University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Slovenia

Electroporation in biomedicine

CV: Damijan Miklavčič was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in 1963. He received his PhD degree in electrical engineering from the University of Ljubljana in 1993. He is currently a tenured Professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the University of Ljubljana. His current research interests include electroporation-based treatments and therapies, including cancer treatment by means of electrochemotherapy, cardiac tissue ablation by irreversible electroporation, and gene transfer for gene therapy and DNA vaccination. His research involves biological experimentation, numerical modelling of biological processes, and hardware development.

Abstract: Application of short high-voltage electric pulses causes transient increase of membrane permeability for molecules that otherwise are deprived of transport mechanisms. The phenomenon is known as electroporation and can be reversible – cell survives, or irreversible – cell dies. Reversible electroporation can be successfully used in introducing molecules such as RNA and DNA into cells for gene therapy and DNA vaccination, or chemotherapeutic drugs thus increasing their cellular accumulation and cytotoxicity in a treatment named elecrochemotherapy. Irreversible electroporation is on the other hand used successfully as a non-thermal tissue ablation method in local tumor treatment. Of particular interest is its potential that is bringing in cardiac tissue ablation as it promises fast and safe ablation of arrhythmogenic substrate with little or no damage to collateral tissues, e.g. lungs, esophagus and phrenic nerve in atrial fibrillation treatment by pulmonary vein isolation. Although final proof of its efficacy is still awaited, it has triggered enormous interest in cardiac electrophysiology arena. I will review the electroporation phenomenon at the membrane, cell and tissue level and highlight current challenges in making electroporation-based therapies safe and efficient.