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News U1

News U1

The Autonomous University of Barcelona, in the elite of the 300 best universities in the world

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), known as Shanghai Ranking, which was made public on August 15, places the Autonomous University of Barcelona among the elite of the 300 best universities in the world and the first of the Spanish universities.

This indicator organizes up to 20,000 university centers worldwide,
based on transparent methodology and objective third-party data. ARWU is regarded as one of the three most influential and widely observed university rankings

The Autonomous University of Barcelona houses two of NANBIOSIS Units:

U1 Protein Production Platform (PPP), led by Toni Villaverde, Neus Ferrer and Paolo Saccardo, offer an “tailored” service for the design, production and purification of recombinant proteins using both prokaryotic and eukaryotic expression systems

U25 NMR: Biomedical Applications I, led by Carles Arús and Ana Paula Candiota, with a recognized research track record in the use of NMR as a tool for biomedical applications, and more especifically to identify biomarkers of different pathologies, the main objective of this unit is the acquisition, processing and/or interpretation of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance data

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A new nanoconjugate blocks acute myeloid leukemia tumor cells without harming healthy ones

Researchers from NANBIOSIS U18 Nanotoxicology Unit at the Institut d’Investigació Biomèdica de Sant Pau (IIB Sant Pau) and NANBIOSIS U1 Protein Production Platform (PPP) at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) toghether with researchers of Institut de Recerca contra la Leucèmia Josep Carreras (IJC) have demonstrated the efficacy of a new nanoconjugate, designed in house, that blocks dissemination of leukemic cells in animal models of acute myeloid leukemia. These results have been published in a high impact scientific journal in the field of oncology and hematology, Journal of Hematology and Oncology. Most of the experimental work has been performed in the nanotoxicology and protein production ICTS “NANBIOSIS” platforms from CIBER-BBN.

NANBIOSIS U1 PPP has advised and helped the researchers in the production of recombinant proteins, which has allowed to successfully explore the capacity of proteins from the human microbiome, that is, from bacteria and their bacteriogages, to generate, through genetic engineering, biocompatible nanomaterials and Non-immunogenic for potential use in human clinics, such as vehicles for drug delivery or regenerative medicine.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a heterogeneous disease which usual treatment is very aggressive and produces severe side effects to the patients. In order to reduce these adverse effects, the researchers have developed a nanomedicine that is specifically targeted to the tumor cells without damaging normal cells. This new protein nanoparticle is bound to a toxin, named Auristatin, which is between 10 and 100 times more potent than the drugs typically used in the clinic. In particular, this nanoconjugate is targeted only to the cells that express in their membrane a receptor called CXCR4, which is overexpressed in leukemic cells. Thus, this nanoparticle can only enter and deliver the toxin into the cells that express this receptor. It should be noted that CXCR4 is overexpressed in a large proportion of leukemic cells in patients with poor prognostic or refractory disease, so it could have a major clinical impact on these AML patients.

The researcher team led by Ramon Mangues, from IIB Sant Pau, Antonio Villaverde and Esther Vázquez, from UAB, all members of CIBER-BBN, has demonstrated that the nanoconjugate is able to internalize in the leukemic cells through the CXCR4 receptor and kill them. In addition, they have demonstrated the capacity of this nanoparticle to block dissemination of leukemic cells in a mouse model producing without any kind of associated toxicity or adverse effects. Thanks to its targeting to leukemic cells it could help AML patients that cannot be treated with current drugs because of their high toxicity, such as this experienced by elderly patients or patients with other non-favorable characteristics that exclude conventional treatment. Furthermore, the novel nanoparticle could be used to treat patients that have developed resistance to drugs or those that have experienced relapse, since their leukemic cells would likely have high expression of the CXCR4 receptor. Hence, there is a wide range of patients that could benefit of this new treatment, which could have  a major clinical impact if its effectiveness was confirmed in further clinical trials.

It is worth pointing out that the CXCR4 receptor is overexpressed in more than 20 different cancer types, which expression associates with poor prognosis. Therefore, this nanodrug could be evaluated in the near future as a possible treatment in other tumor types of high prevalence.

