/Development of a human in vitro model for pain-on-chip sensing using active CMOS MEA technology

Development of a human in vitro model for pain-on-chip sensing using active CMOS MEA technology

Leuven | More than two weeks ago

Novel MPS systems to develop the next generation of human pain-on-chip models

Chronic pain is a global burden affecting over 1 in 5 people worldwide and is in addition to the experienced pain and suffer in daily living associated with elevated psychosocial stress for the patient. This is due to the lack of mechanistic understanding of human pathophysiology and thus effective pain-relief therapy without significant side effects.


The discovery of new pain therapeutics targeting human nociceptive circuitry is an emerging field due to the failure of current pre-clinical models to provide guidance on human pain sensitization and signalling circuit mechanisms. Microphysiological system (MPS) technologies has the potential to revolutionize health care with the ability to study the dynamic interaction between human tissues and cells in a biomimetic microphysiological environment. In specific settings, this allows detailed studies of pathophysiology with patient- or population specific samples. This interdisciplinary PhD project will span across the fields of nanotechnology, engineering, biomedical sciences and regenerative medicine. The obtained work will contribute to our elevated understanding regarding multi-cellular interactions during human pain sensitization during tissue homeostasis and disease. Further, it will inspire cross-team collaboration due to its interdisciplinary nature and provide initial data in the development of novel biomimetic model systems.


Pain sensation is a dynamic process and is strictly regulated at a local and systemic level. Any miscommunication between the involved cell populations will lead to a dysregulated signalling circuit. By developing an in vitro model able to mimic the human pain sensory system in vitro, at a high ms resolution, the successful candidate will contribute to the improved mechanistic understanding of human pain sensitization, an in vitro platform for drug screening and patient-specific approaches.


As a part of imec’s Tenure Track initiative, this PhD project is focused on developing a pain-on-chip MPS model to study the different aspects of initiation and progression of pain at the single cell level. The project will be carried out using imec’s nanotechnology systems to enable the dynamic and simultaneous study of multiple cell types in real time.

Required background: Nanotechnology, biomedical sciences, biomedical engineering, entrepreneurial

Type of work: 20% development, 20% modeling/simulation, 40% experimental, 20% business

Supervisor: Liesbet Lagae

Co-supervisor: Johanna Bolander

Daily advisor: Johanna Bolander

The reference code for this position is 2024-172. Mention this reference code on your application form.

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