The Spark Inside Us


  • Shania Ramharrack-Maharaj Second Year iSci Student at McMaster University


Bioelectricity is an emerging field of study among biophysicists that refers to the electrical component of biological processes. All healthy cells are polarized and form complex networks of electrical patterns which are essential for cell communication and signaling within the body. Furthermore, the correct cell polarization patterns are necessary for normal tissue growth and organ regeneration.


One of the most famous projects concerning the influence of bioelectricity is that of Michael Levin’s team. In 2016, they investigated the influence of bioelectricity on organ regeneration in Planaria. Specifically, the trunk segment of the Planaria was cut out, then the wounds were immersed in a chemical solution that depolarizes tissue. In most trials, they found that the Planaria would regrow the incorrect organ; for example, the segment of the Planaria with the pre-existing head would grow another head where it was wounded. Moreover, when this experiment was performed again on these newly-formed Planaria, without changing the bioelectric state of the wound, the Planaria would regrow the incorrect organ again. So, Levin’s team concluded that altering the bioelectric state of a Planaria’s wound can alter its morphology.


Since this project, many biophysicists have taken on research focusing on the relation between electric, chemical, and genetic information; this will aid in understanding the mechanism in which the incorrect organ regrew in Levin’s experiment. The results of these future studies will have significant impacts on the biomedical engineering and regenerative medicine fields, as well as allow us to understand more about the human body.