Real-time monitoring of disease metabolism in Organ-on-Chip systems with magnetic resonance

Biosensors for bioengineering group · Javier Ramon Azcon


Research project

Biosensors for Bioengineering’ (B4b) group, headed by Dr. Javier Ramon is focused on a new line of research that has become of extreme importance in the last years. The idea is to integrate biosensor technology and nanotechnology with stem cell research and with tissue engineering. Engineered tissues are integrated with biosensing technology to obtain microdevices for detecting cellular responses to external stimuli, monitoring the quality of the microenvironment (e.g., metabolites, nutrients), and supporting diverse cellular requirements. This research on 3D-functional engineered tissues is expected to develop knowledge of tissue construction and their functions and relation with some human diseases. Integration of fully functional tissues with microscale biosensor technology allowed us to obtain “organs-on-a-chip”. These chips could be used in pharmaceutical assays and could be a step toward the ultimate goal of producing in vitro drug testing systems crucial to the medicine and pharmaceutical industry.

The proposed project will develop non-invasive assays based on magnetic resonance (MR) to study glucose metabolism and further the understanding of metabolic diseases such as diabetes and muscle dystrophy, aiming to provide a platform for personalized drug testing on organ-on-a-chip systems.


Job position

We use hyperpolarized 13C magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS), where signals from endogenous molecules are detected with chemical specificity. This technique allows us to detect the chemical reaction kinetics of an individual metabolic pathway in real-time, in vivo and in a non-invasive manner. Hyperpolarized 13C MRI/MRS has been used to study metabolism in cells, in vivo in animals and it is already transitioning into phase I clinical trials (both in the USA and Europe). In our group, we aim to bring this technique to detect real-time metabolism in organ-in-chips, working on both hyperpolarized 13C MR and organ-in-chip methodology aspects.

As part of our efforts to create a platform for tailored drug testing, the successful candidate will be involved in the technical development of hyperpolarization methods and 13C substrates, as well as carrying out innovative work on the tissue engineering side of the project. As part of the team, the candidate will interact with chemists, physicists and biotechnologists.

This multidisciplinary project is at the interface between physical chemistry, biochemistry and tissue engineering.


[1] Mohammadi et al. Engineered muscle tissues for disease modeling and drug screening applications (2017) Curr. Pharm. Des., 23 (20), pp. 2991-3004.

[2] Marco-Rius et al. Photo-generated radicals for in vivo hyperpolarized 13C-MR with photo-sensitive metabolic substrates. (2018) J. Am. Chem. Soc.