Bioengineering means confronting, understanding and solving highly complex problems in biomedicine, bringing together the tools available in the fields of experimental science, life science and engineering in all their facets.
The model envisaged by IBEC is inspired by a creative, innovative new ecosystem based on interaction between research experts in different technologies (nano-bio-info-cogno) to generate new knowledge and engineering solutions in health technology.
The knowledge that exists in the IBEC research groups is structured in three broad avenues of knowledge: nanomedicine, cellular and tissue engineering and ICT for health. These are placed at the service of science and society to progress in three major application areas, namely:
Bioengineering for future medicine
The future of medicine will mean personalised medicine, hand-held diagnostic platforms, wearable monitoring devices, and other technological advances to make healthcare more effective, cheaper and more convenient. IBEC researchers use their bioengineering tools, technology and techniques to better understand the behaviour of proteins, cells, tissue and organs in the body, or develop solutions such as nanocapsules for targeted drug delivery, nanoscale tools to study biological systems, molecular actuators that can be switched on and off with light, and in vitro organs ‘on-a-chip’ for disease models. They study the mechanisms and physiological implications underlying mechanical forces in biology, such as the mechanical behaviour of cells and their interactions with the microenvironment, or the dynamic mechanisms involved in tissue healing, morphogenesis and collective cell invasion in cancer.
Bioengineering for regenerative therapies
Combining new tailored nanobiomaterials with cell engineering drives advances in tissue engineering for the repair and replacement of human tissues damaged by injury, illness and ageing. Biomaterials engineering involves the synthesis, processing and characterization of new materials, including polymers, proteins, glasses, cements, composites and hybrids, to make materials that can act as physical supports for engineered tissues, as well as providing the crucial topographical and chemical cues to guide cells. By developing tailored biomaterials that provide the required microenvironmental influences to reprogramme cells or engineer their fate – such as enhancing differentiation and proliferation of cells – researchers can trigger the self-regeneration of damaged tissue.
Bioengineering for active ageing
The global ageing population will have considerable consequences, but biomedical engineering can contribute greatly to improving the quality of life of older people. Assisted living technologies such as telecare, home-based devices and services that support daily life with a remote link to a call-centre, and telehealth – remote monitoring, consultation and diagnosis – can help support independent living at home, keeping patients out of hospital and residential care for longer.
Advances in sensors, signal treatment, data analysis, robotics and intelligent control systems at IBEC are enabling the development of remote care or assisted living, so that people with dementia or long-term health conditions can remain in their own homes.