Electroporation: A Vital Advance to Further Life Science Research

(DGIwire) – “Electroporation” is a big word that describes a process taking place on a small scale in the laboratory. As noted on BiotechArticles.com, electroporation involves passing an electric current through the surface of a living cell. By doing so, pores appear on the surface through which material can easily pass. Widely used in the field of molecular biology, electroporation is a prime technique whenever researchers want to insert a molecular probe, a small fragment of DNA or any drug that can alter the function of the cell.

“Electroporation is a very heavily utilized technique across many areas of life science research, and as a result, much innovation in the instrumentation field has taken place around it,” says Jeffrey Duchemin, President and CEO of Harvard Bioscience. “These advanced instruments allow a level of precision and capabilities that were not previously available to researchers.”

A bit more technically, electroporation is a physical transfection method that works by passing an electrical current through a cell or tissue sample. The current delivered by electroporation instruments induces charge differentials between the inside and outside of the cell membranes, resulting in the formation of transient pores in the cell membrane. During this carefully controlled electrical pulse, the gene editing constructs move into the cell through these pores, and the cell membrane reseals after the completion of the pulse. With electroporation, the size of the gene editing constructs and donor knock-in DNA molecules that are delivered to the target cells are not limited. Electroporation may also penetrate to transfect cultured organs or whole tissues of live organisms.

Currently available electroporation equipment is tailored to fit different types of applications depending on the researcher’s target cell or tissue types. Different types of waveforms, or electrical pulse shapes, are available to target different types of samples. Square electroporation waves consist of pulses that are delivered at a constant voltage, whereas exponential decay waves consist of pulses that begin at a peak voltage, which then decays exponentially over time. Square wave electroporation systems such as the ECM 830 from Harvard Bioscience’s subsidiary BTX, are ideal for transfecting mammalian cells and tissues.

Exponential decay wave systems such as the BTX ECM 630 are ideal for transforming bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms. For laboratories that need to universally transfect or transform all cell types of organisms, instruments that offer both square and exponential decay waveforms such as the BTX Gemini Twin Wave Electroporator offer both square and exponential decay modes for universal electroporation of any sample. In addition, electrofusion equipment such as the BTX ECM 2001+ offer more complex combinations of alternating current and square waveforms that may be employed in cell fusion, embryo manipulation and hybridoma production. These types of instruments are best suited for applications utilizing gene editing technology to create transgenic research animals.

“Electroporation is bound to continue to serve as a crucial tool for researchers, who have a selection of instruments at their disposal that is wider than ever,” Mr. Duchemin adds.