Visitors and Sabbaticals

Internationalization is at the core of IBEC’s scientific and training strategy. Actions enhancing IBEC’s international profile are designed to foster exchange in complementary techniques and trigger new collaborations, as well as to place the institute as an international reference centre in bioengineering.

Mobility plays a key role in research training and career development. Interaction with outstanding complementary researchers, either during stays outside IBEC or by bringing people into IBEC, is essential for the training of staff at all levels.

Thanks to existing mobility schemes, IBEC researchers can enjoy intense transnational and multidisciplinary exchange, as well as the expertise and facilities of the best institutions worldwide. In addition, mobility is the seed for future collaboration and joint projects, and serves to expand the international network of research institutions linked to IBEC.

In the framework of the Severo Ochoa programme, IBEC has launched two new internationalization programmes at Group Leader level: the visiting programme for outstanding external researchers, and the sabbatical programme for internal researchers.

Visiting programme

Severo Ochoa Visiting programme for external outstanding researchers

IBEC will implement, starting February 2017, an annual call for IBEC group leaders to propose visitors. In principle, visitors should stay at least three months, unless exceptional circumstances apply.

Candidate should be PIs of their own research lab and have an outstanding international profile. IBEC’s directorate will evaluate the proposals based on the merits of the candidate, the relevance of the project and the added value of the stay for the hosting research group and IBEC.

Depending on the number of proposals positively evaluated and the complementary cofunding secured by the candidate/group leader, IBEC will co‐fund each visitor’s stay. The level of cofunding will range from the travel expenses to come to Barcelona, to a stipend of 2.000€ per month for three months.

In every case, IBEC will provide its selected visitors with office space and the assistance of IBEC’s support staff. Laboratory space, if needed, should be provided by the hosting research group.

During their stay, meetings with interested group leaders will be organized to explore ideas for collaboration, and each visitor will give a seminar to the whole IBEC community to present their research.

At the end of the stay, the hosting group leader will provide a short report about the activities carried out and the benefits obtained.


  • 2017 call: For stays planned from 1‐3‐2017 to 30‐6‐2018
  • Launch of the call: 21 February 2017
  • Deadline of the call: 5 May 2017
  • 2018 call: For stays planned from 1‐1‐2018 to 30‐6‐2019
  • Launch of the call: 1st December 2017
  • Deadline of the call: 31 January 2018

Application form

Application form: Severo Ochoa Visiting programme for outstanding external researchers

Applications should be sent to together with a CV of the candidate before 31st January 2018. Applications will be evaluated as they are received, so you are encouraged not to wait until the application deadline.

Sabbatical programme

Severo Ochoa Sabbatical programme

** 2nd call opens 1st December 2017 **

IBEC will implement, starting February 2017, an annual call for its Sabbatical Programme for its group leaders, who are encouraged to take sabbatical leave at internationally recognized institutions where they can establish new collaborations and explore unconventional paths that boost their current research.

IBEC’s directorate will evaluate the proposals based on the relevance of the project and the added value of the stay for the group leader and IBEC. In principle, sabbatical leave should last at least three months, unless exceptional circumstances apply.

Depending on the number of proposals positively evaluated, IBEC will co‐fund each sabbatical stay with a maximum of a stipend of 1.000€ per month for six months, plus travel expenses. The funding may be used to cover teaching duties during the stay.

During their sabbatical leave, the group leader will be asked to give a seminar at the hosting institution. At the end of the leave, the group leader will provide a short report about  activities carried out and the benefits obtained, as well as giving a seminar at IBEC about their experience.


  • 2017 call: For sabbatical stays planned from 1‐3‐2017 to 30‐6‐2018
  • Launch of the call: 21 February 2017
  • Deadline of the call: 5 May 2017
  • 2018 call: For sabbatical stays planned from 1‐1‐2018 to 30‐6‐2019
  • Launch of the call: 1st December 2017
  • Deadline of the call: 31 January 2018

Application form

Application form: Severo Ochoa Sabbatical programme

Applications should be sent to before 31st January 2018. Applications will be evaluated as they are received, so you are encouraged not to wait until the application deadline.

Visitor profiles

 IBEC group hosts liver specialist

Xavier Trepat’s Integrative Cell and Tissue Dynamics group is hosting Prof. Jonel Trebicka, Head of the University of Bonn’s Laboratory for Liver Fibrosis and Portal Hypertension in its Department of Internal Medicine, during 2017. During his stay, he will study the mechanobiology of stellate cells in liver fibrosis, harnessing the expertise of the IBEC group in cell mechanics and migration, including traction force and confocal microscopy, durotaxis assays and magnetic cytometry.

