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Power Biotech

Mimicking Electric Eel Cells 71

An anonymous reader writes "A team of US researchers has asked the following question in the new field of systems biology: 'Do we understand how a cell produces electricity well enough to design one, and to optimize that design?' They believe it should be possible to build artificial cells replicating the electrical behavior of electric eel cells. In fact, such artificial cells could deliver better performance — as much as 40% more energy than real eel cells, a computer model suggests. They could be used to power medical implants and other small devices."
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Mimicking Electric Eel Cells

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  • Re:Is this like... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @06:56PM (#25267757) Homepage

    The fuel (food) is not as efficient as a purely chemical and non-biological approach.

    On the other hand, eating is much simpler and the patient already happens to do it,
    compared to having to swap batteries around.

  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Sunday October 05, 2008 @06:58PM (#25267779) Homepage Journal

    Just creating the membranes would produce the equivalent of an artificial zombie cell, with no self-repair mechanisms and no way to replace them. A battery like this would be subject to attack by the immune system and by bacteria in the body, and likely "rot" in no time. Without the whole mechanism of a living cell to sustain it ... without the "brain" of the cell... it would need to be sealed and unable to take advantage of the bodies supply of ATP.

    Better to see if you can enhance human cells, maybe even the recipient's own cells, to do the job.

  • Re:Matrix Me (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ben2umbc ( 1090351 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @08:04PM (#25268237)
    Not so far fetched given 30 years. If you were able to successfully add this capability to a human being, would it still be a Homo Sapiens? But lets just say it happens, then you can power pacemakers or even bionic bodyparts on internal power, without the need for batteries, recharging, fuel cells, etc. So if you do that you need to provide energy for the electric cells. For an otherwise normally functioning person, this would require an increased daily caloric intake. You have to wonder where we will get all the food people will need to eat when the world population is about 8.7 billion [] in 2035.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger