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News U8

Inkjet printing technology is driving innovation of sensors for point-of-care devices

Miguel Zea, researcher at GAB Group –  Nanbiosis U8 Micro– Nano Technology Unit  will defend hir PhD thesis on Friday 23 of July, at 11 am, at the Graus Room of the Faculty of Sciences and Biosciences of the UAB about “Inkjet printing technology is driving the innovation of sensors for point-of-care devices”

Thesis directors: Gemma Gabriel and Eloi Ramon

Further information and registration for the event, onñine, here


The ‘Inkjet printing’ technology is called to be the next generation of flexible electronics capable of performing functions that were only accessible with state-of-the-art microfabrication technologies. This is due, in part, to the versatility of digital, non-contact patterning techniques but also to the substantial investment in research and development for inkjet printing of functional materials in recent years. Inkjet printing is an additive manufacturing technology based on the contact-less deposition of micro-droplets of a functional material with micrometer precision on the desired substrate area, through a digital design. Moreover, inkjet printing is capable of modifying the printing pattern in real time. Consequently, design changes can be introduced without any additional costs, allowing to create personalized designs with unique features. Nowadays, industrial inkjet printing has reached high standards of flexible, robust, and reliable performances.

The consensus is that inkjet printing will facilitate the production of flexible electronics in a cost-effective, on circular-economy, and reducing waste manner, enabling the development of currently unavailable wearable and disposable devices. This is the point at which Point-of-Care testing devices (PoCT) enter in the equation due to their importance in medical trails. These devices are defined as medical diagnostic testing at or near the patient. PoCT devices rely on a fast and accurate measurement based on sensors that provide the physician with a set of important data to make a diagnosis. However, major limitations of state-of-the-art PoCT devices include cost, disposability, biodegradability, and reliability. Inkjet printing technology offers solutions to address these problems where its great promises are low-cost, non-contact, rapid prototyping, material varieties, and wide range of substrates. Moreover, in the last 15 years, this technology has already shown its potential in the fabrication of reliable and quantitative sensors which form the essential components of PoCT devices. However, our understanding of the technology and its capabilities are still in a promising or potential stage, and further expertise needs to be acquired to facilitate the development of complete fully printed PoCT devices.

Identifying these problems and possible solutions, this thesis focuses on showing the potential of inkjet printing to develop sensors on flexible plastic substrates and porous paper, challenging technology to its current limit. The first part addresses the formulation, printing, and characterization of new functional inks that allow us to obtain new conductive inks to be used in the area of sensing analytes of interest. On flexible plastic, two potentiometric pH sensors have been developed. The first shows the importance of the intrinsic roughness property of a new platinum ink based on nanoparticles to provide mechanical stability to iridium oxide, a pH-sensitive material, grown electrochemically on it. For this purpose, a pH sensor was developed using the new Pt ink and the stability over a year of this iridium oxide layer was studied, which showed a clear improvement in its performance. The second pH sensor goes one step further and is, to date, the first pH sensor entirely fabricated by inkjet printing. To meet this objective, a new polymeric ink was formulated composed of a mixture of polypyrrole and pH-sensitive polyaniline. This ink was printed on a previously printed gold microelectrode and, to finally obtain a fully printed pH sensor, the fabrication was completed with a printed silver/silver chloride pseudo-reference electrode. The second part addresses the challenge of printing a sensor on a more eco-sustainable substrate such as paper, an important factor for disposable PoCs. On any paper substrate, the difficulty in printing is greater due to the porosity, delicacy, and hydrophilicity of this material. In a first work, the challenge of printing conductive functional inks such as gold or silver, and dielectric inks such as SU8 on the substrate in an efficient and easy-to-reproduce way to obtain an electrochemical sensor is addressed. The printing of a new hydrophobic ink that allows to selectively block the area of the paper where the printing of the conductive inks that make up the electrochemical sensor will be required is proposed and studied. Finally, in a second work, a cortisol immunosensor was implemented on these sensors printed on a paper substrate and its response was characterized and compared with other reported sensors, demonstrating the good performance of this technology in the detection of biological target molecules in biological samples.

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Collaboration in the CSIC White Paper “New Challenges in Biomedicine and Health”

The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) is publishing the White Papers of the 14 strategic themes established on the basis of their scientific impact and social importance. The pen access to the White Paper of the fifth Challenge, Brain, Mind & Behaviour, is now avaailable. The book is the result of the “CSIC Scientific Challenges: Towards 2030”, in which the institution tackles the main issues and priorities for the future. This book is coordinated by Jesús Marco de Lucas and M. Victoria Moreno-Arribas.

