Biofuel Made from Body's Own Juices Can Lead to Implantable Devices

Scientists have now developed a biofuel cell battery that is powered by your own biological juices. Implanted within the body, the glucose biofuel cell draws power from the body’s sugar and oxygen. It was recently implanted and tested in a lab rate named Ricky, running for 11 days and without any observable negative side effects. Success of the glucose biofuel cell can potentially lead to better medical devices, such as pacemakers, which would need to be implanted in the body.

Prior to this experiment, previous generations of biofuel cell only worked in specific laboratory conditions and cannot function in the acidic conditions of the body’s cavity. However, according to National Geographic, scientists have discovered a way to make the biofuel cell work inside the body:

The new fuel cell uses a unique arrangement of two graphite discs, each containing special enzymes and connected by platinum wire.The entire device is wrapped in a dialysis bag that lets in glucose and oxygen from body fluids. The enzymes react with the glucose and oxygen to create a current that flows along the platinum wire and out of the fuel cell via wires encased in tubing.With the enzymes protected by graphite and the dialysis bag controlling chemical flow, the new glucose biofuel cell is the first to work from inside the abdomen of a living rat, the study team showed.

Additionally, the biofuel cell used inside Ricky was effective and when scientists had removed the cell, they noticed that tissue had formed around the cell and that blood vessels had also grown around the cell, suggesting that the implant had been successfully accepted by the body of the test rat.

According to the study, a larger version of the biofuel cell could be used to power a pacemaker as that would require more energy than what was produced via the smaller trial version. However, even despite an increase in size, a pacemaker powered by the biofuel cell would still be smaller than that powered by a traditional battery. This latest discovery could potentially, no pun intended, power future medical innovations, from sensors to advances in heart, kidney, and artificial organ research.

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