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Mitochondrial Turbocharger

Run your metabolism off of electrical power.
  [vote for,

((WARNING: I have only a basic, albeit theoretically college-level understanding of this subject. Therefore, this may very well be an incredibly stupid idea. Nanotechnology is invoked, but only reasonably plausible nanotech extensible from what we have today))

The mitochondrion is the major "power plant" of any eukaryotic cell. Basically, molecules are broken down into carbon dioxide, extracting high-energy electrons and a very few molecules of ATP. These electrons are in turn passed down the electron transport chain, at the end of which oxygen accepts the electrons. The electron transport chain draws energy from the electrons to pump protons into the inter-membrane space, and these then flow back into the mitochondrial matrix via ATP synthase to generate a very large amount of ATP.

Now, since only a few molecules of ATP are created by the citric-acid and other breakdown cycles that actually produce these high-energy electrons, it seems to me that we might enhance the mitochondria by simply pulling a current across the electron transport chain, with the negative end in place of the nasty, highly-reactive, cel-damaging oxygen and a positive end supplying electrons instead of this whole messy "metabolism" process.

I am aware that tiny radio recievers using nanotubes, which demodulate a radio signal into a small current, exist. These recievers, connected to gold or other conductive nanofibers via a rectifier of some sort, would be inserted into cells and the electrodes inserted into the mitochondrial inner membrane. The nanofibers would be tipped with some form of molecule that would mimick NADH or other electron-carrying molecule and bind to the receptors on the correct ends of electron-transport chain. When a high-power radio signal was pumped through the body from some form of wearable transmitter, the electrons will flow through the chain and ATP will be produced.

However, this will not eliminate the need for eating nor breathing. The mitochondrion's various breakdown cycles such as the citric-acid cycle produce a variety of feedstocks that the cell relies on for its reactions, and for that matter not all food is merely used for energy production. Likewise, oxygen is not used solely for energy production, but what the turbocharger /will/ do is allow instant, free (from your body's perspective, anyway) energy.

As it would be incredibly impractical to insert these into every cell, the turbochargers would only be placed in those cells which use most of the body's energy- the muscles, and (since these parts could almost certainly be coaxed to self-assemble and insert without human help)the brain. The power source for the transmitter would probably be a chemical battery of some sort, and would probably have the form of an RC car remote with a big red button labled "TURBOCHARGE" on it in large, silly-looking letters.

Alternatively, as self-assembling nanotube-chlorophyll electricity-producing solar cells have recently been developed, these could be hooked up instead. Be green and solar-powered!

As neither gold nor nanotubes are biologically reactive, and as the lipid membrane of the mitochondrion is an effective insulator, these devices would be harmless to the cells.

Hive_Mind, Feb 01 2011

DNA transistor http://en.wikipedia...d-effect_transistor
Well, this proves that self-assembling nano-transistors are possible, anyway. [Hive_Mind, Feb 02 2011]


       This is not such a stupid idea. It's quite stupid, but not so stupid. I think the engineering would be a little on the challenging side.   

       There is a snag in that mitochondria divide, but hey.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 01 2011

       Yeah, I was pretty sure this was some degree of stupid. I felt I'd rather throw it out there and find out the exact /degree/ of stupid plus /why/ it was stupid, thus giving me advice on how to make things which were less stupid.
Hive_Mind, Feb 01 2011

       Mitochondria are jolly useful, but dangerous little buggers, especially when they go wrong.   

       I've long had an urge to devise a strategy for whole-body mitochondrial genome editing/correction. Since they used to be bacteria, it should be possible to do something cunning with viruses. By the time you're even slightly old, most of your mitochondrias' genomes are fucked to some extent.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 01 2011

       //pulling a current across the electron transport chain, with the negative end in place of the nasty, highly-reactive, cel-damaging oxygen and a positive end//   

       Implying a DC current, where electrons flow from one end to the other, and then back via another route, but also...   

       //radio recievers using nanotubes, which demodulate a radio signal into a small current//   

       ... an AC current, that is, which has as many electrons flowing back the other way as it has flowing in the forward direction.   

       //it should be possible to do something cunning with viruses//   

       This inspired me to google for the term "mitochondriophage", and I was pleasantly surprised to find a few hits.
Wrongfellow, Feb 01 2011

       My knowledge of the cellular metabolism is the part that's theoretically college-level. My understanding of radio, is approximately zero. I am aware, however, of exactly the difference between AC and DC, at least enough to realize that "I dun goofed." There's probably a way around this problem, but I don't know what it is. Self-assembling rectifiers are possible, and probably easy given that nanotech transistors and diodes have been made (I think some out of DNA, which is good for self-assembly), but I'm a little nervous about edging that close to GM and nano-tech magic.
Hive_Mind, Feb 02 2011

       Ah, there we go. DNA transistors have been made, and given my understanding of how transistors work (explained rather memorably using carpet, basketball, and breakdancing chickens) tells me that if transistors can be made, diodes are easy. With the ease and precision with which DNA self-assembly can be controlled, DNA-based self-assembling rectifiers to convert the AC into DC are actually a lot less magicky than I thought.
Hive_Mind, Feb 02 2011

       Rather than inserting things into cells it would be very neat to engineer cells which produced these things, made out of dna or protein as you suggest. There are bacteria which already accumulate crystals of various sorts (magnetite is one, I think) within the cytoplasm and maybe one of these could serve as the antenna. This would be easier to do with bacteria than mitochondria as the mitochondria are sort of fussy prima donnas.   

       I love the idea.
bungston, Feb 02 2011

       I hadn't even thought of gengineering turbocharged cells. I thought it was edging a little close to how to clone a piano- "Add a plasmid for keys, and a plasmid for piano wire"- the classic GM magic.
Hive_Mind, Feb 02 2011


       " (explained rather memorably using carpet, basketball, and breakdancing chickens) tells me that if transistors can be made, dildoes are easy "   

       Yep, I'd remember that.
normzone, Feb 03 2011

       Yeah, that would be quite...memorable. Still. Breakdancing chickens. (For those curious, the chickens were electrons)
Hive_Mind, Feb 03 2011

       I think there are energetic problems with this, if you're going to do anything useful, you'll need 100W or more, which, given radio transmission/reception inefficiencies, will require many kW in transmitter power. Which, I fear, will be bulky.   

       Effectivey, you have to bake wireless power transmission first.   

       Also, mitochondria are incredibly dynamic, moving up to 1um/minute. They really thrash around in some cells, and they're constantly undergoing fusion/fission. So you'd need something which can stand up to that.
bs0u0155, May 06 2013


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