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Women in NANBIOSIS part 1: Anna Aviñó, from Curiosity to Innovation

Anna Aviñó speaks about her journey as a researcher and her captivating oligonucleotides.

This is part of a series of interviews to several female researchers within the context of International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2024. For more interviews, visit our news section here.

February 2024, IQAC-CSIC/CIBER-BBN, Barcelona (Spain)

Could you share with us a bit about your research area and the projects you are currently working on?

I am a chemist specializing in nucleic acid chemistry. These compounds are wonderful, I would say unique; not only do they contain genetic information, but they are also involved in countless biological processes. My focus lies in synthetic and structural studies of small nucleic acids, known as oligonucleotides.

And these compounds, what are they used for?

Oligonucleotides can adopt different structures, including canonical duplexes as well as other secondary structures like quadruplexes and triplexes, the latter being particularly important in many diseases. I apply my chemical knowledge to generate and evaluate therapeutic oligonucleotides (such as antisense, siRNA, aptamers). Furthermore, oligonucleotides are so versatile that I also use them as recognition elements in various biosensors to detect pathogens, disease-related genes, etc.

“Oligonucleotides (…) are recently being approved as new advanced gene therapies for many diseases, including rare and cardiovascular diseases.

—Dr. Anna Aviñó, scientific coordinator of Unit 29.

What motivated you to choose a career as a researcher? What have been the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman scientist?

I wanted to understand what things are made of, how medicines are made… I am currently 55 years old with a long scientific career, but it has never been easy to balance top-level research with family life. I have to thank CIBER as it’s the longest contract I’ve had, but I also have to say that I haven’t had opportunities for career advancement within it.

Have you experienced any kind of gender bias or added difficulty in your scientific career? How have you addressed this situation?

I haven’t faced any added difficulty per se, but the reality is that in my research center, the principal investigators are predominantly women with few family responsibilities.

How do you think gender stereotypes in the scientific field can be overcome? And what advice would you give to young women considering a career in science?

I think that stereotypes can be overcome by promoting unbiased education in schools regardless of the field of study. I would definitely encourage young women and advise them not to be afraid to pursue positions of responsibility.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement or contribution in your field?

The oligonucleotides, which are my area of study as I mentioned, are recently being approved as new advanced gene therapies for many diseases, including rare and cardiovascular diseases. I can say that I can synthesize drugs in my laboratory, and furthermore, I believe I am the person who has conducted the most synthesis of these products in Spain!

What support have you received throughout your career that has been particularly helpful?

As I mentioned, thanks to CIBER, I continue to be a researcher. However, I am currently in a delicate situation because my principal investigator is retiring, and I don’t know how my scientific career will continue.

What changes would you like to see in the scientific world to promote gender equality? How do you think we can encourage more women and girls to participate in science?

The scientific world is not particularly biased in terms of gender equality. However, leadership positions tend to be held by men, even though more women are starting careers in research. Regarding encouraging more women, as I mentioned, education. Education is the key.

For more interviews like this, visit our news section here.

Additional information:

The goal of NANBIOSIS is to provide comprehensive and integrated advanced solutions for companies and research institutions in biomedical applications. All of this is done through a single-entry point, involving the design and production of biomaterials, nanomaterials, and their nanoconjugates. This includes their characterization from physical-chemical, functional, toxicological, and biological perspectives (preclinical validation).

In order to access our biomedical Solutions, apply here.

NANBIOSIS has worked with pharmaceutical companies of all sizes in the areas of drug delivery, biomaterials and regenerative medicine. Here are a few of them:

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‘Magic Bullets’ Against Cancer: Unveiling the Potential of DNA Nanoparticles

DNA nanoparticles to selectively target tumor tissues through precise control of the synergies between transported drugs.

February 2024, IQAC-CSIC/CIBER-BBN, Barcelona. The team led by Drs. Carme Fàbrega and Ramón Eritja, in close collaboration with 3 units of the NANBIOSIS ICTS, has developed a new strategy to improve the efficacy and reduce the toxicity of anticancer drugs. They have chemically linked several cytotoxic drugs, currently used in the treatment of various types of tumors, to DNA nanostructures. These structures selectively target cancerous tissues through folate receptors. This tactic allows precise control of drug concentration and exploits their combined effect. The results of this study represent a significant step forward towards the development of more effective and safer cancer treatments. This year 2024, they published their study in the Nanomedicine journal by Elsevier.

