Electrical estimulation of retinal pigment epithelial cells

Olga Lucia Gamboa, Jin Pu, John Townend, John V. Forrester, Min Zhao, Colin McCaig, Noemi Lois*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated and characterized the effect of externally applied electric fields (EF) on retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells by exposing primary cultures of human RPE cells (hRPE) and those from the ARPE19 immortalized cell line to various strengths of EF (EF-treated cells) or to no EF (control cells) under different conditions including presence or absence of serum and gelatin and following wounding. We evaluated changes in RPE cell behavior in response to EF by using a computer based image capture and analysis system (Metamorph). We found that RPE cells responded to externally applied EFs by preferential orientation perpendicular to the EF vector, directed migration towards the anode, and faster translocation rate than control, untreated cells. These responses were voltage-dependent. Responses were observed even at low voltages, of 50-300 mV. Furthermore, the migration of hRPE cell sheets generated by wounding of confluent monolayers of cells at early and late confluence could be manipulated by the application of EF, with directed migration towards the anode observed at both sides of the wounded hRPE. In conclusion, RPE cell behaviour can be controlled by an externally applied EF. The potential for externally applied EF to be used as a therapeutic strategy in the management of selected retinal diseases warrants further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-204
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Eye Research
Issue number2
Early online date10 May 2010
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank Dr. Isabel J. Crane for providing hRPE cells and Carol Wallace and Rosie Fordyce for their technical help. This work was supported by the New and Emerging Applications of Technology (NEAT) program, National Institute for Health Research, UK, and The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh


  • electric currents
  • electric fields
  • retina
  • retinal diseases
  • retinal pigment epithelium


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