Navigation Links
Nano-sized voltmeter measures electric fields deep within cells

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---A wireless, nano-scale voltmeter developed at the University of Michigan is overturning conventional wisdom about the physical environment inside cells. It may someday help researchers tackle such tricky medical issues as why cancer cells grow out of control and how damaged nerves might be mended.

U-M professor Raoul Kopelman will discuss the device Saturday during a special session, "Creating Next Generation Nano Tools for Cell Biology," at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in Washington, D.C.

"The basic idea behind this field of research is to follow cellular processes---both normal and abnormal---by monitoring physical properties inside the cell. There's a long history of research on the chemistry happening inside the cell, but now we're getting interested in measuring the physical properties, because physical and chemical processes are related," said Kopelman, who is the Richard Smalley Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry, Physics and Applied Physics.

With a diameter of about 30 nanometers, the spherical device is 1,000-fold smaller than existing voltmeters, Kopelman said. It is a photonic instrument, meaning that it uses light to do its work, rather than the electrons that electronic devices employ.

Kopelman's former postdoctoral fellow Katherine Tyner, now at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, used the nano-voltmeter to measure electric fields deep inside a cell---a feat that until now was impossible. Scientists have measured electric fields in the membranes that surround cells, but not in the interior, Kopelman said.

With the new approach, the researchers don't simply insert a single voltmeter; they're able to deploy thousands of voltmeters at once, spread throughout the cell. Each unit is a single nano-particle that contains voltage-sensitive dyes. When stimulated with blue light, the dyes emit red and green light, and the ratio of red to green corresponds to the strength of the electric field in the area of interest.

Tyner's measurements revealed surprisingly high electric fields in cytosol---the jellylike material that makes up most of a cell's interior.

"The standard paradigm has been that there are zero electric fields in cytosol," Kopelman said, "but all of the 13 regions we measured had high electric field strength---as high as 15 million volts per meter." In comparison, the electrical field strength inside a typical home is five to 10 volts per meter; directly under a power transmission line, it's 10,000 volts per meter. Kopelman, Tyner and coauthor Martin Philbert, professor of environmental health sciences and associate dean for research at the U-M School of Public Health, published a report on the nano-voltmeter and their paradigm-shattering findings in Biophysical Journal in August.

Those findings leave the researchers wondering why electrical fields exist inside cells.

"I don't know the answer to that," Kopelman said. "I suspect that finding out exactly what's going on will keep a lot of people working for a long time." But the ability to measure internal cellular electrical fields should aid in that endeavor.

It's already known that changes in electrical fields associated with membranes can play a role in diseases such as Alzheimer's, and researchers have been exploring the use of externally-applied electric fields to stimulate wound healing and nerve growth and regeneration.

As for the U-M researchers, Philbert, a neurotoxicologist, is exploring how intracellular fields change with exposure to nerve toxins, and Kopelman, who is collaborating with Philbert and researchers in the U-M medical school on new approaches to cancer detection and treatment, is interested in comparing electric fields in cancerous and non-cancerous cells. But they're also open to other avenues of research, Kopelman said.

"One reason for going to the ASCB meeting is to confer with colleagues and strategize about where to go next."


Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
University of Michigan

Related medicine news :

1. Use of certain lipid measures not more effective in predicting coronary heart disease
2. Wild American Shrimp Board Agrees To Implement New Self-Funding Measures
3. People overestimate their self-reported sleep times compared to measures by a sleep test
4. PA Health Department Suggests Measures to Reduce the Spread of MRSA
5. New Measures Improve Heart Care
6. Andrew Lessmans TWC Construction and ProCaps Laboratories Contract With DT Solar to Install a 700 kW Solar Electric System
7. Transcript of Press Conference Announcing Settlement in United States Et Al vs. American Electric Power
8. Whats New in Electric Blankets and Heated Mattress Pads
9. Holiday Electrical Safety Tips for Children
10. One Species Genome Found Within Another
11. Cleveland-based Health Care Tech Company Within3 Names New CEO
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... Austin residents seeking Mohs surgery ... of Mohs Surgery and to Dr. Russell Peckham for medical and surgical dermatology. , ... for skin cancer. The selective fellowship in Mohs Micrographic Surgery completed by Dr. Dorsey ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... "With 30 hand-drawn hand gesture animations, FCPX users ... - CEO of Pixel Film Studios. , ProHand Cartoon’s package transforms over 1,300 ... Pro X . Simply select a ProHand generator and drag it above media or ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... Beach, CA (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... ... UCLA with Magna Cum Laude and his M.D from the David Geffen School of ... Diego and returned to Los Angeles to complete his fellowship in hematology/oncology at the ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... On Friday, June 10, Van Mitchell, ... at Work award to iHire in recognition of their exemplary accomplishments in worksite health ... annual Maryland Workplace Health & Wellness Symposium at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum Heights. ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... plastic surgery procedures that most people are unfamiliar with. The article goes on to ... known procedures, but also many of these less common operations such as calf and ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... June 24, 2016   Bay Area Lyme ... Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness , ... Rehabilitation, MIT Hacking Medicine, University of California, Berkeley, ... announced the five finalists of Lyme Innovation ... More than 100 scientists, clinicians, researchers, entrepreneurs, and ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Calif. , June 24, 2016  American Respiratory Labs (ARL), ... is now able to perform sophisticated lung assessments in patients, homes, ... , Inc. Patients are no longer limited to ... EasyOne PRO ® , ARL patients like Jeanne R. of ... in the comfort of her own home. ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... June 24, 2016  Arkis BioSciences, a leading ... and more durable cerebrospinal fluid treatments, today announced ... Series-A funding is led by Innova Memphis, followed ... other private investors.  Arkis, new financing will accelerate ... the market release of its in-licensed Endexo® technology. ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: