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Biomaterials. 2011 Jan;32(1):19-27. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2010.08.095. Epub 2010 Sep 28.

The control of neural cell-to-cell interactions through non-contact electrical field stimulation using graphene electrodes.

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Department of Energy Science, Department of Physics, Sungkyunkwan Advanced Institute of Nanotechnology, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon 440-746, South Korea.


Electric field stimulation has become one of the most promising therapies for a variety of neurological diseases. However, the safety and effectiveness of the stimulator are critical in determining the outcome. Because there are few safe and effective in vivo and/or in vitro stimulator devices, we demonstrate a method that allows for non-contact electric field stimulation with a specific strength that is able to control cell-to-cell interaction in vitro. Graphene, a form of graphite, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) was used to create a non-cytotoxic in vitro graphene/PET film stimulator. A transient non-contact electric field was produced by charge-balanced biphasic stimuli through the graphene/PET film electrodes and applied to cultured neural cells. We found that weak electric field stimulation (pulse duration of 10 s) as low as 4.5 mV/mm for 32 min was particularly effective in shaping cell-to-cell interaction. Under weak electric field stimulation, we observed a significant increase in the number of cells forming new cell-to-cell couplings and in the number of cells strengthening existing cell-to-cell couplings. The underlying mechanism of the altered cellular interactions may be related to an altered regulation of the endogenous cytoskeletal proteins fibronectin, actin, and vinculin. In conclusion, this technique may open a new therapeutic approach for augmenting cell-to-cell coupling in cell transplantation therapy in the central nervous system.

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