University of Urbino

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    Non-invasive peptides delivery using chitosan nanoparticles assembled via scalable microfluidic technology

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    The delivery of peptides via non-invasive administration routes remains a challenge to be addressed. In this regard, chitosan nanoparticles (CS NPs) have shown promise. However, their current batch preparation methods (ionotropic gelation, polyelectrolyte complexing, emulsification solvent diffusion or micro emulsification) have proven difficult to scale up. Here, we established a microfluidic-assisted ionotropic gelation method for the manufacturing of CS NPs, ionically crosslinked with sodium tripolyphosphate (TPP), and loaded with a model peptide, Argireline. The microfluidic process was optimized through a design of experiments approach. CS concentration and pH have the greatest effect on particle size, while CS and TPP concentrations and pH on PDI. The optimum formulation was successfully loaded with the peptide (90 % EE) and characterized by a size of 186.0 ± 1.0 nm and a PDI of 0.440 ± 0.002. Subsequently, Argireline-loaded CS-TPP NPs suspension was converted into a gel for a potential topical application, considering the non-toxic, biocompatible, and biodegradable properties of the components used in the formulation. The NPs gel demonstrated appropriate mechanical properties for Argireline transdermal delivery, along with improved control over its release and enhanced skin permeation for up to 48 h, compared to NPs suspension and free drug solution. Hence, this study demonstrated that the microfluidic-assisted ionotropic gelation method could be an easy-scalable platform for the manufacturing of peptide-loaded CS-TPP NPs which could be potentially applied for the transdermal delivery of biologics

    High-levels of toxic elements and radioactivity in an abandoned sulphur mine: Insights on the origin and associated environmental concerns

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    Natural fibrous epsomite crystals containing high amounts of toxic and radioactive elements have recently been discovered in the abandoned sulphur mine of Perticara (Italy). In the present study, all the different matrices that characterize the Perticara mine (air, water, host-rock, minerals, and bitumen) were sampled and investigated employing a multi-analytical approach to define the distribution and origin of these hazardous elements. Water samples showed high Al, Fe, Pb, Mg, and Mn content but not radioactive elements. The bitumen sample showed a higher amount of 210Po and 210Pb (0.12 Bq/g and 0.11 Bq/g, respectively), compared to the host-rock and fibrous sericolite samples, but lower than fibrous epsomite crystals (210Po 5.59 Bq/g; 210Pb 5.93 Bq/g). A high 222Rn concentration was also detected in the tunnels and it is likely the source of both 210Po and 210Pb, which are in radioactive equilibrium, especially in epsomite. This latter mineral, being capable of capturing 210Po and 210Pb, can be used as a helpful mineral indicator for the presence of radioactive elements in similar environmental conditions. Moreover, our results also highlight a slight anomaly in the 40K and 226Ra content of the host-rock, probably derived from the evaporitic sediments of the rock succession. The current risk for humans linked to the mine environment is minor since the activity of the mine ended several decades ago. However, the results of this study must be taken into serious consideration for any future development of this area (e.g., industrial archaeology, farming, educational, scientific and touristic purposes), and represent the basis for the calculation of radiotoxicity and dose assessment, which is fundamental for the correct and safe management of the mining environment and neighbouring areas

    Developing and testing an Arduino-based microcurrent stimulator to mimic marine electric pollution on benthos

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    The lack of economic funds commonly represents a limiting factor in scientific research and prevents scientists from developing brilliant ideas. Indeed, a new project may involve using appropriate scientific instruments and concurrently dealing with the costs before pursuing new research fields. The innovative concept of investigating the effects of electric fields, as a simulation of marine electrical pollution, on benthic organisms such as foraminifera (marine protozoa) has been recently explored by our research group. This pioneering research has resulted in the development of a cost-effective instrument capable of generating customized electric stimulation patterns with accuracy and reliability. Here, we describe the construction of a low-intensity electrical stimulator based on an Arduino programmable board and a few electronic components. The instrument results very stable and precise regarding the stimulation times and the regulation of the current intensity applied to the biological preparation. Moreover, the setup can stimulate the preparation in constant or pulsed direct current. This homemade stimulation apparatus can be improved or modified according to the researchers’ needs, as possibilities and fields of application can be innumerable

    Microfluidic development and biological evaluation of targeted therapy-loaded biomimetic nano system to improve the metastatic melanoma treatment

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    Optimizing current therapies is among next steps in metastatic melanoma (MM) treatment landscape. The innovation of this study is the design of production process by microfluidics of cell membrane (CM)-modified nanoparticles (NPs), as an emerging biomimetic platform that allows for reduced immune clearance, long blood circulation time and improved specific tumor targeting. To achieve melanoma selectivity, direct membrane fusion between synthetic liposomes and CMs extracted from MM cell line was performed by microfluidic sonication approach, then the hybrid liposomes were loaded with cobimetinib (Cob) or lenvatinib (Lenva) targeting agents and challenged against MM cell lines and liver cancer cell line to evaluate homotypic targeting and antitumor efficacy. Characterization studies demonstrated the effective fusion of CM with liposome and the high encapsulation efficiency of both drugs, showing the proficiency of microfluidic-based production. By studying the targeting of melanoma cells by hybrid liposomes versus liposomes, we found that both NPs entered cells through endocytosis, whereas the former showed higher selectivity for MM cells from which CM was extracted, with 8-fold higher cellular uptake than liposomes. Hybrid liposome formulation of Cob and Lenva reduced melanoma cells viability to a greater extent than liposomes and free drug and, notably, showed negligible toxicity as demonstrated by bona fide haemolysis test. The CM-modified NPs presented here have the potential to broaden the choice of therapeutic options in MM treatment

    Home-based lifestyle intervention for breast cancer survivors: A surprising improvement in the quality of life during the first year of COVID-19 pandemic

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    Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic induced an extraordinary impact on public mental health to a degree not completely understood, especially in vulnerable populations such as breast cancer (BC) survivors. In this study, we described the short- (after 3-month) and long- (after 12-month) term effects of a multidisciplinary home-based lifestyle intervention in Italian women BC survivors during the first year of COVID-19 pandemic. Materials and methods: In total, 30 Italian BC survivors with risk factors for recurrence took part in the ongoing MoviS trial (protocol: NCT04818359). Between January 2020 and January 2021, a 3-month lifestyle intervention based on psychological counseling, nutrition, and exercise was carried out. Participants were asked to fill out psychological questionnaires for the assessment of quality of life (QoL) indicators (European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer QoL, EORTC-QLQ-C30) and psychological health measures such as fatigue (Brief Fatigue Inventory, BFI), distress (Distress Thermometer, DT and Psychological Distress Inventory, PDI), cancer-related fatigue (Verbal Rating Scale, VRS), and mood states (Profile of Mood States Questionnaire, POMS). IBM SPSS Statistical Software version 27.0 and R Project for Statistical Computing version 4.2.1 were used to process data. All participants were assessed at four time points: T0 (baseline), T1 (3-month), and follow-up at T2 and T3 (6- and 12-month, respectively) to measure primary (quality of life indicators) and secondary (psychological health) outcomes. Friedman non parametric test and Wilcoxon signed rank test (with Bonferroni correction) were conducted to investigate the statistically significant differences in psychometric scores and between assessment times. Results: Compared to baseline (T0), at T1 most of the QoL indicators (i.e., symptoms of fatigue and general health) were improved (p < 0.017) with the exception of a worsening in participants' social functioning ability. Also, perception of severity of fatigue, distress, cancer-related fatigue, depression, and anger enhanced. Compared to baseline (T0), at T3 we mainly observed a stable condition with T0-T1 pairwise comparison, however other secondary outcomes (i.e., fatigue mood state, confusion, and anxiety) significantly improved. Discussion: Our preliminary findings support the proposal of this lifestyle intervention for BC survivors. Despite the home-confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the intervention surprisingly improved QoL indicators and psychological health of the participants

    Beyond the physical exhibit: Enhancing, showcasing and safeguarding fashion heritage with VR technologies

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    The collective body of significant clothes, accessories, and textiles that holds cultural, artistic, and historical value constitutes, today, an important part of museum collections and a Heritage, whose value progressively increases due to the more and more pervasiveness of fashion in our daily life. However, exhibiting this Heritage poses significant challenges due to its fragility and the difficult nature of showcasing garment that cannot simply be presented in a static manner from a singular perspective, as with paintings. Instead, clothes must be experienced in motion, when worn, facilitating the observation of their details as a complete entity, within the cultural and environmental context in which they were originally conceived. Among the different technologies that are being introduced in the field, this paper explores the integration of Virtual Reality (VR) as a solution to address the challenges in exhibiting aged and historical clothes. The adoption of VR brings about novel approaches in studying Fashion Heritage to help researchers, historians, and fashion enthusiasts to gain insights into the dynamic identities and preferences of past generations, thus contributing to a profound understanding of Heritage and its relevance to the contemporary fashion trends. Five different possible solutions are presented to solve common issues in showcasing garments: among these, a case study focused on the Museo della Moda e del Costume at Palazzo Pitti in Florence is detailed and elaborated, in collaboration with Le Gallerie degli Uffizi

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