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News Article | May 2, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A new study by the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country suggests that it is not possible to keep brain oxygenation stable during extreme efforts The European Journal of Applied Physiology has published an article by the lecturer Jordan Santos-Concejero of the UPV/EHU's Department of Physical and Sports Education entitled 'Brain oxygenation declines in elite Kenyan runners during a maximal interval training session'. This is the continuation of a previous study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, in which results that partly contradict those of the originally published research have been obtained. The first study, conducted by the doctor in the UPV/EHU's Department of Physical and Sports Education, suggested that the capacity of Kenyan athletes in maintaining their brain oxygenation within a stable range during maximal efforts (in the course of a 5-km time trial) might be one of the reasons that could account for the success of these runners in long-distance races. However, bearing in mind that a time trial covering this distance implies the possibility of the athletes choosing their pace, the need was raised to study the brain oxygenation responses in a maximal effort in which the intensity of the exercise is imposed on them. So an interval test of repeated bouts of 1,000 metres at a speed 5% higher than the average achieved in a 5-km time trial with a 30-second recovery time between bouts was designed. The aim was to do as many bouts as possible, so the athletes were offered economic incentives for every extra bout completed (putting this into context, the best of the athletes was capable doing eight 1,000-metre bouts at a speed of 2 minutes 48 seconds per kilometre on a treadmill). With this exercise protocol, which guaranteed total exhaustion, results that partly contradict those of the study published originally were obtained, because a fall in brain oxygenation was observed in all the athletes during the last part of the interval test. "We believe that the fall in their brain oxygenation could be caused by a reduction in the partial pressure of CO2 in the blood (hypocapnia), as a result of the hyperventilation brought on by the exercise", explained Santos-Concejero. Hyperventilation is one of the body's physiological responses to the reduction in the blood pH that can be seen during high intensity exercises. The fall in the pH stimulates peripheral chemoreceptors that promote a powerful respiratory response to maintain the pH within a specified range; this takes place mainly through the expulsion of the excess CO2 produced by the action of the physiological stopper of the bicarbonate to offset acidosis. The resulting hypocapnia of this powerful respiratory response (once the one widely known as the "respiratory compensation point" has been exceeded) could thus cause vasoconstriction on a brain level that would reduce blood flow, and thus affect brain oxygenation, as has been seen in this study. In any case, the intensity of exercise at which the fall in brain oxygenation takes place in the Kenyans in the study (95% of their VO2 max) is above anything that has ever been previously documented among elite athletes in any discipline. And, strangely enough, the best athletes in the study (those who managed not only to complete more 1,000-metre bouts but who did so at a faster pace) were capable of withstanding greater falls in brain oxygenation before collapsing; this is further proof of the importance of this factor as a limit on human performance. Santos-Concejero, J., Billaut, F., Grobler, L., Oliván, J., Noakes, T.D., Tucker, R. 'Brain oxygenation declines in elite Kenyan runners during a maximal interval training session'. European Journal of Applied Physiology 2017 Mar 20. DOI: 10.1007/s00421-017-3590-4.


News Article | April 26, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Researchers at Tecnalia and the ICMCB-CNRS have recently published the article "Ultra-Fast Supercritical Hydrothermal Synthesis of Tobermorite under Thermodynamically Metastable Conditions" in the prestigious scientific journal Angewandte Chemie. The article proposes an ultrarapid synthesis of nano-tobermorite, a nanoparticle used to speed up the hardening of concrete and regarded as a high-added value addition. The possibility of producing tobermorite nanofibres in water in supercritical conditions (400 ?C and 235 bar) has been demonstrated, when above 200 ?C it had been thought to be impossible. What is more, the outcome is a product of a higher quality made possible by the fact that a piece of non-traditional equipment, which allows the conditions and reaction times to be thoroughly monitored, has been developed. The technology developed is, according to the researchers involved, "The Advanced Manufacturing Technique" for producing nanoparticles; it is and will be very important for any SME in the field of nanotechnology since it enables two aspects that are intrinsic to industrial production to be achieved: quantity and quality. Firstly, tobermorite nanoparticles can be synthesised within the space of 10 seconds as opposed to several days taken by traditional synthesis methods. Secondly, the synthesis method using supercritical fluids produces better replicas of natural tobermorite, in other words, it allows more perfect nanoparticles to be produced. Furthermore, the journal has designated the work as a Very Important Paper, and frontispiece, in other words, it is regarded as being within a 5th percentile and a showcase of the publication given that it has been selected as the back cover. This work is the outcome of collaboration between Tecnalia, the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, the University of Bordeaux and the ICMCB-CNRS within the framework of the euro-regional campus of excellence Euskampus-IDEX of Bordeaux.


