Following the Swiss-Korean workshop which took place at EPFL earlier this year, Nano-Tera participated in a joint workshop hosted by the Center fo Integrated Smart Sensors (CISS) at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).
The invited Nano-Tera delegation consisted of Prof. Giovanni De Micheli (Nano-Tera Program Leader), Dr. Martin Rajman (Nano-Tera Executive Director), Prof. Karl Aberer, Prof. David Atienza, Prof. Yusuf Leblebici and Prof. Peter Ryser of EPFL, as well as Prof. Luca Benini and Prof. Qiuting Huang of ETHZ.
The Swiss researchers and their Korean counterparts (including Prof. Byeong Guk Park of SNU, Prof. Hoi-Jun Yoo of KAIST) delivered presentations on topics such as smart healthcare, biosensing or sensing architectures.
The workshop was a good opportunity to strengthen partnership between Nano-Tera.ch and CISS and hold comprehensive discussions on the future of next generation smart sensors, including advanced implantable biosensors, mobile sensor networks and low-power sensors for applications such as ECG monitoring.
Nano-Tera.ch has welcomed two prominent international researchers to make a series of talks in various institutions involved in Nano-Tera. This was organized in the context of the nascent Nano-Tera international exchange program.
Prof. Krishna Palem (Rice University), who is widely recognized for his pioneering contributions to the foundations of embedded computing, interacted with several Nano-Tera scientists for a stimulating exchange ideas and perspectives.
Prof. Rahul Sarpeshkar, who heads the research group on Analog Circuits and Biological Systems at MIT, presented his central contributions in the area of ultra energy efficient systems in biology, engineering and medicine.
Prof. Krishna Palemis a professor of Computing at Rice University where is the director and founder of the NTU-Rice Institute on Sustainable and Applied Infodynamics (ISAID) with appointments in Computer Science and in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Palem has been a leader in the area of Embedded Systems research, having founded one of the earliest laboratories for research in academia dedicated to this field in 1994, the Real-time Compilation Technologies and Instruction Level Parallelism (ReaCT-ILP) laboratory at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, NYU. This laboratory had significant impact within the context of enabling compilers in optimizing the design and eventual deployment of embedded systems. The work pursued there led to the widely-used TRIMARAN system. The efforts of the ReaCT-ILP laboratory were recognized with awards for excellence from Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Panasonic.
A significant thrust of the research done at the ReaCT-ILP laboratory was aimed at the convenient and fast use of reconfigurable hardware by software (application) developers - traditionally the purview of application designers with significant hardware design experience. A highlight of the research accomplishments along this dimension is the award-winning dissertation of his Ph.D. advisee Suren Ta lla. As part of this research, Palem laid the foundations of architecture assembly which is at the heart of the product offerings of Proceler, Inc - the Atlanta based venture funded company that he co-founded in 2000. The prestigious Analysts' Choice Awards recognized Proceler's technology, by nominating it as one of the outstanding technologies of 2002. Over the years, he has played an active role in enabling a community of research in embedded and hybrid systems internationally through invited and keynote lectures, conference organization and participation as well as editorial contributions to journals. He is a fellow of the ACM and the IEEE. He is the recepient of the 2008 W. Wallace McDowell Award, IEEE Computer Society's highest technical award and one of computing's most prestigious individual honors.
In the video below, he shares his vision of future directions of research and of the Nano-Tera program.
Rahul Sarpeshkar is a tenured professor at MIT where he heads a research group on Analog Circuits and Biological Systems. His bioengineering group creates novel wet DNA-protein circuits in living cells and also advanced dry nanoelectronic circuits on silicon chips. His longstanding work on analog and biological computation and his recent work in NATURE (May 2013) have helped pioneer the field of analog synthetic biology. His work on a glucose fuel cell for medical implants was featured by Scientific American among 2012's 10 World Changing Ideas and also by the BBC, Economist, and Science News. He was an invited speaker at the 2011 Frontiers of Engineering Conference, hosted by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).