His stay at IBEC is funded by the foundation EF-CLIF, the European Foundation for the Study of Chronic Liver Failure.

Former visitors

IBEC group collaborates with microfluidics expert on intelligent delivery systems

Prof. Dong-Pyo Kim, Head of the Center of Intelligent Microfluidic Pharmaceutical Synthesis at POSTECH (Pohang University of Science & Technology) in Korea is spending a six-month research stay in Samuel Sánchez’s Smart nano-bio-devices group at IBEC.

Prof Kim is a world expert in microfluidics, and his collaboration with the IBEC group will aim to develop unique functional drug delivery systems that take advantage of the excellent heat/mass transfer in microfluidics. The ultimate goal of the collaboration will be to develop an intelligent synthetic microreactor system for highly efficient ‘one-flow’, ‘feed-to-end’ production of active pharmaceutical ingredients.

The work will involve creating a microrobot – for which Samuel’s group is key –that will be synthesized by microfluidic systems and in situ loaded drugs into micro- or nanoscaled carriers with self-actuating functions. It’s hoped that by the end of the project, the researchers will be at the stage of assessing the bot’s function in a biomimetic blood vessel.

Prof Kim, who has also worked in the USA and been a visiting professor in Europe and Japan, is the winner of many accolades including the National Research Foundation (NRF)’s Scientist of the Month in 2016 and the Korean Chemical Society’s Academic Excellence Award in 2017.


Surfaces experts join forces

Fabio Variola, Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa (Canada), is spending 2017 in the Biomimetic Systems for Cell Engineering group. Having created, for the first time ever, a 3-dimensional hierarchical surface that mimics biologically successful life-forms such as marine diatoms or unicellular algae, Dr. Variola is collaborating with Elena Martinez and her group to determine the bioactive properties of this surface.

By working together at IBEC, Dr. Variola’s experimental knowledge of synthetic nanostructured surfaces and Elena’s extensive experience in biomimetic ones is hoped to lead to new advances in understanding nanoscale hierarchical structures in nature, as these underlie the development of both normal and pathological conditions. The ultimate aim is to develop new diagnostic tools and approaches for health-related research.

Visitor publications

Beiert, T., Knappe, V., Tiyerili, V., Stöckigt, F., Effelsberg, V., Linhart, M., Steinmetz, M., Klein, S., Schierwagen, R., Trebicka, J., Roell, W., Nickenig, G., Schrickel, J. W., Andrié, R. P., (2018). Chronic lower-dose relaxin administration protects from arrhythmia in experimental myocardial infarction due to anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic properties International Journal of Cardiology 250, 21-28

Background: The peptide hormone relaxin-2 (RLX) exerts beneficial effects during myocardial ischemia, but functional data on lower-dose RLX in myocardial infarction (MI) is lacking. Therefore, we investigated the impact of 75 

Keywords: Arrhythmia, Myocardial infarction, Relaxin-2, Ventricular tachycardia

Trebicka, J., Gluud, L. L., (2017). Reply to: “Adding embolization to TIPS implantation: A better therapy to control bleeding from ectopic varices?” Journal of Hepatology 67, (1), 202-203

We would like to thank the Perricone and colleagues for their letter and for the interest in the article “Emergency TIPS in a Child-Pugh B patient: When does the window of opportunity open and close?”.1 The letter raises an important question, namely the management of bleeding from ectopic varices. Bleeding from ectopic varices other than fundic varices represents a rare and challenging complication. Guidance for clinical practice is needed.

Jansen, C., Thiele, M., Verlinden, W., Krag, A., Francque, S., Trebicka, J., (2017). Prediction of presence of oesophageal varices just by shear-wave elastography of the liver and spleen Liver International 37, (9), 1406-1407

Reiberger, T., Trebicka, J., (2017). New liver – Fresh microbiome: Implications on brain function Liver Transplantation 23, (7), 873-874

Schierwagen, R., Uschner, F. E., Magdaleno, F., Klein, S., Trebicka, J., (2017). Rationale for the use of statins in liver disease American Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 312, (5), G407-G412

