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Alex Savtchenko is a researcher’s researcher—he never stops digging for answers. As a noted research scientist at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, Savtchenko tests theories and works to find ways to improve medical treatment. In this podcast, Savtchenko discusses graphene and its many uses within the biological world.

As he states, graphene is in line with biology—existing as a two-dimensional crystal of carbon atoms that is heavy metal but also toxin-free, and as such, it can be inserted safely into animals and humans for research. As Savtchenko explains, graphene can enable the optical excitation of tissues for advanced scientific medical research, which they hope will lead to better medical treatments.

Savtchenko breaks down the complex topic and explains in simple terms how graphene’s loose electrons are extremely conductive, and because of the light, photons are able to push these electrons for a brief period of time. This controlled process allows scientific researchers to direct cells to activate at the precise pace and conditions that are needed to study specific drugs and subsequent effects on cells within the process.

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.

Savtchenko talks about some of the other areas of medicine, and medical conditions, that may benefit from graphene, such as macular degeneration of the eyes. He touts the possible advantages of graphene for pain relief, as graphene-based electrical stimulation can direct neurons to stop sending certain kinds of pain signals. Much research has also indicated that graphene as a scaffolding material could benefit transplant surgeries and prosthetic work also.

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