Plants need nitrogen to grow, and intensive agriculture requires the input of nitrogen compounds. However, classical, nitrate-based fertilization is responsible for considerable environmental problems, such as the contamination of surface and underground water due to nitrate leaching, and the emission of greenhouse gases, owing to the effect of the micro-organisms in the soil that use the nitrate and produce nitrous oxide, a significant greenhouse gas. In order to alleviate these problems, "an attempt is being made to encourage a different type of fertilizer treatment, and one of them is the use of ammonia together with nitrification inhibitors. The inhibitors cause this ammonia to be in the soil for longer and this helps to mitigate nitrate leaching and also nitrous oxide emissions," explained Daniel Marino, researcher in the UPV/EHU's NUMAPS research group, which has conducted this study in collaboration with Dr Pedro Aparicio-Tejo of the UPN/NUP-Public University of Navarre. Yet this source of nitrogen has a special feature: "it can be toxic for plants and lead to reduced growth than when nitrate is used. In our group we are studying the tolerance and sensitivity of different plants to this source of nitrogen". Seeking to go further into this subject, they went on to study the proteome of a model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana. "Without focussing on any protein in particular, we decided to see what differences were displayed by this plant within the synthesised proteins as a whole when ammonium or nitric fertilizers are applied," said Daniel Marino. The same results in edible plants When studying the type and quantity of proteins accumulated in the plants with each type of nutrition, "what seemed most interesting to us is that there were some proteins related to the metabolism of glucosinolates which accumulate in a greater quantity in plants receiving an ammonium input," stressed the researcher. In general, glucosinolates have two properties: they are natural insecticides and one of them in particular, glucoraphanin, has anticarcinogenic properties. Given that the experiments had been conducted using the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a model plant widely used in research but of no commercial interest, they decided to repeat the experiment, "but this time with broccoli plants. Although we did not manage to study the glucosinolate content in the part of the broccoli of greatest food interest, which is the flower, we saw that the leaves of the young plants accumulated a greater quantity of glucoraphanin when we added the source of nitrogen by means of ammonium than when we did so using nitrate," explained Marino. In view of these results, the research group is continuing to work on this aspect and they have even been in contact with several companies that could be interested in them. So in order to pursue their possible commercial application "we carried out field experiments where the system is much more complex, due, among other things, to the micro-organisms in the soil that also use ammonium as a source of nitrogen. So in the field experiments we will also be interested in analysing the glucosinolate content in the broccoli inflorescence, the part of the plant that is consumed most. On the other hand, from a more fundamental point of view, we are also interested in knowing the effect that the glucosinolates could have on the ammonium tolerance of the plant itself," he explained. The biologist Daniel Marino-Bilbao, an Ikerbasque Research Fellow at the UPV/EHU, is a member of the research group NUMAPS (Nutrition Management in Plant and Soil), led by Carmen González-Murua, of the department of Plant Biology and Ecology in the UPV/EHU's Faculty of Science and Technology. Marino D, Ariz I, Lasa B, Santamaría E, Fernández-Irigoyen J, González-Murua C, Aparicio-Tejo P (2016) Quantitative proteomics reveals the importance of nitrogen source to control glucosinolate metabolism in Arabidopsis thaliana and Brassica oleracea. Journal of Experimental Botany 67: 3313-3323.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

The study of Palaeolithic art is "one of the few tools we have to find out about the culture and society of prehistoric groups," said Blanca Ochoa, researcher in the UPV/EHU's department of Geography, Prehistory and Archaeology. Knowing who the representations were meant for "could indicate the intended use of cave art for prehistoric groups: whether it was something for the whole group, shared by all its members, or whether it was limited to small groups, or even to just one individual," she explained. In her research the aim was to specify whether there were any preferences in terms of choosing the spaces where the Palaeolithic representations were drawn or engraved in nine caves on the Cantabrian coast located in Asturias and Cantabria. "It is an aspect that has been analysed very little until now," remarked the researcher. They developed an in-house methodology to analyse the visibility of the figures depicted, which covers not only variables relating to the space where they are located (room size, accessibility, presence of natural light etc.) but also characteristics relating to the depictions themselves: "The size of the works, the height they are at, and, above all, the technique used to execute them (painting or engraving) largely determines visibility," said Ochoa. "The paintings are much