If we could upgrade our cells to run on solar power, the age-old restrictions of using [calories] and oxygen to produce energy might be overcome. The idea might sound outlandish, but to Christopher Powell, founder of the new biotech startup BiPlastiq, it’s not. Powell established his company to accomplish a single, radical goal: Hacking human mitochondria—our cellular engine—to gain additional power from light.
“Futurists often talk about [how] we’ll reinvent our biology so that our cells have an immediate energy supply,” Powell said. “But the fact is, our biology doesn’t currently work that way. Right now, this futurist vision lacks the rationale for how our cells can access power instantaneously; [Rhodopsin, a single protein that embeds itself in cell (and mitochondrial) membranes, can act as this supplemental generator]."
Jan Liphardt, a biophysicist at Stanford University, had the following to say about BiPlastiq's premise. "With Rhodopsin, [Cells] are like little hybrid cars with solar cells—they still get around by burning [calories and oxygen], but now they can use light to go further...From a purely technical perspective, the answer is pretty clear...You can certainly do this.”