Our research is focused on designing and building hybrid materials and devices. Microscale soft biological constructs, which retain their unique biological functionalities, are being interfaced with robust synthetic components to develop two distinct technologies: (1) Active bionanomaterials and (2) Quantitative pharmacological devices.

Muscle on a chip

Primary Investigator: Anna Grosberg, Ph.D

The “heart on a chip” is a microdevice that encapsulates multiple pieces of laminar muscle for in vitro studies of tissue contractility, structural properties, and electrophysiological function (Grosberg A, et al. “Ensembles of engineered cardiac tissues for physiological and pharmacological study: Heart on a chip.” Lab Chip, 2011). The design of such microdevices will give researches and companies an ability to perform tissue scale in vitro experiments to test their cell’s function and/or the effect of pharmacological agents. We are currently working on integrating the “heart on a chip” with other muscle types including stem-cell derived myocytes. Our design efforts are greatly enhanced by our lab’s variety of tools ranging from an optical mapping system and fluorescent microscopes to access to microfab facilities and the muscular thin film technology.


The movie shows a 6 film “heart on a chip”, blue – flat film outline, red – projection tracking

Higher throughput muscle on a chip

Primary Investigator: Ashutosh Agarwal, Ph.D

We are engineering cardiac and vascular smooth muscle cells into spatially organized microtissues on laser cut sub millimeter sized elastomer thin films and hydrogel thin films to give rise to large scale arrays of ‘Muscular Thin Films’ (MTFs) on a chip. The laser cutting procedure is also being employed to batch produce multiple chips in a reproducible and potentially scalable manner. Finally, these chips are being integrated into microfluidic devices to permit high throughput multiplexed analyses. We envision this in vitro technology to serve as an effective pre-clinical screen and hence greatly shorten the timeline and reduce the costs associated with the development of medical therapeutics and products.

Cardiac valve on a chip

Primary Investigator: Kartik Balachandran, Ph.D

We are also interested in developing combinatory “organ on a chip” devices, and one of our research thrusts in this direction is the development of a valve on a chip. Our objective is to design a valve system with neural input that recapitulates the function of a valve in a scaled down on-chip device. This research thrust is motivated from recent secondary valvulotoxic effects of neurological drugs such as diet pills (Fenfluramine-Phentermine) and anti-depressants. We aim to use this device for high throughput testing of neurological and valve function in response to various pharmacological agents.

What's New

DBG Lab is Operational! March 15th, 2021

After 17 years of outstanding science in Cambridge, the DBG has moved to the Engineering School’s new campus in Allston. As of March 2, the lab is fully operational and has resumed experiments. Thank you to all alumni and current personnel for constantly raising the bar. Stand by for the next chapter of DBG science!

Congratulations to Dr. Megan McCain! March 10th, 2021

Our congratulations go out to DBG alumna, Dr. Megan McCain, who has recently received tenure at University of Southern California!

Farewell to Dr. Suhwan Kim! January 13th, 2021

Congratulations to Dr. Suhwan Kim, who has accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Dong-A University in Basun, South Korea! Dr. Kim was an integral part of our brain team for over a year as a postdoctoral fellow. We wish him the best on this next step in his career!

Inaugural Issue — Biophysics Reviews! January 4th, 2021

Dr. Kevin Kit Parker launched Biophysics Reviews, a new peer-reviewed journal for the biophysics research community on December 14. Produced by scientific publisher AIP Publishing, the aims to expand “on the tradition of excellence set by Applied Physics Reviews (APR) by publishing high impact, cutting edge research and reviews that are valuable for both emerging and experienced researchers”.

1. KK Parker, L Longobardi, A Sulicz. “Welcome to Biophysics Reviews, a big tent for the biophysics community”. Biophysics Reviews. 14 Dec 2020; 1(1); 010401. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0036408.

A Belated Farewell and Congratulations to Dr. Ardoña! October 14th, 2020

Congratulations to Dr. Herdeline Ardoña, who has accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in the University of California Irvine Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. She joined the Disease Biophysics Group as a postdoctoral fellow in 2017 and was an essential part of our research and mentoring team. Best of luck to you as you settle in and get your research group up and running!