Arben Merkoçi 0:00
Hello, I am Arben Merkoçi, a ICREA Research Professor at Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Barcelona. When I was invited to give this talk, I was very much attracted by the puzzle, the form and the shape of this. Because working in this field of biosensors for many years, we have been, in fact, using this shape to show how the receptors, what is inside the biosensors, are interacting with complimentary things. For example, if we want to detect the DNA, we need to have a complementary DNA that fits together. Or if we want to detect the protein, we need to use an antibody or an optomer. So these specific interactions are always presented somehow by us using the shape of this puzzle. So this was really very attractive. But another thing that attracted my attention is that also for me, at least, this is a symbol of cooperation and collaboration. So it looks like the shape of a human being asking to collaborate with someone. So you put this puzzle together. So this is what In science we are doing. So we collaborate a lot, we cooperate. And in fact, we have heard this keyword today and yesterday in a lot of discussions.
Arben Merkoçi 1:30
And the last thing for me is that this is also the symbol of simplicity. So when we work with biosensors, when we work with these devices that are very useful to do any kind of detection, at the end of the day, we want something that is simple, cost efficient. Of course, working in this field, you need to put a lot of knowledge and a lot of technologies and we also put nanotechnology inside, but then again, we want something that is easy to be used, cost efficient. This is why I am trying to show you today what we are doing at Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in relation to these devices based on nanotechnology, but with a very simple and very interesting, cost efficient device. I'm going to show you these starting with this first example, which is in fact related to COVID. This has been a very global challenge for all of last still living with this. We want also to show that this global challenge need global response needs collaboration, and this is what in the group I'm leading at Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology with people with different expertise and different places of the world trying to work together, putting the expertise and the knowledge of different areas, because we need the biochemist, chemist, electronics people, informatics, biomedical engineers, and more to put all their efforts and build devices with interest. So, why do we need these simple cost efficient diagnostics?
Arben Merkoçi 3:30
As I said, the COVID-19. which is a great example to at least explain a little bit of this request. First of all, diagnostics, before making any decision in relation to therapies, we need to check what is there. And in fact, we have been living with these and we are now used to having a simple test everywhere, probably, and a lot of such tests that are distributed all over the world. So, the diagnostics is very, very important. And now to remind again, but the numbers in relation to infection, the number of relations people that that died are also showing, again, the importance that diagnostics has to face this big problem that we have been living through for many years. So, the convention diagnostic labs are working fine. So, they are working fine in relation to very sensitive detections in relation to solving complex issues for diagnostics, but we need point of care devices. We also devices that can work fine even out of the laboratory. So these are very very important. And in the context of point of care devices, these kinds of diagnostics should be linked together. And what we are trying to do is show how the biosensors, these devices, are really linking this important technology, so, diagnostic in general with point of care devices. Sensors are simple devices. They usually contains an bioreception, which is the most important part, and this may be a DNA, it may be an antibody, or an aptamer that interacts in a specific mode with the light that it can detect. And it can be glucose, it can be COVID-19 related biomarkers, either the human virus or any biomarker related to it, and then you have a transducer once the interaction occurs. So, between the bioreceptor and the analyte you want to detect you get the signal and then even using a smartphone, you can read whatever you want and related probably with your health or some other parameters.
Arben Merkoçi 6:18
So, with nanotechnology, we are trying to see how biosensors can be improved, how we can build new models of biosensors, including wearable devices or implanted devices, that we have seen also and there are a lot of experts in Catalonia in Spain, and all over the world working and putting efforts into these. So, we are also trying to see how nanotechnology is improving biosensors and bringing new solutions with interest to be used. And we call these nano-biosensors with interest to be used as point of care devices. So, I'm going to show you some simple technologies we're using. We are developing based on nanotechnology, but at the end of the day, they are really very simple and cost efficient, and have interest for a lot of applications. We are working with paper, simple is the best. Why are we working with paper? Why are we working with nitrocellulose because it is a sustainable material, it's easy to prepare. And also these paper based sensors are user friendly. And this is why I put here the example of lateral flow, you know this device because it is the one that is used nowadays a lot as a COVID test, either serological tests but also antigen tests to detect the virus. But also put in micro fluidics inside is very easy because it's a kind of zero energy device, you don't need to do any pumping just by capillary forces the liquid is running.
Arben Merkoçi 8:00
As you can see here in a couple of minutes or 10 minutes maximum, you can have a nice response and you see how there is a red line appearing that is saying to you what is happening. And in fact that there is nanotechnology, this red line in fact, is a plasmonics of golden particles. So, this nanotechnology is one of the first materials studied by nanotechnology and thanks to the high sensitivity of this optical signal, we are able even with naked eye to see this and take advantage of what is happening. So, we are putting nanomaterials there but finally, you have a very simple device that is so useful for a lot of applications. But also we are trying to do these technologies, so these paper based sensors coupled also with our technology, are more sensitive, more selective and also going back to the case of the COVID, you need the multiplexing and multi-detection capability. So putting all these features to the sensors we are working with electrical detection, not only optical detection and we are working a lot with inkjet printing.
Arben Merkoçi 9:19
So using even office printers to print our sensors. So what we are trying to do is to build using office printers, sensors, and in fact we are using nanoparticles. What you see there is very fast printing. In just a couple of minutes or a few seconds, you have a sheet of sensors printed coming from this office printer, but there are nanoparticles, we are using silver nanoparticles, golden nanoparticles and using some in situ preparation modes, we are sintering these and making these conductive sensors based on different nanomaterials, incorporating even in a simple mode, some fluidics. So we have this sensor ready to be used. In addition, we are trying to improve these by putting much more effort, for example, using graphene. As you have heard today, graphene is a fantastic material. But we are trying to combine these with laser scraping and trying to build better sensors with higher resolution and able to give a better response.
Arben Merkoçi 10:34
We call it better analytical performance by using this laser scribed graphene with interest for either lateral flow, but also for other simple devices. And finally, what I want to say is that these technologies are pretty much related and connected with simple modes to do the detection, avoiding the cables, for example. So we try to get rid of these cables, and have a very simple detection mode, and so here you will see how we are trying to do to use antennas to power the sensor and also communicate the signal and give these to the end user, probably with interest even for virus detection, that we are still working with, but also for a lot of other applications. So finally, I'd like to say that these kinds of technologies are very interesting because we are speaking not only for sensors that are ready to be used, but we are speaking about technologies that can be distributed, ubiquitous technologies. So why not for places in need, all over the world, instead of distributing the sensors, we distribute the technology so they can in situ print their sensors by sensors. And make use of them, avoiding delays in transportation, and all these, and this is what we are doing. And we believe that with these kinds of technologies, we may be able to better fit the needs that we have for diagnostics, the needs that we may have for safety, security, and lots of other applications. So this is all I'd like to thank you very much. And of course thank all the team that is working hard in these kinds of technologies. Thank you very much!