The environment topography alters the transition from single-cell populations to multicellular structures in Myxococcus xanthus published in Science Advances

M. xanthus cell-cell and cell-particle local interactions during cellular aggregation.
The environment topography alters the transition from single-cell populations to multicellular structures in Myxococcus xanthus
Karla C. Hernández Ramos, Edna Rodríguez-Sánchez, Juan Antonio Arias del Angel, Alejandro V. Arzola, Mariana Benítez, Ana E. Escalante, Alessio Franci, Giovanni Volpe, Natsuko Rivera-Yoshida
Sci. Adv. 7(35), eabh2278 (2021)
bioRxiv: 10.1101/2021.01.27.428527
doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abh2278

The social soil-dwelling bacteria Myxococcus xanthus can form multicellular structures, known as fruiting bodies. Experiments in homogeneous environments have shown that this process is affected by the physico-chemical properties of the substrate, but they have largely neglected the role of complex topographies. We experimentally demonstrate that the topography alters single-cell motility and multicellular organization in M. xanthus. In topographies realized by randomly placing silica particles over agar plates, we observe that the cells’ interaction with particles drastically modifies the dynamics of cellular aggregation, leading to changes in the number, size and shape of the fruiting bodies, and even to arresting their formation in certain conditions. We further explore this type of cell-particle interaction in a minimal computational model. These results provide fundamental insights into how the environment topography influences the emergence of complex multicellular structures from single cells, which is a fundamental problem of biological, ecological and medical relevance.

The Cognitive Connectome in Healthy Aging published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience

Age-independent cognitive connectome in the whole cohort.
The Cognitive Connectome in Healthy Aging
Eloy Garcia-Cabello, Lissett Gonzalez-Burgos, Joana B. Pereira, Juan Andres Hernández-Cabrera, Eric Westman, Giovanni Volpe, José Barroso, & Daniel Ferreira
Front. Aging Neurosci. 13, 530 (2021)
doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2021.694254

Objectives: Cognitive aging has been extensively investigated using both univariate and multivariate analyses. Sophisticated multivariate approaches such as graph theory could potentially capture unknown complex associations between multiple cognitive variables. The aim of this study was to assess whether cognition is organized into a structure that could be called the “cognitive connectome,” and whether such connectome differs between age groups.

Methods: A total of 334 cognitively unimpaired individuals were stratified into early-middle-age (37–50 years, n = 110), late-middle-age (51–64 years, n = 106), and elderly (65–78 years, n = 118) groups. We built cognitive networks from 47 cognitive variables for each age group using graph theory and compared the groups using different global and nodal graph measures.

Results: We identified a cognitive connectome characterized by five modules: verbal memory, visual memory—visuospatial abilities, procedural memory, executive—premotor functions, and processing speed. The elderly group showed reduced transitivity and average strength as well as increased global efficiency compared with the early-middle-age group. The late-middle-age group showed reduced global and local efficiency and modularity compared with the early-middle-age group. Nodal analyses showed the important role of executive functions and processing speed in explaining the differences between age groups.

Conclusions: We identified a cognitive connectome that is rather stable during aging in cognitively healthy individuals, with the observed differences highlighting the important role of executive functions and processing speed. We translated the connectome concept from the neuroimaging field to cognitive data, demonstrating its potential to advance our understanding of the complexity of cognitive aging.

Enhanced prediction of atrial fibrillation and mortality among patients with congenital heart disease using nationwide register-based medical hospital data and neural networks published in European Heart Journal – Digital Health

Neural network prediction of mortality and atrial fibrillation. (Image taken from the article’s graphical abstract.)
Enhanced prediction of atrial fibrillation and mortality among patients with congenital heart disease using nationwide register based medical hospital data and neural networks
Kok Wai Giang, Saga Helgadottir, Mikael Dellborg, Giovanni Volpe, Zacharias Mandalenakis
European Heart Journal – Digital Health (2021)
doi: 10.1093/ehjdh/ztab065

Aims: To improve short-and long-term predictions of mortality and atrial fibrillation (AF) among patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) from a nationwide population using neural networks (NN).

