Electric pulse delivery, also known as electroporation, is a technique used to introduce foreign molecules, such as DNA, RNA, or proteins, into cells by applying an electric field. This electric field transiently increases the permeability of the cell membrane, creating temporary pores through which the molecules can enter the cell.
Electric pulse delivery is widely used in various biological research and therapeutic applications, including gene transfer, gene editing, drug delivery, and cancer therapy. The process typically involves the following steps:
- Sample preparation: The target cells are mixed with the molecules to be introduced, such as plasmid DNA, siRNA, or proteins.
- Electric pulse application: The cell-molecule mixture is exposed to one or more electric pulses using an electroporation device. The electric field parameters, such as voltage, pulse duration, and number of pulses, need to be optimized for the specific cell type and molecule being introduced. These parameters determine the efficiency of the electric pulse delivery and the overall success of the electroporation process.
- Recovery: Following the electric pulse application, the cells are allowed to recover in a suitable culture medium. During this time, the cell membrane reseals, and the introduced molecules can start to exert their effects within the cell, such as expressing a desired gene or silencing a target gene.
Electric pulse delivery can be performed on various cell types, including bacteria, yeast, plant, and mammalian cells. The technique can be applied in vitro (in cell culture), ex vivo (on isolated tissues or cells), or in vivo (directly within an organism). The method is versatile and generally efficient, but it can cause cell damage or death if not optimized correctly.
In recent years, electric pulse delivery has been combined with other techniques such as gene editing tools (e.g., CRISPR-Cas9) or immunotherapy approaches (e.g., introducing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) genes into T cells) for various research and therapeutic applications.