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Nano-carrier to release drugs into damaged cells

Senescent cells are damaged cells that do not perform their normal roles anymore but that are not dead –hence they are commonly known as zombi cells. These cells interfere with the functioning of the tissue in which they accumulate. Senescence is a cell program that is triggered by many types of damage and senescent cells are present in many diseases. They accumulate in diverse types of tissues during aging, thus contributing to the progressive deterioration associated to aging. Eliminating these zombi cells is one of the challenges facing science today.

In the Cellular Plasticity and Disease lab headed by the ICREA researcher Manuel Serrano at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and supported by “la Caixa” Banking Foundation, the researchers devise strategies to eliminate senescent cells. In a study published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, they present a proof of principle of a drug delivery system with selectivity for tissues that harbour senescent cells.

In collaboration with a team headed by Ramón Martínez-Máñez, Scientific Diirector of NANBIOSIS Unit 26 NMR: Biomedical Applications II ,  the IRB Barcelona scientists have exploited a particular hallmark of senescent cells in order to design a delivery system that specifically targets them. They have demonstrated its efficacy in cells in vitro and in two experimental mouse models, namely pulmonary fibrosis and cancer. These diseases are characterized by the presence of damaged cells, and in the case of cancer this is particularly true after treatment with chemotherapy.

In these models, the senescent cells take up the carrier more efficiently than other cells and once inside the cell the casing of the carrier degrades to release the drug cargo. When the nano-vehicles contained cytotoxic compounds, the senescent cells were killed and this resulted in therapeutic improvements in mice with pulmonary fibrosis or with cancer.

“This nano-carrier may pave the way for new therapeutic approaches for serious conditions, such as pulmonary fibrosis or to eliminate chemotherapy-induced senescent cells,” explains Manuel Serrano. Another outcome of this study is that these nano-carriers could be used for diagnostic tests of senescence as they can transport a fluorescent compound or marker.

This study, performed by IRB Barcelona in collaboration with the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, CNIO, the University of Cambridge, CIBER-BBN, and the company Pfizer in the US, is a step towards achieving the capacity to eliminate senescent cells. Developing tools to specifically eliminate senescent cells is currently a central goal for many pharmaceutical companies, among them the one set up by Manuel Serrano himself together with Ramón Martínez-Máñez and José Ramón Murguia, Senolytic Therapeutics, which is located at the Barcelona Science Park and in Boston.

The study has been funded by “la Caixa” Banking Foundation, the Botín Foundation, the European Research Council, CRUK Cambridge Centre Early Detection Programme, the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness/ERDFs and the Catalan Governmen

Daniel Muñoz‐Espín, Miguel Rovira, Irene Galiana, Cristina Giménez, Beatriz Lozano‐Torres, Marta Paez‐Ribes, Susana Llanos, Selim Chaib, Maribel Muñoz‐Martín, Alvaro C Ucero, Guillermo Garaulet, Francisca Mulero, Stephen G Dann, Todd VanArsdale, David J Shields, Andrea Bernardos, José Ramón Murguía, Ramón Martínez‐Máñez, Manuel Serrano A versatile drug delivery system targeting senescent cells EMBO Molecular Medicine (2018) DOI 10.15252/emmm.201809355

Image: The figure shows two views, frontal and lateral, of the image obtained by CT of the lungs of a mouse with fibrosis (grey areas) before and after receiving nano-therapy directed at senescent cells. (Guillem Garaulet and Francisca Mulero, CNIO)

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Laura Lechuga in the fight against cancer

Dr. Laura Lechuga, Scientific Director of Unit 4 of NANBIOSIS is highlighted in Cinco Días. Elpais Economía  for its fight against cancer and, in particular, for the device developed with its team to detect the disease in matter of minutes

“Have you ever wondered why glucose meters are so smart that they just measure sugar? The answer is that they carry specific proteins that only interact with sugar, “explains the doctor.  The same idea lies in the device designed by Laura Lechuga and her research group “With a minimum sample of the patient, it is possible to detect the presence of different diseases depending on the protein located in the micro-receiver, in an economic and fast way”.

Due to these characteristics, this developed technology, has great potential for greatly improving health in underdeveloped countries, as well as in other fields like measure the presence of pollutants or toxic agents in the environment.

In the news published by Cinco Días. Elpais Economía other scientists in the fight against cancer are interviewed, as Angel Raya (from CIBER-BBN) about the regenerative medicine.

More information here

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A photonic endoscope to improve the colon cancer diagnosis

Last 18th and 19th January, the Jesús Usón Minimally Invasive Surgery Centre attended the kick of meeting of the European project “Multimodal highly-sensitive PhotonICs endoscope for improved in-vivo COLOn Cancer diagnosis and clinical decision support” (PICCOLO, the English abbreviation), held in Bilbao.

This project proposes a new compact, hybrid and multimodal photonics endoscope based on Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and Multi-Photon Tomography (MPT) combined with fluorescence technology.
Colorectal cancer represents around one tenth of all cancers worldwide. Early and accurate diagnosis and precise intervention can increase cure rate up to 90%.

The multidisciplinary team, composed by Tecnalia Foundation, the project coordinator, and other eight European partnerscoming from Italy, UK, Ireland, Germanyand Spain, joins to work together in this ambitious project, financed by the UE Horizon2020 Programme. PICCOLO is focused to develop an innovative endoscope that will provide gastroenterologists immediate and detailed in situ identification of colorectal neoplastic lesions and facilitate accurate and reliable diagnostics.

The consortium comprises the whole value chain including pre-clinical and clinical partners, technology providers, photonics SMEs and endoscopy market Leader Company.

Nanbiosis - multidisciplinary team PICCOLO is focused to develop an innovative endoscope

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation Programmeunder Grant Agreement No. 732111.

This information reflects only the institution’s view, so the Agencies and the Commission are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

Nanbiosis - A photonic endoscope to improve the colon cancer diagnosis
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