Details are still sketchy, but what we know is that the National Eye Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is establishing a new center, the National Center for Design of Biomimetic Nanoconductors. The research center is to be based at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. One of the pilot projects is to develop a nano-size battery that one day could be implanted in the eye to power an artificial retina. The Sandia National Lab reports:
The first task for the center will be to design a class of devices for generating electric power – bio-batteries – for a wide array of implantable devices, starting with an artificial retina that has already been developed at the Doheny Eye Institute at the University of Southern California. The artificial retina and accompanying nanobattery will be used to correct certain types of macular degeneration…
“We will use our expertise in multi-scale modeling to understand and predict how transporter structure leads to function, with an initial focus on specialized transporters found in the electric eel,” Rempe says [Susan Rempem, project’s principal investigator based at the Sandia National Laboratories -ed.] “This information will give us a better understanding of how power is naturally created in biological organisms – information to be used for designing and building the nanobattery.”
Working on another aspect of the project is Jeff Brinker, who is affiliated with both Sandia and the University of New Mexico. He will engineer components of the bio-battery using silica technology.
The team plans to translate several categories of biological function into new devices that would treat disease and lead to implantable devices. Properties of interest that appear in the biological ion transporters include electrical signaling, osmotic pumping, and molecular detection.