Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Anatomy & Neurobiology

First Advisor

Raymond Colello


Electric fields, which are generated by the movement of charged ions across membranes, are found in all biological systems and can influence cellular components ranging from amino acids to biological macromolecules. Physiological field strengths range from 1 – 200 mV/mm, and these electric fields are especially elevated at sites of cellular growth during development and regeneration. It has previously been demonstrated that elevated electric fields induce alignment of astrocyte processes in vitro, enhancing the rate of neurite outgrowth. It is believed that electric fields of varying physiological strength affect other astrocytic responses associated with regeneration. To characterize the duration over which these changes emerge, cultured rat astrocytes were exposed to different direct-current electric field strengths. The resulting cellular behaviors were recorded every three minutes with an inverted microscope equipped with DIC optics and a stage incubator. Electric fields were found to induce astrocyte responses similar to those observed during periods of neurodevelopment and regeneration. Changes in astrocyte movement, proliferation, & morphology emerged within the first hour and persisted through the course of the electric field application, leading mammalian astrocytes to revert to an earlier maturation state resembling those seen in amphibian astrocytes associated with central nervous system regeneration. Collectively, these results suggest that applied electric fields lead to astrocyte dedifferentiation, with certain electric field strengths eliciting and enhancing specific cell responses.


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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2013