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Biomedical Technologies

Graphene biosensors for biomedical applications

Graphene has unique properties. In our Work Package, we make the most of them to develop innovative biomedical technologies. For example, we use graphene’s ability to interact with electro-active cells and tissues in the body for medical monitoring, diagnosis and neuropathic therapy, among other things.

This year’s progress

One of our highlights in 2021 was the partnership with INBRAIN Neuroelectronics. This company, which spun off from the Graphene Flagship at the beginning of Core 3, has grown to become a full partner and to raise over €17 million in capital investments, breaking industry records in Europe. With INBRAIN, we develop graphene-based neural interfaces and other devices to record brain activity. These intelligent high-resolution neuroelectronic systems enable effective real-time brain mapping and minimally invasive brain resection applications.

Graphene also offers outstanding opportunities in the detection and recording of slow brain waves. Our graphene microtransistors have overcome many technical challenges and will accelerate the discovery of new biomarkers related to neurological disorders, among them strokes and epilepsy. Within our efforts to commercialise graphene-enabled devices, the Biomedical Technologies Work Package patented this technology and licensed it to a leading company in the biomedical sector. Experts in neurology have claimed this graphene-enabled sensing technology will provide unprecedented insights into brain activity, thus opening new possibilities in both diagnostics and treatments.

Beyond the brain, graphene-based biomedical devices find other applications. For example, our Work Package partners develop different devices to restore vision, such as retinal implants and intracortical probes. Graphene electrodes will mimic natural photoreceptors, stimulating the optic nerve and transmitting information and images towards the visual cortex. So far, the technology is still undergoing in vivo tests in small animals, like rats and minipigs. These will yield valuable insights on biocompatibility and have already provided promising outcomes. Preliminary studies demonstrate the recovery of light sensitivity. Plus, our researchers have optimised the surgery procedures for implantation, ensuring safety.

Recently, our Work Package also discovered the potential of graphene to sooth anxiety – inhibiting the negative effects of post traumatic stress disorder. In a model study, injecting graphene oxide into a specific region of the brain silenced the neurons responsible for anxious behaviour. Tested in mice, this work provides another great demonstration of the therapeutic potential of graphene.

Further studies will combine graphene with other molecules, to take advantage of its specificity for applications in drug delivery.

Upcoming challenges

In the biomedical field, standardisation and validation will become crucial conditions towards commercialisation. The Biomedical Technologies Work Package wants to lead these efforts. For this reason, we funded the Graphene Flagship REACH/ECHA Working Group to liaise between researchers, manufacturers and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and speed up the transition to market. So far, we’re preparing and filing three different documents for the registration of graphene-based materials, and we will further work in the coming years to accelerate the adoption of our biomedical technologies. Moreover, we’ll work on drafting regulatory recommendations to increase the rate of clinical translation. Hopefully, clinical trials will advance in the next few years, advancing towards the approval of graphene-enabled medical technologies in different fields.

Work Package Leadership

Leader: Kostas Kostarelos, University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Deputy: Serge Picaud, Sorbonne, France

Division Leadership

Leader: Kostas Kostarelos, The University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Deputy: Maurizio Prato, University of Trieste, Italy

Latest Articles

Bacterial soundtracks revealed by graphene membrane
Sensors / Biomedical / Innovation

Bacterial soundtracks revealed by graphene membrane

Graphene Flagship researchers have developed an innovative graphene sensor to capture the sound of a single bacterium. These graphene-enabled sensors tell apart living organisms, which enables researchers to identify drug-resistant bacteria through the detection of distinctive sounds.

By Graphene Flagship / 17 May 2022
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