more visible than the engravings, and even more so if the engraving is not very deep". Differences in location, possible change of use As Ochoa explained, one of the most interesting results they have extracted in the research are the chronological differences observed: "Throughout the Upper Palaeolithic the topographical distribution of the works gradually changed: during the early phases of the Upper Palaeolithic there is a preference for executing medium-sized and large drawings in the main galleries of the caves. During the Magdalenian, between 20,000 and 12,000 years ago, there was an increase in the use of spaces located in places far from the main cave route, in small, sometimes concealed rooms; what is more, there was a preference for a smaller size when it came to creating the figures and an increase in the use of the engraving as a technique. Art may have been used to be seen in community during the Pre-Magdalenian. The use of smaller spaces during the Magdalenian, however, could indicate that art became something more restricted or that it performed another kind of function". As it is a new type of study and conducted in a limited geographical area, Ochoa stresses the preliminary nature of the results obtained. Nevertheless, she believes it will "help to establish the bases to find out who Palaeolithic art was intended for. We have confirmed that the methodology developed does in fact work and that it can continue to be applied in other areas of the Cantabrian region or outside it. I would like to continue with the research, because the results for this area have been very interesting, and I would like to see whether the conclusions we have drawn can be extended to other areas. Although there will probably be geographical differences as well and the different groups may have had other uses of art". This study was part of the PhD thesis of Blanca Ochoa (Salamanca, 1987), entitled 'Espacio gráfico, visibilidad y tránsito cavernario: el uso de las cavidades con arte paleolítico en la Región Cantábrica' (Graphic Space, Visibility and Cave Passage: the use of caves with Palaeolithic Art in the Cantabrian Region) and conducted in the Prehistory IT-622-13 research group of the UPV/EHU's department of Geography, Prehistory and Archaeology; it was supervised by Marcos García-Diez (UPV/EHU lecturer and researcher) and Álvaro Arrizabalaga-Valbuena (tenured UPV/EHU lecturer). Ochoa spent a period of time during her research at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle/Institut de Paleontologie Humaine (Paris).


News Article | January 30, 2017
Site: globenewswire.com

For the whole of fiscal 2016, orders for housing totaled 8,017 units in volume, up 16.2% compared to the same period in 2015. In value, housing orders totaled €1,539.6 million (including VAT), up 27.1% compared to the same period in 2015, due to an increase in orders in the regions and Île-de-France. In 2016, 7,779 apartments were ordered for a total of €1,479.0 million (including VAT), representing a 16.9% increase in volume and a 27.8% rise in value. In 2016, the number of orders placed by investors grew by 58.4% compared to the same period in 2015. Moreover, the ongoing interest of first-time home buyers was reasserted with a 33.4% rise in their number. Managed accommodations orders fell by 13.8% in value. For the fiscal year as a whole, the commercial property segment recorded orders totaling €274.6 million. In June, Kaufman & Broad delivered Boursorama's new head-office building (around 9,000 sq.m), on the Trapeze in Boulogne-Billancourt. In July, EDF (SOFILO) entrusted Kaufman & Broad with the construction, under a property development contract, of the new headquarters of its Aquitaine sales branch in Bordeaux (around 5,000 sq.m). The group also launched the construction of the ORA building (around 26,000 sq.m) in the 17th arrondissement of Paris. Several other operations are still underway, in particular: the construction of the SNI group's new headquarters in 13th arrondissement of Paris (around 23,000 sq.m), the administrative complex built in Saint Brieuc for the urban community (around 9,000 sq.m), as well as the Ilot G5 construction in the "Bassins à flot" district of Bordeaux (around 4,500 sq.m). At November 30, 2016, the housing units backlog totaled €1,360.2 million (excluding VAT), i.e. more than 15 months of business. At the same date, Kaufman & Broad had 207 housing programs on the market representing 4,196 housing units, versus 162 programs and 3,092 housing units at end-2015. The Housing portfolio totaled 24,314 lots, up 28.2% compared to end-2015. It represents potential revenue of nearly four years of business. The group is planning to launch 26 new programs in Q12017, representing nearly 1,559 lots. Total revenues amounted to €1,238.0 million (excluding VAT), up 16.5% compared to 2015. Revenues from the Housing segment totaled €1,060.0 million (excluding VAT), compared to €963.4 million (excluding VAT) in 2015. This represents 85.6% of the group's revenues. Revenues from the Apartments business were up 11.5% to €1,017.7 million (excluding VAT). Revenues from Single-family homes in communities totaled €42.3 million (excluding VAT), versus €50.4 million (excluding VAT) in 2015. Revenues from the Commercial property segment totaled €171.1 million (excluding VAT), compared to €93.9 million (excluding VAT) in 2015. The gross margin for 2016 totaled €235.6 million compared