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Electroporation: a general phenomenon for manipulating cells and tissues.
Weaver JC
J Cell Biochem (HNF), 1993 Apr; 51 (4): 426-35

Electroporation is a fascinating cell membrane phenomenon with several existing biological applications and others likely. Although DNA introduction is the most common use, electroporation of isolated cells has also been used for: (1) introduction of enzymes, antibodies, and other biochemical reagents for intracellular assays; (2) selective biochemical loading of one size cell in the presence of many smaller cells; (3) introduction of virus and other particles; (4) cell killing under nontoxic conditions; and (5) insertion of membrane macromolecules into the cell membrane. More recently, tissue electroporation has begun to be explored, with potential applications including: (1) enhanced cancer tumor chemotherapy, (2) gene therapy, (3) transdermal drug delivery, and (4) noninvasive sampling for biochemical measurement. As presently understood, electroporation is an essentially universal membrane phenomenon that occurs in cell and artificial planar bilayer membranes. For short pulses (microsecond to ms), electroporation occurs if the transmembrane voltage, U(t), reaches 0.5-1.5 V. In the case of isolated cells, the pulse magnitude is 10(3)-10(4) V/cm. These pulses cause reversible electrical breakdown (REB), accompanied by a tremendous increase molecular transport across the membrane. REB results in a rapid membrane discharge, with the elevated U(t) returning to low values within a few microseconds of the pulse. However, membrane recovery can be orders of magnitude slower. An associated cell stress commonly occurs, probably because of chemical influxes and effluxes leading to chemical imbalances, which also contribute to eventual survival or death. Basic phenomena, present understanding of mechanism, and the existing and potential applications are briefly reviewed.