The green energy transition is a key point to achieve carbon neutrality. Biofuels - fuels produced from biomass - are one of the promising alternatives. What are today’s bioengineers developing in this area to help achieve this goal?
Biorefinery is a key element of the (bio)circular economy concept. The implementation of biorefinery in the actual socio-economic context of nowadays Europe creates challenges but opens numerous perspectives for more advanced solution of tomorrows’ world. This talk aims to address the main aspects of biorefinery and the contribution that biorefinery can bring to the development of more sustainable solutions.
The pressing need for novel bioproduction approaches faces limitations in the number and type of molecules that can be accessed through synthetic biology. Halogenation is widely used for tuning physicochemical properties of molecules and polymers, but traditional halogenation chemistry often lacks specificity and generates harmful by-products. Deploying synthetic metabolism tailored for biohalogenation represents an unique opportunity towards economically-attractive and environmentally-friendly organohalide production. On this background, growth-coupled selection of functional metabolic modules that harness the rich repertoire of biosynthetic and biodegradation capabilities of environmental bacteria for in vivo biohalogenation will be discussed. By rationally combining these approaches, the chemical landscape of living cells can accommodate bioproduction of added-value organohalides which, as of today, are obtained by traditional chemistry. In particular, fluorine is a key element for the synthesis of molecules broadly used in medicine, agriculture and materials. Adding fluorine atoms onto organic structures is a unique strategy for tuning molecular properties—yet organofluorines are rarely found in Nature, and approaches to integrate fluorometabolites into the chemistry of living cells are scarce. Thus, synthetic metabolism can be implemented to expand the chemical landscape of bacteria, providing alternative biosynthetic strategies for new-to-Nature building-blocks.
Climate change is happening faster than previously expected, according to the latest IPCC report, and its impacts are now starting to be evident all over the world. The need for an energetic transition away from polluting fossil fuels and towards clean and renewable energy is therefore more urgent than ever.
Renewable and clean energy options are now available to decarbonise most sectors and climate neutrality in 2050 is technically feasible. In this talk, we will look into the national decarbonisation roadmap (RNC2050) and we will explore the energy options now available for both electricity production and transport, the costs or difficulties associated with their implementation and also some of the emerging technologies that might present an alternative solution in the near future.
Science isn’t always absolute, and, sometimes, it’s not what people expect or want. Bioengineering discoveries can be considered borderline outrageous and spark controversy among specific audiences or even the world.
Cannabinoid receptors 1 (CB1R) are widely distributed in neurons and astrocytes. Exogenous activation of CB1R inhibit excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission and plasticity to disrupt memory. Adenosine is another ubiquitous neuromodulator of synaptic signalling. We focused on 1) understanding the role of endocannabinoids (eCBs) to modulate synaptic plasticity phenomena; 2) understanding how the two neuromodulators, cannabinoids and adenosine, control each other.
We found that eCBs have a dual role upon hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP), inhibiting weak LTP while facilitating strong LTP (Silva-Cruz et al., 2017 - Front Pharmacol. 8:921.eCollection), likely acting as a high pass filter to reduce signal to noise ratio of synaptic strengthening during memory consolidation. Exogenous activation of CB1Rs consistently inhibit LTP at the hippocampus and, probably by disrupting the fine-tune homeostatic control exerted by eCBs upon synaptic plasticity, consistently disrupt memory consolidation and affect brain connectivity between brain areas relevant for memory (Mouro et al., 2018 - J Neurochem 47:71-83). Importantly, adenosine A2A receptor (A2AR) antagonists attenuated the inhibitory action of CB1R agonists upon LTP and prevented memory consolidation impairment caused by acute (Mouro et al., 2017 - Neuropharmacology, 117:316-327) or chronic (Mouro et al., 2019 - Neuropharmacology 155:10-21) intake of CB1R agonists. A1Rs, though present in CB1R positive interneurons (Rombo et al., 2016 - Cereb Cortex 26:1081-1095), do not influence the inhibitory action of exogenous activation of CB1Rs on synaptic transmission (Serpa et al., Eur J Pharmacol. 623:41-46) or plasticity (Silva-Cruz et al., 2017 - Front Pharmacol. 8:921.eCollection).
