Researchers at IBEC develop a bioengineering platform to detect pro-inflammatory molecules in muscular disorders

The Biosensors for bioengineering group led by Javier Ramón has developed a sensing platform for the in-situ detection of tissue-secreted pro-inflammatory molecules, the so-called cytokines. This new methodology opens a new door in the understanding of metabolic-disorders such those found in muscular diseases, as well as the development of drug-screening applications.

Although 40% of total body mass is skeletal muscle tissue, there is no specialized clinical doctor for the treatment of muscular diseases, according to the American Medical Association. The research group of Dr. Javier Ramón at IBEC works to fill this gap between muscle disorders and ad hoc therapies.

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Schematic overview of the configuration and function of the muscle-on-a-chip. The flow passes through the microdevice where 3D SM tissue is electrically (ITO-IDA electrodes) or biologically (LPS) stimulated. As a consequence of this stimulation cytokines are secreted and detected in situ by the sensing platform which allows its quantification.

In this context, the understanding the protein-secretion dynamics from tissues is a critical factor in order to advance towards a better detection and new treatments for diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy and inflammatory myopathy. However, the determination of the speed of release of such molecules from an in vivo tissue represents a major challenge due to the uncontrolled contributions from other tissues.

Now, researchers at IBEC have developed a platform which enables to discretize cytokine source. After growing 3D biomimetic tissues, researchers connected the “muscle-on-a-chip” to a high-sensitivity protein detection biosensing platform in order to measure the biological activity.

With this novel approach the scientists could monitor the time-dependence secretion of interleukines IL-6 and TNF-α resulting from the electrical and chemical stimulation of 3D skeletal muscle tissues.

This novel and affordable methodology could contribute not only to a better understanding of IL-6 and TNF-α in muscle related inflammation process, but also to further metabolic-disorder studies. This revolutionary technology can be exported to any laboratory environment and can have a huge impact on the drug-screening process for any organ system.

 Reference article; M. A. Ortega, X. Fernández-Garibay, A. G. Castaño, F. De Chiara, A. Hernández-Albors, J. Balaguer-Trias and J. Ramon-Azcon. Muscle-on-a-chip with an on-site multiplexed biosensing system for in situ monitoring of secreted IL-6 and TNF-α. Lab Chip, 2019,19, 2568-2580. 10.1039/C9LC00285E.

For further information, please contact Àngels López from the Communications Department: alopez@ibecbarcelona.eu