Editorial - (2021) Volume 8, Issue 2
In biology, developmental bioelectricity refers to the regulation of cell, tissue, and organ-level patterning and behavior because the results of endogenous electrically mediated signaling. Cells and tissues of all kinds use ion fluxes to speak electrically. The charge carrier in bioelectricity is that the ion (charged atom), and an electrical current and field is generated whenever a net ion flux occurs. Endogenous electric currents and fields, ion fluxes, and differences in electric potential across tissues comprise an ancient and highly conserved communicating and signaling system. It functions alongside (in series and in parallel to) biochemical factors, transcriptional networks, and other physical forces to manage the cell behavior and large-scale patterning during embryogenesis, regeneration, cancer, and lots of other processes.
Role in early development
Work in model systems like African clawed frog and zebra fish has revealed a task for bioelectric signaling within the development of heart, face, eye, brain and other organs. Screens have identified roles for ion channels in size control of structures like the zebra fish fin, while focused gain-of-function studies have shown for instance that body parts are often re-specified at the organ level – for instance creating entire eyes in gut endoderm. As within the brain, developmental bioelectrics can integrate information across significant distance within the embryo, for instance like the control of brain size by bioelectric states of ventral tissue and therefore the control of tumorigenesis at the location of oncogene expression by bioelectric state of remote cells. Human disorders, also as numerous mouse mutants show that bioelectric signaling is vital for human development. Those effects are pervasively linked to channelopathies, which are human disorders that result from mutations that disrupt ion channels.
Role in cancer
Defection of cells from the normally tight coordination of activity towards an structure leads to cancer; it's thus no surprise that bioelectricity – a key mechanism for coordinating cell growth and patterning – may be a target often implicated in cancer and metastasis. Indeed, it's long been known that gap junctions have a key role in carcinogenesis and progression. Channels can behave as oncogenes and are thus suitable as novel drug targets. Recent add amphibian models has shown that depolarization of electric potential can trigger metastatic behavior in normal cells, while hyperpolarization (induced by ion channel misexpression, drugs, or light) can suppress tumorigenesis induced by expression of human oncogenes. Depolarization of electric potential appears to be a bioelectric signature by which incipient tumor sites are often detected non-invasively. Refinement of the bioelectric signature of cancer in biomedical contexts, as a diagnostic modality, is one among the possible applications of this field. Excitingly, the ambivalence of polarity – depolarization as marker and hyperpolarization as treatment – make it conceptually possible to derive theragnostic (portmanteau of therapeutics with diagnostics) approaches, designed to simultaneously detect and treat early tumors, and during this case supported the normalization of the membrane polarization.
Future of the field
Life is ultimately an electrochemical enterprise; research during this field is progressing along several frontiers. First is that the reductive program of understanding how bioelectric signals are produced, how voltage changes within the cell wall are ready to regulate cell behaviour, and what are the genetic and epigenetic downstream targets of bioelectric signals. a couple of mechanisms that transduce bioelectric become alterations of organic phenomenon are already known, including the bioelectric control of movement of small second-messenger molecules through cells, including serotonin and butyrate, voltage sensitive phosphatases, among others. Also known are numerous gene targets of voltage signaling, like Notch, BMP, FGF, and HIF-1α. Thus, the proximal mechanisms of bioelectric signalling within single cells are getting well-understood, and advances in ontogenetic and magneto genetics still facilitate this research program. Tougher however is that the integrative program of understanding how specific patterns of bioelectric dynamics help control the algorithms that accomplish large-scale pattern regulation (regeneration and development of complex anatomy). The incorporation of bio electrics with chemical signalling within the emerging field of probing cell sensory perception and decision-making is a crucial frontier for future work.