to €202.7 million in 2015. The gross margin rate came to 19.0%, unchanged from 2015. Current operating expenses amounted to €134.3 million[1], i.e., 10.9% of revenues, versus €117.0 million in 2015 (11.0% of revenues). Current operating profit totaled €101.3 million, compared to €85.7 million in 2015. The current operating margin rate rose to 8.2% from 8.1% in 2015. The group's adjusted EBIT[2] amounted to €108.7 million in 2016 (vs. €92.7 million in 2015). The adjusted EBIT margin was 8.8% (vs. 8.7%). At November 30, 2016, net financial debt was €85.1 million, compared to a positive net cash position of €27.7 million at end-November 2015. Cash assets (available cash and investment securities) totaled €118.1 million, compared to €169.4 million at November 30, 2015. The working capital requirement totaled €129.2 million (10.4% of revenues), compared to €92.4 million at November 30, 2015 (8.7% of revenues). At its meeting of January 27, 2017, the Board of Directors of Kaufman & Broad SA, duly noted the resignation of Alexandre Dejoie as Director, at the close of the Board meeting. Kaufman & Broad thanked him warmly for his contribution to the Board's work. Following this departure, PAI Partners was left with only two Directors' seats. At the same time, the Board of Directors appointed Jean-Louis Chaussade, Chairman & CEO of Suez Environnement, as Director. At January 19, 2017, the FG8 holding company held 36.2% of the share capital of Kaufman & Broad SA At the same date, in line with the commitments made by the company's management, the Artimus Participation fund, representing 125 Kaufman & Broad managers and employees, held 6.7% of the company's capital. Including the 1.3% stake held by group employees through the company savings plan, the total stake held by all Kaufman & Broad staff was 8%. Another 6.5% stake was held by Predica. The free float was 41%. Following this significant increase, on December 28, 2016, Kaufman & Broad shares were admitted to trading on the "Long-only" Deferred Settlement Service (SRD) of Euronext Paris. As announced in 2016, a dividend of €1.85 per share will be paid out in 2017 in respect of fiscal 2016 (ended November 30, 2016), subject to the approval of the Company's shareholders at the General Meeting to be held on May 11 this year. It will also be proposed to the Shareholders' Meeting of Kaufman & Broad SA, the right to receive this dividend either 100% in cash or 100% in shares. Upon completion of this transaction and in order to maintain the number of shares on a fully diluted basis, the Company will cancel as many treasury shares as will be created to satisfy the choice of Shareholders Moreover, it is recalled that a pay-out ratio of 75% of earnings, net of exceptional items, will be proposed to the Shareholders' Meeting called to approve the financial statements for fiscal 2017 (ending November 30, 2017). The group estimates that in fiscal 2017 its revenues will increase by 8 to 10%, gross margin and adjusted EBIT will remain around 19% and 8.5% respectively, while net financial debt will remain close to €100 million. This press release is available from the website www.kaufmanbroad.fr About Kaufman & Broad - For almost 50 years, Kaufman & Broad has been designing, building and selling single-family homes in communities, apartments and offices on behalf of third parties. Kaufman & Broad is a leading French property builder and developer measured by its size, earnings and the strength of its brand. Kaufman & Broad's Registration Document, filed on March 9, 2016 with the French financial markets authority (the "AMF") under number D.16-0125 (the "Registration Document"), as well as the updated Registration Document filed with the AMF under number D.16-0125-A01 are available on the AMF website (www.amf-france.org) and on the Kaufman & Broad website (www.kaufmanbroad.fr). They contain a detailed description of Kaufman & Broad's business, results and outlook, as well as the associated risk factors. Kaufman & Broad particularly refers to the risk factors described in Section 1.2 of the Registration Document, as amended in the updated Registration Document. The materialization of one or more of these risks could have a significant negative impact on Kaufman & Broad's business, assets, financial position, results and outlook, as well as on the trading price of Kaufman & Broad shares. This announcement does not, and shall not, in any circumstances constitute a public offering, nor an offer to sell or to subscribe, nor a solicitation to offer to purchase or to subscribe securities in any country. Orders: measured in volume (Units) and in value, orders reflect the group's sales activity. Orders are recognized as revenue based on the time necessary for the "conversion" of an order into a signed and notarized deed, which is the point at which income is generated. In addition, for Multi-occupancy housing programs that include mixed-use buildings (apartments/business premises/retail space/offices), all floor space is converted into housing equivalents. Units: Units are used to define the number of housing units or equivalent housing units (for mixed programs) of any given program. The number of equivalent housing units is calculated as a ratio of the surface area by type (business premises/retail space/offices) to the average surface area of the housing units previously obtained. EHU: EHUs (Equivalent Housing Units delivered) directly