Friday, December 14, 2007

Bioelectricity Examples

As some of my classes study electricity, we do not have the time to get into the role electricity (and more broadly, electromagnetism) plays within cells and living organisms. I'm looking for help in finding a large number of examples of bioelectricity, so please add some examples through comments to this post or email me and I can include them in the comments. A couple sentence description is fine (like an abstract), and add in URLs for links to good sources so others can learn more about it. Thanks!


vonny said...

From a student - M.H.
Cell membranes are electrical insulators because they have two layers of phospholipids and are impermeable to ions unless certain ion channels are open. Cell membranes have a certain amount of electric potential based on the gradient of permeable ions around the cell. Ion flow through the membrane will create an action potential because the membrane has a voltage difference, but this can only happen when specific ion channels are temporarily open.

Action potentials are
used to control the activity of cells and to support communication
between cells. The flow of ions through ion channels will be
spontaneous because all ion types are distributed unevenly inside and
outside cells all throughout an organism.


also, this looks like a very interesting site:

vonny said...

From a student - L.K.

Here is a sight that I found informative about bioelectricity. I has information on history, description, and functions of bioelectricity, and I found it useful for a general overview of bioelecrticity.

Andrew James said...

i saw this on you tube. Whats the deal.. does this actually work?!

James said...

One of ite most clear-cut uses of bioelectricity is in the Electric Eel. It is able to generate large E-fields outside of its body. It has a number of organs in series in its body made up of electrolytes. When its brain sends certain signals (like if it sees prey) the charge stored in these electrolytic cells is released creating a ∆V of up to 600V, enough to create some serious charge.

Barry said...

so i was looking into bioelectricity and I found that plants also use electricity in their "bodies," which is something that I never knew. Apparently, electric signalling occurs between plant cells to coordinate responses to the environment. Flowering plants also use electrical oscillations in electric potentials coupled with rythmic movements. I was also thinking that the plant that eats things, possibly called the venus fly trap, uses electrical signals to know when to bite.

Brian said...

Hey Doc V (...Vonny),
Bioelectricity is responsible for a lot of the activities that occur within our body. I think the most interesting example is the nervous system. Nerves can be triggered by electrical currents traveling from different places of the body, causing the nerve to trigger another electrical response. Voltage changes within parts of the brain show the activity created by the natural bioelectricity. So, our decisions and actions are reliant on very small voltage changes throughout the body.

vonny said...

From a student - A.W.
Fats are known for clogging up arteries. They can also apparently harm the body’s bioelectrical system, as the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis discovered. Palmitate, a saturated fatty acid found in many unhealthy foods, is one such fat. A study showed that palmitate can damage the system of membrane pores, a system controlled by bioelectricity. Membrane pores, or ion channels, operate because of voltage differences between the inside and outside portions of the cell. The study found that the proteins in the potassium channel, or Kv1.1, bind to palmitate. The channels are surrounded by fats of the membrane anyway, but the introduction of palmitate changes the orientation of the fat-based structure around the channel. The fat-based structure loses its rigidity. The result is that the Kv1.1 channels open up more readily. This may seem like a good thing, but a successfully operating ion channel needs to open and close depending upon the specific conditions present. In fact, palmitate has been said to change the actual voltage required for opening and closing. Such channels, present in nerve cells and the heart, must function correctly for these crucial parts of the body to perform well. Palmitate seems to pose a real threat.

Interestingly, many types of proteins, far different from the proteins from Kv1.1, bind to palmitate. That indicates that the binding site for palmitate has been used extensively. Perhaps palmitate serves or once served some good purpose as well? Or perhaps the binding site is a leftover binding site of some other, beneficial fatty acid? More studies on the affects of palmitate on the electrical nature of cells are planned.


vonny said...

From a student - A. F.
Electric eels are famous for being able to use electric shocks to stun or kill prey, or in self-defense. But they also use the electric fields they produce to navigate. Since the eels have separate purposes for their ability to produce electric impulses at will, they also have separate organs for the various functions. The three organs are called the Main, Hunter’s and Sachs’ organs. The Sachs’ organ is only capable of emitting low powered impulses, so it used mainly for navigation. The other two, which take up the majority of space in the eel’s body, are used to produce strong electric shocks.

The mechanism used to create the electricity is very similar to how neural impulses travel in our bodies, and I assume how bioelectricity works in most organisms. It is based on the idea of building up electric potential across a cell membrane by gathering ions of one charge on one side of the cell. In doing so, a chain of positive charges is created which can be used to discharge the chain of negative charges close by, once the potential is big enough. The potential difference is created by protein pumps in the cell membrane transferring sodium ions (positive) outside of the cell. As a positive charge builds up outside, a corresponding negative charge builds on the inside of the cell. The eels can control the release of electricity because the cells where the potential differences are being created (called electrocytes) are attached to a neuron, linked to the brain. Just as we can move muscles voluntarily, the eels can send a neural impulse to the electrocyte which sets off the depolarization of the side touching the neuron, allowing the rest of the electric energy to be discharged. To make sure that the electricity is released all at once, electrocytes closer to the eel’s brain are attached by longer chains of neurons so that the signal will reach all at relatively the same time.


vonny said...

From a student - John W.
For arthritic patients, bioelectric therapy is an alternative to pain pills and steroids. Other uses include: back pain, muscle pain, headaches, disorders of the nervous system, blood flow issues, and others. Bioelectric therapy involves a dose of bioelectric current through electrodes placed on teh skin. These electric currents block out signals of pain en route to teh brain, thus relieving the pain. Cells in the spinal cord relay painful impulses to the brain, while the electric currentin bioelectric therapies cause an overflow of electrical stimulation. This effectively causes relief by stopping painful messages from reaching the brain.

Computers can dictate the amount of current required for a treatment, based on an individual's reaction to the therapy. High frequency pulses of about 4000 Hz can be applied through the electrodes and move quickly through the skin.

vonny said...

From a student - A.F.

Electric eels have the ability to create an electric field, producing up to 600 volts of potential, which can be enough to shock a human to death. They also have the ability to see electric fields, which helkps them navigate around their habitat. They also use their ability to create electricity to hunt, as well as fend off attackers.
The tail of the eel is where the electricity is produced.

Takashi Kitahara said...

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