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Biological Systems Interfaces

Code: EBE0142     Acronym: ISBI

Classification Keyword
OFICIAL Biomedical Engineering

Instance: 2016/2017 - 1S

Active? Yes
Responsible unit: Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering
Course/CS Responsible: Master in Bioengineering

Cycles of Study/Courses

Acronym No. of Students Study Plan Curricular Years Credits UCN Credits ECTS Contact hours Total Time
MEB 17 Syllabus 1 - 6 70 162
MIB 36 Syllabus 3 - 6 70 162

Teaching Staff - Responsibilities

Teacher Responsibility
Mário Adolfo Monteiro da Rocha Barbosa

Teaching - Hours

Recitations: 3,00
Laboratory Practice: 2,00
Type Teacher Classes Hour
Recitations Totals 1 3,00
Mário Adolfo Monteiro da Rocha Barbosa 3,00
Laboratory Practice Totals 3 6,00
Inês de Castro Gonçalves de Almada Lobo 6,00

Teaching language



Objectives - The main aim of the course is to provide scientific tools required to understand various types of interactions that take place between cells and tissues and their natural and artificial environments. The interfaces between cells and extra-cellular matrix (ECM), and cells and ECM with medical devices are important examples of biological interfaces.
Topography, chemical composition and mechanical properties of surfaces influence decisively the behaviour of various types of cells, including stem cells. This is of great relevance in the application of biomaterials, including in biosensors, various types of implants (orthopaedic, dental, cardiovascular, etc) and in regenerative therapies. Hence, one of the purposes of the course will be to explain how cell adhesion, proliferation and differentiation may be affected by the above properties.
The type, surface density, conformation and renewal of proteins adsorbed onto a surface play a critical role in its behaviour. Thus, the protein-biomaterial interface has to be understood and observed in detail. The physical chemistry of these interfaces, where the presence of water is of fundamental importance, will be covered.
Radical modifications in the behaviour of solid-liquid and biomaterial-cell interfaces may be introduced by manipulating surfaces and materials at the nanoscale. Examples of nanotechnologies applied to modify essential features of biological interfaces (e.g. hydrophobicity, inhibition or promotion of cell adhesion and guided cell growth) will be given.
Characterization of surfaces and their interactions will biological environments (including fluids, cells and tissues) is of great importance in all the above processes. Therefore, special tools are required for observation and quantification of changes taking place at the interface between a material and its bioenvironment. Some of those tools and the physical and chemical principles in which they are based will be presented in the course. Atomic force microscopy (including molecular recognition force microscopy), elipsometry, zeta potential measurements, contact angle and interfacial energy determinations, surface analysis (e.g. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy - XPS), and quartz crystal microbalance will be covered.


Learning outcomes and competences

Skills and learning outcomes: Develop knowledge and capacities in principles, concepts and methods applicable to explain, evaluate and modify the interplay between natural and artificial surfaces/substrates and their biological environment.

Working method



1. Physical chemistry of interfaces
Structure of dry and wet surfaces (double layers), energetics (interfacial energies, contact angle, wetability, superhydrophobicity)

2. Cell-bioenvironment interactions
Interactions of cells with other cells, the extra-cellular matrix, biomaterials and medical devices. The foreign body reaction and implant encapsulation.

3. Protein adsorption from biological media
Surface concentration, kinetics, conformation, influence on cell behaviour

4. Microfabrication and nanofabrication applied to surfaces
Surface patterning; molecular imprinting; self-assembled monolayers. Techniques for obtaining microparticles and nanoparticles. Influence of surface topographical, mechanical and chemical features on cell behaviour

5. Techniques for probing surfaces and biological interfaces
Atomic force microscopy (including molecular recognition force microscopy), elipsometry, zeta potential measurements, contact angle and interfacial energy determinations, surface analysis (e.g. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy - XPS), and quartz crystal microbalance.

Mandatory literature

Adam Baszkin ; Willem Norde; Physical Chemistry of Biological Interfaces
Butt, Hans-Jurgen; Physics and chemistry of interfaces. ISBN: 978-3-527-40629-6
Bhushan, Bharat, 1949 340; Springer handbook of nanotechnology. ISBN: 978-3-540-29855-7
Alberts, Bruce 070; Molecular biology of the cell. ISBN: 978-0-8153-4105-5

Complementary Bibliography

Bockris, J. O.M; An introduction to electrochemical science. ISBN: 0-85109-410-4
Kay C. Dee David A. Puleo Rena Bizios; An Introduction to Tissue-Biomaterial Interactions, Wiley-Liss, 2002. ISBN: 0471253944

Teaching methods and learning activities

The key aspects of each topic will be presented first by the lecturer. This will be followed by a thorough discussion in subsequent classes. The discussion may involve the presentation of critical examples by the students, resulting from a literature search. The discussion may be led by one to three students and can be kicked-off by a brief presentation (typically 10 min).
Experiments relevant to this course will be carried out in dedicated lab sessions.


Technological sciences
Health sciences
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Evaluation Type

Evaluation with final exam

Assessment Components

Designation Weight (%)
Exame 50,00
Participação presencial 20,00
Trabalho laboratorial 30,00
Total: 100,00

Eligibility for exams

In order to be admitted to the final exam a student must have taken a leading role in at least one discussion (see above) and participate in at least 75% of the classes.

Calculation formula of final grade

The final mark will result from the mark obtained in the final exam (50%; minimum “8 valores”), lab sessions (30%) and the mark obtained in the classes (20%: presentations, discussions and answer to questionnaires).

Examinations or Special Assignments

Not applicable.

Special assessment (TE, DA, ...)

As specified by the rules applicable to the Mestrado Integrado em Bioengenharia.

Classification improvement

As specified by the rules applicable to the Mestrado Integrado em Bioengenharia.

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