“The ‘Magic Bullet’ of Dr. Ehrlich” is not the title of an old pulp magazine. Rather, it is the concept that the German physician and Nobel Prize winner coined to refer to an ideal therapeutic agent capable of acting specifically against a particular disease without affecting healthy cells.

In the case of cancer therapies, we are far from reaching that magic bullet. However, science is bringing us closer to it every day.

Many current anticancer drugs are designed to intercalate into the DNA of cells and alter their function, inducing cell death. One of the most significant problems with these therapies is their adverse effects, as these drugs can also affect non-tumor cells. One way to compensate for this is by combining multiple drugs, creating synergies between them. However, this often greatly hinders both drugs from reaching the target tissue at the appropriate concentrations to exert their synergy.

A strategy to approach the concept coined by the Nobel Prize involves selectively directing drugs towards cancerous tissues and releasing them in a controlled and localized manner. This increases their concentration in the tumor area, reducing the effect on the rest of the organs and tissues.

Thanks to the ability of many drugs to intercalate into DNA, one of the most promising vehicles are DNA nanostructures. These artificially constructed nanocarriers can retain the drug and, due to their enormous versatility, can be designed to selectively target the tumor. Once there, they release the drug in a controlled manner into the cancer cells, ensuring that healthy tissues are not exposed to a toxic concentration of the drug.

However, these DNA nanocarriers face several challenges: low internalization in diseased cells, low selectivity of the target tissues, or limited control over the amount of drug loaded inside and how it binds. Additionally, they only allow the transport of DNA intercalating drugs, limiting the range of applicable therapies.

In a recent study published in the Nanomedicine journal by Elsevier, the team led by Dr. Carme Fàbrega and Dr. Ramón Eritja, in close collaboration with 3 units of the NANBIOSIS ICTS, present a new approach [1]. Through a strategy to control the binding of the drug and its concentration within their DNA nanostructures, they have succeeded in increasing efficacy and reducing toxicity.

Instead of intercalating the drugs as usual, the researchers chemically conjugated each drug to a piece of the puzzle that would later form the nanostructure. They managed this way to precisely attach three anticancer drugs to their vehicles, each of them acting on a different anticancer mechanism and promoting a synergistic effect between them. Additionally, they achieved selective targeting by binding their nanostructures to folate receptors, expressed massively in a wide variety of tumor types.

This pioneering methodology is capable of attaching multiple drugs to DNA nanostructures, each at predetermined concentrations. This represents a leap forward in advancing towards the generation of that effective and harmless magic bullet that Dr. Ehrlich envisioned.

References

[1] Natalia Navarro, Anna Aviñó, Òscar Domènech, Jordi H. Borrell, Ramon Eritja, Carme Fàbrega, Defined covalent attachment of three cancer drugs to DNA origami increases cytotoxicity at nanomolar concentration, Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, Volume 55, 2024, 102722, ISSN 1549-9634, DOI: 10.1016/j.nano.2023.102722.

Additional information

In this project, three NANBIOSIS units have collaborated: Unit 12, with a characterization and scientific advisory role; Unit 18, providing one of the nanotoxic drugs; and Unit 29, contributing to the synthesis of oligonucleotides.

The goal of NANBIOSIS is to provide comprehensive and integrated advanced solutions for companies and research institutions in biomedical applications. All of this is done through a single-entry point, involving the design and production of biomaterials, nanomaterials, and their nanoconjugates, along with their characterization from physical-chemical, functional, toxicological, and biological perspectives (preclinical validation).

In order to access our biomedical Solutions, apply here.

NANBIOSIS has worked with pharmaceutical companies of all sizes in the areas of drug delivery, biomaterials and regenerative medicine. Here are a few of them:

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New method for the detection of RNA viruses such as SARS-CoV-2

Several CIBER-BBN groups at the University of Barcelona, the Institute for Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia (IQAC-CSIC), the Institute of Microelectronics of Barcelona (IMB-CNM-CSIC) and the Institute of Nanoscience and Materials of Aragon (INMA) —a joint institute of the CSIC and the University of Zaragoza (UNIZAR)— have developed a new method for detecting RNA viruses based on the technology of using probes that form triplex structures. This innovative methodology opens up new options to detect viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, the influenza A (H1N1) virus or the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a pathogen that affects newborns and requires differential diagnostic care.

