530-728) mL, peak pressure = 20.8 2.3 (17.2-25.9) cmH(2)O, respiratory rate = 20.09 0.35 (19.5-21.6) breaths/minute, PEEP = 8.43 0.57 (7.26-10.8) cmH(2)O, oxygen fraction = 0.49 0.014 (0.41-0.53). The more error-prone parameters were the ones related to the measure of flow. In several cases, the actual delivered mechanical ventilation was considerably different from the set one, suggesting the need for improving quality control procedures for these machines.

Keywords: Equipment and supplies, Medical devices, Intravenous, Quality assurance, Health care quality assessment, Ventilator accuracy, Ventilation error


Bakker, G. J., Eich, C., Torreno-Pina, J. A., Diez-Ahedo, R., Perez-Samper, G., Van Zanten, T. S., Figdor, C. G., Cambi, A., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2012). Lateral mobility of individual integrin nanoclusters orchestrates the onset for leukocyte adhesion Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109, (13), 4869-4874

Integrins are cell membrane adhesion receptors involved in morphogenesis, immunity, tissue healing, and metastasis. A central, yet unresolved question regarding the function of integrins is how these receptors regulate both their conformation and dynamic nanoscale organization on the membrane to generate adhesion-competent microclusters upon ligand binding. Here we exploit the high spatial (nanometer) accuracy and temporal resolution of single-dye tracking to dissect the relationship between conformational state, lateral mobility, and microclustering of the integrin receptor lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1) expressed on immune cells. We recently showed that in quiescent monocytes, LFA-1 preorganizes in nanoclusters proximal to nanoscale raft components. We now show that these nanoclusters are primarily mobile on the cell surface with a small (ca. 5%) subset of conformational- active LFA-1 nanoclusters preanchored to the cytoskeleton. Lateral mobility resulted crucial for the formation of microclusters upon ligand binding and for stable adhesion under shear flow. Activation of high-affinity LFA-1 by extracellular Ca 2+ resulted in an eightfold increase on the percentage of immobile nanoclusters and cytoskeleton anchorage. Although having the ability to bind to their ligands, these active nanoclusters failed to support firm adhesion in static and low shear-flow conditions because mobility and clustering capacity were highly compromised. Altogether, our work demonstrates an intricate coupling between conformation and lateral diffusion of LFA-1 and further underscores the crucial role of mobility for the onset of LFA-1 mediated leukocyte adhesion.

Keywords: Cumulative probability distribution, Integrin lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1, Intercellular adhesion molecule, Single molecule detection


Gil, V., Del Río, J. A., (2012). Analysis of axonal growth and cell migration in 3D hydrogel cultures of embryonic mouse CNS tissue Nature Protocols 7, (2), 268-280

This protocol uses rat tail-derived type I collagen hydrogels to analyze key processes in developmental neurobiology, such as chemorepulsion and chemoattraction. The method is based on culturing small pieces of brain tissue from embryonic or early perinatal mice inside a 3D hydrogel formed by rat tail-derived type I collagen or, alternatively, by commercial Matrigel. The neural tissue is placed in the hydrogel with other brain tissue pieces or cell aggregates genetically modified to secrete a particular molecule that can generate a gradient inside the hydrogel. The present method is uncomplicated and generally reproducible, and only a few specific details need to be considered during its preparation. Moreover, the degree and behavior of axonal growth or neural migration can be observed directly using phase-contrast, fluorescence microscopy or immunocytochemical methods. This protocol can be carried out in 4 weeks.

Keywords: Cell biology, Cell culture, Developmental biology, Imaging, Model organisms, Neuroscience, Tissue culture


Mattotti, Marta, Alvarez, Zaida, Ortega, Juan A., Planell, Josep A., Engel, Elisabeth, Alcántara, Soledad, (2012). Inducing functional radial glia-like progenitors from cortical astrocyte cultures using micropatterned PMMA Biomaterials 33, (6), 1759-1770

Radial glia cells (RGC) are multipotent progenitors that generate neurons and glia during CNS development, and which also served as substrate for neuronal migration. After a lesion, reactive glia are the main contributor to CNS regenerative blockage, although some reactive astrocytes are also able to de-differentiate in situ into radial glia-like cells (RGLC), providing beneficial effects in terms of CNS recovery. Thus, the identification of substrate properties that potentiate the ability of astrocytes to transform into RGLC in response to a lesion might help in the development of implantable devices that improve endogenous CNS regeneration. Here we demonstrate that functional RGLC can be induced from in vitro matured astrocytes by using a precisely-sized micropatterned PMMA grooved scaffold, without added soluble or substrate adsorbed biochemical factors. RGLC were extremely organized and aligned on 2 μm line patterned PMMA and, like their embryonic counterparts, express nestin, the neuron-glial progenitor marker Pax6, and also proliferate, generate different intermediate progenitors and support and direct axonal growth and neuronal migration. Our results suggest that the introduction of line patterns in the size range of the RGC processes in implantable scaffolds might mimic the topography of the embryonic neural stem cell niche, driving endogenous astrocytes into an RGLC phenotype, and thus favoring the regenerative response in situ.

Keywords: Polymethylmethacrylate, Micropatterning, Surface topography, Astrocyte, Nerve guide, Co-culture


Almendros, I., Montserrat, J. M., Ramírez, J., Torres, M., Duran-Cantolla, J., Navajas, D., Farré, R., (2012). Intermittent hypoxia enhances cancer progression in a mouse model of sleep apnoea European Respiratory Journal , 39, (1), 215-217

Chimenti, L., Luque, T., Bonsignore, M. R., Ramirez, J., Navajas, D., Farre, R., (2012). Pre-treatment with mesenchymal stem cells reduces ventilator-induced lung injury European Respiratory Journal , 40, (4), 939-948

Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) reduce acute lung injury in animals challenged by bleomycin or bacterial lipopolysaccaride. It is not known, however, whether MSCs protect from ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI). This study investigated whether MSCs have a potential role in preventing or modulating VILI in healthy rats subjected to high-volume ventilation. 24 Sprague-Dawley rats (250-300 g) were subjected to high-volume mechanical ventilation (25 mL.kg(-1)). MSCs (5 x 10(6)) were intravenously or intratracheally administered (n=8 each) 30 min before starting over-ventilation and eight rats were MSC-untreated. Spontaneously breathing anesthetised rats (n=8) served as controls. After 3 h of over-ventilation or control the animals were sacrificed and lung tissue and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) were sampled for further analysis. When compared with controls, MSC-untreated over-ventilated rats exhibited typical VILI features. Lung oedema, histological lung injury index, concentrations of total protein, interleukin-1 beta, macrophage inflammatory protein-2 and number of neutrophils in BALF and vascular cell adhesion protein-1 in lung tissue significantly increased in over-ventilated rats. All these indices of VILI moved significantly towards normalisation in the rats treated with MSCs, whether intravenously or intratracheally. Both local and systemic pre-treatment with MSCs reduced VILI in a rat model.

Keywords: Acute lung injury, Cell therapy, Injurious ventilation, Lung inflammation, Lung oedema, Mechanical ventilation


Gustavsson, J., Ginebra, M. P., Planell, J., Engel, E., (2012). Electrochemical microelectrodes for improved spatial and temporal characterization of aqueous environments around calcium phosphate cements Acta Biomaterialia 8, (1), 386-393

Calcium phosphate compounds can potentially influence cellular fate through ionic substitutions. However, to be able to turn such solution-mediated processes into successful directors of cellular response, a perfect understanding of the material-induced chemical reactions in situ is required. We therefore report on the application of home-made electrochemical microelectrodes, tested as pH and chloride sensors, for precise spatial and temporal characterization of different aqueous environments around calcium phosphate-based biomaterials prepared from α-tricalcium phosphate using clinically relevant liquid to powder ratios. The small size of the electrodes allowed for online measurements in traditionally inaccessible in vitro environments, such as the immediate material-liquid interface and the interior of curing bone cement. The kinetic data obtained has been compared to theoretical sorption models, confirming that the proposed setup can provide key information for improved understanding of the biochemical environment imposed by chemically reactive biomaterials.

Keywords: Calcium phosphate, Hydroxyapatite, Ion sorption, Iridium oxide, Sensors, Animals, Biocompatible Materials, Bone Cements, Calcium Phosphates, Cells, Cultured, Chlorides, Electrochemical Techniques, Gold, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Hydroxyapatites, Iridium, Materials Testing, Microelectrodes, Powders, Silver, Silver Compounds, Water


Comelles, J., Hortigüela, V., Samitier, J., Martinez, E., (2012). Versatile gradients of covalently bound proteins on microstructured substrates Langmuir , 28, (38), 13688-13697

In this work, we propose an easy method to produce highly tunable gradients of covalently bound proteins on topographically modified poly(methyl methacrylate). We used a rnicrofluidic approach to obtain linear gradients with high slope (0.5 pmol.cm(-2).mm(-1)), relevant at the single-cell level. These protein gradients were characterized using fluorescence microscopy and surface plasmon resonance. Both experimental results and theoretical modeling on the protein gradients generated have proved them to be highly reproducible, stable up to 7 days, and easily tunable. This method enables formation of versatile cell culture platforms combining both complex biochemical and physical cues in an attempt to approach in vitro cell culture methods to in vivo cellular microenvironments.

Keywords: Cell-migration, Microfluidic channel, Surface, Streptavidin, Molecules, Topography, Mechanisms, Generation, Responses, Guidance


Valle-Delgado, J. J., Liepina, I., Lapidus, D., Sabaté, R., Ventura, S., Samitier, J., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2012). Self-assembly of human amylin-derived peptides studied by atomic force microscopy and single molecule force spectroscopy Soft Matter , 8, (4), 1234-1242

The self-assembly of peptides and proteins into amyloid fibrils of nanometric thickness and up to several micrometres in length, a phenomenon widely observed in biological systems, has recently aroused a growing interest in nanotechnology and nanomedicine. Here we have applied atomic force microscopy and single molecule force spectroscopy to study the amyloidogenesis of a peptide derived from human amylin and of its reverse sequence. The spontaneous formation of protofibrils and their orientation along well-defined directions on graphite and DMSO-coated graphite substrates make the studied peptides interesting candidates for nanotechnological applications. The measured binding forces between peptides correlate with the number of hydrogen bonds between individual peptides inside the fibril structure according to molecular dynamics simulations.

Keywords: Amyloid fibril, Amyloidogenesis, Binding forces, Fibril structure, Graphite substrate, Molecular dynamics simulations, Nanometrics, Protofibrils, Single molecule force spectroscopy, Spontaneous formation, Atomic force microscopy, Atomic spectroscopy, Graphite, Hydrogen bonds, Medical nanotechnology, Molecular dynamics, Molecular physics, Self assembly, Thickness measurement, Peptides


Redondo-Morata, Lorena, Oncins, Gerard, Sanz, Fausto, (2012). Force spectroscopy reveals the effect of different ions in the nanomechanical behavior of phospholipid model membranes: The case of potassium cation Biophysical Journal , 102, (1), 66-74

How do metal cations affect the stability and structure of phospholipid bilayers? What role does ion binding play in the insertion of proteins and the overall mechanical stability of biological membranes? Investigators have used different theoretical and microscopic approaches to study the mechanical properties of lipid bilayers. Although they are crucial for such studies, molecular-dynamics simulations cannot yet span the complexity of biological membranes. In addition, there are still some experimental difficulties when it comes to testing the ion binding to lipid bilayers in an accurate way. Hence, there is a need to establish a new approach from the perspective of the nanometric scale, where most of the specific molecular phenomena take place. Atomic force microscopy has become an essential tool for examining the structure and behavior of lipid bilayers. In this work, we used force spectroscopy to quantitatively characterize nanomechanical resistance as a function of the electrolyte composition by means of a reliable molecular fingerprint that reveals itself as a repetitive jump in the approaching force curve. By systematically probing a set of bilayers of different composition immersed in electrolytes composed of a variety of monovalent and divalent metal cations, we were able to obtain a wealth of information showing that each ion makes an independent and important contribution to the gross mechanical resistance and its plastic properties. This work addresses the need to assess the effects of different ions on the structure of phospholipid membranes, and opens new avenues for characterizing the (nano)mechanical stability of membranes.

Keywords: Molecular-dynamics simulation, Liquid expanded monolayers, Lipid-bilayers, Hofmeister series, Monovalent salt, Phosphatidylcholine, Microscopy, Binding, Surfaces, NaCl


Navarro, M., Pu, F., Hunt, J. A., (2012). The significance of the host inflammatory response on the therapeutic efficacy of cell therapies utilising human adult stem cells Experimental Cell Research , 318, (4), 361-370

Controlling the fate of implanted hMSCs is one of the major drawbacks to be overcome to realize tissue engineering strategies. In particular, the effect of the inflammatory environment on hMSCs behaviour is poorly understood. Studying and mimicking the inflammatory process in vitro is a very complex and challenging task that involves multiple variables. This research addressed the questions using in vitro co-cultures of primary derived hMSCs together with human peripheral blood mononucleated cells (PBMCs); the latter are key agents in the inflammatory process. This work explored the in vitro phenotypic changes of hMSCs in co-culture direct contact with monocytes and lymphocytes isolated from blood using both basal and osteogenic medium. Our findings indicated that hMSCs maintained their undifferentiated phenotype and pluripotency despite the contact with PBMCs. Moreover, hMSCs demonstrated increased proliferation and were able to differentiate specifically down the osteogenic lineage pathway. Providing significant crucial evidence to support the hypothesis that inflammation and host defence mechanisms could be utilised rather than avoided and combated to provide for the successful therapeutic application of stem cell therapies.

