Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities

© 1999 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 1999


4.9.3 Electric/Magnetic Macrosensing Vascular-Interstitial Closed Electric Circuits

In vivo studies of the electric properties of blood vessels shows that the walls of veins and arteries present a specific electric resistance ~200 times greater than the conductive medium of blood (plasma) -- roughly 200 ohm-m vs. 0.7 ohm-m. Thus blood vessels are properly regarded as relatively insulated conducting cables which can electrically connect an injured tissue with surrounding noninjured tissue. Capillaries form an electric junction with the interstitial fluid, so the electric gradient can be canceled by ionic transport. Cell membranes are insulating dielectrics with resistance and capacitance, penetrated by ionic channels or gates for ionic transport. Additionally, in 1941 Szent-Gyorgyi suggested the possibility of semi-conduction in proteins, a theory which has since been elaborated by many investigators.690

B. Nordenstrom689,690,3489 has proposed that the above schema represents a system for selective electrogenous mass transport of material between blood and tissue which he calls Vascular-Interstitial Closed (electric) Circuits (VICCs) -- in effect, an additional electro-circulatory system operating in parallel with the well-known diffusive, osmotic, and hydrodynamic mechanisms of regular bloodstream materials transport. As long as ions can leak through open pores and migrate through ion channels, long distance transport cannot take place and the VICC system remains primarily a local (e.g., within tissues), not global, electrical circuit. Connections also exist with conductive media including cerebrospinal fluid, bile, and urine.3490

Nanorobots capable of monitoring the status of local VICCs may rapidly and efficiently acquire a wealth of systemic information without the need for direct inspection of the affected tissues. For example, when a working muscle produces catabolic products such as lactic acid, an electrochemical potential gradient develops between the muscle and surrounding tissue in a known manner.3491 Injured tissues become polarized in relation to surrounding tissue, as initial catabolic degradation products acidify the tissue. Malignant neoplasms, benign neoplasms, and internally necrotic granulomas all may polarize electrically in relation to surrounding tissue; a vascular thrombus also contains ionized material. Large deflections in the diffusion potential of blood occur if blood is deoxygenated or is infected with Gram-negative bacteria. Blood changes its electric potential from +500 mV to +1000 mV during spontaneous coagulation, and the spontaneous electric potential at the site of a crush injury of the iliac crest in rats oscillated several times between +190 mV and -60 mV over a four day experimental trial.690

Nordenstrom proposes that in vivo electrophoresis via the VICC system may also play a role in mediating leukotaxis. When tissue is artificially polarized by electrodes, accumulation of granulocytes with margination and development of pseudopods is the result. In one experiment, exposure of a mesenterial membrane to a 1 microampere 1 volt field for 30 minutes stimulated diapedetic bleeding near the anode. At higher power, the arterio-capillaries contracted, narrowed, and emptied of blood cells, while the veno-capillaries and venules widened and filled with granulocytes. Monitoring such actions of local VICCs experiencing natural voltage fluctuations could alert medical nanorobots to the presence of local injuries, tissue changes, or pathologies that otherwise might go unnoticed for a considerable time.


Last updated on 17 February 2003