He holds over 30 patents and has authored more than 120 publications, including one that was featured on the cover of Nature. His recent book, Ultra Low Power Bioelectronics: Fundamentals, Biomedical Applications, and Bio-inspired Systems contains a broad and deep treatment of ultra energy efficient systems in biology, engineering, and medicine with applications to implantable medical devices for the deaf, blind, and paralyzed. His group holds several first or best world records in analog, bio-inspired, synthetic biology, medical device, ultra low power, and energy harvesting systems. He has received several awards including the NSF Career Award, the ONR Young Investigator Award, and the Packard Fellows Award. He received Bachelor's degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics at MIT and a PhD at CalTech. Before he joined MIT's faculty, he was a member of the technical staff of Bell Labs' division of biological computation.
The slides of his presentation on Ultra Energy Efficient Systems in Biology, Engineering and Medicine, are available below and as a PDF .
Research made in the project LiveSense has been featured in the Nouvelliste newspaper. Prof. Martial Geiser, HES-SO, presents the prototype of a sensing platform that can detect pollutants in liquids via the reaction of living cells.
The following article was published in Le Nouvelliste, September 2013:
Prof. Krishna Palem (Rice University) has been visiting EPFL and other institutions in the framework of the Nano-Tera international exchange program. In the video below, he shares his vision of future directions of research and of the Nano-Tera program.
The July issue of Nature Methods features a paper from ISyPeM RTD project coordinator, Prof. Carlotta Guiducci head of the Laboratory of Life Sciences Electronics at EPFL. Prof. Guiducci and Fabio Spiga comment on the forthcoming transistor-based revolution of quantitative PCR for DNA analysis. Few years after electronic chips with integrated filed-effect pH-microtransducers pushed DNA sequencing a step further, this semiconductor-based technology promises to bring a major breakthrough in the field of DNA-based clinical diagnostics.
In the framework of Nano-Tera, Prof. Guiducci's group is investigating the enhanced sensitivity performance of field-effect nanodevices addressing another critical application in the clinics: therapeutic drug monitoring.
Harnessing infinitely small matter to dose medication, manage pollution and predict landslides
In 2008, the Swiss federal parliament launched the Nano-Tera.ch research initiative in the fields of healthcare, the environment, energy and security. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is responsible for the evaluation of the projects. Five years later, concrete results have been present-ed, revealing game-changing medical and technological innovations in the areas of healthcare, air/water pollution management and landslide prevention.
By harnessing the power of miniaturised devices and wireless communication systems, Nano-Tera.ch aims to design ultra-small (nano) electronic systems that can produce and process large (tera) volumes of data.
Nano-Tera? Small technology, big impact
Nano-Tera.ch is built around clear objectives. Researchers working in higher education institutions and industry research centres have firmly set their sights on providing tangible solutions to today's problems. In the field of healthcare, for example, they have developed a miniaturized subdermal blood analysis lab measuring human metabolites and transmitting their results through wireless channels, as well as a portable device capable of monitoring cardiac parameters (ECG). In the field of medical treatment, it will in the future be possible to tailor drug dosages to the needs of each patient, thereby reducing costs. Another project has created a system for obtaining detailed measurements of urban air pollution by placing sensors on public transport vehicles. By installing a network of detectors in steep areas across the Swiss Alps, it is now possible to measure the changing extent of land displacement. Lastly, an inter-disciplinary team has come up with a system for measuring water quality through continuous monitoring, based on the reaction of living cells to pollu-tants.
Nano-Tera.ch involves the key players of Swiss research in the field: the two federal institutes of technology, 9 universities, several universities of applied sciences as well as public and private research centres. The program is evaluated by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Starting in 2013, activity will be broadened to include new projects in association with hospitals in Zurich, Berne, Lausanne and Schaffhausen. The emphasis on concrete applications will be further strengthened.
The 2013 Virtual Conference is now online. All of the presentations made during the Annual Plenary Meeting are available in streaming video and powerpoint format, all the posters and the prize winning videos are also available.