Methods and results: The Swedish National Patient Register and the Cause of Death Register were used to identify all patients with CHD born from 1970 to 2017. A total of 71 941 CHD patients were identified and followed-up from birth until the event or end of study in 2017. Based on data from a nationwide population, a NN model was obtained to predict mortality and AF. Logistic regression (LR) based on the same data was used as a baseline comparison. Of 71 941 CHD patients, a total of 5768 died (8.02%) and 995 (1.38%) developed AF over time with a mean follow-up time of 16.47 years (standard deviation 12.73 years). The performance of NN models in predicting the mortality and AF was higher than the performance of LR regardless of the complexity of the disease, with an average area under the receiver operating characteristic of >0.80 and >0.70, respectively. The largest differences were observed in mortality and complexity of CHD over time.

Conclusion: We found that NN can be used to predict mortality and AF on a nationwide scale using data that are easily obtainable by clinicians. In addition, NN showed a high performance overall and, in most cases, with better performance for prediction as compared with more traditional regression methods.

Microscopic Metavehicles Powered and Steered by Embedded Optical Metasurfaces published in Nature Nanotechnology

Metavehicles.
Microscopic Metavehicles Powered and Steered by Embedded Optical Metasurfaces
Daniel Andrén, Denis G. Baranov, Steven Jones, Giovanni Volpe, Ruggero Verre, Mikael Käll
Nat. Nanotechnol. (2021)
doi: 10.1038/s41565-021-00941-0
arXiv: 2012.10205

Nanostructured dielectric metasurfaces offer unprecedented opportunities to manipulate light by imprinting an arbitrary phase gradient on an impinging wavefront. This has resulted in the realization of a range of flat analogues to classical optical components, such as lenses, waveplates and axicons. However, the change in linear and angular optical momentum associated with phase manipulation also results in previously unexploited forces and torques that act on the metasurface itself. Here we show that these optomechanical effects can be utilized to construct optical metavehicles – microscopic particles that can travel long distances under low-intensity plane-wave illumination while being steered by the polarization of the incident light. We demonstrate movement in complex patterns, self-correcting motion and an application as transport vehicles for microscopic cargoes, which include unicellular organisms. The abundance of possible optical metasurfaces attests to the prospect of developing a wide variety of metavehicles with specialized functional behaviours.

Extracting quantitative biological information from brightfield cell images using deep learning published in Biophysics Reviews

Virtually-stained generated image for lipid-droplet.
Extracting quantitative biological information from brightfield cell images using deep learning
Saga Helgadottir, Benjamin Midtvedt, Jesús Pineda, Alan Sabirsh, Caroline B. Adiels, Stefano Romeo, Daniel Midtvedt, Giovanni Volpe
Biophysics Rev. 2, 031401 (2021)
arXiv: 2012.12986
doi: 10.1063/5.0044782

Quantitative analysis of cell structures is essential for biomedical and pharmaceutical research. The standard imaging approach relies on fluorescence microscopy, where cell structures of interest are labeled by chemical staining techniques. However, these techniques are often invasive and sometimes even toxic to the cells, in addition to being time-consuming, labor-intensive, and expensive. Here, we introduce an alternative deep-learning-powered approach based on the analysis of brightfield images by a conditional generative adversarial neural network (cGAN). We show that this approach can extract information from the brightfield images to generate virtually-stained images, which can be used in subsequent downstream quantitative analyses of cell structures. Specifically, we train a cGAN to virtually stain lipid droplets, cytoplasm, and nuclei using brightfield images of human stem-cell-derived fat cells (adipocytes), which are of particular interest for nanomedicine and vaccine development. Subsequently, we use these virtually-stained images to extract quantitative measures about these cell structures. Generating virtually-stained fluorescence images is less invasive, less expensive, and more reproducible than standard chemical staining; furthermore, it frees up the fluorescence microscopy channels for other analytical probes, thus increasing the amount of information that can be extracted from each cell.

