Electric eels are fascinating animals, not only because they look pretty cool, but also because they can generate electricity and deliver shocks of up to 600 volts. But they’re not the only fish that can produce electric fields, and recently, research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison has yielded some surprising information about the evolution of this ability- and what it could mean for other species.
Researchers analyzed the genes of the electric eel as well as other electric fish from unrelated families. It appears that there are a limited number of ways to evolve electric organs, and in at least six different fish, their electric organs evolved in the same way.
So… why should we care? By understanding the way electric organs were created through evolution, scientists may be able to gain the information needed to one day create electric organs in humans or other other animals. The zebrafish, a commonly used research animal, may play a role in attempts at this type of modification. If humans were able to have electric organs, they could possibly serve to power pacemakers, neurostimulators, or other implanted medical devices. Read more about it here:
Medical advances over the last several decades have resulted in implantable devices that can improve the quality of human and animal lives. The pacemaker and neurostimulator are two of those devices, and with the help of rabbits, researchers are on their way to making some amazing improvements!
When a patient has one of these devices implanted, it’s understood that they will need follow-up surgeries at certain intervals to replace the battery. Pacemaker, neurostimulator, and spinal cord stimulator batteries last, on average, 5-10 years. But recently, researchers have been able to regulate a rabbit’s heart with a pacemaker that operates off wireless energy! This specific implant is only 3mm long. You can imagine the reduced recovery time after a surgery to implant something this size!
While some doctors are skeptical of life-supporting devices relying on external power, researchers are working to adapt this technology for other types of implants as well. Neurostimulator and spinal cord stimulator batteries tend to be about half the size and thickness of a deck of cards, and often, patients experience a good amount of pain at the battery implantation site. Eliminating the need for a battery for these units could make a huge difference for patients- let’s hope that this technology proves successful!
Do YOU have a battery-powered implant? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts- do you think this technology will help you?