New nanotech from TAU produces “healthy” electric current from the human body itself

Written on | ,

Approach allows for the charging of cardiac pacemakers using only the heartbeat, eliminating the need for batteries

A new nanotechnology development from an international research team led by Tel Aviv University researchers will make it possible to generate electric currents and voltage within the human body itself through the activation of various organs using mechanical force. The development involves a new and very strong biological material, similar to collagen, which is non-toxic and causes no harm to the body’s tissues.

The researchers believe that this new nanotechnology has many potential applications in medicine, including harvesting clean energy to operate pacemakers and other devices implanted in the body through the body’s natural movements, eliminating the need for batteries and the surgery required to replace them.

The study was led by Professor Ehud Gazit of TAU’s Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research at the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Fleischman Faculty of Engineering and the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, along with his lab team, Dr. Santu Bera and Dr. Wei Ji.

Researchers from the Weizmann Institute and a number of research institutes in Ireland, China and Australia also took part in the study, which was published in Nature Communications.

“Collagen is the most prevalent protein in the human body, constituting about 30% of all of the proteins in our body,” Professor Gazit, who is also Founding Director of TAU’s Blavatnik Center for Drug Discovery, explains. “It is a biological material with a helical structure and a variety of important physical properties, such as mechanical strength and flexibility, which are useful in many applications. However, because the collagen molecule itself is large and complex, researchers have long been looking for a minimalistic, short and simple molecule that is based on collagen and exhibits similar properties.

“About a year and a half ago our group published a study in which we used nanotechnological means to engineer a new biological material that meets these requirements,” Professor Gazit continues. “It is a tripeptide — a very short molecule called Hyp-Phe-Phe consisting of only three amino acids — capable of a simple process of self-assembly of forming a collagen-like helical structure that is flexible and boasts a strength similar to that of the metal titanium.

“In the present study, we sought to examine whether the new material we developed bears piezoelectricity, another feature that characterizes collagen. Piezoelectricity is the ability of a material to generate electric currents and voltage as a result of the application of mechanical force, or vice versa, to create a mechanical force as the result of exposure to an electric field.”

The researchers created nanometric structures of the engineered material, and with the help of advanced nanotechnology tools applied mechanical pressure on them. The experiment revealed that the material does indeed produce electric currents and voltage as a result of the pressure.

Moreover, tiny structures of mere hundreds of nanometers demonstrated one of the highest levels of piezoelectric ability ever discovered, comparable or superior to that of the piezoelectric materials commonly found in today’s market, most of which contain lead and are unsuitable for medical applications.

According to the researchers, the discovery of piezoelectricity of this magnitude in a nanometric material is of great significance, as it demonstrates the ability of the engineered material to serve as a kind of tiny motor for very small devices. Next, the researchers plan to apply crystallography and computational quantum mechanical methods (density functional theory) in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the material’s piezoelectric behavior and thereby enable the accurate engineering of crystals for the building of biomedical devices.

“Most of the piezoelectric materials that we know of today are toxic lead-based materials, or polymers, meaning they are not environmentally and human body-friendly,” Professor Gazit says. “Our new material, however, is completely biological and suitable for uses within the body.

“For example, a device made from this material may replace a battery that supplies energy to implants like pacemakers, though it should be replaced from time to time. Body movements like heartbeats, jaw movements, bowel movements, or any other movement that occurs in the body on a regular basis will charge the device with electricity, which will continuously activate the implant.”

His current focus is on the development of medical devices, but Professor Gazit emphasizes that “environmentally friendly piezoelectric materials, such as the one we have developed, have tremendous potential in a wide range of areas because they produce green energy using mechanical force that is being used anyway. For example, a car driving down the street can turn on the streetlights. These materials may also replace lead-containing piezoelectric materials that are currently in widespread use, but that raise concerns about the leakage of toxic metal into the environment.”

Related posts

Can’t Multitask Anymore?

October 6, 2021

Why Do We Squabble Over The AC?

October 5, 2021

The Immune System’s Double Agents

October 5, 2021

Help A Friend Out?

September 30, 2021

Using ‘Good’ Bacteria to Fight ‘Bad’ Bacteria

September 29, 2021

Recruiting ‘Fighting Cells’ to Destroy Tumors

September 14, 2021

TAU Team Reverses Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

September 10, 2021

Nicotine Testing of Children Curbs Parents’ Smoking

September 5, 2021

Want to Fall in Love? Step Outside in The Sun

August 31, 2021

The Silent Prophets

August 31, 2021

First 3D-bioprinting of entire active tumor

August 18, 2021

New Warning Sign for Breast Cancer

August 6, 2021

COVID-19 Immunity Varies Among Genders and Age Groups

July 26, 2021

Tel Aviv Bats Have More Fun

July 22, 2021

New study found differences between women and men in the level of COVID-19 antibodies

July 15, 2021

A world first: Technology that restores the sense of touch in nerves damaged as a result of amputation or injury

July 15, 2021

TAU Medical Student to Swim for Israel at Summer Olympics

July 15, 2021

Introducing the world’s thinnest technology – only two atoms thick

July 2, 2021

Want to Live a Long Life? Consider Investing in Your Marriage.

July 2, 2021

A world first: Targeted delivery of therapeutic RNAs only to cancer cells, with no harm caused to healthy cells

June 30, 2021

Combating Antibiotic Resistance

June 22, 2021

Diamonds in the Rough

June 3, 2021

How Will We Brave the Post-COVID Era?

May 31, 2021

Are We Getting to the Root of Cancer?

May 3, 2021

Optical Technology Generates Immediate Melanoma Diagnosis

April 27, 2021

Gut Healing

April 25, 2021

Could Your Smartphone Be Damaging Your Teeth?

April 4, 2021

The Quest for A Lifesaving Cure

March 16, 2021

A Healthier Alternative to Antibiotics

February 24, 2021

Children with Autism during Lockdown: Serious Implications for Behavior and Development

February 22, 2021

Cancer Breakthrough: Cells’ Uniqueness is Also Weakness

January 29, 2021

Two TAU Professors Win 2020 Nature Mentoring Award

December 28, 2020

COVID-19 Takes TAU’s Legal Clinics into High Gear

December 7, 2020

Lack of Teacher Support during Pandemic Causes Acute Emotional Harm

December 4, 2020

New Discovery: Development of the Inner Ear in Embryos is Similar to Crystal Formation

November 26, 2020

In First, Aging Stopped in Humans: TAU Co-Study

November 23, 2020

TAU developed genome editing system destroys cancer cells

November 20, 2020

TAU Co-Study: “Green Revolution” Decreased Infant Mortality

November 17, 2020

Study: Women Suffer More from COVID-related Orofacial Pain

November 12, 2020

TAU Prof. Wins Schmidt Science Polymath Award

October 26, 2020

Global First: Center for Combating Pandemics

October 22, 2020

Researchers Identified the Genetic Causes of Inherited Hearing Loss in the Jewish Population of Israel

September 30, 2020

Targeting Melanoma

September 9, 2020

TAU Inaugurates Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research

September 8, 2020

How the parents’ environment impacts the lives of their offspring

September 2, 2020

Does our Brain like risk?

August 31, 2020

Physical exercise can help improve both physical and mental health

August 31, 2020

New school for Biomedicine and Cancer Research at Tel Aviv University

August 13, 2020

Tel Aviv University Scientists Successfully Reduce Metastatic Spread Following Tumor Removal Surgery

August 11, 2020

An Experimental Drug for Alzheimer’s May Help Children with Autism

August 5, 2020

Pursuing the Unknown

Copyright ©  Tel Aviv University Trust. All rights reserved.
Registered charity number 314179.