It was interesting that the way to study a brain in the current medical field consists of inserting a node into the brain and reading the electrical output. Although new technology using silk worm silk allows for a skinnier wire to be inserted, causing less trauma to brain tissue, it is still a very limited way to study the brain.
It was also interesting to hear about the current status of growing organoids from stem cells. Having the ability to grow an organoid which functions in the same way that the human brain does would allow for the studying of degenerative diseases such as glioblastoma and other nutritional effects on the brain – a large step up from simply testing the effects of different physical traumas to the actual tissue of the brain.
I found our discussion on the “identity” of cells to be particularly interesting. For example, the direction in which a stem cell will grow depending on the several different factors it is exposed to. For example, the characteristics of the surface the stem cells are mounted on.
I found the that different cells contained different polarizations across their membranes to be interesting. Especially, how research today has shown that artificially polarizing the membranes of less proliferative cells can result in them developing a specific identity to a specific type of cell, and visa versa.
The group “Biofueling Change” will be researching human “biofuels.” These are different power sources within the human body. Currently, there is lots of research being done on harnessing the power of the human body in order to power biotechnology. Biotechnological innovations such as a pacemaker currently require a lithium-ion battery. Not only are these harmful to the environment when disposed of, but they are foreign sources of power which are unnatural and potentially harmful to the human body. As biomedical engineering grows and becomes more extensive, natural and recyclable forms of power will be needed. Biomedical Engineers researching this hope that one day, technology will be developed that can essentially plug somewhere into the body, generating power and powering the devices of tomorrow.
The three branches of research that I have found are as follows. First, there is the power from human movement. Are bodies are constantly moving, from walking to our beating hearts. Piezoelectric materials such as the crystal in lighters which generates an electric spark are being used throughout the human body. Scientists have successfully generated a small amount of electricity by attaching a very small piece of piezoelectric cloth/material to internal organs. Second, there is the power from human body heat (thermodynamics). Certain materials have been recently developed which can generate electricity when exposed to high temperatures. When heated to the temperature of the human body, scientists have successfully generated a small amount of power. Finally, there is the power flowing through our blood. Artificial cells called Enzymatic Biofuel Cells (EFCs) target the plasma in human blood, extracting the glucose and using it to generate electricity. An EFC has been successfully implanted in a rat, where it generated a small amount of electricity successfully for 11 days.
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