Cell electropermeabilization, also known as electroporation, is a technique that uses an electric field to increase the permeability of cell membranes temporarily. The applied electric field causes the formation of transient pores in the lipid bilayer of the cell membrane, allowing the passage of otherwise impermeable molecules, such as DNA, RNA, or proteins, into the cell.
Electropermeabilization has a wide range of applications in biological research and biotechnology, including:
- Gene transfer: Electroporation is an efficient method for introducing foreign genetic material into cells, which can be used for studying gene function, producing recombinant proteins, or developing gene therapies.
- Drug delivery: By increasing the permeability of cell membranes, electroporation can enhance the uptake of drugs or other therapeutic agents into cells, potentially improving the efficacy of treatments.
- Cancer therapy: Electroporation can be combined with the local administration of chemotherapeutic drugs or the introduction of therapeutic genes to specifically target cancer cells. This technique, known as electrochemotherapy or electrogenetherapy, can increase the effectiveness of treatments and reduce side effects.
- Cell fusion: Electroporation can be used to facilitate the fusion of cells or the fusion of cells with artificial lipid vesicles for various research and biotechnological applications.
The efficiency of cell electropermeabilization depends on several factors, such as the electric field strength, pulse duration, and the number of pulses applied. The parameters need to be carefully optimized for the specific cell type and the molecules being introduced to ensure efficient delivery while minimizing cell damage and maintaining cell viability.
Cell electropermeabilization can be performed in vitro (in cell culture), ex vivo (on isolated tissues or cells), or in vivo (directly within an organism). In each case, the method requires specialized equipment to generate the electric field and proper optimization of the electroporation parameters.