alzheimer's disease
A woman, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, holds the hand of a relative in a retirement house in Angervilliers, eastern France, March 18, 2011. AFP/Getty Images/Sebastien Bozon

A new research might provide an easy solution for the treatment and cure of Alzheimer’s disease and depression — researchers from the University of Maryland have invented a new battery which produces ionic energy similar to the one produced by humans, which might let doctors manipulate brain cells and treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

"My intention is for ionic systems to interface with the human system. So I came up with the reverse design of a battery. In a typical battery, electrons flow through wires to interface electronics, and ions flow through the battery separator. In our reverse design, a traditional battery is electronically shorted (that means electrons are flowing through the metal wires). Then ions have to flow through the outside ionic cables. In this case, the ions in the ionic cable - here, grass fibers -- can interface with living systems," Liangbing Hu, head of the research team said.

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Ions play an important part in the functioning of the human body — they form the electrical signals that control the heart’s rhythm, the movement of muscles and power the brain among other things. The new battery design takes the traditional battery design and reverses it. In a regular battery, electrical energy flows in the form of electrons, along with positive ions from one electrode to the other, the new battery moves electrons to deliver energy in the form of ions.

These ions can actually interfere with living systems. Simply put the battery can serve as a means of communication between machines and humans. Researchers have for long tried to figure out the compatibility between electric current and the electric signals in the human body. They have even used electricity in treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy.

Electric current needs to be very high to bridge the gap between electronic systems and ionic systems while living systems that use ionic systems, work at a very low voltage. Ionic batteries bridge the gap between electronic systems and ionic systems and can be run at any voltage.

Researchers and doctors using this new technology would be able to deliver ionic energy to biological systems without damaging them, the research claims.

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According to Jianhua Zhang, a staff scientist at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, this battery can be used to micro manipulate neuronal activities and interactions to prevent or treat problems related to brain neurons such as Alzheimer’s and depression. Alzheimer’s, for example, is caused by the formation of hard, insoluble plaques between nerve cells in the brain and might be treated by transmitting current to brain cells.

It might also help people with disabilities ad result in better gene and drug delivery.

The challenge for researchers now is to create scaled down models which might be an interface with cells and organisms easily.