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Bioelectromagnetics. 2013 Jan;34(1):22-30. doi: 10.1002/bem.21741. Epub 2012 Jun 1.

Electric fields caused by blood flow modulate vascular endothelial electrophysiology and nitric oxide production.

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Laboratory for Intelligence Modeling and Neurophysics, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.


Endothelial cells are exposed to a ubiquitous, yet unexamined electrical force caused by blood flow: the electrokinetic vascular streaming potential (EVSP). In this study, the hypothesis that extremely low frequency (ELF) electric fields parameterized by the EVSP have significant biological effects on endothelial cell properties was studied by measuring membrane potential and nitric oxide production under ELF stimulation between 0 and 2 Hz and 0-6.67 V/m. Using membrane potential and nitric oxide sensitive fluorescent dyes, bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAECs) in culture were studied in the presence and absence of EVSP-modeled electric fields. The transmembrane potential of BAECs was shown to depolarize between 1 and 7 mV with a strong dependency on both the magnitude and frequency of the isolated ELF field. The findings also support a field interaction with a frequency-dependent tuning curve. The ELF field complexly modulates the nitric oxide response to adenosine triphosphate stimulation with potentiation seen with up to a sevenfold increase. This potentiation was also frequency and magnitude dependent. An early logarithmic phase of NO production is enhanced in a field strength-dependent manner, but the ELF field does not modify a later exponential phase. This study shows that using electric fields on the order of those generated by blood flow influences the essential biology of endothelial cells. The inclusion of ELF electric fields in the paradigm of vascular biology may create novel opportunities for advancing both the understanding and therapies for treatment of vascular diseases.

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