The intellectual property of this nanomedicine has been licensed to the SME biotech Nanoligent, which aim is continuing the so far successful access to public and private funds to complete the preclinical development to enter clinical trials in acute myeloid leukemia, before being tested in other cancer types.

Article of reference:

An Auristatin Nanoconjugate Targeting CXCR4+ Leukemic Cells Blocks Acute Myeloid Leukemia Dissemination. Victor Pallarès, Ugutz Unzueta, Aïda Falgàs, Laura Sánchez-García, Naroa Serna, Alberto Gallardo, Gordon A Morris, Lorena Alba-Castellón, Patricia Álamo, Jorge Sierra, Antonio Villaverde, Esther Vázquez, Isolda Casanova, Ramon Mangues. DOI: 10.1186/s13045-020-00863-9

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NANBIOSIS researchers featured in the 15th Edition of Spanish Researchers Ranking

The 15th edition of the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities has been published, ranking researchers in Spain as well as Spaniards doing research abroad. A total of 11 Directors of NANBIOSIS units appear on the most recent list, featured on the top 2000. The list is ordered by the h-index, a metric that calculates research impact based on a correlation of papers published and number of citations, and then by number of citations. The result is a list of whose’s publications have had more impact online.

NANBIOSIS researchers featured are Fernando Albericio (#207), scientific director of U3 Synthesis of Peptides Unit, Ramón Martínez Máñez (#342) U26 NMR: Biomedical Applications II, Jaume Veciana (#459) U6 Biomaterial Processing and Nanostructuring Unit, José Luis Pedraz (#906) U10 Drug Formulation unit, Jesús Santamaría (#912) U9 Synthesis of Nanoparticles Unit, Ramón Eritja (#1022) U29 Oligonucleotide Synthesis Platform (OSP), Pablo Laguna (#1153) U27 High Performance Computing, Antoni Villaverde (#1249) U1 Protein Production Platform (PPP), Laura Lechuga (#1511) U4 Biodeposition and Biodetection Unit M.Pilar Marco (#1517), U2 Custom Antibody Service (CAbS), and Josep Samitier (#1836) U7 Nanotechnology Unit.

This list reflects on the impact online publication can have as a tool to share knowledge. 

For further information: here

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A recombinant SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

NANBIOSIS Protein Production Platform (PPP) Unit 1 (of CIBER-BBN and Autonomous University of Barcelona) is involved in a micro-patronage project for the development of a vaccine for COVID 19.

NANBIOSIS Unit 1 is directly involved in the initial part of the Virus Like Particles and Proteins expression and purification project of SARS-COV-2

Most vaccines used today are based on either attenuated forms of the original pathogen, or are inactivated vaccines, in which the pathogen has undergone physical or chemical treatments to eliminate its infectivity. The project proposes to use a new vaccine strategy based on recombinant proteins in imitation of viruses (virus-like particles or VLPs). The same strategy with which, for example, papillomavirus and hepatitis B virus vaccines have been created.

VLPs contain recombinant structural proteins, obtained by the introduction and expression of a gene in cultured cells, that form nanostructures similar to viral particles but do not contain their genetic information and, therefore, are not infectious. These particles are capable of arousing a strong immune response as they form a three-dimensional structure where the virus epitopes are exposed, but they are very safe.


First, we will design the genes that encode the structural proteins of the virus. At this point, the different sequences of the virus genome deposited in public databases must be analyzed and compared in detail. In this way, we can select the most representative sequence. On the other hand, we will carry out some control tests to detect the different fragments of the proteins where the response of the immune system is concentrated, the so-called antigens.
These studies will be carried out using bioinformatics tools by the Computational Biology Group of dr. Xavier Daura from the UAB Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (IBB).

Production and purification
To carry out these productions, we need to use cultured cell lines in which we introduce the genes that encode the virus’s proteins and establish optimal obtaining conditions, without the need to use highly biological containment laboratories. Once produced, we will carry out a purification process and they can be validated.

