Bioelectromagnetics in morphogenesis



Understanding the factors that allow biological systems to reliably self-assemble consistent, highly complex, four dimensional patterns on many scales is crucial for the biomedicine of cancer, regeneration, and birth defects. The role of chemical signaling factors in controlling embryonic morphogenesis has been a central focus in modern developmental biology. While the role of tensile forces is also beginning to be appreciated, another major aspect of physics remains largely neglected by molecular embryology: electromagnetic fields and radiations. The continued progress of molecular approaches to understanding biological form and function in the post genome era now requires the merging of genetics with functional understanding of biophysics and physiology in vivo. The literature contains much data hinting at an important role for bioelectromagnetic phenomena as a mediator of morphogenetic information in many contexts relevant to embryonic development. This review attempts to highlight briefly some of the most promising (and often underappreciated) findings that are of high relevance for understanding the biophysical factors mediating morphogenetic signals in biological systems. These data originate from contexts including embryonic development, neoplasm, and regeneration. Bioelectromagnetics 24:295-315, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.