Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-2 - 75

Fig. 1. Various electroporation applications. When exposure of the cell to sufficiently high electric field reaches the cell membrane threshold value, the cell
gets permeabilized. Membrane electroporation/permeabilization can be either reversible, when the cell exposure to electric field is short enough for the cells to
fully recover; or irreversible, when their exposure leads to cell death. In case of reversible electroporation, during the electroporation process, molecules can be
introduced into the cell (electrochemotherapy (ECT), gene electrotransfer (GET)) or molecules can be extracted from the cell.

nerve conduits in the treated area [4]. Furthermore, electroporation emerged in different applications of biotechnology [5],
and it is efficiently utilized for heritable genetic modification
of microorganisms (electrotransformation), extraction of biomolecules, inactivation of microorganisms, and improving the
mass transport in food processes. Some of the applications of
electroporation are presented in Fig. 1.

Generating Electrical Pulses
To achieve successful electroporation, cells have to be exposed
to sufficiently high electric fields (related also to duration of
exposure). Electroporation pulses are electrical pulses, which
are generated by pulse power generators known as electroporators and delivered to the cells (in tissue) via electrodes.
Electrode geometry and tissue dielectric properties define the
electric field intensity. Regardless of the application, electroporators have one common task: electrical pulses generation
and delivery.
Electroporation success depends on the parameters of the
delivered electrical pulses. The parameters of electrical pulses
at the output of commercially available electroporators may
vary in shape, voltage/current amplitude, pulse duration,
number of pulses in a pulse train, and pulse repetition rate [6].
In electroporation, series of pulses are most commonly used for
the treatment. If all pulses in a train/series of pulses are similar, the definition of the characteristics of only a single pulse
and its repetition rate is sufficient for defining the treatment.
The amplitude of the generated pulses may range from a few
tens of volts (e.g., for GET) to a few kilovolts (e.g., for IRE) and
April 2020	

even tens of kilovolts for microbial inactivation in liquid food
pasteurization, with durations that range from nanoseconds to
milliseconds for single pulse or train of pulses with predefined
pulse repetition rate. Pulses may be preset for a specific application or precisely defined for a particular patient.
An electroporation pulse generator comprises an HV
power supply, a pulse generator, a control unit, a user interface and an output module (Fig. 2). The user interface enables
setting pulse parameters as required for a specific application.
It is preferable that the device measures the parameters of delivered pulses and generates warnings in case of malfunction
and/or incorrect operation.
For generation of electrical pulses, an HV power supply
and pulse generator (for pulse shaping) are needed. The output module consists of an output pulse measurement unit and
a commutator for switching high voltage pulses to different
electrodes (if multiple electrodes are used).

Electroporators for Specific
Applications
Electroporators are mainly classified as clinical, industrial or
laboratory-based [7]. Electrodes together with the biological
sample define the load for the output stage of the electroporator. Thus, classification of the electrodes is according to
targeted load, i.e., cells (single-cell chambers, micro-electrodes,
macro-electrodes and flow-through chambers) or tissue (plate,
parallel needle array, hexagonal needle, finger and adjustable
electrodes). Since biological loads as well as the electroporated
volume intrinsically differ in different electroporation-based

IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine	75



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