Keywords: Co-culture, Inflammation, Mesenchymal stem cells, Monocytes, Osteoblasts


Gustavsson, J., Ginebra, M. P., Planell, J., Engel, E., (2012). Osteoblast-like cellular response to dynamic changes in the ionic extracellular environment produced by calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite Journal of Materials Science-Materials in Medicine , 23, (10), 2509-2520

Solution-mediated reactions due to ionic substitutions are increasingly explored as a strategy to improve the biological performance of calcium phosphate-based materials. Yet, cellular response to well-defined dynamic changes of the ionic extracellular environment has so far not been carefully studied in a biomaterials context. In this work, we present kinetic data on how osteoblast-like SAOS-2 cellular activity and calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite (CDHA) influenced extracellular pH as well as extracellular concentrations of calcium and phosphate in standard in vitro conditions. Since cells were grown on membranes permeable to ions and proteins, they could share the same aqueous environment with CDHA, but still be physically separated from the material. In such culture conditions, it was observed that gradual material-induced adsorption of calcium and phosphate from the medium had only minor influence on cellular proliferation and alkaline phosphatase activity, but that competition for calcium and phosphate between cells and the biomaterial delayed and reduced significantly the cellular capacity to deposit calcium in the extracellular matrix. The presented work thus gives insights into how and to what extent solution-mediated reactions can influence cellular response, and this will be necessary to take into account when interpreting CDHA performance both in vitro and in vivo.

Keywords: Alkaline-phosphatase activity, Saos-2 cells, In-vitro, bone mineralization, Biological basis, Differentiation, Culture, Matrix, Proliferation, Topography


Pomareda, Víctor, Guamán, Ana V., Mohammadnejad, Masoumeh, Calvo, Daniel, Pardo, Antonio, Marco, Santiago, (2012). Multivariate curve resolution of nonlinear ion mobility spectra followed by multivariate nonlinear calibration for quantitative prediction Chemometrics and Intelligent Laboratory Systems , 118, 219-229

In this work, a new methodology to analyze spectra time-series obtained from ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) has been investigated. The proposed method combines the advantages of multivariate curve resolution-alternating least squares (MCR-ALS) for an optimal physical and chemical interpretation of the system (qualitative information) and a multivariate calibration technique such as polynomial partial least squares (poly-PLS) for an improved quantification (quantitative information) of new samples. Ten different concentrations of 2-butanone and ethanol were generated using a volatile generator based on permeation tubes. The different concentrations were measured with IMS. These data present a non-linear behaviour as substance concentration increases. Although MCR-ALS is based on a bilinear decomposition, non-linear behaviour can be modelled adding new components to the model. After spectral pre-processing, MCR-ALS was applied aiming to get information about the ionic species that appear in the drift tube and their evolution with the analyte concentration. By resolving the IMS data matrix, concentration profiles and pure spectra of the different ionic species have been obtained for both analytes. Finally, poly-PLS was used in order to build a calibration model using concentration profiles obtained from MCR-ALS for ethanol and 2-butanone. The results, with more than 99% of explained variance for both substances, show the feasibility of using MCR-ALS to resolve IMS datasets. Furthermore, similar or better prediction accuracy is achieved when concentration profiles from MCR-ALS are used to build a calibration model (using poly-PLS) compared to other standard univariate and multivariate calibration methodologies.

Keywords: Ion Mobility Spectrometry, Multivariate Curve Resolution, Gas phase ion chemistry, Multivariate calibration


Chaparro, J.A., Giraldo, B.F., Caminal, P., Benito, S., (2012). Performance of respiratory pattern parameters in classifiers for predict weaning process Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 34th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (San Diego, USA) , 4349-4352

Weaning trials process of patients in intensive care units is a complex clinical procedure. 153 patients under extubation process (T-tube test) were studied: 94 patients with successful trials (group S), 38 patients who failed to maintain spontaneous breathing and were reconnected (group F), and 21 patients with successful test but that had to be reintubated before 48 hours (group R). The respiratory pattern of each patient was characterized through the following time series: inspiratory time (TI), expiratory time (TE), breathing cycle duration (TTot), tidal volume (VT), inspiratory fraction (TI/TTot), half inspired flow (VT/TI), and rapid shallow index (f/VT), where f is respiratory rate. Using techniques as autoregressive models (AR), autoregressive moving average models (ARMA) and autoregressive models with exogenous input (ARX), the most relevant parameters of the respiratory pattern were obtained. We proposed the evaluation of these parameters using classifiers as logistic regression (LR), linear discriminant analysis (LDA), support vector machines (SVM) and classification and regression tree (CART) to discriminate between patients from groups S, F and R. An accuracy of 93% (98% sensitivity and 82% specificity) has been obtained using CART classification.

Keywords: Accuracy, Indexes, Logistics, Regression tree analysis, Support vector machines, Time series analysis, Autoregressive moving average processes, Medical signal processing, Pattern classification, Pneumodynamics, Regression analysis, Sensitivity, Signal classification, Support vector machines, Time series, SVM, T-tube testing, Autoregressive models-with-exogenous input, Autoregressive moving average models, Breathing cycle duration, Classification-and-regression tree, Expiratory time, Extubation process, Half inspired flow, Inspiratory fraction, Inspiratory time, Intensive care units, Linear discriminant analysis, Logistic regression, Rapid shallow index, Respiratory pattern parameter performance, Sensitivity, Spontaneous breathing, Support vector machines, Tidal volume, Time 48 hr, Time series, Weaning process classifiers


Garde, A., Giraldo, B.F., Jané, R., Latshang, T.D., Turk, A.J., Hess, T., Bosch, M-.M., Barthelmes, D., Hefti, J.P., Maggiorini, M., Hefti, U., Merz, T.M., Schoch, O.D., Bloch, K.E., (2012). Periodic breathing during ascent to extreme altitude quantified by spectral analysis of the respiratory volume signal Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 34th Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (San Diego, USA) , 707-710

High altitude periodic breathing (PB) shares some common pathophysiologic aspects with sleep apnea, Cheyne-Stokes respiration and PB in heart failure patients. Methods that allow quantifying instabilities of respiratory control provide valuable insights in physiologic mechanisms and help to identify therapeutic targets. Under the hypothesis that high altitude PB appears even during physical activity and can be identified in comparison to visual analysis in conditions of low SNR, this study aims to identify PB by characterizing the respiratory pattern through the respiratory volume signal. A number of spectral parameters are extracted from the power spectral density (PSD) of the volume signal, derived from respiratory inductive plethysmography and evaluated through a linear discriminant analysis. A dataset of 34 healthy mountaineers ascending to Mt. Muztagh Ata, China (7,546 m) visually labeled as PB and non periodic breathing (nPB) is analyzed. All climbing periods within all the ascents are considered (total climbing periods: 371 nPB and 40 PB). The best crossvalidated result classifying PB and nPB is obtained with Pm (power of the modulation frequency band) and R (ratio between modulation and respiration power) with an accuracy of 80.3% and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 84.5%. Comparing the subjects from 1st and 2nd ascents (at the same altitudes but the latter more acclimatized) the effect of acclimatization is evaluated. SaO2 and periodic breathing cycles significantly increased with acclimatization (p-value <; 0.05). Higher Pm and higher respiratory frequencies are observed at lower SaO2, through a significant negative correlation (p-value <; 0.01). Higher Pm is observed at climbing periods visually labeled as PB with >; 5 periodic breathing cycles through a significant positive correlation (p-value <; 0.01). Our data demonstrate that quantification of the respiratory volum- signal using spectral analysis is suitable to identify effects of hypobaric hypoxia on control of breathing.

Keywords: Frequency domain analysis, Frequency modulation, Heart, Sleep apnea, Ventilation, Visualization, Cardiology, Medical disorders, Medical signal processing, Plethysmography, Pneumodynamics, Sensitivity analysis, Sleep, Spectral analysis, Cheyne-Stokes respiration, Climbing periods, Dataset, Heart failure patients, High altitude PB, High altitude periodic breathing, Hypobaric hypoxia, Linear discriminant analysis, Pathophysiologic aspects, Physical activity, Physiologic mechanisms, Power spectral density, Receiver operating characteristic curve, Respiratory control, Respiratory frequency, Respiratory inductive plethysmography, Respiratory pattern, Respiratory volume signal, Sleep apnea, Spectral analysis, Spectral parameters


van Zanten, T. S., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2012). Super-resolution near-field optical microscopy Comprehensive Biophysics (ed. Egelman, E. H.), Elsevier (Desdren, Germany) Volume 2: Biophysical Techniques for Characterization of Cells, 144-164

Near-field optical microscopy is a technique not limited by the laws of diffraction that enables simultaneous high-resolution fluorescence and topographic measurements at the nanometer scale. This chapter highlights the intrinsic advantages of near-field optics in the study of cellular structures. The first part of the chapter lays the foundations of the near-field concept and technical implementation of near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM), whereas the second part of the chapter focuses on applications of NSOM to the study of model membranes and cellular structures on the plasma membrane. The last part of the chapter discusses further directions of near-field optics, including optical antennas and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy approaches in the near-field regime.

Keywords: Biological membranes, Cell membrane nanoscale compartmentalization, Cellular nanodomains, Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy in reduced volumes, Immunoreceptor imaging, Lipid rafts, Near-field scanning optical microscopy, Optical nano-antennas, Shear force imaging, Single molecule detection, Super-resolution microscopy


Auffarth, Benjamin, Gutierrez, Agustin, Marco, Santiago, (2011). Statistical analysis of coding for molecular properties in the olfactory bulb Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience , 5, (62), 1-8

The relationship between molecular properties of odorants and neural activities is arguably one of the most important issues in olfaction and the rules governing this relationship are still not clear. In the olfactory bulb (OB), glomeruli relay olfactory information to second-order neurons which in turn project to cortical areas. We investigate relevance of odorant properties, spatial localization of glomerular coding sites, and size of coding zones in a dataset of 2-deoxyglucose images of glomeruli over the entire OB of the rat. We relate molecular properties to activation of glomeruli in the OB using a nonparametric statistical test and a support-vector machine classification study. Our method permits to systematically map the topographic representation of various classes of odorants in the OB. Our results suggest many localized coding sites for particular molecular properties and some molecular properties that could form the basis for a spatial map of olfactory information. We found that alkynes, alkanes, alkenes, and amines affect activation maps very strongly as compared to other properties and that amines, sulfur-containing compounds, and alkynes have small zones and high relevance to activation changes, while aromatics, alkanes, and carboxylics acid recruit very big zones in the dataset. Results suggest a local spatial encoding for molecular properties.

Keywords: Molecular-receptive range, Odor, Olfactory bulb, Olfactory coding, Property-activity relationship, Structure-odor relationship


Artés, Juan M., Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Sanz, Fausto, Gorostiza, Pau, (2011). Direct measurement of electron transfer distance decay constants of single redox proteins by electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy ACS Nano 5, (3), 2060-2066

We present a method to measure directly and at the single-molecule level the distance decay constant that characterizes the rate of electron transfer (ET) in redox proteins. Using an electrochemical tunneling microscope under bipotentiostatic control, we obtained current-distance spectroscopic recordings of individual redox proteins confined within a nanometric tunneling gap at a well-defined molecular orientation. The tunneling current decays exponentially, and the corresponding decay constant (β) strongly supports a two-step tunneling ET mechanism. Statistical analysis of decay constant measurements reveals differences between the reduced and oxidized states that may be relevant to the control of ET rates in enzymes and biological electron transport chains.