This interdisciplinary work, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, is led by Carlos J. Ciudad and Verónica Noé, from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences and the Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (IN2UB) of the University of Barcelona ; Ramón Eritja, Anna Aviñó, Lluïsa Vilaplana and M.Pilar Marco, from IQAC-CSIC and CIBER-BBN; Manuel Gutiérrez, Antoni Baldi and César Fernández, from the IMB-CNM-CSIC, and Valeria Grazu and Jesús Martínez, CSIC researchers at the Institute of Nanoscience and Materials and Aragon INMA (CSIC-UNIZAR) and CIBER-BBN.

The research has counted with the expertise of two NANBIOSIS Units from CIBER-BBN and IQAC-CSIC; NANBIOSIS U2 Customized Antibody Service (CAbS), led by Pilar Marco and Nuria Pascual, and U29 Oligonucleotide Synthesis Platform (OSP), led by Ramón Eritja and Anna Avinó.

This research work was carried out in the context of the PoC4CoV project, led by M. Pilar Marco and César Fernández and financed through the Interdisciplinary Thematic Platform of Global Health of the CSIC. Subsequently, the research has continued as part of a project financed by La Marató de TV3 in 2020 to fight against COVID-19 in which experts from the Faculty of Chemistry of the UB also participate.

Polypurine tweezers to capture viral RNA
The new methodology is based on the ability of polypurine tweezers (PPRHs) —designed by the UB cancer therapy group— to capture viral RNA and form a high affinity triplex. When this hybrid structure is connected to a molecular probe and is brought into contact with the affected patient’s sample, a viral agent detection signal is obtained. The method now presented in the scientific publication has been called the Triplex Enhanced Nucleic Acid Detection Assay (TENADA).

“PPRHs are unmodified single-stranded DNA hairpins that are made up of two mirror domains of antiparallel polypurines. These domains, connected to each other by a thymidine loop, are linked by intramolecular reverse Hoogsteen bonds. Molecular tweezers can specifically bind to polypyrimidine sequences in single-stranded (ssDNA), double-stranded (dsDNA) or RNA viruses through Watson-Crick bonds, thus forming an antiparallel triplex”, details Professor Carlos J. Ciudad, from the Department of Biochemistry and Physiology of the UB.

An effective and faster methodology than the PCR test
Among the advantages that it presents in the detection of viral RNA, it should be noted that the PPRHs methodology can be applied without the intervention of reverse transcriptase —the enzyme that converts RNA into DNA— or the thermocycler (the device that amplifies the material samples). DNA with polymerase chain reaction or PCR). In addition, it has a sensitivity and specificity equivalent to that of the PCR test and can provide results in less than an hour.

In the framework of the work, the team used the hybridization sandwich format in various biosensing devices. This approach uses two oligonucleotides: a triplex-forming PPRH hairpin to serve as the capture probe, and a labeled duplex-forming DNA oligonucleotide to serve as the detection probe.

“The triplex-forming PPRH hairpins were designed to bind to SARS-CoV-2 polypyrimidine sequences, while the detection probes were designed to complement a region near the polypyrimidine target site. Thus, the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA is detected by the formation of the ternary complex on the surface of the biosensor”, details Professor Verónica Noé (UB-IN2UB).

This methodology has been implemented in a compact electrochemical device that integrates an electrochemical cell with two electrodes on a chip —manufactured in the Micro and Nanofabrication White Room of the IMB-CNM-CSIC— and a paper fluidic component, and in a Lateral thermal flow implemented in nitrocellulose and using plasmonic nanoparticles and thermal paper that has been developed at the INMA (CSIC-UNIZAR).

TENADA: applications in biomedical research
PPRHs are described in the scientific literature as gene silencing tools for various genes mainly involved in cancer. In addition, they have also been incorporated as probes in biosensors for the detection of small RNA molecules (micro-RNA) to determine the state of DNA methylation and for the diagnosis of pneumonia caused by the fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii.

