French researchers have created a fuel cell powered by rat blood that is more powerful and smaller than current pacemaker batteries.
While this is not the first glucose-powered fuel cell, it is the first one to actually work inside a living body. The device was housed inside the rat for 11 days, and accessible via wires which stuck out the rat's neck which reminds me of Robot Rat (pictured above).
During the trial, the device produced 2 microwaves of power over several hours with a peak energy density of 24.4 microwaves per milliliter. A standard pacemaker battery requires a sustained power of 10 microwaves but those batters fall short in energy density. A larger version of the biocell could easily power a pacemaker and would be significantly smaller that batteries currently in use.
"In the future we are expecting to develop, for instance, implantable biosensors able to monitor the level of glucose to control the insulin pump," an implant used to treat diabetes, said study co-author Serge Cosnier of the Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France.
The device uses two enzyme-coated graphite discs connected by a platinum wire which is wrapped in a dialysis bag permeable by glucose and oxygen. The enzymes react to the glucose and oxygen to create a current that flows along the platinum wire and out of the fuel cell.
The experiment is far from PeTA-approved, but the rat survived the testing without complications. It experienced absolutely no inflammation. Upon removing the device, they found the rat's body had 'accepted' it by coating the device with tissue containing newly grown blood vessels. This further proves the body would facilitate oxygen and glucose movement to the implant.
Aside from pacemakers, insulin injections would be more efficient. But it could also aid sufferers of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's by monitoring and controlling brain chemicals such as dopamine, adrenaline, and glutamate. Someday, it might also serve as a urinary sphincter for those who have had their prostates removed.
While I welcome the medical breakthrough, I can't help think of that poor rat. PeTA had this to say about the experiment, "Rats are sensitive, intelligent, and social animals who feel pain and joy just as humans do, and they should be treated with respect, not as disposable, furry test tubes for medical devices in invasive experiments."