Electroporation is a technique that uses an electric field to temporarily increase the permeability of cell membranes, allowing the introduction of foreign molecules into the cell. The mechanism of action (MOA) for electroporation can be summarized in the following steps:
- Cell suspension or tissue preparation: The cells or tissue to be electroporated are mixed with the molecules to be introduced (such as DNA, RNA, or proteins) and are placed in an appropriate buffer solution.
- Electric field application: An electric pulse is applied to the cell suspension or tissue using electrodes or a cuvette. The strength, duration, and number of pulses are carefully optimized for the specific cell type and the molecules being introduced.
- Formation of transient pores: The applied electric field induces a temporary rearrangement of the lipid molecules in the cell membrane, leading to the formation of transient pores or “electropores.” The size and number of these pores depend on the electric field parameters and the cell type.
- Molecule uptake: The transient pores allow the entry of foreign molecules into the cell. The molecules can passively diffuse through the pores or be driven into the cell by electrophoretic forces generated by the electric field.
- Pore resealing: After the electric field is removed, the transient pores in the cell membrane reseal, returning the cell membrane to its original state. This resealing is crucial for maintaining cell integrity and viability.
- Expression or action of introduced molecules: Once inside the cell, the introduced molecules can exert their desired effect. For example, introduced DNA can be transcribed and translated, leading to the expression of a specific protein, while introduced RNA can modulate gene expression through mechanisms such as RNA interference.
Electroporation is widely used in biological research and has potential applications in gene therapy, drug delivery, and cancer treatment. To achieve successful electroporation, the electric field parameters must be carefully optimized for each specific cell type and application, ensuring efficient delivery of the molecules of interest while minimizing cell damage and maintaining cell viability.