Now, the new TENADA methodology proves to be effective not only in the detection of viral particles. The high affinity of PPRHs for viral RNA is a property that can be applied to inhibit the virus replication process. For this reason, the antiviral properties of CC1PPRH and CC2PPRH polypurine clamps in cells of the VeroE6 lineage infected with SARS-CoV-2 virions are now also being studied.

In parallel, the work of the different groups involved has also been the basis of a technology that was patented and licensed in July 2022 through the participation of the UB Patent Center, the CSIC and the CIBER-BBN. In turn, this patent has been licensed non-exclusively to the Spanish company Nanoinmunotech through the management of the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation (FBG-UB) in the technology protection process and the company’s license agreement. .

Article of reference:

Aviñó, A.; Cuestas-Ayllón, C.; Gutiérrez-Capitán, M.; Vilaplana, L.; Grazu, V.; Noé, V.; Balada, E.; Baldi, A.; Félix, A.J.; Aubets, E.; Valiuska, S.; Domínguez, A.; Gargallo, R.; Eritja, R.; Marco, M.-P.; Fernández-Sánchez, C.; Martínez de la Fuente, J.; Ciudad, C.J. «Detection of SARS-CoV-2 Virus by Triplex Enhanced Nucleic Acid Detection Assay (TENADA)»International Journal of Molecular Sciences, diciembre de 2022. Doi:10.3390/ijms232315258

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Happy Day of Chemistry! The role of Chemistry in a sustainable research in health

Today, November 15 is a day of celebration for us, the Day of the Chemistry in Spain!

Chemistry is the science that studies matter, how it is composed, its properties and how its structures are transformed and, as matter is everything, including living beings and ourselves, we can say that chemistry is omnipresent and transversal in all areas surrounding us. Chemistry is everywhere, we ourselves are chemistry and our health and our life is chemistry.

Everything around us is chemistry in the environment, foods, what we use and what we touch every day. Our own body is a sophisticated complex factory with an infinite number of chemical processes taking place on a perfect and synchronized manner”- points Pilar Marco, Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS U2 Custom Antibody Service (CAbS) from CIBER-BBN at IQAC-CSIC.

The crucial role of chemistry in everyday life is also evidence in the development of current technology and the economy. According the VCI Prognos Study, the Global growth forecast for Industrial Sectors, places the chemical industry in the fist position. As far as national picture, the INE Statistics on R+D Activities 2020 -last publish report-, chemical and pharmaceutical industry employs the 22,2 % of research staff recruited and the investment and expenditure on the chemical and pharmaceutical industry represents the 23,6% R+D and Innovation -above the motor vehicles industry.

Thanks to chemical and pharmaceutical research,

medicines, vaccines and health products have made great strides in fighting diseases and improving quality of life. Thanks to chemical and pharmaceutical medicine research, in few years, it will be possible, for example, to count on smart implants delivering personalised drugs only where cancer or infections are detected or biosensors circulating in our body to find diseases only one week after infection.

At the Institute of Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia, four NANBIOSIS units of CIBER-BBN use chemistry to deliver new therapeutic and diagnostic approaches that improve the quality of life of the society.

One of the research lines of the Nb4D group-U2 CabS at IQAC-CSIC (led by Pilar Marco and Nuria Pascual) focuses on the chemical signals that bacteria emit to communicate with each other and thus develop virulence mechanisms. Their knowledge will allow the development of new therapeutic and diagnostic strategies to mitigate the serious problem of antimicrobial resistance.

NANBIOSIS U3 Synthesis of Peptides UnitMS4N group, led by Miriam Royo, explores the use of diverse types of chemical multivalent platforms (oligomers, dendrimers, polymers, micelles and lipid nanovesicles) for the development of drug delivery systems for cancer treatment, protein delivery systems for the treatment of lysosomal diseases and macromolecular compounds that have intrinsically therapeutic properties with application to central nervous system diseases.

Chemistry plays an essential role in helping society achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In 2015 the United Nations created a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. This framework, comprising 17 aspirational goals known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Chemistry is key to achieve the SDG 3: Good Health & Well-Being with the development of new technologies that will provide a deeper understaunding of human health, making posible better, cheeper and faster medical diagnosis and treatmens.