This block will be carried out in parallel by the research group led by Dr. Francesc Godia from the Department of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, and Dr. Neus Ferrer from the Department of Genetics and Microbiology and member of the Nanobiotechnology Group led by Dr Antoni Villaverde, attached to the IBB and the CIBER-BBN. In addition, we will have the help of UAB research-scientific-technical services, such as the Microscopy Service (SM), and the Proteomics and Structural Biology Service (sePBioEs) and a unique scientific-technical infrastructure called NANBIOSIS.

Validation with patient serum and cell models
Once the proteins are purified, it is necessary to validate the vaccine formulations with patient serum. In other words, it must be demonstrated that the patient sera of the COVID-19 are linked to the vaccine proposals developed. This task will be coordinated by dr. Eduard José Cunilleras from the UAB Department of Animal Medicine and Surgery in collaboration with doctors from the Parc Taulí, Germans Trias, Vall d’Hebron and Santa Creu i Sant Pau hospitals, and the help of the scientific-technical service to support the research of the Crop, Antibody and Cytometry Service (SCAC) of the UAB.


Any product to be administered to humans must first go through a preclinical phase in animal models. All trials, when they reach this stage, must be approved by the Ethics Committee on Animal and Human Experimentation. The safety and efficacy of the vaccine are tested in these models.

During vaccination trials we will monitor the weight of the animals and their general condition. The presence of antibodies in the blood of vaccinated animals will be evaluated in cell cultures. The serum of the vaccinated animals will be incubated with the SAR-CoV-2 and we will proceed to the infection of cell cultures. If the antibodies are capable of reducing the infectivity of the virus, then we will move on to the final part of this stage, which will consist of infecting the vaccinated animals with the virus to see if they are protected from infection. A group of unvaccinated animals will also be infected and we will compare the results with another group of unvaccinated and uninfected animals. The vaccine should give similar results to the last group of animals.

Further information about the project and FAQs about donations: https://micromecenatge.uab.cat/vacunacoronavirus

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NANBIOSIS Scientists discover a promising effective alternative to reduse relapse rates in Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma Cells

Researchers of NANBIOSIS-ICTS Units from CIBER-BBN: U1 Protein Production Platform (PPP) at IBB-UAB, led by Antoni Villaverde and Unit 18 Nanotoxicology Unit at IBB-Hospital Sant Pau, led by Ramón Mangues, have demonstrated a potent T22-PE24-H6 antineoplastic effect, especially in blocking dissemination in a CXCR4+ DLBCL model without associated toxicity. Thereby, T22-PE24-H6 promises to become an effective alternative to treat CXCR4+ disseminated refractory or relapsed DLBCL patients.

Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is a cancer of B cells, a type of lymphocyte that is responsible for producing antibodies. It is the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma among adults, with an annual incidence of 7–8 cases per 100,000 people per year in the US and UK.

One of the major problems in the therapeutic strategies is the relapse rates. CXCR4-overexpressing cancer cells are good targets for therapy because of their association with dissemination and relapse in R-CHOP treated DLBCL patients but show a narrow therapeutic index due to their systemic toxicity wich generate the induction of severe side effects. NANBIOSIS researchers have developed a therapeutic nanostructured protein T22-PE24-H6 that incorporates exotoxin A from Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which selectively targets lymphoma cells because of its specific interaction with a highly overexpressed CXCR4 receptor (CXCR4+) in DLBCL, demonstrating a potent T22-PE24-H6 antineoplastic effect, without associated toxicity. Thereby, T22-PE24-H6 promises to become an effective alternative to treat CXCR4+ disseminated refractory or relapsed DLBCL patients

The bioluminescent follow-up of cancer cells and toxicity studies has been performed in the ICTS Nanbiosis Platform, using its CIBER-BBN Nanotoxicology Unit and Protein production has been performed by the ICTS “NANBIOSIS”, more specifically by the Protein Production Platform of CIBER-BBN/ IBB

Article of reference:

Falgàs A, Pallarès V, Serna N, Sánchez-García L, Sierra J, Gallardo A, Alba-Castellón L, Álamo P, Unzueta U, Villaverde A, Vázquez E, Mangues R, Casanova I. Selective delivery of T22-PE24-H6 to CXCR4+ diffuse large B-cell lymphoma cells leads to wide therapeutic index in a disseminated mouse modelTheranostics 2020; 10(12):5169-5180. doi:10.7150/thno.43231. Available from http://www.thno.org/v10p5169.htm

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Rare diseases Day February 29: combating Fabry Disease

29 of February is a ‘rare’ date and February, a month with a ‘rare’ number of days, has become a month to raise awareness about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives.  Since 2008 thousands of events happen every year all around the world and around the last day of February.

