Electroporation in Biological Cell and Tissue: An Overview

  • Maša Kandušer
  • Damijan Miklavčič
Part of the Food Engineering Series book series (FSES)


In this chapter, basics and mechanisms of electroporation are presented. Most important electric pulse parameters for electroporation efficiency for different applications that involve introduction of small molecules and macromolecules into the cell or cell membrane electrofusion are described. In all these applications, cell viability has to be preserved. However, in some biotechnological applications, such as liquid food sterilization or water treatment, electroporation is used as a method for efficient cell killing. For all the applications mentioned above, besides electric pulse parameters, other factors, such as electroporation medium composition and osmotic pressure, play significant roles in electroporation effectiveness. For controlled use of the method in all applications, the basic mechanisms of electroporation need to be known. The phenomenon was studied from the single-cell level and dense cell suspension that represents a simplified homogenous tissue model, to complex biological tissues. In the latter, different cell types and electric conductivity that change during the course of electric pulse application can significantly affect the effectiveness of the treatment. For such a complex situation, the design and use of suitable electrodes and theoretical modeling of electric field distribution within the tissue are essential. Electroporation as a universal method applicable to different cell types is used for different purposes. In medicine it is used for electrochemotherapy and genetherapy. In biotechnology it is used for water and liquid food sterilization and for transfection of bacteria, yeast, plant protoplast, and intact plant tissue. Understanding the phenomenon of electroporation, its mechanisms and optimization of all the parameters that affect electroporation is a prerequisite for successful treatment. In addition to the parameters mentioned above, different biological characteristics of treated cell affect the outcome of the treatment. Electroporation, gene electrotransfer and electrofusion are affected by cell membrane fluidity, cytoskeleton, and the presence of the cell wall in bacteria yeast and plant cells. Thus, electroporation parameters need to be specifically optimized for different cell types.


Electric Pulse Electric Field Distribution Plant Protoplast Irreversible Electroporation Cell Membrane Fluidity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to thank mag. Selma Čorović for preparation of the figures, Dr. Alenka Maček-Lebar and Ane upanič for their useful comments. The work was financially supported by Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS ).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maša Kandušer
    • 1
  • Damijan Miklavčič
  1. 1.Faculty of Electrical EngineeringUniversity of LjubljanaSlovenia

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