In this sense, Carlos Rodriguez Abreu, Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS Unit for the characterization of nanostructured liquids (U12) explains: “The goals of sustainable development are producing a shift towards surfactants not based on petroleum derivatives, but derived from other raw materials that are more biocompatible and that allow a circular economy that is less aggressive with the environment. Quality control is necessary with regard to the properties of the products that contain surfactants, such as the droplet size in emulsions, the particle size in suspensions, their colloidal stability over time, among others. Additionally, products must be precisely formulated to optimize the use of raw materials and obtain the desired properties. In this context, the NANBIOSIS U12, acredited with ISO 9001:2015 by AENOR, offers a wide range of advanced analysis techniques for the determination of different colloidal properties such as droplet size and particle size, colloidal stability, viscosity, surface tension, pore size distribution, and determination of phase behavior and structure for the tailor-made formulation of surfactant and colloid systems for pharmaceutical and biomedical applications.

The Nucleic Acid Chemistry group at IQAC-CSIC – NANBIOSIS U29 Oligonucleotide Synthesis Platform (OSP) is developing new compounds based in DNA and RNA to detect and treat diseases participating in several projects with several research and industrial partners such as La Marato de TV3 (Covid), Oligofastx, Caminan2, Osteoatx. These new drugs use the natural mechanisms for gene regulation to treat undruggable diseases such Muscular dystrophy and others. Importantly special attention is made to design novel synthetic protocols to produce less organic waste what contributes to the sustainable development. 

We wish to all the family of chemistry professionals new projects and inspiration to achive humans Good Health & Well-Being and keep the world moving!

And Happy Chemistry Day, too, for all the chemistry enthusiasts!

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1st Nanomedicine Forum of CIBER-BBN/NANBIOSIS and CSIC Nanomed Conection

During the days 30 of June and 1st of July took place in Barcelona, in the auditorium of the Institute of Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia (IQAC-CSIC), the 1st Forum on Nanomedicine gathering scientists from the CSIC net Nanomed Conection and from the CIBER-BBN and its ICTS NANBIOSIS.

This forum brought toguether researchers from the most eminent national research centers in nanomedicine, that during the two days meeting presented their works and findings and discussed the impact of nanomedicine in the fields of drug delivery, diagnosis and therapy.

The workshop was open by the Director of IQAC-CSIC,  Jesús Joglar, the  Scientific Coordinator of Nanomed Conection, Fernando Herranz, and the Scientific Director of CIBER-BBN, Ramón Martínez Máñez.

18 research groups gave their talks distributed in four sessions:

  • Nanobiotechnological solutions for diagnosis and therapy
  • Drug delivery nanosystems
  • Applications for oncology 
  • Nanomedicine & other frontier applications

The presentations aroused great interest and futher debate among the attendees present in the auditorium (around 50) and the on line participants (The event was also broadcast online previous registration with more than 125 registrations received).

The videos of the presentations will be soon available in the NANBIOSIS youtube channel.

Here we highlight the eight talks by researchers from NANBIOSIS units:

The first session of Nanobiotechnological solutions for diagnosis and therapy,  started  with the talk by Montserrat Rodríguez from Nb4D group NANBIOSIS U2 CAbS, from CIBER-BBN and IQAC-CSIC, entitled “Targeting aromatic amino acid metabolism for the early diagnosis of neurological diseases”, presenting their results on in vitro samples, on thermal power characterization experiments to study the thermal efficiency of non-sinusoidal stimulation and on efficiency characterization experiments in cell cultures with cancer cell liness.

Also in this session chaired by Miriam Royo, Scientific Coordinator of NANBIOSIS U3 Synthesis of Peptides Unit of  CIBER-BBN and IQAC-CSIC,  took place an interesting and passionate talk by Ramón Eritja, Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS U29 Oligonucleotide Synthesis Platform (OSP)

In the last years, interest in therapeutic applications of oligonucleotides has increased enormously, especially after the development of messenger RNA vaccines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this way, metabolic diseases such as dyslipidemia and hereditary diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy have been successfully addressed. The NANBIOSIS  Oligonucleotide Synthesis Platform (OSP) focuses on the design, synthesis and characterization of modified oligonucleotides, in order to enhance the therapeutic properties of the oligonucleotides and to improve the control of gene expression. Ramon Eritja presented their most recent results in the development of new conjugates with antiproliferative activity and in the design of DNA probes for the detection of viral genomes.

