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Mimicking Electric Eel Cells

kdawson posted about 6 years ago | from the positively-shocking dept.

Power 71

An anonymous reader writes "A team of US researchers has asked the following question in the new field of systems biology: 'Do we understand how a cell produces electricity well enough to design one, and to optimize that design?' They believe it should be possible to build artificial cells replicating the electrical behavior of electric eel cells. In fact, such artificial cells could deliver better performance — as much as 40% more energy than real eel cells, a computer model suggests. They could be used to power medical implants and other small devices."

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nice. big. cock. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25267597)

btw, i ate out your grandpas ass!!!

jason has a firm grip on shitstick.. just thought you would wanna know.

keep posts on topic

rate this post "+5 donkey dong" please

7

Is this like... (1)

Kagura (843695) | about 6 years ago | (#25267613)

Is this like powering the Matrix with human bodies? The fuel (food) is not as efficient as a purely chemical and non-biological approach.

Re:Is this like... (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 6 years ago | (#25267707)

There are other considerations beyond efficiency.

Re:Is this like... (3, Insightful)

DrYak (748999) | about 6 years ago | (#25267757)

The fuel (food) is not as efficient as a purely chemical and non-biological approach.

On the other hand, eating is much simpler and the patient already happens to do it,
compared to having to swap batteries around.

Re:Is this like... (5, Informative)

lysergic.acid (845423) | about 6 years ago | (#25267869)

true, but there are other advantages.

for instance, if electronic implants become more mainstream, it would be useful for certain applications to power the implanted device via electrocytes rather than a rechargeable battery. rechargeable batteries, like all chemical batteries, wear out over time, and need to be replaced. this may require invasive surgery. if instead the patient were also given a bioimplant of electrocytes around the electronic device, then there would be guaranteed power source for the rest of the patient's life since the electrocytes would be self-replicating.

and the inefficiency of metabolic (or catabolic in this case) processes isn't an issue. most people living in developed nations have an excess of fat stores and energy reserves. and outside of extreme survival situations, most people don't have to ration their food intake or energy expenditure. it's not like having some electrocyte implants will cause a person to eat more food. an average person's food intake has nothing to do with their energy expenditure. most people can probably use burning some extra calories once in a while.

Re:Is this like... (1)

hannson (1369413) | about 6 years ago | (#25268541)

since the electrocytes would be self-replicating.

How about a "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag. If this would go out of hand wouldn't it become electric cancer? just a thought, but I'm no doctor.

Re:Is this like... (2, Interesting)

geckipede (1261408) | about 6 years ago | (#25269003)

There's no reason why they have to be let loose in the body. The only requirement is that tissue fluid be allowed to get in to provide sugars or ATP, so you can stick them in a cage lined with semipermeable membrane. The article hinted that they would be used this way.

Re:Is this like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25269345)

I realize that, but I was strictly pointing out the possibility of some catastrophic effects and underlining the importance of being really careful. What if the cage breaks open after say a car accident. Obviously it wouldn't be that much worse than an exploded battery inside your body but at least the battery isn't self replicating ;-)

Just a thought though. I'm pretty confident that these professionals know a bit more than me about the subject. Just my 2c.

Re:Is this like... (1)

daenris (892027) | about 6 years ago | (#25275213)

and the inefficiency of metabolic (or catabolic in this case) processes isn't an issue. most people living in developed nations have an excess of fat stores and energy reserves. and outside of extreme survival situations, most people don't have to ration their food intake or energy expenditure. it's not like having some electrocyte implants will cause a person to eat more food. an average person's food intake has nothing to do with their energy expenditure. most people can probably use burning some extra calories once in a while.

Sign me up for a few implanted cellular batteries. If something like this could be done, I can imagine a lot of people jumping on board just for some extra calorie burn. After that maybe we can start working on some cybernetic implants.

Matrix Me (0, Redundant)

eclectro (227083) | about 6 years ago | (#25267617)

I have a better idea - we can use human cells to generate an electrical current.

Re:Matrix Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25267663)

Woah

Re:Matrix Me (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25267815)

Tanks of genetically modified eel cells are efficient.

We machines only used humans because it's amusing.

Re:Matrix Me (2, Insightful)

ben2umbc (1090351) | about 6 years ago | (#25268237)

Not so far fetched given 30 years. If you were able to successfully add this capability to a human being, would it still be a Homo Sapiens? But lets just say it happens, then you can power pacemakers or even bionic bodyparts on internal power, without the need for batteries, recharging, fuel cells, etc. So if you do that you need to provide energy for the electric cells. For an otherwise normally functioning person, this would require an increased daily caloric intake. You have to wonder where we will get all the food people will need to eat when the world population is about 8.7 billion [census.gov] in 2035.

