Sixth Sensing Of Electric Fields: Scientific Discovery Could Lead To New Ways To Heal Wounds

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By FEELGUIDE

Sixth Sense Mechanisms-compressed

A variety of animals are able to sense and react to electric fields, and living human cells will move along an electric field, for example in wound healing. Now a team lead by Min Zhao at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures has found the first actual “sensor mechanism” that allows a living cell detect an electric field. The work is published Oct. 9 in the journal Nature Communications. “We believe there are several types of sensing mechanisms, and none of them are known. We now provide experimental evidence to suggest one which has not been even hypothesized before, a two-molecule sensing mechanism,” Zhao said.

Zhao and colleagues have been studying these “electric senses” in cells from both larger animals (fish skin cells, human cell lines) and in the soil-dwelling amoeba Dictyostelium. By knocking out some genes in Dictyostelium, they previously identified some of the genes and proteins that allow the amoeba to move in a certain direction when exposed to an electric field. In the new work, carried out in a human cell line, they found that two elements, a protein called Kir4.2 (made by gene KCNJ15) and molecules within the cell called polyamines, were needed for signaling to occur. Kir4.2 is a potassium channel — it forms a pore through the cell membrane that allows potassium ions to enter the cell. Such ion channels are often involved in transmitting signals into cells. Polyamines are molecules within the cell that carry a positive charge. Zhao and colleagues found that when the cells were in an electric field, the positively-charged polyamines tend to accumulate at the side of the cell near the negative electrode. The polyamines bind to the Kir4.2 potassium channel, and regulate its activity. He cautioned that they do not yet have definitive evidence of how “switching” of the potassium channel by polyamines translates into directional movement by the cell.


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The groundwork for this discovery was built in previous research from Zhao which was published in 2013, and analyzed how living cells move in response to electric fields. “Like tiny, crawling compass needles, whole living cells and cell fragments orient and move in response to electric fields — but in opposite directions, scientists at the University of California, Davis, have found. Their results, published April 8 in the journal Current Biology, could ultimately lead to new ways to heal wounds and deliver stem cell therapies. When cells crawl into wounded flesh to heal it, they follow an electric field. In healthy tissue there’s a flux of charged particles between layers. Damage to tissue sets up a “short circuit,” changing the flux direction and creating an electrical field that leads cells into the wound. Assistant project scientist Yaohui Sun found that when whole cells were exposed to an electric field, actin protein fibers collected and grew on the side of the cell facing the negative electrode (cathode), while a mix of contracting actin and myosin fibers formed toward the positive electrode (anode). Both actin alone, and actin with myosin, can create motors that drive the cell forward. The polarizing effect set up a tug-of-war between the two mechanisms. In whole cells, the actin mechanism won, and the cell crawled toward the cathode. But in cell fragments, the actin/myosin motor came out on top, got the rear of the cell oriented toward the cathode, and the cell fragment crawled in the opposite direction. The results show that there are at least two distinct pathways through which cells respond to electric fields, Mogilner said. At least one of the pathways — leading to organized actin/myosin fibers — can work without a cell nucleus or any of the other organelles found in cells, beyond the cell membrane and proteins that make up the cytoskeleton.”

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There are other mechanisms in the human body responsible for this “sixth-sensing” of electric fields as well. One such mechanism is found in the heart, which for centuries has been intuitively considered to be a primary source of emotion, courage, wisdom, and the sixth sense.  Now there is scientific research to back up this possibility. At the Institute of HeartMath (IHM) Research Center, researchers are exploring the physiological mechanisms by which the heart communicates with the brain, thereby influencing information processing, perceptions, emotions and health. They are asking questions such as: Why do people experience the feeling or sensation of love and other positive emotional states in the area of the heart and what are the physiological ramifications of these emotions? How do stress and different emotional states affect the autonomic nervous system, the hormonal and immune systems, the heart and brain? The following is an excerpt from the HearthMath website:

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