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J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2018 May 29;15(1):43. doi: 10.1186/s12984-018-0390-y.

Mechanisms of electrical vasoconstriction.

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Department of Bioengineering, University of Utah, 20 S. 2030 E., Salt Lake City, UT, 84112, USA.
Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar Ilan University, 5290002, Ramat-Gan, Israel.
Department of Ophthalmology, Stanford University, 2452 Watson Court Palo Alto, Stanford, CA, 94303, USA.
Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory, Stanford University, 452 Lomita Mall, Stanford, CA, 94305, USA.



Electrical vasoconstriction is a promising approach to control blood pressure or restrict bleeding in non-compressible wounds. We explore the neural and non-neural pathways of electrical vasoconstriction in-vivo.


Charge-balanced, asymmetric pulses were delivered through a pair of metal disc electrodes. Vasoconstriction was assessed by measuring the diameter of rat saphenous vessels stimulated with low-voltage (20 V, 1 ms) and high-voltage (150 V, 10 μs) stimuli at 10 Hz for 5 min. Activation pathways were explored by topical application of a specific neural agonist (phenylephrine, alpha-1 receptor), a non-specific agonist (KCl) and neural inhibitors (phenoxybenzamine, 25 mg/ml; guanethidine, 1 mg/ml). Acute tissue damage was assessed with a membrane permeability (live-dead) fluorescent assay. The Joule heating in tissue was estimated using COMSOL Multiphysics modeling.


During stimulation, arteries constricted to 41 ± 8% and 37 ± 6% of their pre-stimulus diameter with low- and high-voltage stimuli, while veins constricted to 80 ± 18% and 40 ± 11%, respectively. In arteries, despite similar extent of constriction, the recovery time was very different: about 30 s for low-voltage and 10 min for high-voltage stimuli. Neural inhibitors significantly reduced low-voltage arterial constriction, but did not affect high-voltage arterial or venous constriction, indicating that high-voltage stimuli activate non-neural vasoconstriction pathways. Adrenergic pathways predominantly controlled low-voltage arterial but not venous constriction, which may involve a purinergic pathway. Viability staining confirmed that stimuli were below the electroporation threshold. Modeling indicates that heating of the blood vessels during stimulation (< 0.2 °C) is too low to cause vasoconstriction.


We demonstrate that low-voltage stimuli induce reversible vasoconstriction through neural pathways, while high-voltage stimuli activate non-neural pathways, likely in addition to neural stimulation. Different stimuli providing precise control over the extent of arterial and venous constriction as well as relaxation rate could be used to control bleeding, perfusion or blood pressure.


Electrical stimulation; Electroceuticals; Vasoconstriction

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