Response of a single cell to an external electric field.
The response of a cell to an external electric field is investigated using dimensional analysis and singular perturbation. The results demonstrate that the response of a cell is a two-stage process consisting of the initial polarization that proceeds with the cellular time constant (< 1 microseconds), and of the actual change of physiological state that proceeds with the membrane time constant (several milliseconds). The second stage is governed by an ordinary differential equation similar to that of a space-clamped membrane patch but formulated in terms of intracellular rather than transmembrane potential. Therefore, it is meaningful to analyze the physiological state and the dynamics of a cell as a whole instead of the physiological states and the dynamics of the underlying membrane patches. This theoretical result is illustrated with an example of an excitation of a cylindrical cell by a transverse electric field.
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