Apr 29, 2023

Newly discovered electrical activity within cells could change the way researchers think about biological chemistry

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, neuroscience

The human body relies heavily on electrical charges. Lightning-like pulses of energy fly through the brain and nerves and most biological processes depend on electrical ions traveling across the membranes of each cell in our body.

These are possible, in part, because of an imbalance in electrical charges that exists on either side of a cellular membrane. Until recently, researchers believed the membrane was an essential component to creating this imbalance. But that thought was turned on its head when researchers at Stanford University discovered that similar imbalanced electrical charges can exist between microdroplets of water and air.

Now, researchers at Duke University have discovered that these types of electric fields also exist within and around another type of cellular structure called biological condensates. Like oil droplets floating in water, these structures exist because of differences in density. They form compartments inside the cell without needing the physical boundary of a membrane.

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