Microfluids oxygenator for artificial placenta


Group leaders

Josep Samitier, Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) ·


The main objective of this project is to develop placenta-inspired oxygenator to support the life of neonates born with extreme prematurity. The premature birth of children, specially between 22 – 28 weeks carries a high burden of mortality and morbidity mainly due to the poor development of the lungs. Prior to 16 weeks of gestation, the lungs are little more than branching airways and rudimentary acinar structures, incapable of gas exchange due to their immaturity. This means that lungs are not ready to receive air to support normal breathing and also means that convential mechanical ventilation cannot be used as it causes irremediable damage. An alternative is the use of ECMOs that directly oxygenates blood. However, there are no device in the market or development pipelines able to provide the flows conditions, proper gas exchange and is sufficiently safe (hemocompatibility of the membrane) to support these childrens.  

Our ambition is to engineer an ex vivo Artificial Placenta to preserve fetal circulation, while promoting the physiologic evolution of organ, offering a uterine-like environment. This will require to go beyond the design of current oxygenators based on hollow fiber membranes. The concept combines a new concept for 3D printed membrane based on gyroids minimal structures whose interfaces with blood are modified with nanoscale coating to control and modulation the activation of coagulation. The gyroid structure will provide minimal resistance to blood flow, thereby being safer. While the latter will protect the fetus from the dangerous thrombosis. Thus the project will include work in the development of the 3D membranes, including material design, characterization of ultra-structure and gas transport as well as the design of polymer brushes and their functionalization with active biomolecules that interact with blood factors and the in vitro studies of the activity with blood. 

Job position description

The Nanobioengineering research group is looking for a PhD Student for designing and manufacturing a novel platform for oxygenation in an artificial placenta. 

The successful candidate will develop research involving: 

  • 3D printed membranes 
  • Polymer synthesis 
  • Synthesis of hemocompatible polymer brushes via control radical polymerization  
  • Surface characterization by surface plasmon resonance, spectroscopy and optical / electron and force microscopies 
  • Exploration new click chemistries to functionalize the coatings with bioreceptors 
  • Studies of fouling and hemocompatibility 

Requirements for candidates: 

  • Degree and Master on any field on Chemistry, Physics, Nanoscience, Biomedical engineering, Chemical engineering, Material Science or related field. 
  • High motivation for translational and multidisciplinary qualifications (Physics/Math’s, Physics/Engineering, etc.), as needed for this highly interdisciplinary project. 
  • Knowledge about biomaterials and biointerfaces. 
  • Competencies and skills: Communication, Teamwork, Proactivity, Commitment, Collegiality, Integrity, Critical and Analytical thinking 
  • High level of English