Electricity is everywhere.
Even in the human body.
Our cells are specialized to conduct electrical currents.
Electricity is required for our nervous system to send signals throughout the body and to the brain, making it possible for us to move, think and feel.
So how do our cells control electrical currents?
The elements in our bodies like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium have specific electrical charge. Almost all of our cells can use these charged elements called ions to generate electricity.
The contents of cells are protected by an outside environment by a cell membrane.
The cell membrane is made up of lipids that create a barrier that only substances can cross to reach the cell interior.
Not only does the cell membrane function as a barrier to molecules, it also acts as a way for the cell to generate electrical currents.
Resting cells are negatively charged on the inside, while outside environment is positively charged.
This is due to this slight imbalance between positive and negative ions inside and outside the cell. The cell can achieve this charge separation by allowing charged ions to flow in and out through the cell membrane.
The flow of change across the cell membranes is what generates electrical currents.
Cells control the flow of specific charged elements across the membrane which proteins that sit on the cell surface can create an opening for certain ions to pass through. These proteins are called ion channels.
When the cell is stimulated, it allows positive charges to enter the cell through the open ion channels.
Inside the cell becomes more positively charged, which triggers further electrical currents that can turn into electrical pulses, called action potentials.
Our bodies use certain patterns of action potentials to initiate the current movements, thoughts and behaviors.
A disruption in electrical currents can lead to illness. For example, in order for the heart to pump, the cells must generate electrical currents that allow the heart muscle to contract at the right time.
Doctors can even observe the electrical pulses of the heart using the machine called electrocardiogram or ECG, irregular electrical currents can prevent the heart muscle from contracting correctly and lead to a heart attack.
This is only one example showing the important role of electricity and health and disease.