 

In the session of “Nanomedicine and other frontiers applications”, chaired by María del Puerto Morales Herrero (ICMM-CSIC), Elena Martínez Fraiz,  from the Nanobioengineering group of CIBER-BBN and IBEC running NANBIOSIS Unit 7 of Nanotechnology, presented  a nanostructured surface able to produce multivalent effects of surface-bound ephrinB1 ligands on the dynamics of oligomerization of EphB2 receptors  whic can benefit applications such as the design of new bioactive materials and drug-delivery systems.

The session of Drug delivery nanosystems, chaired by Ramón Martínez Máñez, began with the talk by Vanessa Díaz Riascos, presesnting the in vivo efficacy, biodistribution and toxicity testing of nanomedicines at NANBIOSIS U20 FVPR, of CIBER-BBN and VHIR, explaining how their texting expertise and their in vivo and ex vivo fluorescence imaging techniques facilitate a rapid and efficient preclinical development of candidates, reducing considerably the time and costs of conventional developments.


Santiago Grijalvo Torrijo, from NANBIOSIS U12 Nanostructured liquid characterization unit expoke about Nano-emulsion-derived polymeric carriers for biomedical applications also discussing the impact of the protein corona on colloidal stability, antioxidant activities, cytotoxicity and cellular uptake of drug-loaded nanoparticles.

Antoni Llopis Lorente, (NANBIOSIS U26 NMR: Biomedical Applications II), expoke about Gated silica nanoparticles for controlled release. Chemical communication, based on the exchange of molecules as messengers, allows different entities to share information, cooperate and orchestrate collective behaviors. Communication using chemical messengers (such as neurotransmitters, hormones and pheromones) is the main way of communication across the natural world; yet engineering chemical communication between micro/nanosystems is a key emergent topic in micro/nanotechnology, biomimicry and related areas. Santiago explainined recent progress by their group in the development of engineered particles for chemical communication and nanomedicine applications.

And closing the session, Mariana Köber (Nanomol Group –NANBIOSIS U6 of Biomaterial Processing and Nanostructuring Unit  from CIBER-BBN and ICMAB-CSIC) gave a talk on Quatsomes as versatile nanovesicles for biomedical applications.

In the session of Applications for Oncology, Pilar Martín Duque from NFP group – NANBIOSIS U9 Synthesis of Nanoparticles Unit of CIBER-BBN and INMA-CSIC, gave a very interesting talk explained their approach and recent progress on the search of trojan horses for an improved theragnosis of cancer.

Here we want to thank the Institute of Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia (IQAC-CSIC) for hosting this event and for the help in its preparation and development.

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OPEN SUBMISSION FOR JOURNAL SPECIAL ISSUE ON OLIGONUCLEOTIDE BASED THERAPIES

Dr. Ramon Eritja, Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS unit 29 of Oligonucleotide Synthesis Platform (OSP) and Dr. Santiago Grijalvo researcher at NANBIOSIS unit 12 of Nanostructured liquid characterization, from CIBER-BBN and IQAC-CSIC, together with Dr. Andreia F. Jorge, from Coimbra Chemistry Centre (CQC), acting as guest editors of journal Pharmaceutics, of MDPI Publisher, welcome authors to submit their articles on special issues on Recent Trends in Oligonucleotide Based Therapies.

In the past few decades, significant efforts have been made towards the clinical application of oligonucleotides. However, the potential of the therapeutic applications of RNA-based strategies have recently been spotlighted after the first approval of mRNA vaccines in response to COVID-19 pandemic. These molecules have the power to tackle targets that are usually considered to be “undruggable” by blocking the translation or transcription of a specific gene by stimulating the degradation of a particular messenger RNA.

This Special Issue aims to collect reviews, original research articles, and short communications covering innovative strategies in the design, synthesis, and characterization of therapeutic oligonucleotides as well as advances in their delivery based on nanotechnologies. Research concerning the study of sequence-specific protein–DNA/RNA interactions will be also considered.

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form.

For all the informations and instructions about the Special Issue, please visit this MDPI page

Deadline for submissions: 31 December 2022

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Wide representation of NANBIOSIS research in NALS 2022 and best Oral Presentation to Eloi Parladé

During the last 27-29 April, the 3rd International Conference on Nanomaterials Applied to Life Sciences 2022 (NALS 2022) has taken place in the Excellence Campus of Universidad de Cantabria in Santander (Spain), organized by the University of Cantabria and Institute Valdecilla-IDIVAL.

