Engineering life-like BIONIC systems by 3D Bioprinting of skeletal muscle cells

Group: Smart nano-bio-devices and Biosensors for bioengineering.
Group leader: Samuel Sánchez (ssanchez@ibecbarcelona.eu) and Javier Ramón (jramon@ibecbarcelona.eu).

Research project


The research project consists in the use of top-notch technologies such as 3D Bioprinting, nanotechnology and bioengineering to design and fabricate BIONIC systems that will act as hybrid walkers or swimmers combining artificial components (hydrogels, smart polymers, magnets, nanoparticles) and biological moieties (enzymes, cells, tissues).

The candidate will engineer 3D muscular tissues, which will be used as actuators and robotics. AS actuators, these engineered BIO-BOTS will open new avenues in hybrid machines and in drug screening applications, avoiding the use of animals, by using directly cells and tissues from patients. When these structures are integrated into a compliant scaffold, they will swim as soft Robots, which will present fascinating new avenues in Bioengineering and robotics community by integrating sensing capabilities and motion control. Training, resistant to fracture, exercising of muscles will be studied at physical and molecular level by using different strategies including the force measurement platform at the Smart Nanobiodevices group and the sensors developed at the B4b’s group.

IBEC’s Smart Nano-Bio-Devices group focuses in the minituarization and design of new devices and advanced materials that bridge the gap between chemistry, biology, material science and physics, which can have relevant applications in the biomedical or environmental fields. The group has received several awards and recognitions in nanorobotics (ERC StG2012, MIT TR35, Princess of Girona, Guinness World Records, and Catalan National Award) but also after the publication of the 3D printed actuators (Mestre, Patino et al. Adv. Mat. Techn 2019), this research line has received a Science Robotics Poster Award, contract with two private companies, a BIST-Ignite collaborative project, and the attention from the media highlighted in different newspapers.  B4b group obtained an ERC Starting Grant in 2016 to study the metabolic cross talk within pancreas and skeletal muscle. B4b is also integrating different biosensors technology in these multi-organs-on-chip approaches (Ramon et al., 2019a; Ramon et al., 2019b). B4b is developing real-time, non-invasive assays of metabolism based on magnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging using dynamic nuclear polarisation to monitor disease and evaluate drug response in multi-organ-on-a-chip models.

Job position


The offered PhD position would be enclosed in the hybrid bio-robots line of research. Background on biomedical engineering, chemistry, biotechnology, materials science, physics and other engineering backgrounds are suitable. The candidate should have a material science or material engineering profile. Experience in 3D printing or bio-printing techniques and smart materials are of great added value. The PhD student will be integrated into a collaboration between two Research teams of multidisciplinary researchers involved in the design, fabrication and characterization of BIONIC 3D bio-printing muscle cells systems. Moreover, the candidate will benefit from a collaborative project between the Smart Nano-bio-devices group and the biosensors from bioengineering group.

Thanks to IBEC’s state-of-the-art 3D Bio-printer, complex structures can be created interfacing living tissue, hydrogels, biocompatible materials and UV-curable polymers. Furthermore, these hybrid bio-robots should be able to walk, swim, or offer some kind of actuation with the ability to be externally controlled via magnetic fields, electrical pulses, opto-genetical modifications, or chemical cues as drug testing platforms.