pH‐dependent switches

We’ve had the fortune to work for researchers that study the drug delivery process. Ana Pizarro at IMDEA Nanociencia is focusing her efforts in the understanding of how and when to activate this drugs. In an article written for Chemistry A European Journal in 2017 she showed how to control in‐tumor drug activation via pH.

Innactive Ruthenium(II) arene complexes are innocuous and unable to interact with their molecular target. However, at a certain proton concentration this molecules are activated making it possible for them to bind to DNA.

Tumors happen to have a different pH than their environment making this complexes a possible option as drug switches.

I inexcusably forgot this work, considering the importance I give to medical related researchs. Her work was featured in the cover of the journal.


Self-defending implants

The manufacturing of bone implants involves a great deal of problems which are still to be solved. One of the most important challenges are implant-associated infections which make the development of implants with intrinsic antibacterial properties a pressing issue. This is precisely what they are trying to achieve at the Department of Biomechanical Engineering (TU Delft).

They’ve just studied the effect of both Ag and copper nanoparticles on TiO2 surfaces and its effectiveness as antibacterial and osteoconductive biomaterials. In fact they’ve observed that these materials “have a strong antibacterial behavior against both planktonic and adherent bacteria in vitro conditions.”

These results have been published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B and have been featured on the cover. We designed the picture under the supervision of Ingmar A. J. van Hengel, first author of the paper. 

Influenza: the secret of its success

We, as human’s, are pretty familiar with the influenza A virus, so it is confusing to know how much there is still to learn about it. And researchers from CSIC have just reduced our ignorance about it a little bit more. Together with researchers from Stockholm University, CNRS, and Institut Pasteur, and using cryoelectron microscopy, they’ve  unveiled the transcription mechanism of this virus. This is important, among other reasons, to understand why this virus is so successful. And its been published in Nature Microbiology.

The molecules responsible for transcription are the ribonucleoproteins (RNPs). This RNPs which are extremely flexible, adopt a double helical conformation. In this configuration, the RNA, attached to the RNPs, slides in a sort of worm drive fashion. This process can be seen in the video we made for them as supplementary information for their paper. As put by the researchers, “the flexibility of the viral RNPs is key and explains how the virus is able to create a big amount of proteins from a limited number of genes”.

We also attempted the cover of Nature with this picture.

I’ve never whined about not getting a cover, but there is always a first. I’ve had the privilege to follow this research for about two years, thanks to Jaime Martín-Benito, so I can’t but feel it as something personal. The discovery is amazingly important and the picture is really beautiful (idea of Jaime Martín-Benito, corresponding author of the paper). And it deserves to be shown! So here it is for your enjoyment.

Red light

A new small molecule, a hexabenzoovalene derivative, also called nanographene due to its similarities with the ubiquitous molecule, has been discovered to be a stable, bright, and efficient red emitter. This molecule has a highly distorted structure. This avoids aggregation, an important enemy of efficiency, thus leading to the possibility of fabricating highly emissive thin films. At the same time, it is electrochemically stable resulting in extrapolated high stabilities (~13.000 hours).

This work is the product of a collaboration between IMDEA Materials, IMDEA Nanociencia, both in Madrid and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg.

This findings have been published in Nanoscale Horizons and this picture, designed under the supervision of Elisa Fresta (IMDEA Materials), first author of the paper, has been awarded with the cover of the journal.


Listen to your heart!

Topological insulators (TIs) are way beyond my understanding but at the same time I cant help but appreciate its beauty. TIs are usually associated with photonics but are showing to be useful also in the fields of acoustics and mechanics. Dr. Johan Christensen in a collaborative research between Spain and China (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and Nanjing University) has “experimentally explored topologically robust corner states across three different frequency bands,  measured sound intensity concentration in the long wavelength regime comprising highly confined corner states of diameter 50 times smaller than the sound wavelength”.

As a proof of concept, they’ve designed a physical pattern that produces an intensity sound pattern in a beautiful heart shape: art and science at its best! Their research has been published in Advanced Materials. The hallmark and key manifestation of topological states is the robustness against defects. In this context, the authors additionally demonstrate that the proposed deep‐subwavelength TI displays remarkable resilience against bulk disorder over the said frequency area, making this concept remarkably robust for real world applications.

Drug Transport in 3D Tumor Model

We’ve already work for Prof. Calderon and his group in the past. They seem the kind of people that work directly to enlarge our life expectancy. Their main research is focused in the delivery of drugs through physiological barriers. They’ve made an important advance recently by studying how nanogels can help in the transport of drugs inside tumor tissue.

Their research, reported in Theranostics, has been awarded with the cover of the journal.

On Wireless BioSensors!

The last paper of T. Ruzgas, J. Sotres etal at Malmö University (Sweden) starts with a disturbing statement: “It is predicted that with the development of Internet of Things technology by 2025 we expect more than 1000 connected devices per human”. With this idea in mind they are studying how to develop robust and cheap biosensors that will provide us with health information. And for that they are exploiting the ability of enzymes to “establish direct electron transfer contact with electrically conducting materials”.


This research, that made it to the cover of ChemElectroChem, is getting us closer to a cyborg-like healthier future.

DIPC 2018 Activity Report

One of our pictures was recently used to illustrate DIPC’s 2018 activity report. Lots of great friends there doing amazing research work!

On frogs, tadpoles and better batteries

My vast ignorance of chemistry doesn’t allow me to talk about this article, so here I leave you the abstract:

“Trapping negative charges in polymer electrolytes using a frog‐shaped, ether‐functionalized anion (EFA) is presented by H. Zhang, J. Carrasco, M. Armand, and co‐workers in their Communication on page 12070 ff. The bis(trifluoromethanesulfonyl)imide anion (TFSI), shown as a slippery tadpole, is highly mobile in poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO) matrix. In contrast, the ethylene oxide legs in EFA endow trapping interactions between the anion and PEO, which suppresses mobility”. [read more]

I did this picture on request and under close supervision of Dr. Heng Zang and Dr. Javier Carrasco (CIC Energigune, Spain). It deserved the inside cover of Angewandte Chemie (two in a row!).


Nature already did it!

Protein based electronics. I’ll say it again. Protein based electronics. Dr. Linda Zotty and Prof. Carlos Cuevas (IFIMAC, Spain) are working in something that stills looks like science fiction to me: protein-bioelectronics.

In particular they are studying how to turn a redox protein (Cytochrome C) into a viable switch. These proteins belong to a family of redox-active proteins that act as electron carriers in biological energy conversion systems (as in those involved in cellular respiration). Together with groups from the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel) and Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic chemistry (Russia), they’ve theoretically shown how a Gold-Cytochrome-Gold structure can work as a voltage controlled switch.

Their research has been published in Angewandte Chemie and has been presented in the inside back cover.