NanoMed Spain Platform and the Hospital of Sant Joan de Déu have organized the NanoRareDiseaseDay to present the latest innovations in the field of Nanomedicine for the treatment and diagnosis of rare diseases (diseases affecting less than 5 people per 10,000 inhabitants). Nora Ventosa, Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS U6 Biomaterial Processing and Nanostructuring Unit  (CIBER-BBN / ICMAB-CSIC) presented Smart4Fabry a European project with the aim of reducing the Fabry disease treatment cost and improve the life-quality of Fabry disease patients

Fabry disease is one of the rare diseases that currently lack a definitive cure. It is cause by lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs):  the deficiency of α-Galactosidase A (GLA) enzyme activity result in the cellular accumulation of neutral glycosphingolipids, leading to widespread vasculopathy with particular detriment to the kidneys, heart and central nervous system.

Smart-4-Fabry has been conceived to obtain a new nanoformulation of GLA, that will improve the efficacy and toleration compared to the actual treatment with non-formulated GLA. Four units of NANBIOSIS participate in the project:

U1 Protein Production Platform (PPP) led by Neus Ferrer and Antony Villaverde at IBB-UAB accomplish the production and purification in different expression systems for R&D purposes.

U3 Synthesis of Peptides Unit led by Miriam Royo at IQAC-CSIC performs all the chemical process of the Smart-4-Fabry  project, i.e. design and synthesis of peptides used as targeting ligands in the nanoliposome formulation

U6 Biomaterial Processing and Nanostructuring Unit led by Nora Ventosa and Jaume Veciana at ICMAB-CSIC undertakes tasks related to the manufacture of the nanoliposome formulation of GLA enzyme and the physico-chemical characterization (this unit counts with plants at different scales, from mL to L, which allow process development by QbD and process scale-up, as well as instrumental techniques for assessment of particle size distribution, particle concentration, particle morphology and stability, and Z-potential)

U20 In Vivo Experimental Platform led by Simó Schwartz and Ibane Abásolo at VHIR to carry out the non-GLP preclinical assays of the project (in vivo efficacy, biodistribution and tolerance/toxicity assays).

For further information about Fabry disease and the Smart4Fabry project: here

Nora Ventosa explaining the progress of the smart4fabry
project on nanoliposomes development for the treatment of Fabry disease
(Pictures by Nanomed Spain)
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A new smart drug that finds and kills metastasis cells could be applied in 23 types of cancer

Researchers of two CIBER-BBN Units of the ICTS NANBIOSIS  U18 Nanotoxicology Unit at Hospital Sant Pau. and U1, Protein Production Platform (PPP), at the  Institute of Biotechnology and biomedicine of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (IBBUAB), led by Prof Ramón Mangues, have developed a new drug that selectively removes metastatic stem cells, inducing a powerful metastasis prevention effect.

Besides the participation of the “NANBIOSIS” ICTS Units
U1 Protein Production Platform where Protein production was partially performed and U18 Nantoxicology Unit where Biodistribution studies were performed, all in vivo experiments were performed by the Unit 20 In Vivo Experimental Platform of CIBER in Bioengineering, Biomaterials & Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN)

The researchers have ceated inclusion bodies of amyloid and nanostructured fibers that, when administered subcutaneously in mice, release soluble cytotoxic nanoparticles continuously. These nanoparticles are carriers of the exotoxin of Pseudomonas aeruginosa that manages to maintain a stable concentration of this nanomedicine in the blood and tissues. Dr. Mangues explains that “this new pharmaceutical form of subcutaneous administration for sustained release allows high doses of this nanopharmaceutical to be administered, at prolonged intervals (weeks in mice and probably months in humans) without toxicity at the injection site or in normal tissues, while generating a powerful antimetastatic effect. Apart from being controlled-release systems, these nanoparticles incorporate a ligand that interacts with the receptor (CXCR4), present at high levels in the membrane of metastatic stem cells capable of generating metastases (CMM CXCR4 +). Once the new pharmaceutical form is administered subcutaneously in mice with metastatic colorectal cancer, this ligand directs each nanoparticle released by this structure to the tumor tissues, increasing their uptake, to specifically internalize in the CXCR4 + CMMs and induce their selective destruction. “This effect achieves a notable reduction in tumor size in the colon while blocking the development of lymph node, lung, liver and peritoneal metastases, without appreciable uptake or toxicity in non-tumor tissues” continous the researchers.

The researchers estimate that this new therapeutic strategy will have a high clinical impact by reducing the requirement of its hospital administration, which most antitumor drugs have, and blocking metastatic dissemination, responding to an unmet clinical need. On the other hand, this new pharmaceutical form, which combines sustained release with targeting to the CXCR4 receptor, could be used in the treatment of at least 23 types of cancer that also express high levels of this receptor in tumor cells.

The new therapy offers an answer to the urgent medical need to inhibit the development of metastases, which represents the leading cause of death in cancer patients. The selective destruction of tumor and metastatic cells increases the therapeutic index of nanomedicine, obtaining a potent antimetastatic effect without generating associated adverse effects, which differentiates it from most of the currently used antitumor drugs.

Article of reference

María Virtudes Céspedes, Olivia Cano‐Garrido, Patricia Álamo, Rita Sala, Alberto Gallardo, Naroa Serna, Aïda Falgàs, Eric Voltà‐Durán, Isolda Casanova, Alejandro Sánchez‐Chardi, Hèctor López‐Laguna, Laura Sánchez‐García, Julieta M. Sánchez, Ugutz Unzueta, Esther Vázquez, Ramón Mangues, Antonio Villaverde. Engineering Secretory Amyloids for Remote and Highly Selective Destruction of Metastatic Foci Adv.Mater.2019, 1907348


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NANBIOSIS research to fight cancer

Twenty years ago, the 4 February was declared World Cancer Day with the global challenge of cancer would not be forgotten. Since then, huge progress has been made to understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer.

NANBIOSIS as an ICTS (Singular Scientific and Technical infrastructures) for biomedical research plays a very important role in the fight against cancer. Some examples of the work carried out during the last year, are bellow:

Unit 20 of NANBIOSIS  at VHIR, works in several proyects reletaed to cancer as  H2020-NoCanTher: magnetic nanoparticles against pancreatic cancer through the use of hyperthermia combined with conventional treatment. H2020-Target-4-Cancer: nanotherapy based on polymeric micelles directed against specific receptors of tumor stem cells in colorectal cancer. H2020-DiamStar: nanodiamonds directed against leukemia for the potentiation of chemotherapy. FET-OPEN EvoNano: in silico and tumor-tumor models for the prediction of PK / PD and tumor efficacy of antitumor nanomedicines against tumor stem cells.

The activities of U1 of Protein Production Platform (PPP) are also strongly committed with several projects devoted to develop new, more selective and more efficient antitumoral drugs, with antimetastatic effects.
oordinated action between units U1 of Protein Production Platform (PPP),
U18 of Nanotoxicology and U29 of Nucleic Acid Synthesis, shows promising results in development of nanopharmaceuticals with a high degree of efficacy for the treatment of metastases in colon cancer

Unit 6 of NANBIOSIS Biomaterial Processing and Nanostructuring Unit  is also working on a joined initiative between CIBER-BBN and CIBER-ONC to improve the current ex vivo immune cell expansion systems to help introduce immunotherapies such as the adoptive cell therapies, which have shown complete remissions of terminal cancer patients, to the clinics overcoming the limitation of having enough therapeutic cells with novel Nanobiomaterials. Researchers of Unit 6 and researchers of Laboratory of Translational Research in Child and Adolescent Cancer from the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR), are working on a project financed by the Spanish Government and CIBER-BBN, for the development of a new nanomedicine for the treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma, one of the most frequent childhood cancers.

