Watch any nature special or visit an aquarium, and chances are you will be amazed by the intelligence, adaptability, and beauty of the cuttlefish. Part of the class Cephalopoda, these amazing molluscs are helping researchers to advance medical science in some very surprising ways. A team headed by Carnegie Mellon University scientist Christopher Bettinger have developed new biological batteries that use cuttlefish ink to create edible and safe batteries for medical applications.
Most modern consumable batteries contain harmful elements such as lithium and need to be housed in bulky protective casings to protect the patient. The prototype bio-battery uses cuttlefish ink for the anode and manganese oxide for the cathode, ensuring that all materials can easily be broken down and later absorbed by the body.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon are working to develop electronics that can be swallowed like pills to deliver sensitive protein drugs that are usually destroyed once they reach the stomach. Instead of injections, these pills could make a whole range of treatments easier to administer. The batteries could also power sensors that monitor core temperature, blood chemical levels, and a host of other important criteria.
Currently, the batteries are not particularly powerful, but are part of an emerging field of biotechnology that takes its cue from the animal kingdom to improve human health. From nanoparticles loaded with bee venom that can kill HIV to the humble cuttlefish, nature is providing medicine with necessary materials to cure diseases, heal wounds, and monitor treatment.