Electroporation is of interest for many drug-delivery and gene-therapy applications. Prior studies have shown that a two-pulse-electroporation protocol consisting of a short-duration, high-voltage first pulse followed by a longer, low-voltage second pulse can increase delivery efficiency and preserve viability. In this work the effects of the field strength of the first and second pulses and the inter-pulse delay time on the delivery of two different-sized Fluorescein-Dextran (FD) conjugates are investigated. A series of two-pulse-electroporation experiments were performed on 3T3-mouse fibroblast cells, with an alternating-current first pulse to permeabilize the cell, followed by a direct-current second pulse. The protocols were rationally designed to best separate the mechanisms of permeabilization and electrophoretic transport. The results showed that the delivery of FD varied strongly with the strength of the first pulse and the size of the target molecule. The delivered FD concentration also decreased linearly with the logarithm of the inter-pulse delay. The data indicate that membrane resealing after electropermeabilization occurs rapidly, but that a non-negligible fraction of the pores can be reopened by the second pulse for delay times on the order of hundreds of seconds. The role of the second pulse is hypothesized to be more than just electrophoresis, with a minimum threshold field strength required to reopen nano-sized pores or defects remaining from the first pulse. These results suggest that membrane electroporation, sealing, and re-poration is a complex process that has both short-term and long-term components, which may in part explain the wide variation in membrane-resealing times reported in the literature.
Keywords: Electroporation; Molecular Delivery; Permeabilization; Resealing.
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