Under the skin, a tiny laboratory
The Nano-Tera project i-IronIC, led by Prof. Giovanni De Micheli, EPFL, has led to the developement of a tiny, portable personal blood testing laboratory: a minuscule device implanted just under the skin provides an immediate analysis of substances in the body, and a radio module transmits the results to a doctor over the cellular phone network. This feat of miniaturization has many potential applications, including monitoring patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Humans are veritable chemical factories - we manufacture thousands of substances and transport them, via our blood, throughout our bodies. Some of these substances can be used as indicators of our health status. A team of EPFL scientists has developed a tiny device that can analyze the concentration of these substances in the blood. Implanted just beneath the skin, it can detect up to five proteins and organic acids simultaneously, and then transmit the results directly to a doctor's computer. This method will allow a much more personalized level of care than traditional blood tests can provide. Health care providers will be better able to monitor patients, particularly those with chronic illness or those undergoing chemotherapy. The prototype, still in the experimental stages, has demonstrated that it can reliably detect several commonly traced substances. The research results will be published and presented March 20, 2013 in Europe's largest electronics conference, DATE 13.
A dozen cubic millimeters of technology
The device was developed by a team led by EPFL scientists Giovanni de Micheli and Sandro Carrara. The implant, a real gem of concentrated technology, is only a few cubic millimeters in volume but includes five sensors, a radio transmitter and a power delivery system. Outside the body, a battery patch provides 1/10 watt of power, through the patient's skin - thus there's no need to operate every time the battery needs changing.
Information is routed through a series of stages, from the patient's body to the doctor's computer screen. The implant emits radio waves over a safe frequency. The patch collects the data and transmits them via Bluetooth to a mobile phone, which then sends them to the doctor over the cellular network.
A system that can detect numerous substances
Great care was taken in developing the sensors. To capture the targeted substance in the body - such as lactate, glucose, or ATP - each sensor's surface is covered with an enzyme. "Potentially, we could detect just about anything," explains De Micheli. "But the enzymes have a limited lifespan, and we have to design them to last as long as possible." The enzymes currently being tested are good for about a month and a half; that's already long enough for many applications. "In addition, it's very easy to remove and replace the implant, since it's so small."
The electronics were a considerable challenge as well. "It was not easy to get a system like this to work on just a tenth of a watt," de Micheli explains. The researchers also struggled to design the minuscule electrical coil that receives the power from the patch.
Towards personalized chemotherapy
The implant could be particularly useful in chemotherapy applications. Currently, oncologists use occasional blood tests to evaluate their patients' tolerance to a particular treatment dosage. In these conditions, it is very difficult to administer the optimal dose. De Micheli is convinced his system will be an important step towards better, more personalized medicine. "It will allow direct and continuous monitoring based on a patient's individual tolerance, and not on age and weight charts or weekly blood tests."
In patients with chronic illness, the implants could send alerts even before symptoms emerge, and anticipate the need for medication. "In a general sense, our system has enormous potential in cases where the evolution of a pathology needs to be monitored or the tolerance to a treatment tested."
The prototype has already been tested in the laboratory for five different substances, and proved as reliable as traditional analysis methods. The project brought together eletronics experts, computer scientists, doctors and biologists from EPFL, the Istituto di Ricerca di Bellinzona, EMPA and ETHZ. Researchers hope the system will be commercially available within 4 years.
Malignant melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer. In more than 50 percent of affected patients a particular mutation plays an important role. As the life span of the patients carrying the mutation can be significantly extended by novel drugs, it is very important to identify those reliably. For identification, researchers from the University of Basel and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Lausanne have developed a novel method, as they report in the renowned journal "Nature Nanotechnology".
In Switzerland, every year about 2100 persons are affected by malignant melanoma, which makes it one of the most frequent tumors. While early detected the prospects of recovery are very good, in contrast at later stages the chances of survival are reduced drastically.
In the past few years, several novel drugs have been developed that take advantage of the presence of particular genetic mutations related to fast cell growth in tissue. In case of melanoma, the so-called BRAF gene is of importance, which leads in its mutated state to uncontrolled cell growth. Since only about 50 percent of patients with malignant melanoma show this mutation, it is important to identify those patients who respond to the novel therapy. Taking into account the negative side effects of the drug, it would not be appropriate to apply the drug to all patients.
