A simple electrical model for biological cells predicts an increasing probability for electric field interactions with cell substructures of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells when the electric pulse duration is reduced into the sub-microsecond range. The validity of this hypothesis was verified experimentally by applying electrical pulses with electric field intensities of up to 5.3 MV/m to human eosinophils in vitro. When 3-5 pulses of 60 ns duration were applied to human eosinophils, intracellular granules were modified without permanent disruption of the plasma membrane. In spite of the extreme electrical power levels applied to the cells thermal effects could be neglected because of the ultrashort pulse duration. The intracellular effect extends conventional electroporation to cellular substructures and opens the potential for new applications in apoptosis induction, gene delivery to the nucleus, or altered cell functions, depending on the electrical pulse conditions.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.