Keywords: Long-range electron transfer (LRET), Distance decay constant, Single-molecule electrochemistry, Redox enzyme, Metalloprotein, Blue copper protein, Azurin, Electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy, Nanoelectrodes, Debye length, Electrochemical charge screening


Carulla, Patricia, Bribian, Ana, Rangel, Alejandra, Gavin, Rosalina, Ferrer, Isidro, Caelles, Carme, Antonio del Rio, Jose, Llorens, Franc, (2011). Neuroprotective role of PrP(C) against kainate-induced epileptic seizures and cell death depends on the modulation of JNK3 activation by GluR6/7-PSD-95 binding Molecular Biology of the Cell , 22, (17), 3041-3054

Cellular prion protein (PrP(C)) is a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol-anchored glycoprotein. When mutated or misfolded, the pathogenic form (PrP(SC)) induces transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. In contrast, PrP(C) has a number of physiological functions in several neural processes. Several lines of evidence implicate PrP(C) in synaptic transmission and neuroprotection since its absence results in an increase in neuronal excitability and enhanced excitotoxicity in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, PrP(C) has been implicated in the inhibition of N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA)-mediated neurotransmission, and prion protein gene (Prnp) knockout mice show enhanced neuronal death in response to NMDA and kainate (KA). In this study, we demonstrate that neurotoxicity induced by KA in Prnp knockout mice depends on the c-Jun N-terminal kinase 3 (JNK3) pathway since Prnp(%) Jnk3(%) mice were not affected by KA. Pharmacological blockage of JNK3 activity impaired PrP(C)-dependent neurotoxicity. Furthermore, our results indicate that JNK3 activation depends on the interaction of PrP(C) with postsynaptic density 95 protein (PSD-95) and glutamate receptor 6/7 (GluR6/7). Indeed, GluR6-PSD-95 interaction after KA injections was favored by the absence of PrP(C). Finally, neurotoxicity in Prnp knockout mice was reversed by an AMPA/KA inhibitor (6,7-dinitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione) and the GluR6 antagonist NS-102. We conclude that the protection afforded by PrP(C) against KA is due to its ability to modulate GluR6/7-mediated neurotransmission and hence JNK3 activation.

Keywords: Ischemic brain-injury, Prion protein PrP(C), Stress-inducible protein-1, Synaptic plasticity, Neurite outgrowth, Signaling module, Caspase-3 activation, Organotypic cultures, Cerebral-ischemia


Gustavsson, J., Ginebra, M. P., Engel, E., Planell, J., (2011). Ion reactivity of calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite in standard cell culture media Acta Biomaterialia 7, (12), 4242-4252

Solution-mediated surface reactions occur for most calcium phosphate-based biomaterials and may influence cellular response. A reasonable extrapolation of such processes observed in vitro to in vivo performance requires a deep understanding of the underlying mechanisms. We therefore systematically investigated the nature of ion reactivity of calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite (CDHA) by exposing it for different periods of time to standard cell culture media of different chemical composition (DMEM and McCoy medium, with and without osteogenic supplements and serum proteins). Kinetic ion interaction studies of principal extracellular ions revealed non-linear sorption of Ca2+ (∼50% sorption) and K+ (∼8%) as well as acidification of all media during initial contact with CDHA (48 h). Interestingly, inorganic phosphorus (Pi) was sorbed from McCoy medium (∼50%) or when using osteogenic media containing β-glycerophosphate, but not from DMEM medium. Non-linear sorption data could be perfectly described by pseudo-first-order and pseudo-second-order sorption models. At longer contact time (21 days), and with frequent renewal of culture medium, sorption of Ca2+ remained constant throughout the experiment, while sorption of Pi gradually decreased in McCoy medium. In great contrast, CDHA began to release Pi slowly with time when using DMEM medium. Infrared spectra showed that CDHA exposed to culture media had a carbonated surface chemistry, suggesting that carbonate plays a key role in the ion reactivity of CDHA. Our data show that different compositions of the aqueous environment may provoke opposite ion reactivity of CDHA, and this must be carefully considered when evaluating the osteoinductive potential of the material.

Keywords: Hydroxyapatite, Bioactive materials, Cell culture medium, Ion exchange, Sorption models


Crona, Mikael, Torrents, Eduard, Rohr, Asmund K., Hofer, Anders, Furrer, Ernst, Tomter, Ane B., Andersson, K. Kristoffer, Sahlin, Margareta, Sjoberg, Britt-Marie, (2011). NrdH-redoxin protein mediates high enzyme activity in manganese-reconstituted ribonucleotide reductase from bacillus anthracis Journal of Biological Chemistry , 286, (38), 33053-33060

Bacillus anthracis is a severe mammalian pathogen encoding a class Ib ribonucleotide reductase (RNR). RNR is a universal enzyme that provides the four essential deoxyribonucleotides needed for DNA replication and repair. Almost all Bacillus spp. encode both class Ib and class III RNR operons, but the B. anthracis class III operon was reported to encode a pseudogene, and conceivably class Ib RNR is necessary for spore germination and proliferation of B. anthracis upon infection. The class Ib RNR operon in B. anthracis encodes genes for the catalytic NrdE protein, the tyrosyl radical metalloprotein NrdF, and the flavodoxin protein NrdI. The tyrosyl radical in NrdF is stabilized by an adjacent Mn(2)(III) site (Mn-NrdF) formed by the action of the NrdI protein or by a Fe(2)(III) site (Fe-NrdF) formed spontaneously from Fe(2+) and O(2). In this study, we show that the properties of B. anthracis Mn-NrdF and Fe-NrdF are in general similar for interaction with NrdE and NrdI. Intriguingly, the enzyme activity of Mn-NrdF was approximately an order of magnitude higher than that of Fe-NrdF in the presence of the class Ib-specific physiological reductant NrdH, strongly suggesting that the Mn-NrdF form is important in the life cycle of B. anthracis. Whether the Fe-NrdF form only exists in vitro or whether the NrdF protein in B. anthracis is a true cambialistic enzyme that can work with either manganese or iron remains to be established.

Keywords: Escherichia-coli, Corynebacterium-ammoniagenes, Crystal-structure, Cofactor, Cubunit, Growth, Genes


Miranda Coelho, Nuno, Gonzalez-Garcia, Cristina, Salmeron-Sanchez, Manuel, Altankov, George, (2011). Arrangement of type IV collagen on NH(2) and COOH functionalized surfaces Biotechnology and Bioengineering , 108, (12), 3009-3018

Apart from the paradigm that cell-biomaterials interaction depends on the adsorption of soluble adhesive proteins we anticipate that upon distinct conditions also other, less soluble ECM proteins such as collagens, associate with the biomaterials interface with consequences for cellular response that might be of significant bioengineering interest. Using atomic force microscopy (AFM) we seek to follow the nanoscale behavior of adsorbed type IV collagen (Col IV)-a unique multifunctional matrix protein involved in the organization of basement membranes (BMs) including vascular ones. We have previously shown that substratum wettability significantly affects Col IV adsorption pattern, and in turn alters endothelial cells interaction. Here we introduce two new model surfaces based on self-assembled monolayers (SAMs), a positively charged - NH(2), and negatively charged -COOH surface, to learn more about their particular effect on Col IV behavior. AFM studies revealed distinct pattern of Col IV assembly onto the two SAMs resembling different aspects of network-like structure or aggregates (suggesting altered protein conformation). Moreover, the amount of adsorbed FITC-labeled Col IV was quantified and showed about twice more protein on NH(2) substrata. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells attached less efficiently to Col IV adsorbed on negatively charged COOH surface judged by altered cell spreading, focal adhesions formation, and actin cytoskeleton development. Immunofluorescence studies also revealed better Col IV recognition by both alpha(1) and alpha(2) integrins on positively charged NH(2) substrata resulting in higher phosphorylated focal adhesion kinase recruitment in the focal adhesion complexes. On COOH surface, no integrin clustering was observed. Taken altogether these results, point to the possibility that combined NH(2) and Col IV functionalization may support endothelization of cardiovascular implants.

Keywords: Collagen type IV, SAMs, AFM, Surface-induced protein assembly, Endothelial cells, Vascular grafts


Caballero-Briones, F., Palacios-Padrós, A., Sanz, Fausto, (2011). CuInSe2 films prepared by three step pulsed electrodeposition. Deposition mechanisms, optical and photoelectrochemical studies Electrochimica Acta , 56, (26), 9556-9567

p-Type semiconducting copper indium diselenide thin films have been prepared onto In2O3:Sn substrates by a recently developed pulse electrodeposition method that consists in repeated cycles of three potential application steps. The Cu–In–Se electrochemical system and the related single component electrolytes were studied by cyclic voltammetry to identify the electrode processes and study the deposition processes. In situ atomic force microscopy measurements during the first 100 deposition cycles denote a continuous nucleation and growth mechanism. Particles removed by film sonication from some of the films were characterized by transmission electron microscopy and determined to consist in nanoscopic and crystalline CuInSe2. The remaining film is still crystalline CuInSe2, as assessed by X-ray diffraction. The chemical characterization by combined X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy, showed that films were Cu-poor and Se-poor. Raman characterization of the as-grown films showed that film composition varies with film thickness; thinner films are Se-rich, while thicker ones have an increased Cu–Se content. Different optical absorption bands were identified by the analysis of the UV–NIR transmittance spectra that were related with the presence of CuInSe2, ordered vacancy compounds, Se, Cu2−xSe and In2Se3. The photoelectrochemical activity confirmed the p-type character and showed a better response for the films prepared with the pulse method.

Keywords: CuInSe2, Solar cells, Electrodeposition, Optical properties, As-deposited films, ITO substrate


Krishnan, Ramaswamy, Klumpers, Darinka D., Park, Chan Y., Rajendran, Kavitha, Trepat, Xavier, van Bezu, Jan, van Hinsbergh, Victor W. M., Carman, Christopher V., Brain, Joseph D., Fredberg, Jeffrey J., Butler, James P., van Nieuw Amerongen, Geerten P., (2011). Substrate stiffening promotes endothelial monolayer disruption through enhanced physical forces American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology , 300, (1), C146-C154

A hallmark of many, sometimes life-threatening, inflammatory diseases and disorders is vascular leakage. The extent and severity of vascular leakage is broadly mediated by the integrity of the endothelial cell (EC) monolayer, which is in turn governed by three major interactions: cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, soluble mediators, and biomechanical forces. A potentially critical but essentially uninvestigated component mediating these interactions is the stiffness of the substrate to which the endothelial monolayer is adherent. Accordingly, we investigated the extent to which substrate stiffening influences endothelial monolayer disruption and the role of cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, soluble mediators, and physical forces in that process. Traction force microscopy showed that forces between cell and cell and between cell and substrate were greater on stiffer substrates. On stiffer substrates, these forces were substantially enhanced by a hyperpermeability stimulus (thrombin, 1 U/ml), and gaps formed between cells. On softer substrates, by contrast, these forces were increased far less by thrombin, and gaps did not form between cells. This stiffness-dependent force enhancement was associated with increased Rho kinase activity, whereas inhibition of Rho kinase attenuated baseline forces and lessened thrombin-induced inter-EC gap formation. Our findings demonstrate a central role of physical forces in EC gap formation and highlight a novel physiological mechanism. Integrity of the endothelial monolayer is governed by its physical microenvironment, which in normal circumstances is compliant but during pathology becomes stiffer.

Keywords: Contraction, Human umbilical vein endothelial cells, Permeability, Traction force, Cell-cell contact, Cell-substrate contact, Substrate stiffness, Rho kinase, Vascular endothelial cadherin, Thrombin


Adrados, B., Julian, E., Codony, F., Torrents, E., Luquin, M., Morato, J., (2011). Prevalence and concentration of non-tuberculous Mycobacteria in cooling towers by means of quantitative PCR: A prospective study Current Microbiology , 62, (1), 313-319

There is an increasing level of interest in non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) due to the increasing reported rates of diseases caused by them. Although it is well known that NTM are widely distributed in the environment it is necessary to identify its reservoirs to prevent possible infections. In this study, we aimed to investigate the occurrence and levels of NTM in cooling towers to provide evidences for considering these settings as possible sources of respiratory infections. In the current study, we detected and quantified the presence of NTM by means of a rapid method in water samples taken from 53 cooling towers of an urban area (Barcelona, Spain). A genus-specific quantitative PCR (Q-PCR) assay with a quantification limit (QL) of 500 cells l(-1) was used. 56% (30) of samples were positive with a concentration range from 4.6 x 10(3) to 1.79 x 10(6) cells l(-1). In some cases (9/30), samples were positive but with levels below the QL. The colonization rate confirmed that cooling towers could be considered as a potential reservoir for NTM. This study also evaluated Q-PCR as a useful method to detect and quantify NTM in samples coming from environmental sources.

Keywords: Real-time PCR, Disease, Identification, Tuberculosis, Pathogens, Waters


Punter-Villagrasa, J., Colomer-Farrarons, J., Miribel-Catala, P., Puig-Vidal, M., Samitier, J., (2011). Discrete to full custom ASIC solutions for bioelectronic applications Proceedings of the SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering VLSI Circuits and Systems V , SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering (Prague, Czech Republic) 8067, 80670Q

This paper presents a first approach on multi-pathogen detection system for portable point-of-care applications on discrete electronics field. The main interest is focused on the development of custom built electronic solutions for bioelectronics applications, from discrete devices to ASICS solutions.