Diagnosis involving molecular interaction
The teams of Prof. Christoph Gerber from the Swiss Nanoscience Institute of the University of Basel and Dr. Donata Rimoldi from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Lausanne have recently developed a novel diagnostic method that analyzes the ribonucleic acid (RNA) of cancer cells using nanomechanical sensors, i.e. microscopically small cantilevers. Thus, healthy cells can be distinguished from cancer cells. In contrast to other methods, the cantilever approach is so sensitive that neither DNA needs to be amplified nor labeled.
The method is based on binding of molecules to the top surface of a cantilever and the related change in surface stress. For this purpose the cantilevers are first coated with a layer of DNA molecules which can bind mutated RNA from cells. The binding process deflects the cantilever. The bending is measured using a laser beam. The molecular interaction must take place very close to the cantilever surface to produce a signal.
Detection of other types of cancer
In experiments the researchers could show that cells carrying this genetic mutation can be distinguished from others lacking the mutation. RNA of cells from a cell culture was tested in concentrations similar to those in tissue samples. Since the researchers could detect the mutation in RNA stemming from different cell lines, the method actually works independent of the origin of samples.
Dr. François Huber, first author of the publication, explains: "The technique can also be applied to other types of cancer that depend on mutations in individual genes, for example in gastrointestinal tumors and lung cancer. This shows the wide application potential in cancer diagnostics and personalized health care." Co-author Dr. Donata Rimoldi adds: "Only the interdisciplinary approach in medicine, biology and physics allows to apply novel nanotechnology methods in medicine for the benefit of patients."
The work was supported by the NanoTera project "Probe Array Technology for Life Science Applications" of the Swiss National Science Foundation, by the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the Cleven foundation and the microfabrication division of IBM Research in Rüschlikon.
François Huber, Hans Peter Lang, Natalija Backmann, Donata Rimoldi, Christoph Gerber
Direct detection of a BRAF mutation in total RNA from melanoma cells using cantilever arrays Nature Nanotechnology (2013); Published online 3 February 2013 | doi 10.1038/NNANO.2012.263
Nanosensor: Eight cantilevers of 500 μm in length are applied for detection of the genetic mutation:
Schematic of the method: When the mutated RNA molecules (green) bind to DNA molecules (red), the cantilever will bend. The deflection is measured using a laser:
Calls for 2011 and 2012 - Medicine and Energy come to the fore
Giovanni De Micheli, Program Leader of Nano-Tera, has been awarded the 2012 Mac Van Valkenburg Award for sustained contributions to theory, practice and experimentation on design methods and tools for integrated circuits, systems and networks.
The Mac Van Valkenburg Award is the highest honor given by the IEEE Circuit and Systems Society to one of its members. It honors an individual for outstanding technical contributions and distinguishable leadership in a field within the scope of CAS Society.
The Swiss Finals which were held on May 22 in parallel with the Swiss NanoConvention (see opposite), was won by Edwin Dornbierer from ETHZ and Andres Heldstab from NTB Buchs. With their project “Beat Tracker”, the team constructed a device that calculates the rhythm of one's movement using a 3D accelerometer and 3D gyroscope, then transmits this information to a smart phone which in turns plays a corresponding song with an appropriately matching rhythm.
A demonstration was conducted using walking, jogging and running movements, as well as using a stationery bike.
Nano-Tera.ch was prominently featured at the Swiss Nano Convention which was held on May 22-24 in Lausanne. It was present with a booth and praised by EPFL Vice-President for Academic Affairs Philippe Gillet during his introductory remarks.
The Swiss NanoConvention 2012 brought together Swiss and international leaders from science and industry in the field of «nano», key figures in innovation and technology, entrepreneurs, investors, administrators and politicians. Key topics included Nano for Energy, Life sciences, Computer sciences and Consumer products. Another focus was the potential risks associated with free nanoparticles, and how society sees and handles these issues.