reflect sales. The number of EHUs is a function of multiplying (i) the number of housing units of a given program for which notarized sales deeds have been signed by (ii) the ratio between the group's property expenses and construction expenses incurred on said program and the total expense budget for said program. Take-up rate: the number of orders in relation to the average commercial offer for the period. Commercial offer: the total inventory of housing units available for sale at the relevant date, i.e., all unordered housing units at such date (less the programs that have not entered the marketing phase). Gross margin: corresponds to revenues less cost of sales. Cost of sales consists of the price of land, the related property costs and the construction costs. Adjusted EBIT: corresponds to current operating income adjusted for the "IAS 23 revised" borrowing costs that have been capitalized and removed in the gross margin. Backlog: also called an order book, is the summary which enables future revenues for the coming months to be forecast at any given moment. Property portfolio: refers to all the land for which all commitments (contract of sale, etc.) have been signed. [1] Of which €1.1 million in fees for the re-IPO conducted in the 1st half of 2016 [2] Adjusted EBIT corresponds to current operating profit of €101.3 million adjusted for capitalized borrowing costs of €7.4 million at November 30, 2016, compared to current operating profit of €85.7 million adjusted for capitalized borrowing costs of €7.0 million at November 30, 2015.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Erlantz Lizundia, a researcher in the UPV/EHU's department of Physical Chemistry and expert in cellulose, started the research during a period of time he spent in Canada. The research group he was in specialised in the helix-shaped organisation of a product extracted from cellulose, cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs). Under specific conditions, the crystals can assume a helical structure, or what is the same, they can form chiral nematic structures when the crystals are organised into ordered layers, and membranes with unique properties can thus be obtained: "The membrane displays a different colour depending on the distance existing between the layers of cellulose nanocrystals that form the helical, or chiral nematic structure. An interaction takes place between the structure and the light and, as a result, the wavelength of the light changes and materials in bright colours are obtained," explained Lizundia. This capacity to change colour displayed by the structure "could prove very useful in enabling these membranes to be used as sensors; for example, when they are put into a humid environment, the structure will swell and the distance between the layers will increase and the colour will change," he added. This effect is known as structural coloration and is very common in nature. The colour of a whole host of animals (snakes, chameleons) and plants is the direct consequence of their supramolecular structure, and contrary to what one may think, is not linked to the presence of pigments. Suitable as metal sensors and for bioimaging purposes Inserting carbon dots into the chiral nematic structure of the cellulose nanocrystals makes this material particularly suited as a detector for the presence of iron so, as Lizundia explains, "it is very useful for detecting environmental pollution or the presence of metals in the body. I, specifically, studied the material's response to zinc and iron, as they are both present in large quantities in environmental and biological matters. I was able to see that the interaction of the metal ions with the carbon nanoparticles influences the degree of fluorescence emitted by the nanoparticles. The fluorescence diminishes in the presence of iron, whereas it increases in the presence of zinc". Another possible application of this material could be in bioimaging. In the research conducted, Lizundia only managed to get as far as testing that it does in fact offer this possibility. "I will shortly be embarking on research to go further into this subject and use these nanoparticles to create bioimages". Bioimaging consists of creating images using non-invasive methods in biological processes, such as cell processes, as well as measuring the interaction between molecules in real time in the location where these interactions are taking place. The UPV/EHU researcher Erlantz Lizundia conducted his research work in collaboration with the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada, and with the FPInnovations organisation, also Canadian. At that time, Lizundia was a researcher in the department of Physical Chemistry on the UPV/EHU's Leioa campus. Right now, however, he is assistant lecturer in the Department of Graphic Expression and Engineering Projects in the Faculty of Engineering in Bilbao. Wanting to go a step beyond what he had learned in Canada, Lizundia considered incorporating other functional nanoparticles into this chiral nematic structure, particles whose properties change in the presence of external stimuli. He chose some carbon nanodots, firstly because they are fluorescent, in other words, they emit colour when excited by ultraviolet light, and secondly, because he was able to obtain them by using sugar as the raw material. "I obtained these nanoparticles by subjecting glucose to hydrothermal treatment using water and heat only and by means of a fast, cheap process," the researcher pointed out. The final material displayed the characteristics Lizundia had been seeking. Firstly, "it is an environmentally friendly material as it is non-toxic and its raw materials are of a renewable nature, and the synthesis process is fast, simple and scalable. Secondly, the fact that the material is fluorescent gives it interesting properties enabling it to be used as a sensor," specified Lizundia.