Keywords: Application specific integrated circuits, Biomedical electronics, Biosensors


Ziyatdinov, Andrey, Fernandez-Diaz, Eduard, Chaudry, A., Marco, Santiago, Persaud, Krishna, Perera, Alexandre, (2011). A large scale virtual gas sensor array Olfaction and Electronic Nose: Proceedings of the 14th International Symposium on Olfaction and Electronic Nose AIP Conference Proceedings (ed. Perena Gouma, SUNY Stony Brook), AIP (New York City, USA) 1362, (1), 151-152

This paper depicts a virtual sensor array that allows the user to generate gas sensor synthetic data while controlling a wide variety of the characteristics of the sensor array response: arbitrary number of sensors, support for multi-component gas mixtures and full control of the noise in the system such as sensor drift or sensor aging. The artificial sensor array response is inspired on the response of 17 polymeric sensors for three analytes during 7 month. The main trends in the synthetic gas sensor array, such as sensitivity, diversity, drift and sensor noise, are user controlled. Sensor sensitivity is modeled by an optionally linear or nonlinear method (spline based). The toolbox on data generation is implemented in open source R language for statistical computing and can be freely accessed as an educational resource or benchmarking reference. The software package permits the design of scenarios with a very large number of sensors (over 10000 sensels), which are employed in the test and benchmarking of neuromorphic models in the Bio-ICT European project NEUROCHEM.

Keywords: Data analysis, Circuit noise, Data acquisition, Signal processing


van Zanten, T. S., Gomez, J., Manzo, C., Cambi, A., Buceta, J., Reigada, R., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2010). Direct mapping of nanoscale compositional connectivity on intact cell membranes Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107, (35), 15437-15442

Lateral segregation of cell membranes is accepted as a primary mechanism for cells to regulate a diversity of cellular functions. In this context, lipid rafts have been conceptualized as organizing principle of biological membranes where underlying cholesterol-mediated selective connectivity must exist even at the resting state. However, such a level of nanoscale compositional connectivity has been challenging to prove. Here we used single-molecule near-field scanning optical microscopy to visualize the nanolandscape of raft ganglioside GM1 after tightening by its ligand cholera toxin (CTxB) on intact cell membranes. We show that CTxB tightening of GM1 is sufficient to initiate a minimal raft coalescence unit, resulting in the formation of cholesterol-dependent GM1 nanodomains <120 nm in size. This particular arrangement appeared independent of cell type and GM1 expression level on the membrane. Simultaneous dual color high-resolution images revealed that GPI anchored and certain transmembrane proteins were recruited to regions proximal (<150 nm) to CTxB-GM1 nanodomains without physical intermixing. Together with in silico experiments, our high-resolution data conclusively demonstrate the existence of raft-based interconnectivity at the nanoscale. Such a linked state on resting cell membranes constitutes thus an obligatory step toward the hierarchical evolution of large-scale raft coalescence upon cell activation.

Keywords: Cholera toxin, Membrane heterogeneity, Near-field scanning optical microscopy, Raft ganglioside GM1, Single-molecule detection


Garcia-Manyes, S., Redondo-Morata, L., Oncins, G., Sanz, F., (2010). Nanomechanics of lipid bilayers: Heads or tails? Journal of the American Chemical Society American Chemical Society 132, (37), 12874-12886

Understanding the effect of mechanical stress on membranes is of primary importance in biophysics. Here we use force spectroscopy AFM to quantitatively characterize the nanomechanical stability of supported lipid bilayers as a function of their chemical composition. The onset of plastic deformation reveals itself as a repetitive jump in the approaching force curve, which represents a molecular fingerprint for the bilayer mechanical stability. By systematically probing a set of chemically distinct supported lipid bilayers (SLBs), we first show that both the headgroup and tail have a decisive effect on their mechanical properties. While the mechanical stability of the probed SLBs linearly increases by 3.3 nN upon the introduction of each additional -CH2- in the chain, it exhibits a significant dependence on the phospholipid headgroup, ranging from 3 nN for DPPA to 66 nN for DPPG. Furthermore, we also quantify the reduction of the membrane mechanical stability as a function of the number of unsaturations and molecular branching in the chemical structure of the apolar tails. Finally, we demonstrate that, upon introduction of cholesterol and ergosterol, contrary to previous belief the mechanical stability of membranes not only increases linearly in the liquid phase (DLPC) but also for phospholipids present in the gel phase (DPPC). Our results are discussed in the framework of the continuum nucleation model. This work highlights the compelling effect of subtle variations in the chemical structure of phospholipid molecules on the membrane response when exposed to mechanical forces, a mechanism of common occurrence in nature.

Keywords: Atomic-force microscopy, Molecular-dynamics simulation, Aqueous-electrolyte solutions, Supported planar membranes, Phospholipid-bilayers, Biological-membranes, Physical-properties, Fluid membranes, Model membranes, Chain-length


del Rio, Jose Antonio, Soriano, Eduardo, (2010). Regenerating cortical connections in a dish: the entorhino-hippocampal organotypic slice co-culture as tool for pharmacological screening of molecules promoting axon regeneration Nature Protocols 5, (2), 217-226

We present a method for using long-term organotypic slice co-cultures of the entorhino-hippocampal formation to analyze the axon-regenerative properties of a determined compound. The culture method is based on the membrane interphase method, which is easy to perform and is generally reproducible. The degree of axonal regeneration after treatment in lesioned cultures can be seen directly using green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgenic mice or by axon tracing and histological methods. Possible changes in cell morphology after pharmacological treatment can be determined easily by focal in vitro electroporation. The well-preserved cytoarchitectonics in the co-culture facilitate the analysis of identified cells or regenerating axons. The protocol takes up to a month.

Keywords: Cajal-retzius cells, Green-fluorescent-protein, In-vitro model, Rat hippocampus, Nervous-tissue, Brain-slices, Dentate gyrus, Gene-transfer, Cultures, Damage


van Zanten, Thomas S., Lopez-Bosque, M. J . , Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2010). Imaging individual proteins and nanodomains on intact cell membranes with a probe-based optical antenna Small 6, (2), 270-275

Optical antennas that confine and enhance electromagnetic fields in a nanometric region hold great potential for nanobioimaging and biosensing. Probe-based monopole optical antennas are fabricated to enhance fields localized to <30 nm near the antenna apex in aqueous conditions. These probes are used under appropriate excitation antenna conditions to image individual antibodies with an unprecedented resolution of 26 ± 4 nm and virtually no surrounding background. On intact cell membranes in physiological conditions, the obtained resolution is 30 ± 6 nm. Importantly, the method allows individual proteins to be distinguished from nanodomains and the degree of clustering to be quantified by directly measuring physical size and intensity of individual fluorescent spots. Improved antenna geometries should lead to true live cell imaging below 10-nm resolution with position accuracy in the subnanometric range.

Keywords: Cell membranes, Cell receptors, Focused ion beam milling, Nanodomains, Optical antennas


van Zanten, T. S., Cambi, A., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2010). A nanometer scale optical view on the compartmentalization of cell membranes Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes , 1798, (4), 777-787

For many years, it was believed that the laws of diffraction set a fundamental limit to the spatial resolution of conventional light microscopy. Major developments, especially in the past few years, have demonstrated that the diffraction barrier can be overcome both in the near- and far-field regime. Together with dynamic measurements, a wealth of new information is now emerging regarding the compartmentalization of cell membranes. In this review we focus on optical methods designed to explore the nanoscale architecture of the cell membrane, with a focal point on near-field optical microscopy (NSOM) as the first developed technique to provide truly optical super-resolution beyond the diffraction limit of light. Several examples illustrate the unique capabilities offered by NSOM and highlight its usefulness on cell membrane studies, complementing the palette of biophysical techniques available nowadays.

Keywords: Membrane nanodomain, Lipid raft, Single molecule detection, Near-field scanning optical microscopy, Super-resolution optical microscopy


Seira, O., Gavin, R., Gil, V., Llorens, F., Rangel, A., Soriano, E., del Rio, J. A., (2010). Neurites regrowth of cortical neurons by GSK3 beta inhibition independently of Nogo receptor 1 Journal of Neurochemistry , 113, (6), 1644-1658

P>Lesioned axons do not regenerate in the adult mammalian CNS, owing to the over-expression of inhibitory molecules such as myelin-derived proteins or chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans. In order to overcome axon inhibition, strategies based on extrinsic and intrinsic treatments have been developed. For myelin-associated inhibition, blockage with NEP1-40, receptor bodies or IN-1 antibodies has been used. In addition, endogenous blockage of cell signalling mechanisms induced by myelin-associated proteins is a potential tool for overcoming axon inhibitory signals. We examined the participation of glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta (GSK3 beta) and extracellular-related kinase (ERK) 1/2 in axon regeneration failure in lesioned cortical neurons. We also investigated whether pharmacological blockage of GSK3 beta and ERK1/2 activities facilitates regeneration after myelin-directed inhibition in two models: (i) cerebellar granule cells and (ii) lesioned entorhino-hippocampal pathway in slice cultures, and whether the regenerative effects are mediated by Nogo Receptor 1 (NgR1). We demonstrate that, in contrast to ERK1/2 inhibition, the pharmacological treatment of GSK3 beta inhibition strongly facilitated regrowth of cerebellar granule neurons over myelin independently of NgR1. Finally, these regenerative effects were corroborated in the lesioned entorhino-hippocampal pathway in NgR1-/- mutant mice. These results provide new findings for the development of new assays and strategies to enhance axon regeneration in injured cortical connections.

Keywords: Axon inhibition, Nogo Receptor complex, Organotypic slice cultures, Pharmacological treatment


Harder, A., Walhorn, V., Dierks, T., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Anselmetti, D., (2010). Single-molecule force spectroscopy of cartilage aggrecan self-adhesion Biophysical Journal , 99, (10), 3498-3504

We investigated self-adhesion between highly negatively charged aggrecan macromolecules extracted from bovine cartilage extracellular matrix by performing atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging and single-molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) in saline solutions. By controlling the density of aggrecan molecules on both the gold substrate and the gold-coated tip surface at submonolayer densities, we were able to detect and quantify the Ca2+-dependent homodimeric interaction between individual aggrecan molecules at the single-molecule level. We found a typical nonlinear sawtooth profile in the AFM force-versus-distance curves with a molecular persistence length of I-p = 0.31 +/- 0.04 nm. This is attributed to the stepwise dissociation of individual glycosaminoglycan (GAG) side chains in aggrecans, which is very similar to the known force fingerprints of other cell adhesion proteoglycan systems. After studying the GAG-GAG dissociation in a dynamic, loading-rate-dependent manner (dynamic SMFS) and analyzing the data according to the stochastic Bell-Evans model for a thermally activated decay of a metastable state under an external force, we estimated for the single glycan interaction a mean lifetime of tau = 7.9 +/- 4.9 s and a reaction bond length of x(beta) = 0.31 +/- 0.08 nm. Whereas the x(beta)-value compares well with values from other cell adhesion carbohydrate recognition motifs in evolutionary distant marine sponge proteoglycans, the rather short GAG interaction lifetime reflects high intermolecular dynamics within aggrecan complexes, which may be relevant for the viscoelastic properties of cartilage tissue.

Keywords: Bovine nasal cartilage, Articular-cartilage, Sinorhizobium-meliloti, Proteoglycan, Microscopy, DNA, Macromolecules, Binding, Protein, Glycosaminoglycans


Caballero-Briones, F., Palacios-Padros, A., Calzadilla, O., Sanz, F., (2010). Evidence and analysis of parallel growth mechanisms in Cu2O films prepared by Cu anodization Electrochimica Acta , 55, (14), 4353-4358

We have studied the preparation of Cu2O films by copper anodization in a 0.1 M NaOH electrolyte. We identified the potential range at which Cu dissolution takes place then we prepared films with different times of exposure to this potential. The morphology, crystalline structure, band gap. Urbach energy and thickness of the films were studied. Films prepared with the electrode unexposed to the dissolution potential have a pyramidal growth typical of potential driven processes, while samples prepared at increasing exposure times to dissolution potential present continuous nucleation, growth and grain coalescence. We observed a discrepancy in the respective film thicknesses calculated by coulometry, atomic force microscopy and optical reflectance. We propose that anodic Cu2O film formation involves three parallel mechanisms (i) Cu2O nucleation at the surface, (ii) Cu+ dissolution followed by heterogeneous nucleation and (iii) Cu+ and OH- diffusion through the forming oxide and subsequent reaction in the solid state.

Keywords: Cuprous oxide, Anodic films, Reflectance, Thickness, Band gap, Urbach tail parameter, Dissolution, Growth mechanism


Montoliu, I., Tauler, R., Padilla, M., Pardo, A., Marco, S., (2010). Multivariate curve resolution applied to temperature modulated metal oxide gas sensors Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 145, (1), 464-473

Metal oxide (MOX) gas sensors have been widely used for years. Temperature modulation of gas sensors is as an alternative to increase their sensitivity and selectivity to different gas species. In order to enhance the extraction of useful information from this kind of signals, data processing techniques are needed. In this work, the use of self-modelling curve resolution techniques, in particular multivariate curve resolution-alternating least squares (MCR-ALS), is presented for the analysis of these signals. First, the performance of MCR in a synthetic dataset generated from temperature-modulated gas sensor response models has been evaluated, showing good results both in the resolution of gas mixtures and in the determination of concentration/sensitivity profiles. Secondly, experimental confirmation of previously obtained conclusions is attempted using temperature-modulated MOX sensors together with MCR-ALS for the analysis of carbon monoxide (CO) and methane (CH4) gas mixtures in dry air. Results allow confirming the possibility of using the proposed approach as a quantitative technique for gas mixtures analysis, and also reveal some limitations.

