The influence of electric fields on hippocampal neural progenitor cells

Stem Cell Rev Rep. 2010 Dec;6(4):585-600. doi: 10.1007/s12015-010-9171-0.


The differentiation and proliferation of neural stem/progenitor cells (NPCs) depend on various in vivo environmental factors or cues, which may include an endogenous electrical field (EF), as observed during nervous system development and repair. In this study, we investigate the morphologic, phenotypic, and mitotic alterations of adult hippocampal NPCs that occur when exposed to two EFs of estimated endogenous strengths. NPCs treated with a 437 mV/mm direct current (DC) EF aligned perpendicularly to the EF vector and had a greater tendency to differentiate into neurons, but not into oligodendrocytes or astrocytes, compared to controls. Furthermore, NPC process growth was promoted perpendicularly and inhibited anodally in the 437 mV/mm DC EF. Yet fewer cells were observed in the DC EF, which in part was due to a decrease in cell viability. The other EF applied was a 46 mV/mm alternating current (AC) EF. However, the 46 mV/mm AC EF showed no major differences in alignment or differentiation, compared to control conditions. For both EF treatments, the percent of mitotic cells during the last 14 h of the experiment were statistically similar to controls. Reported here, to our knowledge, is the first evidence of adult NPC differentiation affected in an EF in vitro. Further investigation and application of EFs on stem cells is warranted to elucidate the utility of EFs to control phenotypic behavior. With progress, the use of EFs may be engineered to control differentiation and target the growth of transplanted cells in a stem cell-based therapy to treat nervous system disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Electricity*
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Stem Cells / cytology*