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Eur Biophys J. 2007 Nov;36(8):973-83. Epub 2007 Jun 19.

Membrane perturbation by an external electric field: a mechanism to permit molecular uptake.

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Institut de Pharmacologie et de Biologie Structurale - CNRS UMR 5089, 205 route de Narbonne, 31077, Toulouse Cedex 4, France.


Electropermeabilisation is a well established physical method, based on the application of electric pulses, which induces the transient permeabilisation of the cell membrane. External molecules, otherwise nonpermeant, can enter the cell. Electropermeabilisation is now in use for the delivery of a large variety of molecules, as drugs and nucleic acids. Therefore, the method has great potential in the fields of cancer treatment and gene therapy. However many open questions about the underlying physical mechanisms involved remain to be answered or fully elucidated. In particular, the induced changes by the effects of the applied field on the membrane structure are still far from being fully understood. The present review focuses on questions related to the current theories, i.e. the basic physical processes responsible for the electropermeabilisation of lipid membranes. It also addresses recent findings using molecular dynamics simulations as well as experimental studies of the effect of the field on membrane components.

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