Bioengineering in Regeneration and Cancer

Group leader: Amaia Cipitria, Ph.D.

Biodonostia HRI. Ikerbasque Research Associate.
Amaia Cipitria has training in bioengineering and materials science. She obtained her PhD in Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge, UK, in 2008. She was a postdoctoral researcher at Queensland University of Technology (Australia) and at the Charité University Hospital of Berlin (Germany). In 2011 she became senior researcher of the “Physical Cues and Regeneration” group at the Charité, researching the effect of the physical properties of biomaterials on in vivo cell response and bone regeneration, using advanced materials characterisation techniques. As a beneficiary of the Emmy Noether programme at the German Research Foundation (DFG), in 2017 she moved to the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPI-CI) as leader of the independent research group “Extracellular Matrix in Disease and Regeneration”, with strong ties to the Charité and to the Würzburg University Hospital, Germany. In 2021 she returned to Spain as an Ikerbasque Associate Researcher at the Biodonostia Health Research Institute to create a new research group focussed on Bioengineering in Regeneration and Cancer. As former head of gender equality at the MPI-CI, she is committed to promoting women in science. She is also associate editor of the scientific journal “Biomaterials Advances (previously called “Materials Science and Engineering C: Materials for Biological Applications”).

The interdisciplinary group on “Bioengineering in Regeneration and Cancer” is interested in clinically-inspired basic and translational research at the intersection between bioengineering and biomedicine. We aim to understand how the biophysical and biochemical properties of the native extracell matrix and new synthetic biomaterials guide cell response in tissue regeneration, cancer dormancy and bone metastasis. We research tissue regeneration in the context of the regeneration of major bone defects, and tissue malformation related to cancer, in the context of breast cancer dormancy and bone metastasis, as well as multiple myeloma bone disease. Our experimental approach uses advanced materials science methods and engineering systems, such as scaffolds, hydrogels and microfluidic chips, which take their inspiration from in vivo models, researched by means of long-term in vivo imaging and correlative ex vivo multiscale analysis, in addition to human biopsies containing cancerous cells.

Strategic objectives

We are interested in clinically-inspired basic and translational research at the intersection between bioengineering and biomedicine. Our group’s activities concentrate on two main areas of research focused on the perspective of bioengineering, biotechnology and/or biomaterials.

Main research lines

  • Cancer bioengineering and research.

We research the effect of biophysical mechanisms in the control of cancer dormancy and bone metastasis, with special emphasis on breast cancer and multiple myeloma. Our experimental focus uses engineering systems, such as hydrogels or microfluidic chips, taking their inspiration from in vivo models, researched by means of in vivo images and correlative ex vivo multiscale characterisation. We are developing mathematical models based on the evolutionary game theory with a view to obtaining new knowledge of interactions between disseminated cancer cells and their microenvironment, specifically in the bone organ. From a translational aspect, our strong collaboration with oncologists enables us to extend our work to human bone biopsies from patients with multiple myeloma at different stages of the disease, as well as to human pancreatic tumour tissue.

  • Biomaterials and regenerative medicine.

We investigate the effect of biomaterial physical properties, such as the stiffness, geometry or degradation properties of 3D printed scaffolds or hydrogels, on in vivo cell response and tissue regeneration, using small and large animal models. We implement the multiscale characterisation of biological tissues, paying special attention to the biomaterial-tissue interface. From a translational point of view, we participate in the European H2020 project, HEALIKICK, where we develop a modular strategy for the repair of critical sized bone factures, aiming to generate a registry of medicines undergoing research, a request for clinical trials and to launch a first trial in humans.

Team Members

Name Surname Center E-mail
Jone Berasain Garmendia Biogipuzkoa HRI
Laura Christine Fallert Biogipuzkoa HRI
Unai Heras Manterola Biogipuzkoa HRI
Leire Iturriaga Oñarte-Echevarria Biogipuzkoa HRI
Oihane Mitxelena Iribarren Biogipuzkoa HRI
Naike Salvador Moreno Biogipuzkoa HRI
Rocio Cardenas Perez Biogipuzkoa HRI

Scientific Output