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Medtech Impact on Wellness

Alex Savtchenko, a research scientist with the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine at the University of California, San Diego delivers a detailed overview of the many uses for the wonder material known as graphene. Savtchenko explains how graphene is compatible with biology; it’s a two-dimensional crystal of carbon atoms that is heavy metal and toxin free, so it can be inserted into animals and even humans for research purposes. It enables optical excitation of living tissues for scientific medical research, and potentially, future treatment.

The renowned research scientist discusses graphene in detail. Savtchenko explains how graphene’s loose electrons are very conductive, thus light photons can push these electrons for a short period of time. During this process, researchers are able to command cells to activate at the exact pace and conditions needed to study select drugs and their effect on those cells.

As graphene coated surfaces are semi-transparent, multiple layers of graphene can be applied without obstructing the view of the cell, which allows researchers to observe the cell under the desired and specific conditions. Researchers can then actually monitor a cell’s rate of contraction, which provides vital feedback for experimentation. For example, in the case of an irregular heartbeat, a selected drug can be administered and scientists can analyze the process to see if the effect of the stimulus is lessened due to the drug.

In regard to pacemakers, the possibilities are interesting. Over time, the body builds up scar tissue around pacemakers, so the electrical activity may be diminished somewhat. In this case the pacemaker may need to be moved to reestablish its full functionality, which could be risky surgery for certain older patients. Thus Savtchenko hopes that further research will allow graphene-based pacemakers to be developed and implemented as a less invasive substitution.

Additionally, eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, may benefit from graphene-based solutions. As photo receptors in the back of the eye degenerate, graphene may provide the needed conversion from light to electricity and thus correct the problem and restore vision.

And the Sanford Consortium research scientist provides an exciting overview of the possibilities for pain alleviation, as graphene-based electrical stimulation can command neurons to discontinue sending particular pain signals.

Interestingly, researchers have found that cells naturally migrate toward graphene-coated surfaces and that cell survival rates are increased by graphene. For this and other reasons, graphene may be incredibly helpful as a scaffolding material for transplant surgeries and prosthetic work and possibly in the future, in the fight against cancer as well. Ultimately, Savtchenko hopes that his and others’ graphene research will lead to the development of multiple options to help cure human diseases.

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