Bioelectrical understanding and engineering of cell biology

Zoe Schofield, Gabriel N. Meloni, Peter Tran, Christian Zerfass, Giovanni Sena, Yoshikatsu Hayashi, Murray Grant, Sonia A. Contera, Shelley D. Minteer, Minsu Kim, Arthur Prindle, Paulo Rocha, Mustafa B.A. Djamgoz, Teuta Pilizota, Patrick R. Unwin, Munehiro Asally, Orkun S. Soyer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Citations (SciVal)


The last five decades of molecular and systems biology research have provided unprecedented insights into the molecular and genetic basis of many cellular processes. Despite these insights, however, it is arguable that there is still only limited predictive understanding of cell behaviours. In particular, the basis of heterogeneity in single-cell behaviour and the initiation of many different metabolic, transcriptional or mechanical responses to environmental stimuli remain largely unexplained. To go beyond the status quo, the understanding of cell behaviours emerging from molecular genetics must be complemented with physical and physiological ones, focusing on the intracellular and extracellular conditions within and around cells. Here, we argue that such a combination of genetics, physics and physiology can be grounded on a bioelectrical conceptualization of cells. We motivate the reasoning behind such a proposal and describe examples where a bioelectrical view has been shown to, or can, provide predictive biological understanding. In addition, we discuss how this view opens up novel ways to control cell behaviours by electrical and electrochemical means, setting the stage for the emergence of bioelectrical engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20200013
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of the Royal Society, Interface
Issue number166
Early online date20 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2020


  • bioelectrical cell biology
  • bioelectricity
  • cell biophysics
  • cell physiology
  • electrochemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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