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Nat Protoc. 2007;2(3):661-9.

Non-invasive measurement of bioelectric currents with a vibrating probe.

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School of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, Scotland, UK.


Small d.c. electrical signals have been detected in many biological systems and often serve important functions in cells and organs. For example, we have recently found that they play a far more important role in directing cell migration in wound healing than previously thought. Here, we describe the manufacture and use of a simplified ultrasensitive vibrating probe system for measuring extracellular electrical currents. This vibrating probe is an insulated, sharpened metal wire with a small platinum-black tip (10-30 microm), which can detect ionic currents in the microA cm(-2) range in physiological saline. The probe is vibrated at about 300 Hz by a piezoelectric bender. In the presence of an ionic current, the probe detects a voltage difference between the extremes of its movement. The basic, low-cost system we describe is readily adaptable to most laboratories interested in measuring physiological electric currents associated with wounds, developing embryos and other biological systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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