For the first time, researchers power an implantable electronic device using an electrical potential — a natural battery — deep in the inner ear.
The devices could monitor biological activity in the ears of people with hearing or balance impairments, or responses to therapies. Eventually, they might even deliver therapies themselves.
The ear converts a mechanical force — the vibration of the eardrum — into an electrochemical signal that can be processed by the brain; the biological battery is the source of that signal’s current. Located in the part of the ear called the cochlea, the battery chamber is divided by a membrane, some of whose cells are specialized to pump ions. An imbalance of potassium and sodium ions on opposite sides of the membrane, together with the particular arrangement of the pumps, creates an electrical voltage.
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