Drs. Rosa Villa and Anton Guimera (Biomedical Applications Group, GAB and NANBIOSIS U8 Micro– Nano Technology Unit from CIBER-BBN and IMB-CNM-CSIC) collaborate in the secoond topic of the book: “From genes and circuits to behaviours” and  Rosa Villa also has collaborated on of the eighth topic, “Brain and spinal cord damaged and rehabilitation“.


The last decade of the 20th century, officially designated as the Decade of the Brain, brought forth significant advances in our understanding of the biological basis that underlie brain function. Despite this notable progress, neurological and psychiatric disorders currently affect almost a third of the population, a situation that derives from our still uncomplete knowledge of basic principles ruling brain development and function. Today, we are also facing a new era of technological advances that affect our lives in profound ways and we are bound to recast our relationship with our brains. In fact, there is the prevailing view that we are on the verge of new discoveries that will challenge our concepts for self-identity and free will, the privacy of our thoughts, the origins of social behavior or the inner workings of a diseased brain. To accelerate the pace of discoveries in Neurosciences able to prevent and treat mental affections and contribute to reshape the landscapes of other fields, from psychology to economics, education and the law, we need seamless flow of information between neurobiology and other areas of science that provide different but complementary perspectives and research expertise. Given the multidisciplinary wealth of the CSIC and the privileged position of Spanish neuroscience, we are in an optimal position to make a qualitative leap in understanding the mechanisms that control brain activity and be able to turn it into useful knowledge for building a healthier, more responsible society.

CSIC White Papers

What are the major scientific challenges of the first half of the 21st century? Can we establish the priorities for the future? How should the scientific community tackle them? This book presents the reflections of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) on 14 strategic themes established on the basis of their scientific impact and social importance.

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Collaboration in the CSIC White Paper “New Challenges in Biomedicine and Health”

The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) is publishing the White Papers of the 14 strategic themes established on the basis of their scientific impact and social importance. The pen access to the White Paper of the fourth Challenge, New Challenges in Biomedicine and Health, is now avaailable. The book is the result of the “CSIC Scientific Challenges: Towards 2030”, in which the institution tackles the main issues and priorities for the future. This book is coordinated by Mario Delgado (Instituto de Parasitología y Biomedicina “López – Neyra”, Granada) and María Moros (Instituto de Nanociencia y Materiales de Aragón, Zaragoza).

Drs. Rosa Villa (Biomedical Applications Group, GAB and NANBIOSIS U8 Micro– Nano Technology Unit from CIBER-BBN and IMB-CNM-CSIC) collaborate in the eighth topic of the book: “New methods for diagnostic tools and prevention” and  is also a part of the seventh topic, “Advanced therapies“.

New methods for diagnostic tools and prevention” is a highly interdisciplinary area, with a wide range in areas of research, methodologies and applications. It consists on contributions according to imaging modality for diagnostics, detection/screening methods, and prevention and personalised treatments.

The chapter mentions GAB efforts to develop biocompatible and biodegradable implants for neurological applica-tions, and wearable devices (implants and external) for the real time and continuous monitoring, and early diagnosis for in vivo applications. .

As for Organ-on-chips, it contains GAB‘s research in 3D microfluidics and sensors integration to simulate organ and tissuspecific micro-environments. These systems are applied for toxicological stud-ies and personalized medicine and represent a clear alternative to minimize animal experimentation.

In “Advanced therapies” the research in instrumentation for proton tomography and proton-range verification using prompt gamma rays is highly studied.

Biomedicine and Health

A lesson learnt from the pandemia caused by coronavirus is that solutions in health require coordinated actions. Beside this and other (re)emerging infectious diseases, Spain and Europe are suffering a plethora of disorders that are currently acquiring epidemic dimensions, including cancer, rare diseases, pain and food allergies, among others. New tools for prevention, diagnosis and treatment need to be urgently designed and implemented using new holistic and multidisciplinary approaches involving researchers, clinicians, industry and all stakeholders in the health system.

CSIC White Papers

What are the major scientific challenges of the first half of the 21st century? Can we establish the priorities for the future? How should the scientific community tackle them? This book presents the reflections of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) on 14 strategic themes established on the basis of their scientific impact and social importance.

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First Dresselhaus Prize of the SCN2 to María Jesús Ortiz

María Jesús Ortiz i Aguayo, graduate in Chemistry from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), has been the winner of the First Dresselhaus Prize, organized by the Catalan Society of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (SCN2), of the 2020 edition.

The award recognizes the work “Development of a pH microsensor for the determination of hydrogen sulfide based on Inkjet Printing“, supervised by Maria del Mar Baeza Labat (UAB) and Gemma Gabriel Buguña, from the Biomedical Applications Group GAB and NANBIOSIS U8 Micro– Nano Technology Unit from CIBER-BBN and IMB-CNM-CSIC
The student also did her TFG with Dra. Gemma Gabriel at the IMB-CNM.

The second edition of the SCN² Dresselhaus Awards, convened in September 2020 and held during the third wave of COVID-19 in Catalonia, closed on April 19, 2021 with the publication of the three winners this year. Only up to three paid awards and up to three mentions are awarded for high quality work according to the Jury evaluation, this year there have been no special mentions. The awards recognize the excellence of nanoscience work.

Further information here

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New organ-on-chip models provide new information for targeted treatments in personalised medicine

Xavi Illa, Gemma Gabriel, Mar Alvarez and Rosa Villa, researchers of NANBIOSIS ICTS U8 Micro– Nano Technology Unit (from CIBER-BBN and the IMB-CNM-CSIC). are co-authors of two reviews that summarise the latest efforts in organ-on-chip technologies to emulate in vitro microfluidic systems. These devices are an opportunity to evolve the fields of biofabrication and sensing technology.

Organ-on-chip (OOC) technology has been an efficient tool in modern research to substitute laboratory mice and simulate tissue and organ-level physiology and function. In particular, these in vitro devices have been extensively applied to model the intestine, enhancing the research community’s knowledge about intestinal physiology and pathophysiology in order to develop targeted therapies for a more precise and personalised treatment of intestinal diseases.

Now, a review published in Biosensors & Bioelectronics signed by researchers of NANBIOSIS ICTS U8 Micro– Nano Technology Unit, collects information about the intestine models and highlights the necessity to integrate sensors into these in vitro models to shine light on the pathological mechanisms of intestinal disorders at their early stage. The detection of a disease at its early state would allow more efficient treatments and a better prognosis, reducing costs and enhancing the quality of life of the patients.

Last years’ research has had a significant impact in these complex microfluidic systems, though there is still a long way to go to increase biosensors capacity in their operations.

The potential of the OOC technology is enormous. OOC technology may provide a true precision medicine, allowing the use of the patients’ own cells for performing drugs screening before treating the patient“, -explains Mar Álvarez– “To that end, we believe that the integration of sensors into this platforms is mandatory to understand and evaluate the functioning of the organ in real time, providing information that may be used for in-situ decision making”.

Hydrogel microfluidic platforms to improve the predictive capacities of the in vitro models

Another review article published by theese researchers in Applied Materials & Interfaces tackles the progress made in tissue barrier models, as they have a crucial role in regulating organ homeostasis. Current microfluidic systems do not properly mimic cells’ interaction, so recent developments have included biomaterials, such as hydrogels, to emulate these boundaries between tissues and external environment. A hydrogel acts as a microenvironment of the cell and it permits cell culture.

The hydrogel mimics the real cell microenvironment, providing the mechanical cues needed to reproduce the proper organ physiology and function“, Mar Álvarez adds.

Recent developments in the fields of biofabrication show that hydrogels are able to mimic and change the tissue properties and dynamics, thus enabling an in vivo recreation for its reparation.

Articles of reference

Marrero D, Pujol-Vila F, Vera D, Gabriel G, Illa X,  Elizalde-Torrent A, Alvarez M, Villa R, Gut-on-a-chip: Mimicking and monitoring the human intestine. Biosensors and Bioelectronics. Volume 181, 1 June 2021, 113156. DOI https://doi.org/10.1021/acsami.0c21573

Vera D, García-Díaz M, Torras N, Alvarez M, Villa R, Martínez E. Engineering Tissue Barrier Models on Hydrogel Microfluidic Platforms, CS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2021, 13, 12, 13920–13933 DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bios.2021.113156

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Modulation of intercolumnar synchronization by endogenous electric fields in cerebral cortex with neuroprobes by NANBIOSIS unit 8

The collaboration of NANBIOSIS U8 Micro–Nano Technology Unit of the CIBER in Bioengineering, Biomaterials & Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN) at the IMB-CNM in the research carried out by scientist of Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), Université Paris-Saclay, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and ICREA has bien acknowledged in the publication of the results by Science Advances. Rosa Villa and Xavi Illa have been in charge of the fabrication of the probes used, more specifically, neuroprobes were designed and manufactured with 16 Ti / Au microelectrodes (20 / 200nm) on flexible polyimide substrates with open areas to improve neuronal tissue viability according to specifications.