In conclusion, interactions cannabinoid-adenosine interactions impact in synaptic plasticity and cognitive phenomena, which may prove relevant when mitigation of cognitive deficits during cannabinoid-based therapies is required.
Iberian native cattle retain high genetic diversity relative to that of their European counterparts, including unique paternal and maternal lineages, as well as African taurine cattle ancestry in their autosomal genomes. This renders Iberian breeds a great model to study the genomic impact of cattle diversification, but also to explore if some of their unique adaptive features to harsh environments can be useful for the genomic improvement of mainstream breeds. The OPTIBOV international project aims to study cattle populations from 6 biogeographic regions, from north to south, in Europe and Africa. The genomic variability of native breeds will be investigated to identify markers for adaptation traits. We use high-throughput resequencing data to carry out association studies of well-defined phenotypes under local conditions, and to identify genomic regions which have been under natural (environmental adaptation) as well as artificial (human-mediated) selection. OPTIBOV results will be used to improve breeding programs. We will discuss some of the controversial aspects related to the use of genomic tools for adjusting mainstream breeds to climate change.
The use of biometrics is ever increasing in society. They provide a convenient way to unlock our phones, or to login to systems. In this session, the security and privacy implications of a biometric future will be discussed. We will cover how systems use your fingerprint or face to verify you, and how biometric data is stored within them. The tradeoffs between convenience and security will be discussed, as well as the ethics surrounding the collection of data. By attending this session, you will gain a better understanding of the implications of biometric authentication systems so that you may make more informed decisions about their usage.
Forensic engineering, defined as the application of engineering principles and procedures towards the purposes of the law, is a rapidly developing forensics specialty. But how would a biomedical engineer play an important role in this amazingly broad field?
Most people intuitively understand that it might be harmful to fiercely shake an infant. Nevertheless, there are many cases every year in which infants suffer severe head injuries or even die due to or with the primary suspected cause being shaking. There is still much debate about whether shaking alone could cause such severe head injuries and under what conditions. In this lecture we will first explore what we can learn from biomechanical knowledge about the causal relations between shaking and injuries. Next, we will see how shaking an instrumented test doll shed new light on what happens with an infant’s head during shaking and why the apparent conflicts in literature about this matter might not be conflicts at all, but just different pieces of a big biomechanical puzzle.
Classical Biomechanics is a branch of physics that deals with motion, mass, acceleration, and force which are applied specifically to biological structures. In general, Biomechanics has a large scope of disciplines ranging from subcellular mechanisms to full-scale body kinematics. One specialized discipline of Biomechanics is known as Forensic Injury Biomechanics.
Forensic Injury Biomechanics can be simply defined as a methodology for estimating injury probability through determining the biomechanical plausibility for injury. The challenge in characterizing the response of the human body to external stimuli, specifically the kinetics, kinematics, and the injury biomechanics involved, is that it requires high accuracy and surgical precision especially when shadowed in the umbrella of litigation. Thus, in unfortunate events such as vehicular crashes, understanding the occupant dynamics, restraint system efficacy, external forces, and environmental conditions becomes paramount.
At VA Forensics/Aperture, we specialize in defining all such available parameters, vehicular and/or anthropomorphic specifications, and relevant inertial considerations to determine the extent of injury and biomechanical plausibility.
The big aims of Forensic Anthropology are to return back the identity to human remains, no matter how decomposed they are, and to assist in the assessment of cause, mechanism, and manner of death. More and more, to achieve those goals, forensic anthropologists are counting on other sciences such as genetics, chemistry, artificial intelligence, biomechanics, imaging, among others. We here present and discuss case studies where the contributions of each of the mentioned sciences were essential to their resolution.
Speakers that studied Bioengineering or Biomedical Engineering at FEUP are invited to come and share their journey from university to the working world.
Bioengineering is defined as the application of engineering concepts and approaches towards biological sciences and problems. However, such a definition is difficult to relate to what are the capabilities of a person with an academic background in the field, mainly due to the wide variety of distinct subjects that are approached in such courses.
I completed the Integrated Master in Bioengineering (biomedical engineering), in 2014 and my thesis focused on the development of multifunctional nanoparticles for the theranostic of rheumatoid arthritis. After my master I wanted to continue to work with nanotechnology and an opportunity to do so presented itself, towards animal nutrition, as part of the Sustainable Animal Nutrition and Feeding doctoral programme. I took the challenge and began a PhD in Animal Science, in an industrial setting in collaboration with the feed supplement company PREMIX®, aiming to design and produce a nanoparticle-based system for the supplementation and protection of amino acids for dairy cow nutrition. This project involved communication and working with people from several different backgrounds, including but not limited to, feed producers, chemical analysts, veterinarians, dairy farmers and engineers, chemometric scientists and physicists. It was a degree in bioengineering, and its interdisciplinary nature, that enabled me to approach all of these different professionals and both explain and solve the issues that arose during my PhD. After my PhD, a chance to embrace a challenge in a new field came up and I joined the BioEngineered Surfaces group at i3S, to work with antimicrobial wound dressings. Here, a degree in bioengineering not only provided the required scientific basis but, once again, imbued me with an interdisciplinary mindset that has made it possible to address the needs and problems of my work, both in and out of the laboratory.
To summarize, a course in bioengineering enables you to experiment with a substantial amount of different scientific areas that will allow you to understand and communicate with virtually any professional throughout your career.
Artificial Intelligence has been steadily conquering a prominent place in our society. As computers evolve and become more powerful, even in edge scenarios, the same deep learning algorithms are being used to learn and predict everything from tumour malignancy to human actions. In these times where cutting-edge AI often looks as simple as following a recipe, and researchers compete daily against mighty technological powerhouses, knowing the intricacies of the application domain is the key to getting us ahead of the competition. So, could there be a better way to dominate all things AI than Bioengineering, the course that covers (almost) everything? I doubt it. Thus, in this talk, I will discuss my path from biomedical engineering to AI, and illustrate how the often-overlooked multidisciplinary background can be your best friend in the quest to create intelligent software solutions to real problems.Artificial Intelligence has been steadily conquering a prominent place in our society. As computers evolve and become more powerful, even in edge scenarios, the same deep learning algorithms are being used to learn and predict everything from tumour malignancy to human actions. In these times where cutting-edge AI often looks as simple as following a recipe, and researchers compete daily against mighty technological powerhouses, knowing the intricacies of the application domain is the key to getting us ahead of the competition. So, could there be a better way to dominate all things AI than Bioengineering, the course that covers (almost) everything? I doubt it. Thus, in this talk, I will discuss my path from biomedical engineering to AI, and illustrate how the often-overlooked multidisciplinary background can be your best friend in the quest to create intelligent software solutions to real problems.
In this panel, we will dive into some crucial game-changing moments in the different fields of Bioengineering, and how they changed the current paradigms into what we know today.
CRISPR-mediated fetal gene activation: a game-changer for intervertebral disc regeneration.
Security requirements all over the world were put into perspective after the 9/11 attacks and governments and civil entities had to define new rules and processes to increase passenger security, trackability and traceability. To this end, manual security checks and more complex processes were rolled out on every airport with an increase in cost, processing times and hassle to the passengers. Once a global and connected world was now separated by rules, checks and controls.
Pressured by these new processes, and powered by new technologies such as digital cameras, secure RFIDs, Identity Management solutions gained traction. These solutions, like the electronic passport (ePassport), reduced the time at border control by ensuring that the passenger data was up to date and with enough quality for easier recognition by the officer, and by enabling the use of new technologies, like automatic passport security checks. The use of ePassport with good quality biometrics ramped up the applicability of biometric recognition as a technology to automatically validate the passenger identity. Biometric recognition is the attempt to assess a subject's identity based on a set of intrinsic physiological or behavioral traits, that are both universal to every subject as well as presenting a high uniqueness between different subjects. From face, to iris, to fingerprint, biometric recognition rose drastically in the last 20 years cementing itself in almost everyone's day-to-day life, from simpler applications such as mobile phone access to extremely high security applications such as bank account access. The use of biometrics at the border control improved the passenger experience by reducing processing times without compromising security.
As much as biometrics is already a part of everyone's lives, it is still a rapidly growing market, with a promising future and a multiplicity of applications still to be explored enabling seamless world for all of us.
