Hacking Human Cells to Use Solar Power

Yunus Emre Duyar
May 2nd 2015

Our cells are not that different from a car engine: they depend on carbon-based fuels for energy. But using carbon for energy is an inefficient process. This is what the biotech startup BiPlastiq seeks to resolve, using solar energy instead of carbon and oxygen, by hacking our cells.

The founder of BiPlastiq, Christopher Powell believes that by hacking our mitochondrial structures to use solar energy, the power output of our bodies might increase dramatically. This upgrade could arguably transform human bodies into regenerative machines and extend human lives by decades.

Each of our cells are equipped with a mitochondrion that converts chemical properties of food into an energy molecule called ATP. ATP is used for everything, from moving a single muscle to repairing broken parts of the body. However, the employment of ATP as the energy currency of our bodies makes us dependent on the limited resources of oxygen and food. According to Powell, installing the ability to use solar power into our mitochondria might allow our cells to produce ATP with light only.

The idea is nothing new to science. Researches done in the 1960s illustrated that by applying a near-infrared laser light, we can improve wound healing and reduce pain. Although the role of cell structures enabling this technology is not fully laid out, it's believed that infrared light energizes our mitochondria and makes ATP production faster.

If Powell's vision will ever succeed, these engineered cells with upgraded mitochondria may produce the newest form of reproductive technology. Cells that use solar power could be injected, and when combined with a light therapy, the technology might transform several medical fields, ranging from organ regeneration to anti-aging.

Story via Motherboard. Image via Shutterstock

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Should men be able to give birth to children?


Joyce Nabuurs: To me this question seems to be a logical next step in the emancipation movement of the past century. More and more women entered the workspace, but the responsibility for pregnancy and childrearing remained female.

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