Neurons synaptically interacting in a conductive medium generate extracellular endogenous electric fields (EFs) that reciprocally affect membrane potential. Exogenous EFs modulate neuronal activity, and their clinical applications are being profusely explored. However, whether endogenous EFs contribute to network synchronization remains unclear. We analyzed spontaneously generated slow-wave activity in the cerebral cortex network in vitro, which allowed us to distinguish synaptic from nonsynaptic mechanisms of activity propagation and synchronization. Slow oscillations generated EFs that propagated independently of synaptic transmission. We demonstrate that cortical oscillations modulate spontaneous rhythmic activity of neighboring synaptically disconnected cortical columns if layers are aligned. We provide experimental evidence that these EF-mediated effects are compatible with electric dipoles. With a model of interacting dipoles, we reproduce the experimental measurements and predict that endogenous EF–mediated synchronizing effects should be relevant in the brain. Thus, experiments and models suggest that electric-dipole interactions contribute to synchronization of neighboring cortical columns.

Article of refrence:

Modulation of intercolumnar synchronization by endogenous electric fields in cerebral cortex. Beatriz Rebollo, Bartosz Telenczuk,  Alvaro Navarro-Guzman,  Alain Destexhe and Maria V. Sanchez-Vives Science Advances  03 Mar 2021: Vol. 7, no. 10, eabc7772 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc7772

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Graphene sensors read low-frequency neural waves associated with distinct brain states

Xavier Illa, Anton Guimrea y Eduard Masvidal, researchers of the CIBER-BBN group GAB Lab at IMB-CNM led by Rosa Villa, are coauthors of a study recently published in “Nature Communication”, in which it is demonstrated that graphene-based active sensor arrays are a mature technology for large-scale application in wide frequency band neural sensing interfaces. NANBIOSIS U8 Micro– Nano Technology Unit has been used in the development of the research.

This research has been carruied out within the framework of the European Project “Graphene Flagship. The scientists have developed a sensor based on CVD graphene that detects brain signals in a wide frequency band, from extremely low frequencies to high frequency oscillations. The sensor is biocompatible and could be used to measure and predict brain states. Furthermore, the graphene sensors could be used in chronic implants due to their high stability in the brain.

Further information: News by the Graphene Flagship website.

Article of reference:

Garcia-Cortadella R, Schwesig G, Jeschke C, Illa X, Gray AL, Savage S, Stamatidou E, Schiessl I, Masvidal-Codina E, Kostarelos K, Guimerà-Brunet A, Sirota A, Garrido JA. Graphene active sensor arrays for long-term and wireless mapping of wide frequency band epicortical brain activity.  Nat Commun 12, 211 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20546-w

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NANBIOSIS Scientific Women in the International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Today February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day to raise awareness of the gender gap in science and technology.

According to the United Nations, while yet women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science, science and gender equality are vital to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Thus, in recent years, the international community has made a great effort to inspire and promote the participation of women and girls in science.

