The Cell Membrane as a Circuit

One of the unique things about Bioengineering is the way that we combine biology with physics and chemistry along with basic engineering principles to understand and solve problems. In my Bioengineering class I have really begun to see how this is true. Recently we were learning about the cell membrane and how the concentrations of different ions on either side of the membrane create an electric potential across the membrane. My professor explained that this meant that a cell membrane could be described as a circuit. The membrane itself acts like a capacitor, not allowing charged particles to cross on their own so that charges build up on either side. There are also channels through the membrane that let some of these ions through, they can be thought of as resistors since the charged particles can pass through them, but are also slowed down in the process. Using these circuit diagrams we can better understand exactly how opening and closing the ion channels can effect the membrane potential.

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