NALS 2022 has been a multidisciplinary conference series sharing new results and ideas in the fields of biosensors, lab on a chip, drug delivery nanopharmacy. nanobiotechnology, intelligent nanomaterials, magnetic materials, nanotoxicity, antimicrobials, novel applications of 3d bioprinting and nanoimaging.

NANBIOSIS has been represented at this edition by members of several of its units, among them we must highlight the set of four oral communication presented by members of the Nanobiotechnology group-Unit 1 of NANBIOSIS “Protein Production Platform (PPP)”, from CIBER-BBN and IIB-UAB the talks were delivered by:

Eloi Parladé: “Development of ion-dependent microscale secretory granules for nanomedical applications

Carlos Martínez-Torró: “Design of a human GFP-like protein scaffold for targeted nanomedicines

Eric Voltá Durán: “Antitumoral nanoparticles with multiple activities, a close reality

Jan Atienza-Garriga: “Characterization of protein-only NPs containing amps and analysis of their protection with liposomes and micelles

They summarized a wide area of the team activities on the design of protein-based protein materials for clinical uses, produced by means of diverse types of cell factories. In particular, antimicrobial peptides, cytotoxic proteins with antitumoral targeting and drug-carrying scaffold proteins are engineered to confer self-assembling properties as either microparticles or nanoparticles, that can be further functionalized with chemical drugs through covalent binding. Microparticles are of special interest as they can be used as slow drug delivery systems for nanostructured drugs upon subcutaneous administration. Alternatively, nanoparticles can be also presented as embedded in liposomes or other micellar structures that stabilize them for enhanced performance.

Three NANBIOSIS units supported the presented research, which has been executed in a highly cooperative way: namely U1 (Protein Production Platform), led by Tony Villaverde U18 (Nanotoxicology), led by Ramón Mangues and U29 (Oligonucleotide Synthesis Platform), led by Ramón Eritja.

Among all the excellent contributions by the team, it is worthy to stress that the prize for the best Oral Presentation was granted to Dr Eloi Parladé.

Other talk by researchers from NANBIOSIS were “Antioxidant-loaded polymeric NPs prepared by nano-emulsion templating for the management of neurological diseases” by Santiago Grijalvo, from NANBIOSIS U12 and  “Exploiting GSH oxidation with nanocatalysts to promote cancer cell death” by Javier Bonet-Aletá from NANBIOSIS U9

On the other hand, Jesús Santamaría,  Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS U9 was a Keynote Speaker in the Conference with the talk: “A change of paradigm in cancer therapy? Using catalysts to make drugs inside the tumor, rather than trying systemic chemotherapy”

NALS 2022 has been an excellent conference, with presentations covering a wide range of topics in nanomaterials for health, and a great opportunity for our researchers, especially for young’s, to let know their collaborative work, as well as make new connections on common research interests, thanks to the good socializing opportunities afforded by the scheduling of the organization conference.

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OPEN SUBMISSION FOR FRONTIERS IN CHEMISTRY SPECIAL ISSUE ON NUCLEIC ACID-BASED APTAMERS IN THERAPEUTICS AND DIAGNOSTICS

Dr. Anna Aviñó, Scientific Coordianator of NANBIOSIS unit 29 of Oligonucleotide Synthesis Platform (OSP) and Dr. Carme Fàbrega from the Nucleic Acid Chemistry group from CIBER-BBN and IQAC_CSIC, together with Dr. Claudia Riccardi from the University of Naples Federico II, Dr. Stefania Mazzini from University of Milan, and Dr. Raimundo Gargallo from the University of Barcelona, acting as guest editors of the journal Frontiers in Chemistry, welcome authors to submit their articles on special issues on Nucleic Acid-Based Aptamers in Therapeutics and Diagnostics.

Nucleic acid‐based aptamers are short DNA or RNA sequences able to adopt specific three‐dimensional architectures. The high affinity and selectivity shown for a selected target, as well as the wide range of molecular targets, make aptamers a valuable alternative to antibodies in several biological applications.

Oligonucleotide-based aptamers have become an attractive tool not only in molecular biology research but also in modern medicine as precision instruments for molecular diagnostics, as sensing device and in therapy (as drugs or drug-delivery systems). Numerous improved methodologies for their selections and various applications, such as bioimaging, diagnoses, molecular therapies, and nanotechnology, have been reported to date.

This Research Topic will concentrate on the latest development’s nucleic acid-based aptamer chemistry. We encourage authors to submit original research and review articles dealing with all the aspects of aptamer research, including aptamer selection technology, engineering/modification strategies, characterization, development, and/or application of aptamers in therapeutics and diagnostics.

Manuscripts should be submitted on line on the following link.

Deadline for submission: 26 May 2022

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The coming revolution: synthetic DNA and RNA for therapeutic and diagnostic applications

The discovery of the mRNA vaccines for the treatment of coronavirus, as well as new medicines for the treatment of genetic diseases, has been important in the quest of solutions for undrugable diseases in an unexpected short-time.

Thus, the chemical modifications of nucleic acids with diagnostic and therapeutic purposes is now a reality, a revolution that promises to give hopes on unsolved medical problems or optimize previous approaches, largely due to the research push for the development of mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Now, the prestigious The Chemical Recordjournal has invited the Nucleic Acids Chemistry group, of IQAC-CSIC and CIBER-BBN and belonging to the Global Health Platform of CSIC, to describe the advances and modificacions of the nucleic acids in the last decade. The article, authored by Dr. Carme Fàbrega, Dr. Anna Aviñó and Dr. Ramon Eritja (coordinator and director, respectively, of Unit 29 of ICTS NANBIOSIS), reports the development of synthetic DNA and RNA for therapeutic and diagnostic applications.

The article describes the most important results from the Nucleic Acid Chemistry group in this area covering the international context that surrounded these studies. These include the development of modifications in potentially therapeutic oligonucleotides to enhance nuclease resistance as well as improving cellular uptake and avoiding side effects, and the advances in the use of DNA nanostructures in the controlled deposition of matter in surfaces and their potential application as drug delivery systems is reported.

Moreover, the article has been selected to illustrate the front cover of The Chemical Record, a journal of the Chemical Society in Japan, with a suggestive image that shows the research activity in this area. The back image is the three dimensional reconstruction of a DNA array described by the group of Dr. Seeman obtained by A. Garibotti in Barcelona. On the top the crystal structure of the Argonaute protein from the Protein Data Bank is shown. This protein is a natural player that helps the therapeutic action of RNA molecules. 

Read the full article in this link.

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DNA nanotechnologists are in mourning

At the end of the XXth century Nanotechnology appeared as one of the more powerful technologies for the future. At that time material sciences were able to produce nanomaterials with exquisite size control and atomic force, microscopy was able to visualize objects in the nanoscale and photolithography arrived to their physical limits in the preparation of computer chips threatening Moore’s law. This empirical law saying that as transistor components shrank, the number per chip doubled about every 18 months, was acting from 1971  (Intel’s first chip) to billions in the present times. 

At these times, one crucial development was the discovery of the first self-assembling DNA structures, leaded by Ned Seeman, who died recently at age 75. Being a crystallographer interested in DNA-protein structures, Ned though that a good way to obtain crystals of DNA-protein complexes was to prepare crystal networks of DNA where proteins bind. (In the classical approach of obtaining protein crystals small oligonucleotides bind). In this way in 1982 he described the idea of making lattices from DNA junctions. In 1991 he obtained a DNA cube, the first tridimensional DNA nanostructure receiving the 1995 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology. But the most impressive development was the so-called “DNA tile systems” published in 1998.

The figure shows a bidimensional array made by his former Ph.D. student Alejandra Garibotti in our laboratory in Barcelona. In the tile system two or more tiles (each one made out of 5 oligonucleotides) are designed to self-assemble one next to the other by their sticky ends making a large lattice or bidimensional crystal having a tunable shape and size defined by the tiles.

Later on in 2009, Ned was able to demonstrate the achievement of three-dimensional DNA crystals. These developments settle the foundations for the development of DNA origami, DNA computation, DNA nanoelectronics and DNA nanorobotics earning the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience in 2010. The immense creativity of Ned is not only an active value for mankind but also an example for old and new scientists.

By Ramón Eritja, Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS U29, January 10th, 2022

U29.-Oligonucleotide-Synthesis-Platform
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