In our unit U26. NMR: Biomedical Applications II,  several studies for cancer biomarker discovery are being carried out. NMR studies on biofluids for the design of novel strategies for diagnosis support, easily transferable into the clinical practice, are being developed in biofluids in the context of cancer. Urine is one of the most easily obtainable biofluid and is a non-invasive source of biomarkers. Among these studies, we can mention the good discrimination achieved between urine from bladder cancer patients before surgery (cancer) and urine after surgery (free of cancer) and in the follow up of the disease, to monitor relapses

Some of the results of these researchs have been published in scientific magazines of high impact as for exemple;

Integrative Metabolomic and Transcriptomic Analysis for the Study of Bladder Cancer Alba Loras, Cristian Suárez-Cabrera, M. Carmen Martínez-Bisbal, Guillermo Quintás , Jesús M. Paramio, Ramón Martínez-Máñez,
Salvador Gil and José Luis Ruiz-Cerdá. Cancers 2019, 11, 686; doi:10.3390/cancers11050686

Nanostructured toxins for the selective destruction of drug-resistant human CXCR4+ colorectal cancer stem cells Naroa Serna, Patricia Álamo, Prashanthi Rameshef, Daria Vinokurovaef, LauraSánchez-García, Ugutz Unzueta, Alberto Gallardo, María  Virtudes Céspedes, Esther Vázquez, Antonio Villaverde, Ramón Mangues, Jan Paul Medema. . Journal of Controlled Release.  Volume 320, 96-104, 2020 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jconrel.2020.01.019

Controlling self-assembling and tumor cell-targeting of protein-only nanoparticles through modular protein engineering Voltà-Durán, E., Cano-Garrido, O., Serna, N. et al. CSci. China Mater.63, 147–156 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40843-019-9582-9

Engineering Secretory Amyloids for Remote and Highly Selective Destruction of Metastatic Foci, María Virtudes Céspedes  Olivia Cano‐Garrido  Patricia Álamo  Rita Sala  Alberto Gallardo  Naroa Serna  Aïda Falgàs  Eric Voltà‐Durán  Isolda Casanova  Alejandro Sánchez‐Chardi  Hèctor López‐Laguna  Laura Sánchez‐García  Julieta M. Sánchez  Ugutz Unzueta  Esther Vázquez  Ramón Mangues  Antonio Villaverde . Advanced Materiasls Número de artículo: 1907348 , Dec. 2019 https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.201907348

Artificial Inclusion Bodies for Clinical Development Julieta M. Sánchez  Hèctor López‐Laguna  Patricia Álamo  Naroa Serna  Alejandro Sánchez‐Chardi  Verónica Nolan  Olivia Cano‐Garrido  Isolda Casanova  Ugutz Unzueta  Esther Vazquez  Ramon Mangues  Antonio Villaverde, Advanced Science. 2019 https://doi.org/10.1002/advs.201902420

Nanostructured Nucleolin-Binding Peptide for Intracellular Drug Delivery in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Stem Cells Mireia Pesarrodona, Laura Sánchez-García, Joaquin Seras-Franzoso, Alejandro Sánchez-Chardi, Ricardo Baltá-Foix, Patricia Cámara-Sánchez, Petra Gener,  José Juan Jara, Daniel Pulido, Naroa Serna, Simó Schwartz Jr. Miriam Royo, Antonio Villaverde, Ibane Abasolo, Esther Vazquez ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces DOI: 10.1021/acsami.9b15803  

Nanostructure Empowers Active Tumor Targeting in Ligand‐Based Molecular Delivery López‐Laguna, H., Sala, R., Sánchez, J. M., Álamo, P., Unzueta, U., Sánchez‐Chardi, A., Serna, N., Sánchez‐García, L., Voltà‐Durán, E., Mangues, R., Villaverde, A., Vázquez, E., . Part. Part. Syst. Charact. 2019, 36, 1900304. https://doi.org/10.1002/ppsc.201900304

