Membrane permeabilization of mammalian cells using bursts of high magnetic field pulses

PeerJ. 2017 Apr 26;5:e3267. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3267. eCollection 2017.


Background: Cell membrane permeabilization by pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) is a novel contactless method which results in effects similar to conventional electroporation. The non-invasiveness of the methodology, independence from the biological object homogeneity and electrical conductance introduce high flexibility and potential applicability of the PEMF in biomedicine, food processing, and biotechnology. The inferior effectiveness of the PEMF permeabilization compared to standard electroporation and the lack of clear description of the induced transmembrane transport are currently of major concern.

Methods: The PEMF permeabilization experiments have been performed using a 5.5 T, 1.2 J pulse generator with a multilayer inductor as an applicator. We investigated the feasibility to increase membrane permeability of Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells using short microsecond (15 µs) pulse bursts (100 or 200 pulses) at low frequency (1 Hz) and high dB/dt (>106 T/s). The effectiveness of the treatment was evaluated by fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry using two different fluorescent dyes: propidium iodide (PI) and YO-PRO®-1 (YP). The results were compared to conventional electroporation (single pulse, 1.2 kV/cm, 100 µs), i.e., positive control.

Results: The proposed PEMF protocols (both for 100 and 200 pulses) resulted in increased number of permeable cells (70 ± 11% for PI and 67 ± 9% for YP). Both cell permeabilization assays also showed a significant (8 ± 2% for PI and 35 ± 14% for YP) increase in fluorescence intensity indicating membrane permeabilization. The survival was not affected.

Discussion: The obtained results demonstrate the potential of PEMF as a contactless treatment for achieving reversible permeabilization of biological cells. Similar to electroporation, the PEMF permeabilization efficacy is influenced by pulse parameters in a dose-dependent manner.

Keywords: CHO cells; Electropermeabilization; Electroporation; Magnetopermeabilization; Propidium iodide; YO-PRO-1.

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.4626298

Grant support

This work was supported by the Slovenian Research Agency (research core funding No. P2-0249 and IP-0510 and funding to JD), Research Council of Lithuania Towards Future Technologies Programme grant Reg. Nr. LAT-02/2016 and Lithuanian Academy of Science funding to VN. There was no additional external funding received for this study. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.