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Lipid nanoparticles (SLNs and NLCs) are regarded as highly promising systems for delivering nucleic acids in gene therapy. Until now, viral systems have been the most effective method for delivering genetic matter but they pose significant safety problems. "Non-viral vectors, including SLNs and NLCs, are less effective but much safer even though their effectiveness has increased significantly in recent years", pointed out Alicia Rodrí­guez, Marí­a Ángeles Soliní­s and Ana del Pozo, authors of the article published in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics. This review article describes these systems and their main advantages in gene therapy, such as their capacity to protect the gene material against degradation, to facilitate cell and nucleus internalisation and to boost the transfection process. "What is more, the nanoparticles are made up of biocompatible, biodegradable materials, they are easy to produce on a large scale, they can be sterilised and freeze-dried and are very stable both in biological fluids and in storage," explained the researchers. This review also includes the main diseases in which lipid nanoparticles are being applied, generally on the preclinical level: degenerative diseases of the retina, infectious diseases, metabolic disorders, and cancer, among others. "At PharmaNanoGene we are working on the design and evaluation of SLNs for treating some of these diseases using gene therapy. We are studying the relationship between formulation factors and the processes involving the intracellular internalisation and disposition of the genetic material that condition the effectiveness of the vectors and which is essential in the optimisation process, and for the first time we have demonstrated the capacity of SLNs to induce the synthesis of a protein following their intravenous administration in mice," they stressed. The publication also includes other pieces of work by this UPV/EHU research group on the application of SLNs in the treatment of rare diseases, such as chromosome-X-linked juvenile retinoschisis, a disorder in which the retina becomes destructured due to a deficiency in the protein retinoschisin. "One of the main achievements of our studies in this field has been to demonstrate, also for the first time, the capacity of a non-viral vector to transfect the retina of animals lacking the gene that encodes this protein and partially restore its structure, showing than non-viral gene therapy is a viable, promising therapeutic tool for treating degenerative disorders of the retina," specified the researchers. The application of SLNs for treating Fabry disease, a serious, multi-system metabolic disorder of a hereditary nature, has also been studied at PharmaNanoGene. "This is a monogenic disease linked to the X-chromosome which is caused by various gene mutations in the gene that encodes the -galactosidase A (-Gal A) enzyme. In cell models of this disease we have demonstrated the capacity of SLNs to induce the synthesis of -Gal A". They have also reviewed the application of lipid nanoparticles to the treatment of infectious diseases: "Our work in this field shows that SLNs with RNA interference are capable of inhibiting a replicon of the hepatitis C virus in vitro, which was used as proof-of-concept of the use of SLN-based vectors as a new therapeutic strategy for treating this infection and others related to it". The UPV/EHU's Pharmacokinetic, Nanotechnology and Gene Therapy Group (PharmaNanoGene) is attached to the Department of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the Faculty of Pharmacy and to the Lascaray Ikergunea (Research Centre). It is a consolidated group of the Basque University System whose research activity comes within the framework of drug design and evaluation. One of its main lines of research revolves around the development of new systems of drug delivery based on micro- and nanoparticles, more specifically, around lipid nanoparticles to increase the oral absorption of poorly-soluble drugs, and for the administration of nucleic acids (gene therapy). Del Pozo-Rodrí­guez, A., Solinis, M.A., Rodríguez Gascón, A. Applications of lipid nanoparticles in gene therapy. European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics. Volume 109, December 2016, 184-193. DOI: http://dx.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: phys.org