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A step forward for the design of multifunctional protein nanomaterials for cancer therapies

Researchers of NANBIOSIS Unit 1 and NANBIOSIS Unit 18, led by Prof Antoni Villaverde have published the article at the prestigious scintific magazine titled Collaborative membrane activity and receptor-dependent tumor cell targeting for precise nanoparticle delivery in CXCR4+ colorectal cancer

The researchers have shown that the combination of cell-penetrating and tumor cell-targeting peptides dramatically enhances precise tumor accumulation of protein-only nanoparticles intended for selective drug delivery, in mouse models of human colorectal cancer. This fact is a step forward for the rational design of multifunctional protein nanomaterials for improved cancer therapies.

Protein production has been partially performed by the  ICTS NANBIOSIS U1, Protein Production Platform and the nanoparticle size analysis by the U6  of NANBIOSIS Biomaterial Processing and Nanostructuring Unit. Biodistribution studies were performed by the U18 of the ICTS NANBIOSIS, Nanotoxicology Unit.

Article of reference:

Rita Sala, LauraSánchez-García, Naroa Serna, María Virtudes Céspedes, Isolda Casanova, Mònica Roldán, Alejandro Sánchez Chardig, Ugutz Unzueta, Esther Vázquez, Ramón Mangues, Antonio Villaverde. Collaborative membrane activity and receptor-dependent tumor cell targeting for precise nanoparticle delivery in CXCR4+ colorectal cancer. Acta Biomaterialia, 99, Pages 426-432. 2019,

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Why the poor biodistribution so far reached by tumor-targeted medicines?

Cell-selective targeting is expected to enhance effectiveness and minimize side effects of cytotoxic agents. Functionalization of drugs or drug nanoconjugates with specific cell ligands allows receptor-mediated selective cell delivery. However, it is unclear whether the incorporation of an efficient ligand into a drug vehicle is sufficient to ensure proper biodistribution upon systemic administration, and also at which extent biophysical properties of the vehicle may contribute to the accumulation in target tissues during active targeting. To approach this issue, structural robustness of self-assembling, protein-only nanoparticles targeted to the tumoral marker CXCR4 is compromised by reducing the number of histidine residues (from six to five) in a histidine-based architectonic tag. Thus, the structure of the resulting nanoparticles, but not of building blocks, is weakened. Upon intravenous injection in animal models of human CXCR4+ colorectal cancer, the administered material loses the ability to accumulate in tumor tissue, where it is only transiently found. It instead deposits in kidney and liver. Therefore, precise cell-targeted delivery requires not only the incorporation of a proper ligand that promotes receptor-mediated internalization, but also, unexpectedly, its maintenance of a stable multimeric nanostructure that ensures high ligand exposure and long residence time in tumor tissue.

Protein production has been partially performed by the  ICTS NANBIOSIS U1, Protein Production Platform and the nanoparticle size analysis by the U6  of NANBIOSIS Biomaterial Processing and Nanostructuring Unit. Biodistribution studies were performed by the U18 of the ICTS NANBIOSIS, Nanotoxicology Unit.

The concept presented by the authors of the present research might represent a convincing explanation of the poor biodistribution so far reached by tumor-targeted medicines, including antibody-drug conjugates. In addition to this, they offer a potential developmental roadmap for the improvement of these drugs, of high intrinsic therapeutic potential, to reach satisfactory efficiencies in the clinical context.

Hèctor López-Laguna, Rita Sala, Julieta M. Sánchez, Patricia Álamo, Ugutz Unzueta, Alejandro Sánchez-Chardi, Naroa Serna, Laura Sánchez-García, Eric Voltà-Durán, Ramón Mangues, Antonio Villaverde and Esther Vázquez. Nanostructure Empowers Active Tumor Targeting in Ligand-Based Molecular Delivery. Part. Part. Syst. Charact. 2019.

DOI: 10.1002/ppsc.201900304

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