NANBIOSIS wants to acknowledge  the efforts made by scientific women who struggle every day to contribute their bit to Science and highlight their essential role in nowadays research. Especially we want to recognize the work of scientists women involved in NANBIOSIS, whatever is the nature of their contribution: technical, scientific development, management, coordination, direction, etc; just to mention some examples:
Neus Ferrer and Mercedes Márquez in the Scientific Direction and Coordination of Unit 1 Protein Production Platform (PPP)
Pilar Marco and Nuria Pascual in the Management and Scientific Coordination of U2 Custom Antibody Service (CAbS) 
Miriam Royo in the Scientific Direction of U3 Synthesis of Peptides Unit
Nora Ventosa and Nathaly Segovia in the Scientific Direction and Technical Coordination of U6 Biomaterial Processing and Nanostructuring Unit
Isabel Oliveira and Teresa Galán in the Coordination of U7 Nanotecnology Unit
Rosa Villa and Gemma Gabriel in the Management and Scientific Coordination of U8 Micro – Nano Technology Unit
Gema Martínez in the Scientific Coordination of U9 Synthesis of Nanoparticles Unit
Fany Peña in the Scientific Coordination of U13 Tissue & Scaffold Characterization Unit
Mª Luisa González Martín and Margarita Hierro in the of Direction and Scientific Coordination of U16 Tissue & Scaffold Characterization Unit
Gemma Pascual and Isabel Trabado in the Coordination of the U17 Confocal Microscopy Service
Isolda Casanova in the Scientific Coordination of U18 Nanotoxicology Unit
Beatriz Moreno in the Scientific Direction of Unit 19 Clinical tests lab
Ibane Abásolo in the Scientific Coordination of Unit 20 In Vivo Experimental Platformt
Verónica Crisóstomo in the Scientific Direction of Unit 24 Medical Imaging 
Ana Paula Candiota in the Scientific Coordination of Unit 25 Biomedical Applications I 
Maria Luisa García in the Scientific Direction of U28 NanoImaging Unit from Bionand, recently incorporated to NANBIOSIS, Anna Aviñó in the Scientific Coordination of U29 Oligonucleotide Synthesis Platform (OSP) – and

Nerea Argarate in the coordination of NANBIOSIS

Thanks to all of you and your teams!

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Hybridization of men and machines, with Rosa Villa

Prof. Rosa Villa, Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS U8 Micro– Nano Technology Unit, and group leader of the research group of biomedical applications of ICNMCSIC and CIBER-BBN, has participated in the program of National Radio of Spain “The Open Future: Biobots” led by Tato Puerto.

Following the recent presentation by a team of American scientists of the design of “reprogrammable organisms”, halfway between a robot and a living being, that is, an extraordinary living machine made from frog cells, the program of National Radio of Spain called “Open Future” has dedicated a session to explain what are “Biobots” and to generate debate and reflexion with experts like Prof, Rosa Villa.

Asked about the current outlook and futute of the “Hybridization of men and machines“, Rosa Villa has explained that in the area of ​​micro and nanotechnology, (where her group works), the hybridization takes place to make neural interfaces, to interrelate with the human brain registering many more signals from the brain and being able to offer patients greater mobility for artificial prosthetics or even other human enhancement activities. The main problem for this at a technological level is that a series of biological and material processes have to be carried out while these processes need to be easilly integrated by the human body. The functioning of the brain is still very unknown, the brain is a very closed box, very well protected and inaccessible but the amount of signals that are registered is spectacular. The latest technologies and materials, such as graphene, make it possible to build sensors with smaller electrodes that allow many signal points to be recorded in the brain at the same time, with a signal quality that was not possible to reach until now which allows scientists to know a series of high and low frequency signals that give very useful information from the brain, not only to know how it works, but also to predict diseases such as epilepsy or Alzheimer’s.

The program can be listen here, in Spanish

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Graphene active sensor arrays for long-term and wireless mapping of wide frequency band epicortical brain activity

Researchers of Nanbiosis U8 Micro– Nano Technology Unit, from CIBER-BBN and IMB-CNM-CSCIC have published an article in Nature Communications on Graphene arrays for long-term and wireless mapping of epicortical brain activity. A collaborative work in the framework of the Brain Com and Graphene EU projects. The article mentions the participation of NANBIOSIS-ICTS.

Graphene active sensors have demonstrated promising capabilities for the detection of electrophysiological signals in the brain. Their functional properties, together with their flexibility as well as their expected stability and biocompatibility have raised them as a promising building block for large-scale sensing neural interfaces. However, in order to provide reliable tools for neuroscience and biomedical engineering applications, the maturity of this technology must be thoroughly studied. Here, we evaluate the performance of 64-channel graphene sensor arrays in terms of homogeneity, sensitivity and stability using a wireless, quasi-commercial headstage and demonstrate the biocompatibility of epicortical graphene chronic implants. Furthermore, to illustrate the potential of the technology to detect cortical signals from infra-slow to high-gamma frequency bands, we perform proof-of-concept long-term wireless recording in a freely behaving rodent. Our work demonstrates the maturity of the graphene-based technology, which represents a promising candidate for chronic, wide frequency band neural sensing interfaces.


Garcia-Cortadella, R., Schwesig, G., Jeschke, C. et al. Graphene active sensor arrays for long-term and wireless mapping of wide frequency band epicortical brain activity. Nat Commun 12, 211 (2021). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-20546-w

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