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Nano-sized voltmeter measures electric fields deep within cells
Date:11/30/2007

orresponds 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 mee
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Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
rossflan@umich.edu
734-647-1853
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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