Biosensors for bioengineering

The Biosensors for bioengineering group is a junior group under IBEC’s Tenure Track scheme.
Javier Ramón Azcón | Junior Group Leader
Alejandro Hernández Albors | Postdoctoral Researcher
Maria Alejandra Ortega Machuca | Postdoctoral Researcher
Laura Clua Ferré | PhD Student
Xiomara Gislen Fernández Garibay | PhD Student
Ferran Velasco Mallorquí | PhD Student
Albert Garcia Castaño | Laboratory Technician
Juanma Fernandez Costa | Visiting Researcher


Formation of 3D ESC aggregates in GelMA hydrogel using dielectrophoresis (DEP). The stem cells in the GelMA prepolymer were introduced into the 100 µm height chamber and localized by DEP forces to the low electric field regions within the microelectrodes. The GelMA prepolymer was then exposed to UV light, embedding the cells in a stable microscale organization. Scale bar shows 100 µm.

Drug discovery pathway relies heavily on in vivo animal models and in vitro cell mediums. In the case of animal models we have not only some ethical problems but also the ability to extrapolate data to human conditions is limited and in vitro platforms often do not simulate the complex cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions crucial for regulating cell behaviour.

The Biosensors for Bioengineering group is focused in a new line of research that has become of extreme importance in the last years. The idea is to integrate biosensor technology and nanotechnology with stem cell research and with tissue engineering. Engineered tissues are integrated with biosensing technology to obtain microdevices for detecting cellular responses to external stimuli, monitoring the quality of the microenvironment (e.g., metabolites, nutrients), and supporting diverse cellular requirements. This research on 3D-functional engineered tissues is expected to develop knowledge of tissue construction and their functions and relation with some human diseases. Integration of fully functional tissues with microscale biosensor technology allowed us to obtain “organs-on-a-chip”. These chips could be used in pharmaceutical assays and could be a step toward the ultimate goal of producing in vitro drug testing systems crucial to the medicine and pharmaceutical industry.


Right: Picture of aligned C2C12 muscle cells within hydrogel as obtained by the dielectrophoresis (DEP) technique using 50 µm electrode 50 µm gap device (A). Phase contrast images of the aligned C2C12 muscle cells within hydrogel at different culture times (B and C). Scale bar shows 0.25 cm, 400 μm, and 50 μm in A, B, and C, respectively.


Myotubes differentiated in a groove-ridge topography GelMA-CNTs composite loaded with 0.3 mg/mL CNTs. Immunostaining of cell nuclei/myosin heavy chain showing the highly aligned C2C12 myotubes. Z-lines were also observed for the myotubes indicating high maturation of muscle myofibers. Scale bar show 20 µm.

Myotubes differentiated in a groove-ridge topography GelMA-CNTs composite loaded with 0.3 mg/mL CNTs. Immunostaining of cell nuclei/myosin heavy chain showing the highly aligned C2C12 myotubes. Z-lines were also observed for the myotubes indicating high maturation of muscle myofibers. Scale bar show 20 µm.



IBEC to launch Faster Future, a new fundraising initiative, on Giving Tuesday

Next week IBEC will launch Faster Future, a new crowdfunding initiative that aims to help accelerate research projects that are close to tackling major challenges in health.

Finding out about diabetes approaches at IBEC’s Setmana de la Ciencia event

Yesterday IBEC group leader Javer Ramon presented his research on developing organ-on-a-chip to study diabetes in IBEC’s public event forming part of this year’s Setmana de la Ciència.

IBEC researcher’s ERC project highlighted in Madrid exhibition

This weekend Javier Ramon’s European Research Council-funded project, DAMOC, was one of eight highlighted in a special exhibition in Madrid to mark the ERC’s tenth anniversary.

ERC funding for new diabetes approach at IBEC

IBEC’s Dr. Javier Ramón is one of just six researchers in Catalonia to have been awarded a 2016 Starting Grant by the European Research Council (ERC).


EU-funded projects
‘Diabetes Approach by Multi-Organ-on-a-Chip’ (DAMOC) ERC Javier Ramón


Mohammadi, M. H., Obregón, R., Ahadian, S., Ramón-Azcón, J., Radisic, M., (2017). Engineered muscle tissues for disease modeling and drug screening applications Current Pharmaceutical Design 23, (20), 2991-3004

Animal models have been the main resources for drug discovery and prediction of drugs’ pharmacokinetic responses in the body. However, noticeable drawbacks associated with animal models include high cost, low reproducibility, low physiological similarity to humans, and ethical problems. Engineered tissue models have recently emerged as an alternative or substitute for animal models in drug discovery and testing and disease modeling. In this review, we focus on skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle tissues by first describing their characterization and physiology. Major fabrication technologies (i.e., electrospinning, bioprinting, dielectrophoresis, textile technology, and microfluidics) to make functional muscle tissues are then described. Finally, currently used muscle tissue models in drug screening are reviewed and discussed.

Keywords: Cardiac muscle, Drug screening, Engineering muscle, Human pharmacological response, Physiological similarity, Skeletal muscle

Obregón, R., Ramón-Azcón, J., Ahadian, S., (2017). Nanofiber composites in blood vessel tissue engineering Nanofiber Composites for Biomedical Applications (ed. Ramalingam, M., Ramakrishna, S.), Elsevier (Duxford, UK) Woodhead Publishing Series in Biomaterials, 483-506

Tissue engineering (TE) aims to restore function or replace damaged tissue through biological principles and engineering. Nanofibers are attractive substrates for tissue regeneration applications because they structurally mimic the native extracellular matrix. Composite nanofibers, which are hybrid nanofibers blended from natural and synthetic polymers, represent a major advancement in TE and regenerative medicine, since they take advantage of the physical properties of the synthetic polymer and the bioactivity of the natural polymer while minimizing the disadvantages of both. Although various nanofibrous matrices have been applied to almost all the areas of TE, in this chapter we will focus on nanofiber composites scaffolds for vascular TE.

Keywords: Blood vessels, Nanofiber composite, Tissue engineering, Vascularized tissue

(See full publication list in ORCID)


Micro and nanofabrication techniques:

  • 3D microstructures on hydrogel materials
  • Mini-bioreactor for 3D cell culture
  • Microelectrodes fabrication
  • Synthesis and chemical modification of polymers and surfaces
  • Dielectrophoretic cells and micro particles manipulation

Characterization techniques:

  • Optical Microscopes (white light/epifluorescence)
  • Electrochemical techniques (Potentiometric/Amperometric/Impedance spectroscopy)
  • Immunosensing techniques (Fluorescence ELISA/Colorimetric ELISA/magneto ELISA)


  • Microfluidic systems (High precision syringe pumps/Peristaltic pumps/Micro valves)
  • Biological safety cabinet (class II)
  • Epifluorescence microscope for live-cell imaging

Access to the Nanotechnology Platform (IBEC Core Facilities): equipment for hot embossing lithography, polymer processing and photolithography, chemical wet etching, e-beam evaporation and surface characterization (TOF-SIMS)
Access to the Scientific and Technological Centers (University of Barcelona): equipment for surface analysis (XPS, AFM, XRD), organic structures characterization (NMR) and microscopy techniques (SEM, TEM, confocal)


  • Prof. Josep Samitier
  • Dr. Elena Martinez
  • Dr. Anna Novials
    Institut d’Investigacions Biomediques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS)
  • Dr. Ramon Gomís
    Institut d’Investigacions Biomediques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS)
  • Dr. Eduard Montanya
    The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL)
  • Prof. Enric Bertran
    Physics and Engineering of Amorphous Materials and Nanostructures (FEMAN), Department of Applied Physics, University of Barcelona