The Koch's postulates provided a significant advancement in medical microbiology, in the late XIX century, by establishing four criteria designed to determine if there was a causative relationship between a specific microorganism and a disease, therefore being able to determine a disease etiology. On the late XX century a new version of the Kock’s postulates considered no the presence of bacterial cultures, but the presence of their DNA, basically because some pathogens are not easily grown in laboratory. However, these postulates did not consider that some bacterial infections are caused not by a specific bacterial species, but by bacterial consortia, wherein the outcome caused by these polymicrobial consortia are significantly more virulent that the sum of the individual parts. Examples of polymicrobial infections include cystic fibrosis, dental caries, or bacterial vaginosis. While the first two are easily diagnosed, bacterial vaginosis presents a further challenge, not only due to the very high recurrence rates after antimicrobial treatment, but mainly because its etiology is yet fully understood, making diagnosis also a challenge.
During this talk, it will be highlighted how different bacterial species can cooperate to overcome the host immune response and to become refractory to current antimicrobial therapy and will provide some examples of how my research group is tacking these challenges.
Throughout history, many fatal and hopeless diseases haunting mankind have been effectively solved, releasing a burden from humanity. How close is Bioengineering to cracking the currently unsolved diseases today?
Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) therapy has become the standard of care for patients with glioblastoma. It uses energy from the electromagnetic spectrum, specifically tuned to a frequency of 200 kHz, to disrupt dividing tumor cells. TTFields are delivered to the patient as non-invasive regional treatment via two pairs of orthogonally positioned transducer arrays applied to surface of the head. Side effects are primarily localized to the scalp. Since its approval by the United State Food and Drug Administration in 2011 for recurrent glioblastoma and in 2015 for newly diagnosed glioblastoma, the indication for use of TTFields now includes mesothelioma. Additional clinical trial investigations are underway for brain metastases from non-small cell lung cancer, advance stage non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian carcinoma. This presentation will include the scientific basis of TTFields’ anti-tumor activities and review mechanistic data that helped guide pivotal clinical trials. Future applications of this exciting technology will also be presented.
Organ transplantation is presently the only proven therapy able to extend survival for end-stage organ disease. It is also the only treatment available for severe acute organ failures and to some forms of inborn errors of metabolism. Nevertheless, the waiting list for organ transplantation is long and many patients will not survive long enough to receive an organ due to the dramatic shortage of donors or lack of eligibility. This distressing donor shortage is common to most solid organs like the liver, lung, heart and particularly kidneys.
In light of the grim situation of organ transplantation, our laboratory has developed novel methods to generate an entire liver scaffold from whole animal livers, using tissue decellularization that preserves the organ’s vascular network. This same method is also able to decellularize other solid organs generating specific acellular kidney, lung, intestine, pancreas or heart scaffolds. Our subsequent studies showed the possibility to efficiently recellularize the liver bioscaffolds by perfusing them with human liver progenitor and endothelial cells in a perfusion bioreactor. The outcome of this was a bioengineered human liver.
Although, most of the current generation of bioengineered organs lack in vivo-like functional tissue and physiological vascular networks, making their transplantation still a mirage. These challenges and potential solutions will be described in detail drawing a path to transplantation, to truly shape organ bioengineering into the Future of Transplantation Medicine.
Sports play a large role for many healthy lifestyles, and since it completely depends on our own biology, Bioengineering can make a difference here as well.
Neurofeedback is a clinical technique that has been around since the 1970's, helping patients with depression, anxiety, attention deficit, and chronic pain, better cope with their diseases. This technique is based on displaying to patients their own brainwaves in real-time, bringing into conscious awareness their mental processes. Brainwaves are typically translated into visual or auditory stimuli, within a context of a particular task or game, such that the reward system is engaged, enabling patients to effectively learn how to modulate and control their (pathological) mental processes. As such, neurofeedback is a therapeutic technique in which patients learn how to heal themselves, no pills required!
Between 1970-1990's, the neurofeedback technique started being applied outside the clinical context, namely for the improvement of cognitive skills such as attention and memory. Of notice are the pioneering works done at NASA with pilots and astronauts. Nowadays, the neurofeedback technique is still unknown from most people, including clinicians, meaning that there is plenty of room for improving patients' health as well as the performance of each and everyone of us!
