Central regions | Technology & innovation

Russian and Swedish scientists develop self-contained cells for biomedicine

28 Nov '13
A Russo-Swedish research group has developed microscopic glucose and oxygen powered biofuel cells and implanted those in the brains of rats, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported earlier this week.

The results of the research have been published in Scientific Reports, which is part of the Nature Publishing Group.

“We have completed one of the first scientific efforts aimed at implanting biofuel cells into living mammals, using microscale nanostructured electrodes,” said Sergei Shleev, a research fellow at Russia’s Kurchatov Institute in Moscow and Sweden’s University of Malmo.

Prior to this set of experiments, all in-vivo biofuel cell implantations were based on macroscopic devices only. Using microscopic cells is believed to cause minimal damage to living tissues.

Biofuel cells generate electrical current by converting chemical energy into electricity. “In this work, we use the chemical energy of living organisms drawn from glucose and oxygen dissolved in an organism’s physiological liquids,” Mr. Shleev explained. Glucose oxidation occurs on an anodic electrode, and oxygen reduction on the other one, which is a cathode. When the two electrodes close, an electrical circuit is formed to let current through.

The scientists have proved that this kind of biofuel cells can work in the human body. “Our ultimate goal is to develop a self-contained—meaning self-energized and wireless—device for biomedical purposes,” Mr. Shleev said. For example, biofuel cells could power a glucose sensor or a pacemaker.
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