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Bioelectromagnetics. 2013 Jul;34(5):358-65. doi: 10.1002/bem.21777. Epub 2013 Jan 15.

Continuous exposure to low amplitude extremely low frequency electrical fields characterizing the vascular streaming potential alters elastin accumulation in vascular smooth muscle cells.

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


In normal development and pathology, the vascular system depends on complex interactions between cellular elements, biochemical molecules, and physical forces. The electrokinetic vascular streaming potential (EVSP) is an endogenous extremely low frequency (ELF) electrical field resulting from blood flowing past the vessel wall. While generally unrecognized, it is a ubiquitous electrical biophysical force to which the vascular tree is exposed. Extracellular matrix elastin plays a central role in normal blood vessel function and in the development of atherosclerosis. It was hypothesized that ELF fields of low amplitude would alter elastin accumulation, supporting a link between the EVSP and the biology of vascular smooth muscle cells. Neonatal rat aortic smooth muscle cell cultures were exposed chronically to electrical fields characteristic of the EVSP. Extracellular protein accumulation, DNA content, and electron microscopic (EM) evaluation were performed after 2 weeks of exposure. Stimulated cultures showed no significant change in cellular proliferation as measured by the DNA concentration. The per-DNA normalized protein in the extracellular matrix was unchanged while extracellular elastin accumulation decreased 38% on average. EM analysis showed that the stimulated cells had a 2.85-fold increase in mitochondrial number. These results support the formulation that ELF fields are a potential factor in both normal vessel biology and in the pathogenesis of atherosclerotic diseases including heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

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