Bioelectrical understanding and engineering of cell biology

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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
JournalInterface Focus
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2020


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


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