The field of regenerative medicine has focused on the use of biochemical factors, such as cytokines and morphogens, to modulate stem cell behavior and tissue outcomes. In contrast, endogenous bioelectric signals (steady-state resting potential or Vmem) have long been identified as a key factor in tissue development and tissue repair, but have only received very limited attention towards the field of regenerative medicine. In our current grant we have made major progress in elucidating the role of Vmem in modulating stem cell behavior and tissue repair as a transformative application for regenerative medicine. In this renewal application, we plan to gain further mechanistic insight into signaling by changes of Vmem in non-neural cells as well as into the self-organizing properties of Vmem-regulatory networks to embed desired Vmem patterns into engineered tissues to direct tissue function. Our goal is to advance our understanding and implementation of bioelectric signaling as a tool for regenerative medicine applications. Our hypothesis is that a better understanding of bioelectric signaling on the molecular and cellular levels has the potential to impact tissue engineering, stem cell therapies, and tissue regeneration. In our two proposed aims we will:
(Aim 1) dig deeper into the mechanisms governing how voltage signals are transduced into cellular responses, and (Aim 2) we will explore how to incorporate bioelectric patterning in 2D and 3D tissue models by specifying Vmem with high temporal and spatial control using optogenetics tools and patterned drug delivery. Through these Aims, we will address our hypothesis from two angles: the mechanistic, molecular basis of voltage signaling, and the broad, tissue-wide patterning application for which voltage signaling may be utilized. As in the current grant, this i a team approach with two PIs with complementary and synergistic skills, David Kaplan (Biomedical Engineering) with a focus on stem cells and tissue formation in vitro, and Michael Levin (Biology) with a focus on molecular tools for Vmem control and tissue development. The team has made substantive progress in the first 3-plus years on the current grant. Major impact to the field of regenerative medicine is anticipated with the plans proposed in this renewal program by harnessing bioelectric signaling. !

Public Health Relevance

The proposed studies would bring the field of biophysical signaling into the mainstream as a practical and defined approach to tissue pattern control and regeneration. This approach would impact wound healing treatments as well as chronic regenerative strategies that aim to restore tissue and organ functions. Further, such strategies can also impact broader stem cell issues such as maintenance of stemness during cell propagation, improved approaches to cell-specific differentiation, and more insight into lineage specification during cell transdifferentiation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Musculoskeletal Tissue Engineering Study Section (MTE)
Program Officer
Wang, Fei
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Tufts University
Engineering (All Types)
Biomed Engr/Col Engr/Engr Sta
United States
Zip Code
Hernández-Díaz, Sonia; Levin, Michael (2014) Alteration of bioelectrically-controlled processes in the embryo: a teratogenic mechanism for anticonvulsants. Reprod Toxicol 47:111-4
Zhu, Feng; Skommer, Joanna; Huang, Yushi et al. (2014) Fishing on chips: up-and-coming technological advances in analysis of zebrafish and Xenopus embryos. Cytometry A 85:921-32
Chernet, Brook T; Levin, Michael (2014) Transmembrane voltage potential of somatic cells controls oncogene-mediated tumorigenesis at long-range. Oncotarget 5:3287-306
Levin, Michael (2014) Endogenous bioelectrical networks store non-genetic patterning information during development and regeneration. J Physiol 592:2295-305
Blasioli, Dominick J; Matthews, Gloria L; Kaplan, David L (2014) The degradation of chondrogenic pellets using cocultures of synovial fibroblasts and U937 cells. Biomaterials 35:1185-91
Adams, Dany S; Levin, Michael (2013) Endogenous voltage gradients as mediators of cell-cell communication: strategies for investigating bioelectrical signals during pattern formation. Cell Tissue Res 352:95-122
Tang-Schomer, Min D; Davies, Paul; Graziano, Daniel et al. (2013) WITHDRAWN: Neural circuits with long-distance axon tracts for determining functional connectivity. J Neurosci Methods :
Adams, Dany Spencer; Tseng, Ai-Sun; Levin, Michael (2013) Light-activation of the Archaerhodopsin H(+)-pump reverses age-dependent loss of vertebrate regeneration: sparking system-level controls in vivo. Biol Open 2:306-13
Sun, Zhongyuan; Qin, Guokui; Xia, Xiaoxia et al. (2013) Photoresponsive retinal-modified silk-elastin copolymer. J Am Chem Soc 135:3675-9
Hronik-Tupaj, Marie; Raja, Waseem Khan; Tang-Schomer, Min et al. (2013) Neural responses to electrical stimulation on patterned silk films. J Biomed Mater Res A 101:2559-72

Showing the most recent 10 out of 19 publications