Lipid nanoparticles (SLNs and NLCs) are regarded as highly promising systems for delivering nucleic acids in gene therapy. Until now, viral systems have been the most effective method for delivering genetic matter but they pose significant safety problems. "Non-viral vectors, including SLNs and NLCs, are less effective but much safer even though their effectiveness has increased significantly in recent years," pointed out Alicia Rodríguez, María Ángeles Solinís and Ana del Pozo, authors of the article published in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics. This review article describes these systems and their main advantages in gene therapy, such as their capacity to protect the gene material against degradation, to facilitate cell and nucleus internalisation and to boost the transfection process. "What is more, the nanoparticles are made up of biocompatible, biodegradable materials, they are easy to produce on a large scale, they can be sterilised and freeze-dried and are very stable both in biological fluids and in storage," explained the researchers. This review also includes the main diseases in which lipid nanoparticles are being applied, generally on the preclinical level—degenerative diseases of the retina, infectious diseases, metabolic disorders, and cancer, among others. "At PharmaNanoGene we are working on the design and evaluation of SLNs for treating some of these diseases using gene therapy. We are studying the relationship between formulation factors and the processes involving the intracellular internalisation and disposition of the genetic material that condition the effectiveness of the vectors and which is essential in the optimisation process, and for the first time we have demonstrated the capacity of SLNs to induce the synthesis of a protein following their intravenous administration in mice," they stressed. The publication also includes other pieces of work by this UPV/EHU research group on the application of SLNs in the treatment of rare diseases, such as chromosome-X-linked juvenile retinoschisis, a disorder in which the retina becomes destructured due to a deficiency in the protein retinoschisin. "One of the main achievements of our studies in this field has been to demonstrate, also for the first time, the capacity of a non-viral vector to transfect the retina of animals lacking the gene that encodes this protein and partially restore its structure, showing than non-viral gene therapy is a viable, promising therapeutic tool for treating degenerative disorders of the retina," specified the researchers. The application of SLNs for treating Fabry disease, a serious, multi-system metabolic disorder of a hereditary nature, has also been studied at PharmaNanoGene. "This is a monogenic disease linked to the X-chromosome which is caused by various gene mutations in the gene that encodes the a-galactosidase A (a-Gal A) enzyme. In cell models of this disease we have demonstrated the capacity of SLNs to induce the synthesis of a-Gal A." They have also reviewed the application of lipid nanoparticles to the treatment of infectious diseases: "Our work in this field shows that SLNs with RNA interference are capable of inhibiting a replicon of the hepatitis C virus in vitro, which was used as proof-of-concept of the use of SLN-based vectors as a new therapeutic strategy for treating this infection and others related to it." Explore further: Researchers show that lipid nanoparticles are ideal for delivering genes and drugs More information: Ana del Pozo-Rodríguez et al. Applications of lipid nanoparticles in gene therapy, European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpb.2016.10.016


News Article | February 22, 2017
Site: phys.org

Unai Alvarez-Rodriguez is a researcher in the Quantum Technologies for Information Science (QUTIS) research group attached to the UPV/EHU's Department of Physical Chemistry, and an expert in quantum information technologies. Quantum information technology uses quantum phenomena to encode computational tasks. Unlike classical computation, quantum computation "has the advantage of not being limited to producing registers in values of zero and one," he said. Qubits, the equivalent of bits in classical computation, can take values of zero, one or both at the same time, a phenomenon known as superposition, which "gives quantum systems the possibility of performing much more complex operations, establishing a computational parallel on a quantum level, and offering better results than classical computation systems," he added. The research group to which Alvarez-Rodriguez belongs decided to focus on imitating biological processes. "We thought it would be interesting to create systems capable of emulating certain properties exclusive of living entities. In other words, we were seeking to design quantum information protocols whose dynamics were analogous to these properties." The processes they chose to imitate by means of quantum simulators were natural selection, memory and intelligence. This led them to develop the concept of quantum biomimetics. They recreated a natural selection environment in which there were individuals, replication, mutation, interaction with other individuals and the environment, and a state equivalent to death. "We developed this final mechanism so that the individuals would have a finite lifetime," said the researcher. So by combining all these elements, the system has no single clear solution: "We approached the natural selection model as a dispute between different strategies in which each individual would be a strategy for resolving the problem, the solution would be the strategy capable of dominating the available space." The mechanism to simulate memory, on the other hand, consists of a system governed by equations. But equations display a dependence on their previous and future states, so the way in which the system changes "does not only depend on its state right now, but on its state five minutes ago, and