The scouts finally arrived

A few months ago we made a press release on the recent work of Prof. Pere Cusachs: a beautiful research where they study how the cell interacts with its environment.

We help them made a beautiful image for them, picturing a cell exploring its surroundings. That image got particularly popular, making it to PhD manuscript covers and even t-shirts.

Finally, a different version of the picture made it to the cover of a biology journal: Trends in Cell Biology

NanoCosmos: the beginning

About 4 years ago Prof. Jose Ángel Martín Gago approached me to talk me about the NANOCOSMOS project. As they explain in their website, “NANOCOSMOS will take advantage of the new observational capabilities (increased angular resolution) of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to unveil the physical and chemical conditions in the dust formation zone of evolved stars”.  Simply put, they are studying the debris stars create and the role this dust plays in the life/death recycling story of the universe.

This is a huge ERC funded project directed by Prof. José Cernicharo which has put together research groups from Spain and France.

And this is where Natalia Ruiz Zelmanovitch (Public Information Officer of the project) appears. She happens to be the most-committed-with-outreach-and-dissemination-of-science I’ve ever met. And she wants to tell the story of the NANOCOSMOS project. And she wants to tell it right.

She is behind the production of “NANOCOSMOS: un viaje a lo pequeño.” Here you can watch the trailer:

Scixel has been in charge of the 3D visualizations of the space: stars, nebulae, galaxies and planetary systems. We have been working with the Nanocosmos people for a few years now and I can tell you, if I know Natalia enough, this is just the beginning. So, stay tunned!

Splitting Miss Young

We participate in outreach projects every time we can. And this is one of those. Nanokomik is a comic contest organized by the research centers CIC nanoGUNE and the Donostia International Phyisics Center (DIPC). Last year’s challenge was to create a graphic story about a female or male comic superhero with “nanopowers”, that is, sophisticated skills or powers acquired through nanoscience and nanotechnology.

 

We created Miss Young, a superhero with the ability of been everywhere at the same time when nobody is observing her.

We didn’t win the contest but it certainly was a great experience to make our first comic in a traditional way.

Packing DNA

Eukariotic cells face a hard to picture space problem: to pack a 2 meter long molecule into a 6 microns in diameter sphere. Not only that, the cell must be able to pack and unpack this DNA locally in order to perform its functions.

A protein called Condensin has been long known to be related to the DNA packing process, but until last year, the way this protein worked was still a mystery. Prof. Cees Dekker has directed the research that has unveiled this secret. For us, non biologist it is hard to understand how important this is and its repercussion, but the fact that it has been published in Science gives us a hint. This work is a collaboration between TuDelft (Netherlands) and EMBL (Germany).

Thanks to this research we know now how Condensin traps the DNA and uses its ring to drag the DNA forming a loop. Together with the people of TuDeflt we made this video explaining the motor function of this protein.

We are particularly proud of the music piece… hope its epicity expresses both the importance of the finding and the pride we’ve felt when they let us participate in the project.

Send the scouts!!!

Cells are able to perceive their surroundings by detecting forces. Interactions between cells and their ligands is essential to sustain the tissues functionalities, and detection of changes in the cell environment is of key importance to tissue growth, which includes embryogenesis or tumor proliferation. Cells are able to detect the position of molecules in their environment with nanometric precision and through forces, they are able to perceive their surroundings.

This work published in Nature has been directed by professor Pere Roca Cusachs (Universidad de Barcelona and Instituto de Bioingeniería de Cataluña).

 

To illustrate their research, we designed this picture with the help of Roger Oria.

Packing with hydrogels

Do you need to structure your macromolecules in your water solution? Now it is possible. By forming the low-molecular-weight hydrogel throughout all phases of all-aqueous emulsions, distinct, micro-compartmentalized materials were created. This structuring approach offers control over the composition of each type of the compartments by directing the partitioning of objects to be encapsulated.

We created this cover for Department of Chemical Engineering at TU Delft, with the help of Serhii Mytnyk.

Targeted Delivery

The delivery of therapeutics through the skin (topical administration) has an important advantage: it allows a targeted delivery. The problem is that only light lipophilic molecules can easily cross the outermost layer of the epidermis. This happens to be amazingly difficult for proteins: one of the reasons being their exterior is usually pretty hydrophilic.

Prof. Marcelo Calderón and co-workers (Freie Universität Berlin and University of Potsdam) have presented a method which solves this problem using nanocarrier systems. They’ve synthesized thermoresponsive nanogels which they’ve used to encapsulate the anti-TNFα fusion protein etanercept. This happens to be a pretty big protein used for the treatment of psoriasis and arthritis. Importantly, the encapsulation process, does not change its structure. Now, the protein, encapsulated in the nanogel, crosses the barrier effectively delivering the treatment.

They’ve reported their findings in Threranostics and their research made it to its cover.

We designed the picture under the close supervision of Prof. Sarah Hedtrich and Prof. Marcelo Calderón.

CNB at its best!

The CNB (Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, Spain) has made a collection of short videos to explain some of their research: from plants that decontaminate our environment to cancer inmunotherapies. They’ll be publishing them weekly. Here you have some examples:

The films where beautifully directed by Filmociencia. We helped them with the infography.

Amino acids in your fingerprints!

Fingermark evidence has been, and still is, extensively used in criminal investigations. But it is not about its shape and marks anymore. Chemistry and biology joined the game. At Prof. Marcel de Puit lab (Netherlands Forensic Institute), they are studying amino acid profiles obtained from fingerprints. They have come up with a method for the separation and quantification of amino acids from fingerprint.

With the help of Ward van Helmond, first author of the article, we designed this image, that made it to the cover of Analytical Methods.

Excitons in Graphene

Today, in “is there something graphene is not capable of“, excitons in graphene. The team lead by professor Paul McEuen (at Cornell University) is studying the optical properties of single-atom-thick layers of graphene. And they have just reported the observation of excitons in a graphene bylayer. These electrically neutral quasiparticles, make graphene of possible interest in the development of optoelectronic devices.

Closely directed by Long Ju, co-lead author of the paper, we made this image to illustrate this finding.