Neural Network Training with Highly Incomplete Datasets on ArXiv

Working principles for training neural networks with highly incomplete dataset: vanilla (upper panel) vs GapNet (lower panel) (Image by Yu-Wei Chang.)
Neural Network Training with Highly Incomplete Datasets
Yu-Wei Chang, Laura Natali, Oveis Jamialahmadi, Stefano Romeo, Joana B. Pereira, Giovanni Volpe
arXiV: 2107.00429

Neural network training and validation rely on the availability of large high-quality datasets. However, in many cases only incomplete datasets are available, particularly in health care applications, where each patient typically undergoes different clinical procedures or can drop out of a study. Since the data to train the neural networks need to be complete, most studies discard the incomplete datapoints, which reduces the size of the training data, or impute the missing features, which can lead to artefacts. Alas, both approaches are inadequate when a large portion of the data is missing. Here, we introduce GapNet, an alternative deep-learning training approach that can use highly incomplete datasets. First, the dataset is split into subsets of samples containing all values for a certain cluster of features. Then, these subsets are used to train individual neural networks. Finally, this ensemble of neural networks is combined into a single neural network whose training is fine-tuned using all complete datapoints. Using two highly incomplete real-world medical datasets, we show that GapNet improves the identification of patients with underlying Alzheimer’s disease pathology and of patients at risk of hospitalization due to Covid-19. By distilling the information available in incomplete datasets without having to reduce their size or to impute missing values, GapNet will permit to extract valuable information from a wide range of datasets, benefiting diverse fields from medicine to engineering.

Raman Tweezers for Tire and Road Wear Micro- and Nanoparticles Analysis on ChemRxiv

Optical beam focused into the liquid: the tire particles are pushed away from the laser focus.
Raman Tweezers for Tire and Road Wear Micro- and Nanoparticles Analysis
Pietro Giuseppe Gucciardi, Gillibert Raymond, Alessandro Magazzù, Agnese Callegari, David Brente Ciriza, Foti Antonino, Maria Grazia Donato, Onofrio M. Maragò, Giovanni Volpe, Marc Lamy de La Chapelle & Fabienne Lagarde
ChemRxiv: https://doi.org/10.33774/chemrxiv-2021-h59n1

Tire and Road Wear Particles (TRWP) are non-exhaust particulate matter generated by road transport means during the mechanical abrasion of tires, brakes and roads. TRWP accumulate on the roadsides and are transported into the aquatic ecosystem during stormwater runoffs. Due to their size (sub-millimetric) and rubber content (elastomers), TRWP are considered microplastics (MPs). While the amount of the MPs polluting the water ecosystem with sizes from ~ 5 μm to more than 100 μm is known, the fraction of smaller particles is unknown due to the technological gap in the detection and analysis of < 5 μm MPs. Here we show that Raman Tweezers, a combination of optical tweezers and Raman spectroscopy, can be used to trap and chemically analyze individual TWRPs in a liquid environment, down to the sub-micrometric scale. Using tire particles mechanically grinded from aged car tires in water solutions, we show that it is possible to optically trap individual sub-micron particles, in a so-called 2D trapping configuration, and acquire their Raman spectrum in few tens of seconds. The analysis is then extended to samples collected from a brake test platform, where we highlight the presence of sub-micrometric agglomerates of rubber and brake debris, thanks to the presence of additional spectral features other than carbon. Our results show the potential of Raman Tweezers in environmental pollution analysis and highlight the formation of nanosized TRWP during wear.