where it is going to be in five minutes' time," explained Alvarez-Rodriguez. Finally, in the quantum algorithms relating to learning processes, they developed mechanisms to optimize well-defined tasks, to improve classical algorithms, and to improve the error margins and reliability of operations. "We managed to encode a function in a quantum system but not to write it directly; the system did it autonomously, we could say that it 'learned' by means of the mechanism we designed so that it would happen. That is one of the most novel advances in this research," he said. From computational models to the real world All these methods and protocols developed in his research have provided the means to resolve all kinds of systems. Alvarez-Rodriguez says that the memory method can be used to resolve highly complex systems: "It could be used to study quantum systems in different ambient conditions, or on different scales in a more accessible, more cost-effective way." With respect to natural selection, "more than anything we have come up with a quantum mechanism on which self-replicating systems could be based and which could be used to automate processes on a quantum scale." And finally, as regards learning, "we have come up with a way of teaching a machine a function without having to insert the result beforehand. This is something that is going to be very useful in the years to come, and we will get to see it," he said. All the models developed in the research were computational models. But Alvarez-Rodriguez has made it clear that one of the main ideas of his research group is that "science takes place in the real world. Everything we do has a more or less direct application. Despite having been conducted in theoretical mode, the simulations we have proposed are designed so that they can be carried out in experiments, on different types of quantum platforms, such as trapped ions, superconducting circuits and phototonic waveguides, among others. To do this, we had the collaboration of the experimental groups." Explore further: Quantum RAM: Modelling the big questions with the very small


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: phys.org

An image showing the process to synthesise the new material. Credit: Erlantz Lizundia (UPV/EHU) By synthesizing carbon nanoparticles from sugar and a source of cellulose such as newspapers, researchers in the UPV/EHU's Department of Physical Chemistry have developed a material that could be used as a sensor as its components respond to stimuli. For example, the fluorescence of carbon nanoparticles has been found to increase or diminish in the presence of different metals, so they could be used as materials for detection. Erlantz Lizundia, a researcher in the UPV/EHU's department of Physical Chemistry and expert in cellulose, started the research in Canada. The research group with which he participated specialised in the helix-shaped organisation of a product extracted from cellulose—cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs). Under specific conditions, the crystals can assume a helical structure, or assume chiral nematic structures when the crystals are organised into ordered layers. Membranes with unique properties can thus be obtained: "The membrane displays a different colour depending on the distance existing between the layers of cellulose nanocrystals that form the helical, or chiral nematic structure. An interaction takes place between the structure and the light and, as a result, the wavelength of the light changes and materials in bright colours are obtained," said Lizundia. This capacity to change colour displayed by the structure "could prove very useful in enabling these membranes to be used as sensors. For example, when they are put into a humid environment, the structure will swell and the distance between the layers will increase and the colour will change," he said. This effect is known as structural coloration, and is very common in nature. The colour of a whole host of animals (snakes, chameleons) and plants is the direct consequence of their supramolecular structure, and contrary to belief, the phenomenon is not linked to the presence of pigments. Inserting carbon dots into the chiral nematic structure of the cellulose nanocrystals makes this material particularly suited as a detector for the presence of iron. Lizundia says, "It is very useful for detecting environmental pollution or the presence of metals in the body. I studied the material's response to zinc and iron, as they are both present in large quantities in environmental and biological matter. I was able to see that the interaction of the metal ions with the carbon nanoparticles influences the degree of fluorescence emitted by the nanoparticles. The fluorescence diminishes in the presence of iron, whereas it increases in the presence of zinc." Another possible application of this material could be in bioimaging. "I will shortly be embarking on research to go further into this subject and use these nanoparticles to create bioimages," Lizundia says. Bioimaging consists of creating images using non-invasive methods in biological processes, such as cell processes, as well as measuring the interaction between molecules in real time in the location where these interactions are taking place. Explore further: Iridescent films made from wood pulp cellulose may replace toxic dyes

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