Small d.c. electrical signals have been detected in many biological systems and often serve important functions in cells and organs. For example, we have recently found that they play a far more important role in directing cell migration in wound healing than previously thought. Here, we describe the manufacture and use of a simplified ultrasensitive vibrating probe system for measuring extracellular electrical currents. This vibrating probe is an insulated, sharpened metal wire with a small platinum-black tip (10-30 μm), which can detect ionic currents in the μA cm-2 range in physiological saline. The probe is vibrated at about 300 Hz by a piezoelectric bender. In the presence of an ionic current, the probe detects a voltage difference between the extremes of its movement. The basic, low-cost system we describe is readily adaptable to most laboratories interested in measuring physiological electric currents associated with wounds, developing embryos and other biological systems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)