Keywords: Temperature modulation, Multivariate curve resolution, MCR-ALS, Metal oxide sensors


Carreras, A., Rojas, M., Tsapikouni, T., Montserrat, J. M., Navajas, D., Farre, R., (2010). Obstructive apneas induce early activation of mesenchymal stem cells and enhancement of endothelial wound healing Respiratory Research , 11, (91), 1-7

Background: The aim was to test the hypothesis that the blood serum of rats subjected to recurrent airway obstructions mimicking obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) induces early activation of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) and enhancement of endothelial wound healing. Methods: We studied 30 control rats and 30 rats subjected to recurrent obstructive apneas (60 per hour, lasting 15 s each, for 5 h). The migration induced in MSC by apneic serum was measured by transwell assays. MSC-endothelial adhesion induced by apneic serum was assessed by incubating fluorescent-labelled MSC on monolayers of cultured endothelial cells from rat aorta. A wound healing assay was used to investigate the effect of apneic serum on endothelial repair. Results: Apneic serum showed significant increase in chemotaxis in MSC when compared with control serum: the normalized chemotaxis indices were 2.20 +/- 0.58 (m +/- SE) and 1.00 +/- 0.26, respectively (p < 0.05). MSC adhesion to endothelial cells was greater (1.75 +/- 0.14 -fold; p < 0.01) in apneic serum than in control serum. When compared with control serum, apneic serum significantly increased endothelial wound healing (2.01 +/- 0.24 -fold; p < 0.05). Conclusions: The early increases induced by recurrent obstructive apneas in MSC migration, adhesion and endothelial repair suggest that these mechanisms play a role in the physiological response to the challenges associated to OSA.

Keywords: Induced acute lung, Sleep-apnea, Intermitent hypoxia, Cardiovascular-disease, Progenito Cells, Rat model, Inflammation, Mechanisms, Repair, Blood


Aguirre, A., Planell, J. A., Engel, E., (2010). Dynamics of bone marrow-derived endothelial progenitor cell/mesenchymal stem cell interaction in co-culture and its implications in angiogenesis Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications , 400, (2), 284-291

Tissue engineering aims to regenerate tissues and organs by using cell and biomaterial-based approaches. One of the current challenges in the field is to promote proper vascularization in the implant to prevent cell death and promote host integration. Bone marrow endothelial progenitor cells (BM-EPCs) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are bone marrow resident stem cells widely employed for proangiogenic applications. In vivo, they are likely to interact frequently both in the bone marrow and at sites of injury. In this study, the physical and biochemical interactions between BM-EPCs and MSCs in an in vitro co-culture system were investigated to further clarify their roles in vascularization. BM-EPC/MSC co-cultures established close cell-cell contacts soon after seeding and self-assembled to form elongated structures at 3 days. Besides direct contact, cells also exhibited vesicle transport phenomena. When co-cultured in Matrigel, tube formation was greatly enhanced even in serum-starved, growth factor free medium. Both MSCs and BM-EPCs contributed to these tubes. However, cell proliferation was greatly reduced in co-culture and morphological differences were observed. Gene expression and cluster analysis for wide panel of angiogenesis-related transcripts demonstrated up-regulation of angiogenic markers but down-regulation of many other cytokines. These data suggest that cross-talk occurs in between BM-EPCs and MSCs through paracrine and direct cell contact mechanisms leading to modulation of the angiogenic response.

Keywords: Bone marrow, Endothelial progenitor cell, Co-culture, Mesenchymal stem cell, Angiogenesis


Pomareda, V., Calvo, D., Pardo, A., Marco, S., (2010). Hard modeling multivariate curve resolution using LASSO: Application to ion mobility spectra Chemometrics and Intelligent Laboratory Systems , 104, (2), 318-332

Multivariate Curve Resolution (MCR) aims to blindly recover the concentration profile and the source spectra without any prior supervised calibration step. It is well known that imposing additional constraints like positiveness, closure and others may improve the quality of the solution. When a physico-chemical model of the process is known, this can be also introduced constraining even more the solution. In this paper, we apply MCR to Ion Mobility Spectra. Since instrumental models suggest that peaks are of Gaussian shape with a width depending on the instrument resolution, we introduce that each source is characterized by a linear superposition of Gaussian peaks of fixed spread. We also prove that this model is able to fit wider peaks departing from pure Gaussian shape. Instead of introducing a non-linear Gaussian peak fitting, we use a very dense model and rely on a least square solver with L1-norm regularization to obtain a sparse solution. This is accomplished via Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO). Results provide nicely resolved concentration profiles and spectra improving the results of the basic MCR solution.

Keywords: Blind source separation, Ion mobility spectrometry, Multivariate curve resolution, Sparse solution, Non negative matrix factorization


Hofer, M., Adamsmaier, S., van Zanten, T. S., Chtcheglova, L. A., Manzo, C., Duman, M., Mayer, B., Ebner, A., Moertelmaier, M., Kada, G., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., Hinterdorfer, P., Kienberger, F., (2010). Molecular recognition imaging using tuning fork-based transverse dynamic force microscopy Ultramicroscopy , 110, (6), 605-611

We demonstrate simultaneous transverse dynamic force microscopy and molecular recognition imaging using tuning forks as piezoelectric sensors. Tapered aluminum-coated glass fibers were chemically functionalized with biotin and anti-lysozyme molecules and attached to one of the prongs of a 32 kHz tuning fork. The lateral oscillation amplitude of the tuning fork was used as feedback signal for topographical imaging of avidin aggregates and lysozyme molecules on mica substrate. The phase difference between the excitation and detection signals of the tuning fork provided molecular recognition between avidin/biotin or lysozyme/anti-lysozyme. Aggregates of avidin and lysozyme molecules appeared as features with heights of 1-4 nm in the topographic images, consistent with single molecule atomic force microscopy imaging. Recognition events between avidin/biotin or lysozyme/anti-lysozyme were detected in the phase image at high signal-to-noise ratio with phase shifts of 1-2 degrees. Because tapered glass fibers and shear-force microscopy based on tuning forks are commonly used for near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM), these results open the door to the exciting possibility of combining optical, topographic and biochemical recognition at the nanometer scale in a single measurement and in liquid conditions.

Keywords: Tuning fork, Atomic force microscopy, Shear-force microscopy, Molecular recognition, Avidin-biotin


Sarlabous, L., Torres, A., Fiz, J. A., Gea, J., Marti nez-Llorens, J. M., Morera, J., Jané, R., (2010). Interpretation of the approximate entropy using fixed tolerance values as a measure of amplitude variations in biomedical signals Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) 32nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE , IEEE (Buenos Aires, Argentina) , 5967-5970

A new method for the quantification of amplitude variations in biomedical signals through moving approximate entropy is presented. Unlike the usual method to calculate the approximate entropy (ApEn), in which the tolerance value (r) varies based on the standard deviation of each moving window, in this work ApEn has been computed using a fixed value of r. We called this method, moving approximate entropy with fixed tolerance values: ApEn/sub f/. The obtained results indicate that ApEn/sub f/ allows determining amplitude variations in biomedical data series. These amplitude variations are better determined when intermediate values of tolerance are used. The study performed in diaphragmatic mechanomyographic signals shows that the ApEn/sub f/ curve is more correlated with the respiratory effort than the standard RMS amplitude parameter. Furthermore, it has been observed that the ApEn/sub f/ parameter is less affected by the existence of impulsive, sinusoidal, constant and Gaussian noises in comparison with the RMS amplitude parameter.

Keywords: Practical, Theoretical or Mathematical/ biomechanics, Entropy, Gaussian noise, Medical signal processing, Muscle, Random processes/ approximate entropy interpretation, Fixed tolerance values, Diaphragmatic mechanomyographic signals, ApEnf curve, Respiratory effort, Gaussian noises


Aparicio, C., Salvagni, E., Werner, M., Engel, E., Pegueroles, M., Rodriguez-Cabello, C., Munoz, F., Planell, J. A., Gil, J., (2009). Biomimetic treatments on dental implants for immediate loading applications Journal of Medical Devices , 3, (2), 027555

Summary form only given. Commercially pure titanium (cp Ti) dental implants have been widely and successfully used with high rates of clinical success in normal situations. However, there is still a lack of reliable synthetic materials to be used either a) when immediate loading of the implant is desired or b) when bone presents compromised conditions due to trauma, infection, systemic disease and/or lack of significant bone volume. Our group has aimed the development of biomimetic strategies of surface modification to obtain metallic implants with osteostimulative capabilities. These surface modifications will provide implants with a rapid rate of newly-formed bone growth and with ossecoalescence, i.e., direct chemical contact with the surrounding tissues. Consequently, the biomimetically-modified implants will be reliably used on those more demanding clinical situations, cp Ti surfaces treated to obtain a combination of an optimal random surface topography (in the micro and nanolevels) with a chemical modification of the naturally-formed titania layer have been proved bioactive. These rough and bioactive surfaces nucleate and grow a homogeneous hydroxyapatite layer both in vitro and in vivo. They stimulate the osteoblasts differentiation and trigger a rapid bone formation that mechanically fixes implants under immediate-loading conditions. A simple process using silane chemistry has been proved specific, rapid, and reliable to covalently immobilize biomolecules on cp Ti surfaces. This methodology can be used to develop biofunc- tionalized implant surfaces with different or combined bioactivities. The biofunctional molecules can be biopolymers, proteins, growth factors, and synthetic peptides specifically designed to be attached to the surface. The bioactive properties of the molecules designed and used can be mineral growing and nucleation, osteoblast differentiation (bone regeneration), fibroblasts differentiation (biological sealing), antibiotic,... Specifically, we have obtained mechanically and thermochemically stable coatings made of recombinant elastin-like biopolymers. The biopolymers bear either a) the RODS peptide, which is a highly-specific cell-adhesion motif present in proteins of the extracellular matrix for different tissues including bone, or b) an acidic peptide sequence derived from statherin, a protein present in saliva with high affinity for calcium-phosphates and with a leading role in the remineralization processes of the hard tissues forming our teeth. Two different biomimetic strategies have been successfully developed combining topographical modification, inorganic treatments and/or biofunctionalization for improving bioactive integrative properties of cp Ti implants.

Keywords: Biomedical materials, Bone, Cellular biophysics, Dentistry, Molecular biophysics, Prosthetics, Proteins, Surface treatment, Titanium


Roca-Cusachs, P., Gauthier, N. C., del Rio, A., Sheetz, M. P., (2009). Clustering of alpha(5)beta(1) integrins determines adhesion strength whereas alpha(v)beta(3) and talin enable mechanotransduction Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106, (38), 16245-16250

A key molecular link between cells and the extracellular matrix is the binding between fibronectin and integrins alpha(5)beta(1) and alpha(v)beta(3). However, the roles of these different integrins in establishing adhesion remain unclear. We tested the adhesion strength of fibronectin-integrin-cytoskeleton linkages by applying physiological nanonewton forces to fibronectin-coated magnetic beads bound to cells. We report that the clustering of fibronectin domains within 40 nm led to integrin alpha(5)beta(1) recruitment, and increased the ability to sustain force by over six-fold. This force was supported by alpha(5)beta(1) integrin clusters. Importantly, we did not detect a role of either integrin alpha(v)beta(3) or talin 1 or 2 in maintaining adhesion strength. Instead, these molecules enabled the connection to the cytoskeleton and reinforcement in response to an applied force. Thus, high matrix forces are primarily supported by clustered alpha(5)beta(1) integrins, while less stable links to alpha(v)beta(3) integrins initiate mechanotransduction, resulting in reinforcement of integrin-cytoskeleton linkages through talin-dependent bonds.

Keywords: Cell-adhesion, Mechanical force, Vinculin-binding, Fibronectin, Activation, Dynamics, Domain, Alpha-v-beta-3, Translocation, Bonds


van Zanten, T. S., Cambi, A., Koopman, M., Joosten, B., Figdor, Carl G., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2009). Hotspots of GPI-anchored proteins and integrin nanoclusters function as nucleation sites for cell adhesion Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106, (44), 18557-18562

Recruitment of receptor proteins to lipid rafts has been proposed as an important mechanism to regulate their cellular function. In particular, rafts have been implicated in regulation of integrin-mediated cell adhesion, although the underlying mechanism remains elusive. We used single-molecule near-field optical microscopy (NSOM) with localization accuracy of approximately 3 nm, to capture the spatio-functional relationship between the integrin LFA-1 and raft components (GPI-APs) on immune cells. Dual color nanoscale imaging revealed the existence of a nanodomain GPI-AP subpopulation that further concentrated in regions smaller than 250 nm, suggesting a hierarchical prearrangement of GPI-APs on resting monocytes. We previously demonstrated that in quiescent monocytes, LFA-1 preorganizes in nanoclusters. We now show that integrin nanoclusters are spatially different but reside proximal to GPI-AP nanodomains, forming hotspots on the cell surface. Ligand-mediated integrin activation resulted in an interconversion from monomers to nanodomains of GPI-APs and the generation of nascent adhesion sites where integrin and GPI-APs colocalized at the nanoscale. Cholesterol depletion significantly affected the reciprocal distribution pattern of LFA-1 and GPI-APs in the resting state, and LFA-1 adhesion to its ligand. As such, our data demonstrate the existence of nanoplatforms as essential intermediates in nascent cell adhesion. Since raft association with a variety of membrane proteins other than LFA-1 has been documented, we propose that hotspots regions enriched with raft components and functional receptors may constitute a prototype of nanoscale inter-receptor assembly and correspond to a generic mechanism to offer cells with privileged areas for rapid cellular function and responses to the outside world.

Keywords: Integrin LFA-1, Membrane nanocompartments, Near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM), Single molecule detection


Tort, N., Salvador, J. P., Eritja, R., Poch, M., Martinez, E., Samitier, J., Marco, M. P., (2009). Fluorescence site-encoded DNA addressable hapten microarray for anabolic androgenic steroids Trac-Trends in Analytical Chemistry , 28, (6), 718-728

We report a new strategy for immunochemical screening of small organic molecules based on the use of a hapten microarray. Using DNA-directed immobilization strategies, we have been able to convert a DNA chip into a hapten microarray by taking advantage of all the benefits of the structural and electrostatic homogeneous properties of DNA. The hapten microarray uses hapten-oligonucleotide probes instead of proteins, avoiding the limitations of preparing stochiometrically-defined protein-oligonucleotide bioconjugates. As proof of concept, we show here the development of a microarray for analysis of anabolic androgenic steroids. The microchip is able to detect several illegal substances with sufficient detectability to be used as a screening method, according to the regulations of the World Anti-Doping Agency for sport and the European Commision for food safety. The results that we show corroborate the universal possibilities of the DNA chip, and, in this case, they open the way to develop hapten microarrays for the immunochemical analysis of small organic molecules.

Keywords: Anti-doping, DNA chip, DNA-directed immobilization (DDI), Fluorescence, Food safety, Hapten microarray, Immunochemical screening, Proof of concept, Small organic molecule, Steroid


Fernandez, Javier G., Mills, C. A., Samitier, J., (2009). Complex microstructured 3D surfaces using chitosan biopolymer Small 5, (5), 614-620

A technique for producing micrometer-scale structures over large, nonplanar chitosan surfaces is described. The technique makes use of the rheological characteristics (deformability) of the chitosan to create freestanding, three-dimensional scaffolds with controlled shapes, incorporating defined microtopography. The results of an investigation into the technical limits of molding different combinations of shapes and microtopographies are presented, highlighting the versatility of the technique when used irrespectively with inorganic or delicate organic moulds. The final, replicated scaffolds presented here are patterned with arrays of one-micrometer-tall microstructures over large areas. Structural integrity is characterized by the measurement of structural degradation. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells cultured on a tubular scaffold show that early cell growth is conditioned by the microtopography and indicate possible uses for the structures in biomedical applications. For those applications requiring improved chemical and mechanical resistance, the structures can be replicated in poly(dimethyl siloxane).

Keywords: Biocompatible Materials/ chemistry, Cell Adhesion, Cell Culture Techniques/ methods, Cell Proliferation, Cells, Cultured, Chitosan/ chemistry, Crystallization/methods, Endothelial Cells/ cytology/ physiology, Humans, Materials Testing, Nanostructures/ chemistry/ ultrastructure, Nanotechnology/methods, Particle Size, Surface Properties, Tissue Engineering/methods


Diez-Ahedo, Ruth , Normanno, Davide , Esteban, Olga,, Bakker, Gert-Jan, Figdor, Carl, Cambi, Alessandra , Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2009). Dynamic re-organization of individual adhesion nanoclusters in living cells by ligand-patterned surfaces Small 5, (11), 1258-1263

Ligand-patterned surfaces alter the spatio-temporal organization of specific receptors on the cell membrane. Chemically confined surfaces are fabricated using microcontact patterning. The dynamic re-organization of the integrin LFA-1 in living cells is monitored at the single-molecule level using total internal reflection fluorescence. The image on the left shows individual LFA-1 nanoclusters on a single cell being recruited to ligand-rich areas of the pattern.

Keywords: Cell adhesion, Microcontact printing, Patterning, Single molecule studies


Arteaga, O., Escudero, C., Oncins, G., El-Hachemic, Z., Llorens, J., Crusats, J., Canillas, A., Ribo, J. M., (2009). Reversible mechanical induction of optical activity in solutions of soft-matter nanophases Chemistry - An Asian Journal , 4, (11), 1687-1696

Nanophases of J-aggregates of several achiral amphiphilic porphyrins, which have thin long acicular shapes (nanoribbons), show the immediate and reversible formation of a stationary mechano-chiral state in the solution by vortex stirring, as detected by their circular dichroic signals measured by 2-modulator generallized ellipsometry. The results suggest that when a macroscopic chiral force creates supramolecular chirality, it also creates an enantiomeric excess of screw distortions, which may be detected by their excitonic absorption. An explanation on the effect of the shear flow gradients is proposed on the basis of the orientation of the rotating particles in the vortex and the size, shape, and mechanical properties of the nanoparticles.

Keywords: Chirality, Circular dichroism, Nanoparticles, Selfassembly, Supramolecular chemistry


Caballero-Briones, F., Artes, J. M., Diez-Perez, I., Gorostiza, P., Sanz, F., (2009). Direct observation of the valence band edge by in situ ECSTM-ECTS in p-type Cu2O layers prepared by copper anodization Journal of Physical Chemistry C , 113, (3), 1028-1036

Polycrystalline Cu2O layers have been selectively grown by electrochemical anodization of polycrystalline Cu electrodes in an alkaline medium (pH 12.85). Uniform layers with thicknesses around 100 nm have been obtained. Using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, it was concluded that the Cu2O films behave as a p-type semiconductor. The Mott-Schottky plot gives a value for the flat band potential of U-FB = -255 mV vs silver/silver chloride electrode (SSC), an estimated carrier density N-A = 6.1 x 10(17) cm(-3), and the space charge layer width was calculated to be W-SCL = 9 nm at a band bending of 120 mV. The electronic structure of the Cu vertical bar Cu2O vertical bar electrolyte interface was for the first time probed by in situ electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy. The use of in situ electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy allows us to directly observed the valence band edge and determine its position against the absolute energy scale to be E-VB = -4.9 eV. Finally, we constructed a quantitative electronic diagram of the Cu vertical bar Cu2O vertical bar electrolyte interface, where the positions of the valence and conduction band edges are depicted, as well as the edge of the previously reported electronic subband.

Keywords: 0.1 m NaOH, Electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy, Cuprous-oxide films, Anodic-oxidation, Electronic-structure, Alkaline-solution, Aqueous-solution, Initial-stages, Passive film, Thin-films


Lundin, Daniel, Torrents, Eduard, Poole, Anthony, Sjoberg, Britt-Marie, (2009). RNRdb, a curated database of the universal enzyme family ribonucleotide reductase, reveals a high level of misannotation in sequences deposited to Genbank BMC Genomics , 10, (1), 589

BACKGROUND:Ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs) catalyse the only known de novo pathway for deoxyribonucleotide synthesis, and are therefore essential to DNA-based life. While ribonucleotide reduction has a single evolutionary origin, significant differences between RNRs nevertheless exist, notably in cofactor requirements, subunit composition and allosteric regulation. These differences result in distinct operational constraints (anaerobicity, iron/oxygen dependence and cobalamin dependence), and form the basis for the classification of RNRs into three classes.DESCRIPTION:In RNRdb (Ribonucleotide Reductase database), we have collated and curated all known RNR protein sequences with the aim of providing a resource for exploration of RNR diversity and distribution. By comparing expert manual annotations with annotations stored in Genbank, we find that significant inaccuracies exist in larger databases. To our surprise, only 23% of protein sequences included in RNRdb are correctly annotated across the key attributes of class, role and function, with 17% being incorrectly annotated across all three categories. This illustrates the utility of specialist databases for applications where a high degree of annotation accuracy may be important. The database houses information on annotation, distribution and diversity of RNRs, and links to solved RNR structures, and can be searched through a BLAST interface. RNRdb is accessible through a public web interface at http://rnrdb.molbio.su.se.CONCLUSION:RNRdb is a specialist database that provides a reliable annotation and classification resource for RNR proteins, as well as a tool to explore distribution patterns of RNR classes. The recent expansion in available genome sequence data have provided us with a picture of RNR distribution that is more complex than believed only a few years ago; our database indicates that RNRs of all three classes are found across all three cellular domains. Moreover, we find a number of organisms that encode all three classes.

Keywords: Enzymology (Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics), Computer Applications (Computational Biology)


Mir, M., Homs, A., Samitier, J., (2009). Integrated electrochemical DNA biosensors for lab-on-a-chip devices Electrophoresis , 30, (19), 3386-3397

Analytical devices able to perform accurate and fast automatic DNA detection or sequencing procedures have many potential benefits in the biomedical and environmental fields. The conversion of biological or biochemical responses into quantifiable optical, mechanical or electronic signals is achieved by means of biosensors. Most of these transducing elements can be miniaturized and incorporated into lab-on-a-chip devices, also known as Micro Total Analysis Systems. The use of multiple DNA biosensors integrated in these miniaturized laboratories, which perform several analytical operations at the microscale, has many cost and efficiency advantages. Tiny amounts of reagents and samples are needed and highly sensitive, fast and parallel assays can be done at low cost. A particular type of DNA biosensors are the ones used based on electrochemical principles. These sensors offer several advantages over the popular fluorescence-based detection schemes. The resulting signal is electrical and can be processed by conventional electronics in a very cheap and fast manner. Furthermore, the integration and miniaturization of electrochemical transducers in a microsystem makes easier its fabrication in front of the most common currently used detection method. In this review, different electrochemical DNA biosensors integrated in analytical microfluidic devices are discussed and some early stage commercial products based on this strategy are presented.

Keywords: DNA, Electrochemical DNA biosensors, Electrochemistry, Lab-on-a-chip, Micro Total Analysis systems, Field-effect transistors, Sequence-specific detection, Chemical-analysis systems, Solid-state nanopores, Carbon nanotubes, Microfluidic device, Electrical detection, Hybridization, Molecules, Sensor


Sunyer, R., Ritort, F., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2009). Thermal activation and ATP dependence of the cytoskeleton remodeling dynamics Physical Review E 79, (5), 51920

The cytoskeleton (CSK) is a nonequilibrium polymer network that uses hydrolyzable sources of free energy such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to remodel its internal structure. As in inert nonequilibrium soft materials, CSK remodeling has been associated with structural rearrangements driven by energy-activated processes. We carry out particle tracking and traction microscopy measurements of alveolar epithelial cells at various temperatures and ATP concentrations. We provide the first experimental evidence that the remodeling dynamics of the CSK is driven by structural rearrangements over free-energy barriers induced by thermally activated forces mediated by ATP. The measured activation energy of these forces is similar to 40k(B)T(r) (k(B) being the Boltzmann constant and T-r being the room temperature). Our experiments provide clues to understand the analogy between the dynamics of the living CSK and that of inert nonequilibrium soft materials.

Keywords: Biochemistry, Cellular biophysics, Free energy, Molecular biophysics, Physiological models


Gimenez-Oya, V., Villacanas, O., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Rubio-Martinez, J., Imperial, S., (2009). Mimicking direct protein-protein and solvent-mediated interactions in the CDP-methylerythritol kinase homodimer: a pharmacophore-directed virtual screening approach Journal of Molecular Modeling , 15, (8), 997-1007

The 2C-methylerythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway for the biosynthesis of isopentenyl pyrophosphate and its isomer dimethylallyl pyrophosphate, which are the precursors of isoprenoids, is present in plants, in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum and in most eubacteria, including pathogenic agents. However, the MEP pathway is absent from fungi and animals, which have exclusively the mevalonic acid pathway. Given the characteristics of the MEP pathway, its enzymes represent potential targets for the generation of selective antibacterial, antimalarial and herbicidal molecules. We have focussed on the enzyme 4-(cytidine 5'-diphospho)-2-C-methyl-D: -erythritol kinase (CMK), which catalyses the fourth reaction step of the MEP pathway. A molecular dynamics simulation was carried out on the CMK dimer complex, and protein-protein interactions analysed, considering also water-mediated interactions between monomers. In order to find small molecules that bind to CMK and disrupt dimer formation, interactions observed in the dynamics trajectory were used to model a pharmacophore used in database searches. Using an intensity-fading matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry approach, one compound was found to interact with CMK. The data presented here indicate that a virtual screening approach can be used to identify candidate molecules that disrupt the CMK-CMK complex. This strategy can contribute to speeding up the discovery of new antimalarial, antibacterial, and herbicidal compounds.