Re:Matrix Me (1)

pheUUU (1379129) | about 6 years ago | (#25270191)

using humans cells would be more difficult since the physiology isn't as well understood, as let's say in fish. It's say to safe that the neurobiology in zebrafish, the fish model systems, is documented more detailed than the human systems.

Force lighting? (2, Funny)

onco_p53 (231322) | about 6 years ago | (#25267643)

All I need is a few of these cells in my fingertips ...

Shocking consequences (2, Funny)

DrYak (748999) | about 6 years ago | (#25267751)

If those implanted cell develop malignancy and start metastasising around, we're going to discover shocking consequences~

The Real Eel (4, Funny)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 6 years ago | (#25267781)

We need to add biocapacitor cells as well. Eel + biocapacitors == Dragonball Z FTW!

Re:Dragonball Z FTW (1)

nitsnipe (1332543) | about 6 years ago | (#25269697)

This voltage...never seen it before...IT'S OVER 9000.

Re:Dragonball Z FTW (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about 6 years ago | (#25272833)

Vegeta, what does the scouter say about his power level?

Re:Force lighting? (1)

fractalVisionz (989785) | about 6 years ago | (#25268181)

I rather the kiss of death.

Re:Force lighting? (1)

freyyr890 (1019088) | about 6 years ago | (#25268557)

Slug-like eels? Genetic engineering? Lightning from fingertips?

Now we just need the giant underwater city.

Re:Force lighting? (1)

aronschatz (570456) | about 6 years ago | (#25269515)

And it shall be called...

RAPTURE!

I can see it now...

Re:Force lighting? (1)

spikesahead (111032) | about 6 years ago | (#25273591)

Steady now, your genetic code is being rewritten. Just hold on and everything will be fine.

Bloody Sploicers.

Re:Force lighting? (0, Offtopic)

aqk (844307) | about 6 years ago | (#25269603)

To hell with all this tech talk!

I wanna see the the replies to Jason's Grandpa! (above)

Who knows- maybe the ol' coot can generate several amps from his rectal discharges.
Don't be so quick to mod some of these gems as trolls!
I do believe Michael Faraday started out like this, and the snotty Sir Humphrey Davy modded HIM as a troll!

And please- no youtube videos of eels being sobmitted to anatomical indignities. I've seen 'em all!

yum eels (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25267767)

Jesus loves eel

Artificial zombie cells? (5, Insightful)

argent (18001) | about 6 years ago | (#25267779)

Just creating the membranes would produce the equivalent of an artificial zombie cell, with no self-repair mechanisms and no way to replace them. A battery like this would be subject to attack by the immune system and by bacteria in the body, and likely "rot" in no time. Without the whole mechanism of a living cell to sustain it ... without the "brain" of the cell... it would need to be sealed and unable to take advantage of the bodies supply of ATP.

Better to see if you can enhance human cells, maybe even the recipient's own cells, to do the job.

Re:Artificial zombie cells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25267953)

Just creating the membranes would produce the equivalent of an artificial zombie cell, with no self-repair mechanisms and no way to replace them. A battery like this would be subject to attack by the immune system and by bacteria in the body, and likely "rot" in no time. Without the whole mechanism of a living cell to sustain it ... without the "brain" of the cell... it would need to be sealed and unable to take advantage of the bodies supply of ATP.

Better to see if you can enhance human cells, maybe even the recipient's own cells, to do the job.

Odds are the approach will be a Chimera. They'll be blending human and eel cells so the eel cell qualities will be in cells the human body will support. There's less risk than with mammals since any eel diseases wouldn't easily migrate and most humans aren't exposed to live eels anyhow.

Re:Artificial zombie cells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25268027)

One step at a time biology boy.

Re:Artificial zombie cells? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25268089)

it would need to be sealed and unable to take advantage of the bodies supply of ATP.

Just want to correct one thing. The body doesn't have a supply of ATP. ATP exists extracellularly in very low levels, probably only as a signaling molecule. This article suggests that energy be created by mitochondria or a modified oxidative bacteria.

Re:Artificial zombie cells? (1)

argent (18001) | about 6 years ago | (#25268881)

Doh. Obviously zombie cells were eating my brains when I wrote that bit.

Useful? (3, Funny)

CarAnalogy (1191053) | about 6 years ago | (#25267831)

Can they be used to power hovercrafts?

Yes.. but... (3, Funny)

denzacar (181829) | about 6 years ago | (#25268019)

For some unexplainable reason - only in Hungary.

Re:Yes.. but... (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | about 6 years ago | (#25271325)

My nipples explode with delight!

Alternate approach. (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 6 years ago | (#25267883)

Can't we just implant a real eel? You know like the Jaffa [wikipedia.org] have on Stargate.
I can't really think of any downside, oh wait...

Re:Alternate approach. (0)

MrMista_B (891430) | about 6 years ago | (#25268163)

Um, you know that Stargate is fictional, right? As in, not real?

Re:Alternate approach. (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | about 6 years ago | (#25268273)

...you know this? How?

Re:Alternate approach. (1)

Anpheus (908711) | about 6 years ago | (#25268573)

That's what they want you to think. It's really an elaborate cover to provide them with plausible deniability.

I mean, of course SG1 is a hyperbole on the real, much more mundane sounding "Joint Offworld Taskforce" (JOT) but I've already said too mu

Re:Alternate approach. (1)

kandela (835710) | about 6 years ago | (#25269545)

This is a shocking idea. You have heard of the Goa'uld right?

Re:Alternate approach. (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 6 years ago | (#25274119)

So that's how their eyes glow?

Waste of time doing all that research (2, Funny)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | about 6 years ago | (#25267889)

Robert Downey-Junior already has the ultimate power source up his nose. Just make one of them electrical paralysers (ebay kits I think) and take it from him. Get the dude to do it if you're squeamish.

practical applications? (3, Funny)

apodyopsis (1048476) | about 6 years ago | (#25267899)

I immediately thought that you could use it to run an onboard storage device to keep you own personal medical records - then I realized that apart from being a privacy nightmare an inductively powered system made more sense like they shove into pets necks.

Then I thought "pace maker" - but realized that a long life battery (well its only got to outlast the patient that its in) it probably more reliable and less likely to trigger a lawsuit.

So then maybe I thought self-defence mechanism - but I realized that the amount of power that would need would be impractical.

Perhaps some dancing light that light you up on the dance floor the more you dance, the brighter you get?

I'm short of ideas on any practical application here, anybody got any nifty ideas?

Re:practical applications? (1)

fractalVisionz (989785) | about 6 years ago | (#25268209)

So then maybe I thought self-defence mechanism - but I realized that the amount of power that would need would be impractical.

Even if you had that much power, wouldn't it hurt yourself long before you could use it to hurt others? It only takes a few tens of milliamps across the heart to kill someone.

Re:practical applications? (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | about 6 years ago | (#25268377)

If I could create a high potential difference across my fingertips at will, I could use it to stop someone's heart, or shock the crap out of their neck. This would only burn my finger tips and cause no damage to my heart as the current would not be going across my chest cavity.

Clearly there could be other problems of course, like it might give new meaning to giving your gf "the shocker."

Re:practical applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25269409)

Clearly there could be other problems of course, like it might give new meaning to giving your gf "the shocker."

Ohh!! Rimshot!

Re:practical applications? (1)

Chrontius (654879) | about 6 years ago | (#25277979)

But what if we ran a cord of electrocyte tissue from one arm's fingertips to the other? Maybe some kind of conductive secretions are released from modified sweat glands when you fire the charge. As a plus, the output of a cord that long will have pretty impressive voltage. I can only imagine (and wince) what a hadoken style palm-strike with this added oomph would do if you busted someone in the ribs.

Re:practical applications? (4, Funny)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | about 6 years ago | (#25268569)

I vote for the dancing lights. Can you imagine how spectacular a high-energy person like Usain Bolt or Shelly-Ann Fraser would be, running at night? Or what this could do during sex? Just think about challenging your partner to make you go bright blue, and having a partner who likes challenges.

Re:practical applications? (2, Funny)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 years ago | (#25269417)

Just think about challenging your partner to make you go bright blue

If I'm going to go bright blue, WTF is the point in having a partner? The point is to not go blue. ;-)

Cheers

Re:practical applications? (1)

mcrbids (148650) | about 6 years ago | (#25268857)

A number of sexually (ahem) charged ideas come to mind...

Re:practical applications? (1)

aqk (844307) | about 6 years ago | (#25269743)

Perhaps some dancing light that light you up on the dance floor the more you dance, the brighter you get

LAP-DANCING!
Much of this "dance" involves a so-called external power source, leaving you free to discharge your "capacitors".
You could probably compare it to the bees' dance for communication as to where the "sugar-substance" is.
Come to think of it, perhaps /. has an intrinsic source of power that could be harnessed in this fashion.
'Tho, true lap-dancing might generate more pleasing power to the average /. user.
As long as it does not involve eels.
.

/

Re:practical applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25276805)

An LCD glow-watch under the skin would be nice.

I'd buy that.

Recharge. (4, Funny)

supernova_hq (1014429) | about 6 years ago | (#25267947)

Patient: Doctor, my pace maker needs a recharge.
Doctor: Ok, hold onto this for a moment would you? (hands patient a live eel)

Darth Sidious (1)

wisesifu (1358043) | about 6 years ago | (#25267965)

The power of the dark side draws near.

Re:Darth Sidious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25268133)

Of course, such a device has only evil purposes.

Oblig. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25269263)

I for one welcome our new eel-derived innerlords.

Genetic algorithms to improve design (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about 6 years ago | (#25268009)

No, really: Once we have a whole cell design in CAD, design optimization by genetic algorithm will be an excellent method. And thats really, really cool.

Re:Genetic algorithms to improve design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25271535)

What would the fitness function be to determine if the offspring is an improvement?

Is it possible to tell what all the effects of a design change are without actually growing the cell?

Systems biology will not hold its promise (1, Interesting)

rmstar (114746) | about 6 years ago | (#25268153)

If systems biology has something, it is unrealized potential. It is a field with a huge potential, but the only part of that potential that has been realized, and probably the only one that will ever be realized, is the part where you can get shiploads of grant money with it. Other than that, it is just bad maths applied by inexperienced PhD students to hopeless problems based on crappy data. The supervisors, in case anyone is interested, are way too busy writing grant applications.

Actually, the "experienced" folks are so busy writing grants, that they leave the refereeing to ... inexperienced PhD students! That's why so much junk gets published, and why so many decent articles get rejected for outrageous reasons.

So all I can say is, I hope those eels give the systems biology PhD students a good "eelectric" shock. Maybe that helps them wisen up so they become Quants instead.

Greetings from the systems biology trenches,

-- rmstar.

Re:Systems biology will not hold its promise (1)

penrodyn (927177) | about 6 years ago | (#25268797)

I agree with you on the whole but I'm not even sure it is systems biology, isn't it more like synthetic biology?

Re:Systems biology will not hold its promise (1)

New_Age_Reform_Act (1256010) | about 6 years ago | (#25268877)

One of the most important factor that determines whatever a faculty member gets tenure or not is how much grant $ he/she is bring in to the university. The more the better. Also, the ranking of a certain PhD program also determined by # of PhDs graduated.

Re:Systems biology will not hold its promise (1)

korean.ian (1264578) | about 6 years ago | (#25272525)

I immediately thought of the systems biology in Arthur C. Clarke's "Rama" trilogy. The part in Rama Revealed where Nicole and Richard are walking across the octospiders land and they run across the energy producing pools, where the starfish like creatures are rewarded when they release their built-up energy charge by getting food.
If we can get to that level of efficiency at some point will we be better off than by strictly going a chemical route?

Warning. Side effects may include: (2, Funny)

Solr_Flare (844465) | about 6 years ago | (#25268829)

- Turning green
- developing more animalistic tendencies and features
- flying through the air in a rolled up ball
- and an uncontrollable urge to participate in fighting tournaments

Should one or more of these symptoms occur, please see a medical professional or martial arts trainer immediately.

Just Imagine the possibilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25269011)

1. Genetically engineer large eels
2. Sedate eels, wire their brains, and feed artificial world so they feel at home.
3. Scare on command for free electricity.
4. PROFIT

Future dialog... (1)

surfcow (169572) | about 6 years ago | (#25269397)

"Don't move. It only *looks* like a gerbil. It's really a stun gun."

u.s researchers (1)

pheUUU (1379129) | about 6 years ago | (#25270111)

where are these u.s researchers affiliated?

My hovercraft... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25270995)

is RUN off eels.

Does this mean... (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | about 6 years ago | (#25271005)

...that the One-eyed Trouser Serpent is up for re-branding? Shocking!

My hovercraft is full of eels... (2, Funny)

bytta (904762) | about 6 years ago | (#25271429)

Maybe Monty Python was on to something...

The Simpsons (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about 6 years ago | (#25272377)

All I can say is that this could make a very excellent Simpsons episode.

power the cows with this (1)

Dillenger69 (84599) | about 6 years ago | (#25274719)

They can use this to power the remote control cows from the other story.
Who wants to change the batteries on a herd of cattle?

New Brawndo brand cows ... now with even more electrolytes.

Here's a thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25278413)

Sorry about the AC post...was just cruising on another computer and don't want to have to remember my login right now...

OK, so here is an idea...

We have lots of raw sewage. Lord knows we have more of it than can be rightfully processed at times. Mix that with lots of sunlight. Why don't we engineer an algae that feeds on raw sewage and sunlight and creates electricity? Set up electrodes in the water to carry the electricity, and viola! BioBattery!

To make it doubly efficient, why it make it so that the dead algae would yield us an oil that can then be reprocessed into biodesiel? I know, large pools of raw sewage and algae exposed to direct sunlight...what a smell...but is it any worse than an oil refinery or a petro cracking plant? It certainly is better for the environment.

Talk about overkill.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25279319)

If you want to use shit, why not dry it under the sun and then burn it? Same amount of CO2, much higher efficiency than bacteria.. This is standard practice with cow dung in some remote areas.
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