Target Health Blog

Bioelectromagnetic Medicine in the 21st Century

May 8, 2017


Graphic credit: Geek3 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Electrical phenomena have been studied since antiquity, though progress in theoretical understanding remained slow until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Even then, practical applications for 1) ___ were few, and it would not be until the late nineteenth century that engineers were able to put it to industrial and residential use. The rapid expansion in electrical technology at this time transformed industry and society and gave us the Second Industrial Revolution. In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin conducted extensive research in electricity, selling his possessions to fund his work. In June 1752 he is reputed to have attached a metal key to the bottom of a dampened kite string and flown the kite in a storm-threatened sky. A succession of sparks jumping from the key to the back of his hand showed that lightning was indeed electrical in nature. He also explained the apparently paradoxical behavior of the Leyden jar as a device for storing large amounts of electrical charge in terms of electricity consisting of both positive and 2) ___ charges. In 1791, Luigi Galvani published his discovery of bioelectromagnetics, demonstrating that electricity was the medium by which neurons passed signals to the 3) ___.


Electricity's extraordinary versatility means it can be put to an almost limitless set of applications which include transport, heating, lighting, communications, medical devices such as deep brain stimulation, the electrocardiogram and many more, computation, and all the e-world's important new inventions. Electrical power is now the backbone of modern industrial society. Only recently has the critical importance of electromagnetic (EM) field interactions in biology and medicine been recognized. The phenomenon of resonance signaling, shows how specific frequencies, modulate cellular function to restore or maintain health. The application of EM-tuned signals represents more than merely a new tool in information medicine. It can also be viewed in the larger context of EM medicine, the all-encompassing view that elevates the EM over the biochemical. The discovery by Zhadin that ultra small magnetic intensities are biologically significant, suggests that EM signaling is endogenous to 4) ___ regulation, and consequently that the remarkable effectiveness of EM resonance treatments reflects a fundamental aspect of biological systems. The concept that organisms contain mechanisms for generating biologically useful electric signals is not new, dating back to the nineteenth century discovery of currents of injury by Matteucci. The corresponding modern-day version is that ion cyclotron resonance magnetic 5) ___ combinations help regulate biological information. The next advance in medicine will be to discern and apply those EM signaling parameters acting to promote wellness, with decreasing reliance on marginal biochemical remediation and pharmaceuticals. Today, graphene, electricity appears to change stem cells for nerve regrowth. Scientists are combining their expertise to change stem cells for nerve regrowth. Researchers looking for ways to regenerate nerves can have a hard time obtaining key tools of their trade. Schwann cells are an example. They form sheaths around axons, the tail-like parts of 6) ___ cells that carry electrical impulses. They promote regeneration of those axons. And they secrete substances that promote the health of nerve cells. In other words, they're very useful to researchers hoping to regenerate nerve cells, specifically peripheral nerve cells, those cells outside the brain and spinal 7) ___. But Schwann cells are hard to come by in useful numbers. So researchers have been taking readily available and noncontroversial mesenchymal stem cells (also called bone marrow stromal stem cells that can form bone, cartilage and fat cells) and using a chemical process to turn them, or as researchers say, differentiate them into Schwann cells. But it's an arduous, step-by-step and expensive process. Researchers at Iowa State University are exploring what they hope will be a better way to transform those stem cells into Schwann-like cells. They've developed a nanotechnology that uses inkjet printers to print multi-layer graphene circuits and also uses lasers to treat and improve the surface structure and conductivity of those circuits. It turns out mesenchymal stem cells adhere and grow well on the treated circuit's raised, rough and 3-D nanostructures. Add small doses of electricity -- 100 millivolts for 10 minutes per day over 15 days -- and the 8) ___ cells become Schwann-like cells. The findings are featured on the front cover of the scientific journal Advanced Healthcare Materials. According to the authors, there is a huge potential here as the technology could lead to a better way to differentiate stem cells. According to the article, the electrical stimulation is very effective, differentiating 85% of the stem cells into Schwann-like cells compared to 75% by the standard chemical process. The electrically differentiated cells also produced 80 nanograms per milliliter of nerve growth factor compared to 55 nanograms per milliliter for the chemically treated cells. The authors indicated that the results could lead to changes in how nerve injuries are treated inside the 9) ___ and that the results help pave the way for in vivo peripheral nerve regeneration where the flexible graphene electrodes could conform to the injury site and provide intimate electrical stimulation for nerve cell regrowth. The paper also reports several advantages to using electrical stimulation to differentiate stem cells into Schwann-like cells including:


1. doing away with the arduous steps of chemical processing

2. reducing costs by eliminating the need for expensive nerve growth factors

3. potentially increasing control of stem cell differentiation with precise electrical stimulation

4. creating a low maintenance, artificial framework for neural damage repairs.


A key to making it all work is the graphene inkjet printing process which takes advantages of graphene's wonder-material properties -- it's a great conductor of electricity and heat, it's strong, stable and biocompatible -- to produce low-cost, flexible and even wearable electronics. However, once graphene electronic circuits were printed, they had to be treated to improve electrical conductivity. That usually meant high temperatures or chemicals. Either could damage flexible printing surfaces including plastic films or paper. The authors solved the problem by developing computer-controlled 10) ___ technology that selectively irradiates inkjet-printed graphene oxide. The treatment removes ink binders and reduces graphene oxide to graphene -- physically stitching together millions of tiny graphene flakes. The process makes electrical conductivity more than a thousand times better.


There are also new possibilities to think about. The technology, for example, could one day be used to create dissolvable or absorbable nerve regeneration materials that could be surgically placed in a person's body and wouldn't require a second surgery to remove.


Sources: Iowa State University; Suprem R. Das, Metin Uz, Shaowei Ding, Matthew T. Lentner, John A. Hondred, Allison A. Cargill, Donald S. Sakaguchi, Surya Mallapragada, Jonathan C. Claussen. Stem Cell Differentiation: Electrical Differentiation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells into Schwann-Cell-Like Phenotypes Using Inkjet-Printed Graphene Circuits (Adv. Healthcare Mater. 7/2017). Advanced Healthcare Materials, 2017; 6 (7) DOI: 10.1002/adhm.201770032; Iowa State University. "Graphene, electricity used to change stem cells for nerve regrowth."; 10 April 2017:; Wikipedia


ANSWERS: 1) electricity; 2) negative; 3) muscles; 4) cell; 5) field; 6) nerve; 7) cord; 8) stem; 9) body; 10) laser

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