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Bioelectrochemistry. 2006 May;68(2):181-90. Epub 2005 Oct 17.

Model of a confined spherical cell in uniform and heterogeneous applied electric fields.

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  • 1Harvard-M.I.T. Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 16-319, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Cells exposed to electric fields are often confined to a small volume within a solid tissue or within or near a device. Here we report on an approach to describing the frequency and time domain electrical responses of a spatially confined spherical cell by using a transport lattice system model. Two cases are considered: (1) a uniform applied field created by parallel plane electrodes, and (2) a heterogeneous applied field created by a planar electrode and a sharp microelectrode. Here fixed conductivities and dielectric permittivities of the extra- and intracellular media and of the membrane are used to create local transport models that are interconnected to create the system model. Consistent with traditional analytical solutions for spherical cells in an electrolyte of infinite extent, in the frequency domain the field amplification, G(m) (f) is large at low frequencies, f<1 MHz. G(m) (f) gradually decreases above 1 MHz and reaches a lower plateau at about 300 MHz, with the cell becoming almost "electrically invisible". In the time domain the application of a field pulse can result in altered localized transmembrane voltage changes due to a single microelectrode. The transport lattice approach provides modular, multiscale modeling capability that here ranges from cell membranes (5 nm scale) to the cell confinement volume ( approximately 40 microm scale).

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