The evolution of chronic liver injuries from benign and manageable dysfunction to life threatening end-stage liver disease with severe complications renders chronic liver disease a global health burden. Because of the lack of effective medication, transplantation remains the only and final curative option for end-stage liver disease. Since the demand for organ transplants by far exceeds the supply, other treatment options are urgently required to prevent progression and improve end-stage liver disease. Statins are primarily cholesterol-lowering drugs used for primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases. In addition to the primary effect, statins act beneficially through different pleiotropic mechanisms on inflammation, fibrosis, endothelial function, thrombosis, and coagulation to improve chronic liver diseases. However, concerns remain about the efficacy and safety of statin treatment because of their potential hepatotoxic risks, and as of now, these risks impede broader use of statins in the treatment of chronic liver diseases. The aim of this review is to comprehensively describe the mechanisms by which statins improve prospects for different chronic liver diseases with special focus on the pathophysiological rationale and the clinical experience of statin use in the treatment of liver diseases.

Beiert, T., Tiyerili, V., Knappe, V., Effelsberg, V., Linhart, M., Stöckigt, F., Klein, S., Schierwagen, R., Trebicka, J., Nickenig, G., Schrickel, J. W., Andrié, R. P., (2017). Relaxin reduces susceptibility to post-infarct atrial fibrillation in mice due to anti-fibrotic and anti-inflammatory properties Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 490, (3), 643-649

Background Relaxin-2 (RLX) is a peptide hormone that exerts beneficial anti-fibrotic and anti-inflammatory effects in diverse models of cardiovascular disease. The goal of this study was to determine the effects of RLX treatment on the susceptibility to atrial fibrillation (AF) after myocardial infarction (MI). Methods Mice with cryoinfarction of the left anterior ventricular wall were treated for two weeks with either RLX (75

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation, Atrial fibrosis, Myocardial infarction, Relaxin-2

Schwab, S., Lehmann, J., Lutz, P., Jansen, C., Appenrodt, B., Lammert, F., Strassburg, C. P., Spengler, U., Nischalke, H. D., Trebicka, J., (2017). Influence of genetic variations in the SOD1 gene on the development of ascites and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in decompensated liver cirrhosis European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 29, (7), 800-804

Background The balance between generation and elimination of reactive oxygen species by superoxide dismutase (SOD) is crucially involved in the pathophysiology of liver cirrhosis. Reactive oxygen species damage cells and induce inflammation/fibrosis, but also play a critical role in immune defense from pathogens. As both processes are involved in the development of liver cirrhosis and its complications, genetic variation of the SOD1 gene was investigated. Patients and methods Two SOD1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1041740 and rs3844942) were analyzed in 49 cirrhotic patients undergoing liver transplantation. In addition, 344 cirrhotic patients with ascites were analyzed in a cohort of 521 individuals in terms of the relationship of these polymorphisms with spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP). Results Although rs3844942 showed no associations with complications of cirrhosis, we observed a significant association between rs1041740 and the presence of ascites and SBP in the discovery cohort of patients with cirrhosis. Importantly, the association with SBP was not confirmed in the validation cohort of patients with ascites. By contrast, a trend toward lower SBP rates was observed in carriers of rs1041740. In this cohort, rs1041740 was not associated with survival. Conclusion These data suggest a complex role of SOD1 in different processes leading to complications of liver cirrhosis. rs1041740 might be associated with the development of ascites and possibly plays a role in SBP once ascites has developed.

Keywords: Ascites, Genetic polymorphism, Liver cirrhosis, Reactive oxygen stress, Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, Superoxide dismutases

Klein, S., Schierwagen, R., Uschner, F. E., Trebicka, J., (2017). Mouse and rat models of induction of hepatic fibrosis and assessment of portal hypertension Fibrosis (Methods in Molecular Biology) (ed. Rittié, L.), Humana Press (New York, USA) 1627, 91-116

Portal hypertension either develops due to progressive liver fibrosis or is the consequence of vascular liver diseases such as portal vein thrombosis or non-cirrhotic portal hypertension. This chapter focuses on different rodent models of liver fibrosis with portal hypertension and also in few non-cirrhotic portal hypertension models. Importantly, after the development of portal hypertension, the proper assessment of drug effects in the portal and systemic circulation should be discussed. The last part of the chapter is dedicated in these techniques to assess the in vivo hemodynamics and the ex vivo techniques of the isolated liver perfusion and vascular contractility.

Keywords: Aortic ring contraction, Bile duct ligation, Carbon tetrachloride, Colored microsphere technique, High-fat diet, Isolated in situ liver perfusion, Methionine-choline-deficient diet, Partial portal vein ligation, Portal hypertension