Keywords: Solvent-mediated interactions, Protein-protein interactions, Molecular dynamics, Drug design, Intensisty-fading MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry


Rodriguez-Segui, S. A., Pla, M., Engel, E., Planell, J. A., Martinez, E., Samitier, J., (2009). Influence of fabrication parameters in cellular microarrays for stem cell studies Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine , 20, (7), 1525-1533

Lately there has been an increasing interest in the development of tools that enable the high throughput analysis of combinations of surface-immobilized signaling factors and which examine their effect on stem cell biology and differentiation. These surface-immobilized factors function as artificial microenvironments that can be ordered in a microarray format. These microarrays could be useful for applications such as the study of stem cell biology to get a deeper understanding of their differentiation process. Here, the evaluation of several key process parameters affecting the cellular microarray fabrication is reported in terms of its effects on the mesenchymal stem cell culture time on these microarrays. Substrate and protein solution requirements, passivation strategies and cell culture conditions are investigated. The results described in this article serve as a basis for the future development of cellular microarrays aiming to provide a deeper understanding of the stem cell differentiation process.

Keywords: Bone-marrow, Protein microarrays, Progenitor cells, Differentiation, Surfaces, Growth, Biomaterials, Commitment, Pathways, Culture media


Merolli, A., Rocchi, L., Catalano, F., Planell, J., Engel, E., Martinez, E., Sbernardori, M. C., Marceddu, S., Leali, P. T., (2009). In vivo regeneration of rat sciatic nerve in a double-halved stitch-less guide: a pilot-study Microsurgery , 29, (4), 310-318

It is about 20 years that tubular nerve guides have been introduced into clinical practice as a reliable alternative to autograft, in gaps not-longer-than 20 mm, bringing the advantage of avoiding donor site sacrifice and morbidity. There are limitations in the application of tubular guides. First, tubular structure in itself makes surgical implantation difficult; second, stitch sutures required to secure the guide may represent a site of unfavorable fibroblastic reaction; third, maximum length and diameter of the guide correlate with the occurrence of a poorer central vascularization of regenerated nerve. We report on the in vivo testing of a new concept of nerve-guide (named NeuroBox) which is double-halved, not-degradable, rigid, and does not require any stitch to be held in place, employing acrylate glue instead. Five male Wistar rats had the new guide implanted in a 4-mm sciatic nerve defect; two guides incorporated a surface constituted of microtrenches aligned longitudinally. Further five rats had the 4-mm gap left without repair. Contralateral intact nerves were used as controls. After 2 months, nerve regeneration occurred in all animals treated by the NeuroBox; fine blood vessels were well represented. There was no regeneration in the un-treated animals. Even if the limited number of animals does not allow to draw definitive conclusions, some result can be highlighted: an easy surgical technique was associated with the box-shaped guide and acrylate glue was easily applied; an adequate intraneural vascularization was found concurrently with the regeneration of the nerve and no adverse fibroblastic proliferation was present.

Keywords: Peripheral-nerve, Polyglycolic acid, Guidance cues, Collagen tube, Median nerve, Repair, Growth, Cyanoacrylate, Complications, Anastomosis


Colomer-Farrarons, J., Miribel-Catala, P. L., Samitier, J., Arundell, M., Rodriguez, I., (2009). Design of a miniaturized electrochemical instrument for in-situ O/sub 2/ monitoring Sensors and Signal Conditioning VLSI Circuits and Systems IV , SPIE (Desdren, Germany) 7363, 73630A

The authors are working toward the design of a device for the detection of oxygen, following a discrete and an integrated instrumentation implementation. The discrete electronics are also used for preliminary analysis, to confirm the validity of the conception of system, and its set-up would be used in the characterization of the integrated device, waiting for the chip fabrication. This paper presents the design of a small and portable potentiostat integrated with electrodes, which is cheap and miniaturized, which can be applied for on-site measurements for the simultaneous detection of O/sub 2/ and temperature in water systems. As a first approach a discrete PCB has been designed based on commercial discrete electronics and specific oxygen sensors. Dissolved oxygen concentration (DO) is an important index of water quality and the ability to measure the oxygen concentration and temperature at different positions and depths would be an important attribute to environmental analysis. Especially, the objective is that the sensor and the electronics can be integrated in a single encapsulated device able to be submerged in environmental water systems and be able to make multiple measurements. For our proposed application a small and portable device is developed, where electronics and sensors are miniaturized and placed in close proximity to each other. This system would be based on the sensors and electronics, forming one module, and connected to a portable notebook to save and analyze the measurements on-line. The key electronics is defined by the potentiostat amplifier, used to fix the voltage between the working (WE) and reference (RE) electrodes following an input voltage (Vin). Vin is a triangular signal, programmed by a LabView/sup c / interface, which is also used to represent the CV transfers. To obtain a smaller and compact solution the potentiostat amplifier has also been integrated defining a full custom ASIC amplifier, which is in progress, looking for a point-of-care device. These circuits have been designed with a 0.13 mu m technology from ST Microelectronics through the CMP-TIMA service.

Keywords: Amplifiers, Application specific integrated circuits, Chemical sensors, Electrodes, Portable instruments, Temperature measurement, Water sources


Montoliu, I., Pomareda, V., Kalms, A., Pardo, A., Gobel, J., Kessler, M., Muller, G., Marco, S., (2009). Resolution of ion mobility spectra for the detection of hazardous substances in real sampling conditions Olfaction and Electronic Nose: Proceedings of the 13th International Symposium on Olfaction and Electronic Nose 13th International Symposium on Olfaction and the Electronic Nose (ed. Pardo, M., Sberveglieri, G.), Amer Inst Physics (Brescia, Italy) 1137, 576-578

This work presents the possibilities offered by a blind source separation method such Multivariate Curve Resolution- Alternating Least Squares (MCR-ALS) in the analysis of Ion Mobility Spectra (IMS). Two security applications are analyzed in this context: the detection of TNT both in synthetic and real samples. Results obtained show the possibilities offered by the direct analysis of the drift time spectra when an appropriate resolution method is used.

Keywords: Ion Mobility Spectrometry, Multivariate Curve Resolution, Security, LIMS, MCR-ALS


Guaus, E., Torrent-Burgues, J., Zine, N., Errachid, A., (2009). Glassy carbon electrode modified with a langmuir-blodgett film of a thiomacrocyclic ionophore for Cu(II) recognition Sensor Letters 6th Maghreb-Europe Meeting on Materials and Their Applications for Devices and Physical, Chemical and Biological Sensors , AMER SCIENTIFIC PUBLISHERS (Rabat, Morocco) 7, (5), 1006-1011

Nanometric films of a thiomacrocyclic ionophore, 4-phenyl-4-sulfide-11(1- oxodecyl)-1,7-dithia-11-aza-4-phosphacyclotetradecane (ThM), have been deposited on the surface of a Glassy Carbon Electrode (GCE) by the Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) technique. The films have been characterised by using AFM. The influence of these modified electrodes (GCE-ThM) on the reduction of Cu(II) ions has been investigated by using Cyclic Voltammetry (CV) and Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS), and its sensor response has been checked. The CV and EIS responses of LB films on GCE indicate that these ThM films are sensitive to Cu(II) ions. The analysis by EIS of the interference of some other cations, as Mg(II) and Co(II), shows that LB films of ThM can be used for specific Cu(II) sensing applications.

Keywords: Cu(II) sensor, Cyclic voltammetry, Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, Langmuir-blodgett films


Planell, J. A., Navarro, M., (2009). Challenges in bone repair Bone repair biomaterials (ed. Planell, J. A., Lacroix, D., Best, S., Merolli, A.), Woodhead (Cambridge, UK) , 3-24

A fundamental aspect of the rapidly expanding medical care sector, bone repair continues to benefit from emerging technological developments. This text provides researchers and students with a comprehensive review of the materials science and engineering principles behind these developments. The first part reviews the fundamentals of bone repair and regeneration. Further chapters discuss the science and properties of biomaterials used in bone repair, including both metals and biocomposites. Final chapters analyze device considerations such as implant lifetime and failure, and discuss potential applications, as well as the ethical issues that continually confront researchers and clinicians.

Keywords: Social impact of musculoskeletal disease, Economic burden of musculoskeletal disease, Social aspects of dental and maxillofacial conditions, Some clinical challenges of bone repair, Conclusions and future trends, Sources of further information and advice


Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., (2009). Polymers for bone repair Bone repair biomaterials (ed. Planell, J. A., Lacroix, D., Best, S., Merolli, A.), Woodhead (Cambridge, UK) , 3-24

A fundamental aspect of the rapidly expanding medical care sector, bone repair continues to benefit from emerging technological developments. This text provides researchers and students with a comprehensive review of the materials science and engineering principles behind these developments. The first part reviews the fundamentals of bone repair and regeneration. Further chapters discuss the science and properties of biomaterials used in bone repair, including both metals and biocomposites. Final chapters analyze device considerations such as implant lifetime and failure, and discuss potential applications, as well as the ethical issues that continually confront researchers and clinicians.

Keywords: Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), Acrylic polymers as bone cement, Biodegradable polymers


Morales, R., Riss, M., Wang, L., Gavin, R., Del Rio, J. A., Alcubilla, R., Claverol-Tinture, E., (2008). Integrating multi-unit electrophysiology and plastic culture dishes for network neuroscience Lab on a Chip 8, (11), 1896-1905

The electrophysiological characterisation of cultured neurons is of paramount importance for drug discovery, safety pharmacology and basic research in the neurosciences. Technologies offering low cost, low technical complexity and potential for scalability towards high-throughput electrophysiology on in vitro neurons would be advantageous, in particular for screening purposes. Here we describe a plastic culture substrate supporting low-complexity multi-unit loose-patch recording and stimulation of developing networks while retaining manufacturability compatible with low-cost and large-scale production. Our hybrid polydimethylsilane (PDMS)-on-polystyrene structures include chambers (6 mm in diameter) and microchannels (25 mu m x 3.7 mu m 1 mm) serving as substrate-embedded recording pipettes. Somas are plated and retained in the chambers due to geometrical constraints and their processes grow along the microchannels, effectively establishing a loose-patch configuration without human intervention. We demonstrate that off-the-shelf voltage-clamp, current-clamp and extracellular amplifiers can be used to record and stimulate multi-unit activity with the aid of our dishes. Spikes up to 50 pA in voltage-clamp and 300 mu V in current-clamp modes are recorded in sparse and bursting activity patterns characteristic of 1 week-old hippocampal cultures. Moreover, spike sorting employing principal component analysis (PCA) confirms that single microchannels support the recording of multiple neurons. Overall, this work suggests a strategy to endow conventional culture plasticware with added functionality to enable cost-efficient network electrophysiology.

Keywords: Electrophysiological characterisation, Cultured neurons, Polydimethylsilane (PDMS)-on-polystyrene structures


de Bakker, Barbel I., Bodnar, Andrea, van Dijk, Erik M. H. P., Vamosi, Gyorgy, Damjanovich, Sandor, Waldmann, Thomas A., van Hulst, Niek F., Jenei, Attila, Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2008). Nanometer-scale organization of the alpha subunits of the receptors for IL2 and IL15 in human T lymphoma cells Journal of Cell Science 121, (5), 627-633

Interleukin 2 and interleukin 15 (IL2 and IL15, respectively) provide quite distinct contributions to T-cell-mediated immunity, despite having similar receptor composition and signaling machinery. As most of the proposed mechanisms underlying this apparent paradox attribute key significance to the individual {alpha}-chains of IL2 and IL15 receptors, we investigated the spatial organization of the receptors IL2R{alpha} and IL15R{alpha} at the nanometer scale expressed on a human CD4+ leukemia T cell line using single-molecule-sensitive near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM). In agreement with previous findings, we here confirm clustering of IL2R{alpha} and IL15R{alpha} at the submicron scale. In addition to clustering, our single-molecule data reveal that a non-negligible percentage of the receptors are organized as monomers. Only a minor fraction of IL2R{alpha} molecules reside outside the clustered domains, whereas [~]30% of IL15R{alpha} molecules organize as monomers or small clusters, excluded from the main domain regions. Interestingly, we also found that the packing densities per unit area of both IL2R{alpha} and IL15R{alpha} domains remained constant, suggesting a `building block' type of assembly involving repeated structures and composition. Finally, dual-color NSOM demonstrated co-clustering of the two {alpha}-chains. Our results should aid understanding the action of the IL2R-IL15R system in T cell function and also might contribute to the more rationale design of IL2R- or IL15R-targeted immunotherapy agents for treating human leukemia.

Keywords: Near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM), Interleukin receptors IL2R, IL15R, Single-molecule detection, Nanometer-scale membrane organization


Engel, E., Del Valle, S., Aparicio, C., Altankov, G., Asin, L., Planell, J. A., Ginebra, M. P., (2008). Discerning the role of topography and ion exchange in cell response of bioactive tissue engineering scaffolds Tissue Engineering Part A , 14, (8), 1341-1351

Surface topography is known to have an influence on osteoblast activity. However, in the case of bioactive materials, topographical changes can affect also ion exchange properties. This makes the problem more complex, since it is often difficult to separate the strictly topographical effects from the effects of ionic fluctuations in the medium. The scope of this paper is to analyze the simultaneous effect of topography and topography-mediated ion exchange on the initial cellular behavior of osteoblastic-like cells cultured on bioactive tissue engineering substrates. Two apatitic substrates with identical chemical composition but different micro/nanostructural features were obtained by low-temperature setting of a calcium phosphate cement. MG63 osteoblastic-like cells were cultured either in direct contact with the substrates or with their extracts. A strong and permanent decrease of calcium concentration in the culture medium, dependent on substrate topography, was detected. A major effect of the substrate microstructure on cell proliferation was observed, explained in part by the topography-mediated ion exchange, but not specifically by the ionic Ca(2+) fluctuations. Cell differentiation was strongly enhanced when cells were cultured on the finer substrate. This effect was not explained by the chemical modification of the medium, but rather suggested a strictly topographical effect.

Keywords: Alkaline Phosphatase/metabolism, Bone Cements/pharmacology, Calcium/metabolism, Calcium Phosphates/pharmacology, Cell Adhesion/drug effects, Cell Differentiation/drug effects, Cell Proliferation/drug effects, Cell Shape/drug effects, Cells, Cultured, Culture Media, Durapatite/pharmacology, Humans, Interferometry, Ion Exchange, Materials Testing, Osteoblasts/ cytology/drug effects/enzymology/ultrastructure, Phosphorus/metabolism, Powders, Tissue Engineering, Tissue Scaffolds


Caballero-Briones, F., Palacios-Padros, A., Pena, J. L., Sanz, F., (2008). Phase tailored, potentiodynamically grown P-Cu2-xTe/Cu layers Electrochemistry Communications , 10, (11), 1684-1687

In this work we successfully prepared p-type semiconducting Cu2-xTe layers on Cu substrates by applying a potential multistep signal. Spontaneously deposited tellurium layers were reduced in a single cathodic sweep. The X-ray diffraction characterization showed the presence of single-phased, crystalline Cu2-xTe in the weissite form. A further anodization step allows crystallization of several phases such as CU1.75Te, Cu0.664Te0.336 and CU7Te4. This type of sample was found to be photoactive. The prepared films are p-type and have carrier concentrations in the order of 10(21) CM-3, suitable for CdTe-CU2-xTe contacts.

Keywords: Copper telluride, Electrochemical signal, XRD, Morphology, EIS, Photocurrent, Telluride thin-films, Solar cells, Deposition, Cu


Roca, Ignasi, Torrents, Eduard, Sahlin, Margareta, Gibert, Isidre, Sjoberg, Britt-Marie, (2008). NrdI essentiality for class Ib ribonucleotide reduction in streptococcus pyogenes Journal of Bacteriology , 190, (14), 4849-4858

The Streptococcus pyogenes genome harbors two clusters of class Ib ribonucleotide reductase genes, nrdHEF and nrdF*I*E*, and a second stand-alone nrdI gene, designated nrdI2. We show that both clusters are expressed simultaneously as two independent operons. The NrdEF enzyme is functionally active in vitro, while the NrdE*F* enzyme is not. The NrdF* protein lacks three of the six highly conserved iron-liganding side chains and cannot form a dinuclear iron site or a tyrosyl radical. In vivo, on the other hand, both operons are functional in heterologous complementation in Escherichia coli. The nrdF*I*E* operon requires the presence of the nrdI* gene, and the nrdHEF operon gained activity upon cotranscription of the heterologous nrdI gene from Streptococcus pneumoniae, while neither nrdI* nor nrdI2 from S. pyogenes rendered it active. Our results highlight the essential role of the flavodoxin NrdI protein in vivo, and we suggest that it is needed to reduce met-NrdF, thereby enabling the spontaneous reformation of the tyrosyl radical. The NrdI* flavodoxin may play a more direct role in ribonucleotide reduction by the NrdF*I*E* system. We discuss the possibility that the nrdF*I*E* operon has been horizontally transferred to S. pyogenes from Mycoplasma spp.

Keywords: Group-a streptococcus, Bacillus-subtilis genes, Escherichia-coli, Corynebacterium-ammoniagenes, Mycobacterium-tuberculosis, Expression analysis, Genome sequence, Small-subunit, Salmonella-typhimurium, Iron center


Oncins, G., Torrent-Burgues, J., Sanz, F., (2008). Nanomechanical properties of arachidic acid Langmuir-Blodgett films Journal of Physical Chemistry C , 112, (6), 1967-1974

The nanomechanical properties of Langmuir-Blodgett monolayers of arachidic acid extracted at surface pressures of 1, 15, and 35 mN/m and deposited on mica were investigated by atomic force microscopy, force spectroscopy, and lateral force microscopy. It was experimentally demonstrated that the arachidic acid molecular orientation depends on the extraction pressure. According to this, tilting angles of 50, 34, and 22 degrees with respect to the surface perpendicular were detected and identified as conformations that maximize van der Waals interactions between the arachidic acid alkyl chains. The vertical force needed to puncture the monolayers with the AFM tip strongly depends on the molecular tilting angles attained at different monolayer extraction surface pressures, obtaining values that range from 13.07 +/- 3.24 nN for 50 degrees to 22.94 +/- 5.49 nN for 22 degrees tilting angles. The different molecular interactions involved in the monolayer cohesion are discussed and quantitatively related to the experimental monolayer breakthrough forces. The friction measurements performed from low vertical forces up to monolayer disruption reveal the existence of three well-defined regimes: first, a low friction response due to the elastic deformation of the monolayer, which is followed by a sharp increase in the friction force due to the onset of a sudden plastic deformation. The last regime corresponds to the monolayer rupture and the contact between tip and substrate. The friction coefficient of the substrate is seen to depend on the monolayer extraction pressure, a fact that is discussed in terms of the relationship between the sample compactness and its rupture mechanism.

Keywords: AFM, SAM, Reflection-absortion spectroscopy, Lipid-bilayers, Frictional-properies, Molecular-structure, Thermal behavior, Nanometer-scale, Chain-length, LB films


Navarro, M., Engel, E., Planell, J. A., Amaral, I., Barbosa, M., Ginebra, M. P., (2008). Surface characterization and cell response of a PLA/CaP glass biodegradable composite material Journal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A , 85A, (2), 477-486

Bioabsorbable materials are of great interest for bone regeneration applications, since they are able to degrade gradually as new tissue is formed. In this work, a fully biodegradable composite material containing polylactic acid (PLA) and calcium phosphate (CaP) soluble glass particles has been characterized in terms of surface properties and cell response. Cell cultures were performed in direct contact with the materials and also with their extracts, and were evaluated using the MTT assay, alkaline phosphatase activity, and osteocalcin measurements. The CaP glass and PLA were used as reference materials. No significant differences were observed in cell proliferation with the extracts containing the degradation by-products of the three materials studied. A relation between the materials wettability and the material-cell interactions at the initial stages of contact was observed. The most hydrophilic material (CaP glass) presented the highest cell adhesion values as well as an earlier differentiation, followed by the PLA/glass material. The incorporation of glass particles into the PLA matrix increased surface roughness. SEM images showed that the heterogeneity of the composite material induced morphological changes in the cells cytoskeleton.

Keywords: Glass, Polylactic acid, Surface analysis, Cell culture, In vitro test


Maneva-Radicheva, L., Ebert, U., Dimoudis, N., Altankov, G., (2008). Fibroblast remodeling of adsorbed collagen type IV is altered in contact with cancer cells Histology and Histopathology , 23, (7), 833-842

A series of co-culture experiments between fibroblasts and H-460 human lung carcinoma cells were performed to learn more about the fate of adsorbed type IV collagen (Coll IV). Fibroblasts were able to spatially rearrange Coll IV in a specific linear pattern, similar but not identical to the fibronectin (FN) fibrils. Coll IV partly co-aligns with fibroblast actin cytoskeleton and transiently co-localize with FN, as well as with beta 1 and a 2 integrin clusters, suggesting a cell-dependent process. We further found that this Coll IV reorganization is suppressed in contact with H460 cells. Zymography revealed strongly elevated MMP-2 activity in supernatants of co-cultures, but no activity when fibroblasts or cancer cells were cultured alone. Thus, we provide evidence that reorganization of substrate associated Coll IV is a useful morphological approach for in vitro studies on matrix remodeling activity during tumorigenesis.

Keywords: Adsorbed collagen IV reorganization, Fibroblasts and cancer cells co-culture, MMP-2


Martinez, E., Engel, E., Lopez-Iglesias, C., Mills, C. A., Planell, J. A., Samitier, J., (2008). Focused ion beam/scanning electron microscopy characterization of cell behavior on polymer micro-/nanopatterned substrates: A study of cell-substrate interactions Micron , 39, (2), 111-116

Topographic micro and nanostructures can play an interesting role in cell behaviour when cells are cultured on these kinds of patterned substrates. It is especially relevant to investigate the influence of the nanometric dimensions topographic features on cell morphology, proliferation, migration and differentiation. To this end, some of the most recent fabrication technologies, developed for the microelectronics industry, can be used to produce well-defined micro and nanopatterns on biocompatible polymer substrates. In this work, osteoblast-like cells are grown on poly(methyl methacrylate) substrates patterned by nanoimprint lithography techniques. Examination of the cell-substrate interface can reveal important details about the cell morphology and the distribution of the focal contacts on the substrate surface. For this purpose, a combination of focused ion beam milling and scanning electron microscopy techniques has been used to image the cell-substrate interface. This technique, if applied to samples prepared by freeze-drying methods, allows high-resolution imaging of cross-sections through the cell and the substrate, where the interactions between the nanopatterned substrate, the cell and the extracellular matrix, which are normally hidden by the bulk of the cell, can be studied.

Keywords: Electron microscopy, Interface, Nanotopography, Osteoblast, Adhesion molecule, Cell morphology


Hernando, Jordi, Hoogenboom, Jacob, van Dijk, Erik, Garcia-Parajo, Maria, van Hulst, Niek F., (2008). Ultrafast single-molecule photonics: Excited state dynamics in coherently coupled complexes Journal of Luminescence 16th International Conference on Dynamical Processes in Excited States of Solids (ed. -----), Elsevier Science BV (Segovia, Spain) 128, (5-6), 1050-1052

We present a single-molecule study on femtosecond dynamics in multichromophoric systems, combining fs pump-probe, emission-spectra and fluorescence-lifetime analysis. The ultrafast fs approach gives direct information on the initial exciton dynamics after excitation. The lifetime data show superradiance, a direct measure for the extent of the coherent coupling and static disorder. The spectra finally reveal the role of exciton-phonon coupling. At the single-molecule level a wide range of exciton delocalization lengths and energy redistribution times is revealed.

Keywords: Single-molecule detection, Pump-probe, Exciton delocalization, Superradiance, Exciton-phonon coupling


De Bakker, B. I., De Lange, F., Cambi, A., Korterik, J. P., Van Dijk, E. M. H. P., Van Hulst, N. F., Figdor, C. G., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., (2007). Nanoscale organization of the pathogen receptor DC-SIGN mapped by single-molecule high-resolution fluorescence microscopy ChemPhysChem , 8, (10), 1473-1480

DC-SIGN, a C-type lectin exclusively expressed on dendritic cells (DCs), plays an important role in pathogen recognition by binding with high affinity to a large variety of microorganisms. Recent experimental evidence points to a direct relation between the function of DC-SIGN as a viral receptor and its spatial arrangement on the plasma membrane. We have investigated the nanoscale organization of fluorescently labeled DC-SIGN on intact isolated DCs by means of near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM) combined with single-molecule detection. Fluorescence spots of different intensity and size have been directly visualized by optical means with a spatial resolution of less than 100 nm. Intensity- and size-distribution histograms of the DC-SIGN fluorescent spots confirm that approximately 80% of the receptors are organized in nanosized domains randomly distributed on the cell membrane. Intensity-size correlation analysis revealed remarkable heterogeneity in the molecular packing density of the domains. Furthermore, we have mapped the intermolecular organization within a dense cluster by means of sequential NSOM imaging combined with discrete single-molecule photobleaching. In this way we have determined the spatial coordinates of 13 different individual dyes, with a localization accuracy of 6 nm. Our experimental observations are all consistent with an arrangement of DC-SIGN designed to maximize its chances of binding to a wide range of microorganisms. Our data also illustrate the potential of NSOM as an ultrasensitive, high-resolution technique to probe nanometer-scale organization of molecules on the cell membrane.

Keywords: High-resolution optical microscopy, Lectins, Membranes, Receptors, Single-molecule studies