Bioelectricity Controls and Shapes Cells in Embryos

A recent research pushed voltage in frog embryo cell membranes – it helped the cells to know how to fix defects and where to grow! According to the new experiment, electricity is going to go a long way in shaping brain cells in embryos. The report was published on March 11 in the Journal of Neuroscience. Scientists are looking into the possibility of using this technique to remove birth defects and grow new tissues.

For the research, embryos of African clawed frogs were used. It was observed that the electric charges are responsible for the growth of brain cells. A tinker of voltage in the brain cells of the embryo determines how big will the brain grow and the type of tissue the growing cells will grow into. The membrane potential or the changing voltage used in the experiment even noted to fix a brain-damaging birth defect in the embryos of the frogs.

Coauthor of the study, Muchael Levin contextually said, “All cells have electrical activity in their membrane. Cells use this electrical activity to communicate with each other in making decisions about growth…For the first time here we also show that these bioelectrical signals are used to determine the size and location of the brain itself.” Growth of tissues can be controlled by changing the voltage. For example, changing voltage cause a growth of tail in the tadpole embryo. Levin further quoted, “We put [ion channels] into cells as needed to move the voltage up or down, We were able to make the brain cells grow more, or less, as we wanted, thus showing that voltage controls the size of the primary brain.”

The experiment was based on the fact that cells depend on bioelectricity to decide the type of tissue they’d form into. Research on the cell’s response to bioelectricity is sure to open new avenues in regenerative medicine


About Proma Bhattacharyaa

Proma Bhattacharyaa
Proma writes on a number of topics related to race, sports and the labor industry. Her work has appeared in The Root Washington Post Company and As a writer and speaker, Proma often explores issues that are endemic in the African-American Community.

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