Control of cells by electrical stimuli


Life is closely linked to electric fields. Important cell functions are controlled by electric fields and their electrical properties provide information about morphology and metabolism. Electrical stimuli can elicit active responses such as action potentials, directed movements or changes in metabolism. Stimuli range from long-acting weak fields of the order of a few mV/cm to ultrashort pulsed fields of less than a nanosecond at field strengths of several hundred kV/cm.

Microscopic, chemical and electrical measurement techniques are used to track the response elicited by electrical stimuli. Especially the combination of different measurement techniques on cell clusters or single cells allows the detection of complex responses to electrical stimuli. This also takes into account the fact that the directional movement of cells is preceded by a change in their morphology, which in turn is enabled by metabolic activities. The opening behaviour of ionic channels can be recorded electrically, while changes in the cytoskeleton are quantified by high-resolution fluorescence microscopy. The techniques available at the Center for Micro- and Nanotechnologies (ZMN) at TU Ilmenau provide an excellent basis for research on the electrical stimulation of cells at TU Ilmenau.

Together with data from protein anlysis, detailed modeling of cell activities induced by electrical stimuli is made possible, thus providing the basis for automated decision-making processes in the study of disease patterns or in the control of cell growth.