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Neurosci Lett. 2007 Jan 10;411(2):128-32. Epub 2006 Nov 7.

Embryonic zebrafish neuronal growth is not affected by an applied electric field in vitro.

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  • 1Purdue University, Department of Biological Sciences, 915 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


Naturally occurring electric fields (EFs) have been implicated in cell guidance during embryonic development and adult wound healing. Embryonic Xenopus laevis neurons sprout preferentially towards the cathode, turn towards the cathode, and migrate faster towards the cathode in the presence of an external EF in vitro. A recent Phase 1 clinical trial has investigated the effects of oscillating EFs on human spinal cord regeneration. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether embryonic zebrafish neurons respond to an applied EF, and thus extend this research into another vertebrate system. Neural tubes of zebrafish embryos (16-17 somites) were dissected and dissociated neuroblasts were plated onto laminin-coated glass. A 100 mV/mm EF was applied to cell cultures for 4 or 20 h and the responses of neurons to the applied EFs were investigated. After 4h in an EF neurites were significantly shorter than control neurites. No other statistically significant effects were observed. After 20 h, control and EF-exposed neurites were no different in length. No length difference was seen between cathodally- and anodally-sprouted neurites. Application of an EF did not affect the average number of neurons in a chamber. Growth cones did not migrate preferentially towards either pole of the EF and no asymmetry was seen in neurite sprout sites. We conclude that zebrafish neurons do not respond to a 100 mV/mm applied EF in vitro. This suggests that neurons of other vertebrate species may not respond to applied EFs in the same ways as Xenopus laevis neurons.

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