Objective comparison of methods to decode anomalous diffusion on ArXiv

Cells migrating in a 3-dimensional matrix. The color code of the trajectories represents time. (Picture from Fig.1b of the article).
Objective comparison of methods to decode anomalous diffusion
Gorka Muñoz-Gil, Giovanni Volpe, Miguel Angel Garcia-March, Erez Aghion, Aykut Argun, Chang Beom Hong, Tom Bland, Stefano Bo, J. Alberto Conejero, Nicolás Firbas, Òscar Garibo i Orts, Alessia Gentili, Zihan Huang, Jae-Hyung Jeon, Hélène Kabbech, Yeongjin Kim, Patrycja Kowalek, Diego Krapf, Hanna Loch-Olszewska, Michael A. Lomholt, Jean-Baptiste Masson, Philipp G. Meyer, Seongyu Park, Borja Requena, Ihor Smal, Taegeun Song, Janusz Szwabiński, Samudrajit Thapa, Hippolyte Verdier, Giorgio Volpe, Arthur Widera, Maciej Lewenstein, Ralf Metzler, and Carlo Manzo
arXiv: 2105.06766

Deviations from Brownian motion leading to anomalous diffusion are ubiquitously found in trans- port dynamics, playing a crucial role in phenomena from quantum physics to life sciences. The detection and characterization of anomalous diffusion from the measurement of an individual tra- jectory are challenging tasks, which traditionally rely on calculating the mean squared displacement of the trajectory. However, this approach breaks down for cases of important practical interest, e.g., short or noisy trajectories, ensembles of heterogeneous trajectories, or non-ergodic processes. Re- cently, several new approaches have been proposed, mostly building on the ongoing machine-learning revolution. Aiming to perform an objective comparison of methods, we gathered the community and organized an open competition, the Anomalous Diffusion challenge (AnDi). Participating teams independently applied their own algorithms to a commonly-defined dataset including diverse con- ditions. Although no single method performed best across all scenarios, the results revealed clear differences between the various approaches, providing practical advice for users and a benchmark for developers.

Improving epidemic testing and containment strategies using machine learning accepted in Machine Learning: Science and Technology

Comparison of different evolution regimes of disease spreading: free evolution (bottom left half) vs network strategy (top right half).
Improving epidemic testing and containment strategies using machine learning
Laura Natali, Saga Helgadottir, Onofrio M. Maragò, Giovanni Volpe
Machine Learning: Science and Technology, 2 035007 (2021)
doi: 10.1088/2632-2153/abf0f7
arXiv: 2011.11717

Containment of epidemic outbreaks entails great societal and economic costs. Cost-effective containment strategies rely on efficiently identifying infected individuals, making the best possible use of the available testing resources. Therefore, quickly identifying the optimal testing strategy is of critical importance. Here, we demonstrate that machine learning can be used to identify which individuals are most beneficial to test, automatically and dynamically adapting the testing strategy to the characteristics of the disease outbreak. Specifically, we simulate an outbreak using the archetypal susceptible-infectious-recovered (SIR) model and we use data about the first confirmed cases to train a neural network that learns to make predictions about the rest of the population. Using these prediction, we manage to contain the outbreak more effectively and more quickly than with standard approaches. Furthermore, we demonstrate how this method can be used also when there is a possibility of reinfection (SIRS model) to efficiently eradicate an endemic disease.

Age-related differences in network structure and dynamic synchrony of cognitive control on biorXiv

Gamma efficiency for older adults.
Age-related differences in network structure and dynamic synchrony of cognitive control
T. Hinault, M. Mijalkov, J.B. Pereira, Giovanni Volpe, A. Bakker, S.M. Courtney
NeuroImage 236, 118070 (2021)
biorXiv: 10.1101/2020.10.09.333567
doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.118070

Cognitive trajectories vary greatly across older individuals, and the neural mechanisms underlying these differences remain poorly understood. Here, we propose a mechanistic framework of cognitive variability in older adults, linking the influence of white matter microstructure on fast and effective communications between brain regions. Using diffusion tensor imaging and electroencephalography, we show that individual differences in white matter network organization are associated with network clustering and efficiency in the alpha and high-gamma bands, and that functional network dynamics partly explain individual cognitive control performance in older adults. We show that older individuals with high versus low structural network clustering differ in task-related network dynamics and cognitive performance. These findings were corroborated by investigating magnetoencephalography networks in an independent dataset. This multimodal brain connectivity framework of individual differences provides a holistic account of how differences in white matter microstructure underlie age-related variability in dynamic network organization and cognitive performance.