In this talk, we'll be addressing the use of neurofeedback in sports, including its technologies and approaches, as well as our own Neroes' Mental Training Platform solution and experience so far in different sports, ranging for soccer, shooting, judo and more, with the mission of building the ultimate athlete. Finally, we will learn how the technology used for super-athletes can turn you into a super-student!
The study of elite athletes provides a unique opportunity to define the upper limits of human physiology and performance. Across a variety of sports, these individuals have trained to optimize the physiological parameters of their bodies in order to compete on the world stage. To assess athletic performance, techniques such as heart rate monitoring, indirect calorimetry, and whole blood lactate measurement have provided insight into oxygen utilization, and substrate utilization and preference, as well as total metabolic capacity. However, while these techniques enable the measurement of individual, representative variables critical for sports performance, they lack the molecular resolution that is needed to understand which metabolic adaptations are necessary to influence these metrics. Recent advancements in mass spectrometry-based analytical approaches have enabled the measurement of hundreds to thousands of metabolites in a single analysis. Using a high-throughput platform developed by our group, we have analyzed blood samples from some of the world’s top endurance athletes, including Tour De France cyclists and Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc ultrarunners, to identify molecular profiles of endurance capacity and fatigue. These signatures may serve as a guide to personalize fitness training, and offer insights into a variety of disease pathologies including kidney disease and Covid-19.
With the ever-increasing pressure of the imminent depletion of our planet’s resources, Bioengineering offers some of the most promising solutions for the future’s sustainability.
Microalgae have demonstrated potential to meet the population’s need for a more sustainable supply of food/ feed and chemical. These photosynthetic aquatic microorganisms have higher areal productivities (50-80 tons dry weight/Ha/year) than terrestrial crops , can be cultivated on non-arable land, therefore avoiding competition for land with crops used for food production, they can grow in seawater or brackish water and use 1.8 kg of CO2 per kg of biomass. In addition, and equally important, microalgae have a very interesting composition and the entire biomass can be used for different applications. Depending on the specific species and cultivation, the specific contents and profiles of protein, lipids and carbohydrates can vary but, all biomass components have potential applications in the food, feed, cosmetic, energy and chemical sectors.
Due to decades of research and a few demonstration projects in the last years, the cultivation of microalgae has been scaled-up over the last years towards a doubling in commercial production worldwide. Despite this last increase, it still remains relatively small in comparison to other feedstocks such as palm oil, soya or fish oil, for which microalgae represents a sustainable alternative.
In order to have impact in a Bioeconomy and to make a contribution to food and energy security and sustainability some bottlenecks still must be overcome to make a reality the large-scale production and commercialization. Major challenges are to reduce production costs and energy requirements and increase production scale. Although microalgae are not yet produced at large-scale for bulk applications, recent advances – particularly in systems biology, genetic engineering, process control, and biorefinery – present opportunities to develop this process in a sustainable way. We performed a techno-economic evaluation of the whole process chain in six locations and a sensitivity analysis reveals the roadmap to achieve a sustainable and competitive process. It is clear that industrial strains are required with optimized solar energy conversion, carbon capture and utilization, and the partitioning of metabolic fluxes to the product of interest. Our recent progress aimed at improving microalgae strains for robust production of microalgae will be presented.
Current protocols for the differentiation of muscle and fat lineages from pluripotent cell lines are lengthy and require complex cocktails of small molecules and growth factors. Similarly, variation in differentiation efficiency and reproducibility remains problematic and mostly results in an immature phenotype. Here we describe the generation of porcine pluripotent stem cell lines making use of the Opti-ox (Optimized Over-expression) system. Utilising the self-renewal properties of pluripotent cell lines together with an efficient and rapid method of differentiation enables us to scale-up the production of muscle and fat for cultivated meat applications and allows us to explore different biofabrication methods.
OpenAi’s GPT-3 language model has triggered a new generation of Machine Learning models. Leveraging Transformers architectures at billion-size parameters trained on massive unlabeled datasets, these language models achieve new capabilities such as text generation, question answering, or even zero-shot learning - tasks the model has not been explicitly trained for. However, training these models represent massive computing tasks, now done on dedicated supercomputers. Scaling up these models will require new hardware and optimized training algorithms, and raises new questions regarding sustainability.