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Power Biotech Technology

Yeast-Powered Fuel Cell Feeds On Human Blood 250

holy_calamity writes "Canadian researchers have taken a sensible, if slightly creepy, step towards solving the problem of medical implant batteries running down. They've built a fuel cell powered by yeast that feed on the glucose in human blood. If this makes it into people, keeping your implants going will be as simple as eating a donut."
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Yeast-Powered Fuel Cell Feeds On Human Blood

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  • by TinBromide ( 921574 ) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @02:44PM (#27421825)
    Is anybody else a little wary of yeast cells that can live inside the human body and process blood? They're talking about implanting these inside the body to power pacemakers. I didn't see anything in the article about april fools.

    This kind of takes a yeast infection to a whole new level, the original kind is already hard enough to get rid of, and its not systemic. Fungal infections inside the body are very hard to treat because fungi cells are so similar to animal cells and its hard to kill one without harming the other.

    I guess its time for the obligatory "I for one welcome our vampiric mono-cellular overlords."
  • Diabetes Management (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BarefootClown ( 267581 ) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @02:44PM (#27421829) Homepage

    If this were used to power a glucose meter and microprocessor, and throttled appropriately, could it be used to manage blood sugar for diabetics?

  • Re:Waste (Score:5, Interesting)

    by orclevegam ( 940336 ) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @02:45PM (#27421841) Journal
    The best solution is a modified yeast like bacteria that produces wastes compatible with the host. That sort of genetic engineering is still in its infancy though. My biggest concern would be more along the lines of ensuring the bacteria remain where they're supposed to be and don't decide to wander out into the rest of the patient or don't mutate into something more dangerous.
  • Cybernetic Implants (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @02:51PM (#27421957)

    Besides the importance of creating pacemakers without batteries that have to be surgically removed, doesn't this edge us closer to electronics built into humans.

    Most likely it will have to low power ARM processor related, but imaging if you could have a blue tooth cochlear implant, built in throat mike, and SSD storage built in to your own being.

    You could be tethered to your energy consuming 3g device and have conversations without a head set (aka Ghost in the shell).

    Of course if they can figure a way for you to have conversations without actually talking so you don't look crazy...

  • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @03:09PM (#27422245)

    TFA didn't really phrase the paragraph about waste elimination too well.

    It's not so much that "leaching out of harmful substances into the bloodstream" is a problem. The real issue is devising a process for the yeasts that produces only normal metabolic waste. Given that, waste elimination is really easy, since the body has terrific mechanisms for locking up toxins and circulatory systems for eliminating them.

  • by Perp Atuitie ( 919967 ) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @03:17PM (#27422397)
    No, s/he's asking if the fungicides used to treat yeast infections would also attack the "good" yeast. And while we're at it, what about reglar ol' antibiotics?
  • by shadowbearer ( 554144 ) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @03:32PM (#27422651) Homepage Journal

      Aren't yeast cells relatively large, as well? Since glucose molecules are pretty small, I'd imagine it'd be fairly easy to build a filter to keep the yeast out of the bloodstream.


  • Re:Waste (Score:4, Interesting)

    by omris ( 1211900 ) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @03:33PM (#27422671)


    How would it get to your liver without getting into your blood first? Alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream even through the lining of your mouth and stomach, long before most nutrients can be actively absorbed by your intestines. The liver is connected to the GI tract for secretory purposes. All filtration and metabolism functions happen on the other side, through the blood.

  • Re:Waste (Score:3, Interesting)

    by XorNand ( 517466 ) * on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @03:50PM (#27422927)
    Heh... My first thought was "gee, I wonder how many (kilo)calories worth of nutrients these critters can remove from my blood?" ::Pops open another can of Coke:: It would be the truly most geeky way of enhancing my Comic Book Guy physique.
  • Re:Waste (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Stile 65 ( 722451 ) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @03:58PM (#27423039) Homepage Journal

    Another application: weight loss. An implant that lets donuts power your wearable computing devices instead of your gut? Sign me up.

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @04:01PM (#27423083) Journal

    I do micro fuel cells, and part of my research is bio-fuel cells - similar to the one in the article. While this is valuable research, you shouldn't get too excited, yet: it's not the only device of its kind, and the performance is not even nearly sufficient, for now, for any application. It's a proof of concept, and sometimes (non-reproduceable) with better than meager power density. But, I do believe that the future of implantable fuel cells is bright. It even may be that we won't need enzymes (or bacteria) at all, which would be perfect. Some metallizations and stable inorganic compounds might do the trick using blood plasma without any added bio-active catalyst.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"