Nano-size battery for artificial retina
31 January 2006
Albuquerque, N.M., USA. A new research centre is to be established at the
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to develop nanomedical devices based
on cell ion transporters. The first project will be to develop bio-batteries
for implantable devices, the first of which is an artificial retina
developed at the University of Southern California.
A five-year, $6.5 million grant has been awarded by the National Eye
Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a new
center, the National Center for Design of Biomimetic Nanoconductors. Based
at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign under the direction of
principal investigator Eric Jakobsson, the center is designed to rapidly
launch revolutionary ideas in the use of nanomedicine.
The center will design, model, synthesize, and fabricate nanomedical
devices based on natural and synthetic ion transporters — proteins that
control ion motion across the membranes of living cells.
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.
Several researchers from Sandia National Laboratories, led by principal
investigator Susan Rempe, are part of the multi-institutional,
multidisciplinary team. Sandia’s role is on the theoretical and
computational side of the project. Sandia is a National Nuclear Security
“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,” said Rempe. “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.
Sandia is one of the center’s participants, as are the Doheny Eye
Institute at the University of Southern California, the Illinois Institute
of Technology, Purdue University, the University of California-Davis, the
University of Illinois at Ubana-Champaign, Oxford University (UK), Wabash
College, and Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
The National Center for Design of Biomimetic Nanoconductors is part of a
package of about $43 million for four advanced national centers in
nanomedicine announced this year under the NIH’s New Pathways to Discovery
Program. The NIH programme began in 2003 as a Roadmap for Medical Research
initiative to spur medial research discoveries from bench to bedside. The
other centers will be at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, the
University of California at San Francisco, and Columbia University in New
Sandia National Laboratories:
The National Center for Design of Biomimetic Nanoconductors