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No. 12: Fall 1980

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The Currents Of Life

Danny Brower and Richard McIntosh of the University of Colorado at Boulder have discovered that growing cells apparently generate electrical fields that control the shapes of living organisms. They have been experimenting with a disc-shaped alga with a lobed edge. Normally the algo reproduces by splitting in half, with each half regenerating the lost half. Nicely symmetric discs are manufactured. But if an external electrical field (about 14 volts/cm) is applied across the nutrient medium, the regeneration geometry is distorted. The experimenters surmise that the membrane chemistry is affected by the external field which augments or reduces cell-created electric fields.

(Anonymous; "Electric Charges May Shape Living Tissue," New Scientist, 86:245, 1980.)

Comment. Natural external electric fields, such as the atmospheric potential gradient, may therefore have some biological effects, as some experiments with electricity and plant growth have proven.

From Science Frontiers #12, Fall 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss