The technique, known as irreversible electroporation (IRE), was developed by a research team headed by Boris Rubinsky, currently on leave as professor of bioengineering and mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and now head of the Center for Biomedical Engineering in the Service of Humanity and Society at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The success of a large-scale study on pigs who were treated using the technique is described in the February issue of the journal Technology in Cancer Research and Treatment.
"I've been working in this area of minimally invasive surgery for 30 years now," said Rubinsky, lead author of the paper in the journal. "I truly think that this will be viewed as one of the most important advances in the treatment of tumors in years. I am very excited about the potential of this technique. It may have tremendous applications in many areas of medicine and surgery."
Rubinsky co-authored the paper with Dr. Gary Onik, director of surgical imaging at Florida Hospital Celebration Health. They founded the Oncobionic Company two years ago to commercialize IRE. Oncobionic is in the process of being sold to AngioDynamics, a New York-based manufacturer of medical devices for minimally invasive surgery.
It was first reported in the early 1970s that the application to cells of very fast electrical pulses – in the microsecond and millisecond range – creates an electrical field that causes nanoscale pores to open in the cell membrane (electroporation). But research since then has mainly focused on reversible electroporation, which uses voltages low enough to temporarily increase the cell membrane's permeability. The holes in the cell membrane created by reversible electroporation close up shortly after treatment, allowing the cell to survive.
“This concept of reversible electroporation really caught on in modern biotechnology, especially over the last decade," said Rubinsky. "It is used primarily to help get genes and drugs into cells (but is not effective in killing “target” cells directly). The field of irreversible electroporation was pretty much forgotten."
Irreversible electroporation uses electrical pulses that are slightly longer and stronger than reversible electroporation. With IRE, the holes in the cell membrane do not reseal, causing the cell to die. IRE utilizes a range of electrical current that causes permanent damage to cell membranes without generating heat and thermal damage.
The advantage to this, say the researchers, is that IRE overcomes the limitations of current minimally invasive surgical techniques that use extreme heat, such as hyperthermia or radiofrequency, or extreme cold, such as cryosurgery, to destroy tumorous cells. They point out that this type of temperature damage to cells also causes structural damage to proteins and the surrounding connective tissue. For liver cancer, for example, the bile duct is at risk for damage. For prostate cancer, the urethra and surrounding nerve tissue is often affected.
Irreversible electroporation, on the other hand, acts just on the targeted cell membrane, leaving collagen fibers and other vascular tissue structures intact. The researchers said that leaving the tissue's "scaffolding" in place in this manner allows healthy cells to regrow far more quickly than if everything in the region were destroyed.In the new study, the researchers set out to demonstrate that the IRE technique could produce reliable and predictable results in a large animal model. They performed the IRE surgical technique on 14 healthy female pigs under general anesthesia, using the same procedures as if the patients were human.
They showed that selected cell membranes were destroyed, while untargeted adjacent tissue healed remarkably quickly. Although the tissue chosen for destruction in this study was healthy, the researchers found in a prior cell culture study that IRE effectively kills human liver cancer tissue.
A further chronic drawback of heat or cryo (cold) treatments for cancer is the difficulty in treating cells that are immediately adjacent to the blood vessels. Because blood maintains a relatively stable temperature, it actually transfers heat or cold away from a treatment area in an attempt to return the region to a normal temperature range. That means some cancerous cells might actually survive treatment.
"That counts for a lot of failures when treating liver cancers," said Onik. "With IRE, you can destroy cancerous cells right next to the blood vessels. It's a more complete treatment. In my clinical experience, this is about as good as it gets. We've been using other techniques for a long time. This provides significant improvements over other treatments."
"While we are obviously very excited about this advance in tumor removal, we are still in the early stages of our learning curve," Onik cautioned. "There is always the potential for unexpected results."
The IRE technology was cleared for human use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2006. Onik is scheduled to begin human clinical trials for IRE this summer.
Jerry Barach | alfa
Custom-tailored strategy against glioblastomas
26.09.2016 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
New leukemia treatment offers hope
23.09.2016 | King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Heavy construction machinery is the focus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s latest advance in additive manufacturing research. With industry partners and university students, ORNL researchers are designing and producing the world’s first 3D printed excavator, a prototype that will leverage large-scale AM technologies and explore the feasibility of printing with metal alloys.
Increasing the size and speed of metal-based 3D printing techniques, using low-cost alloys like steel and aluminum, could create new industrial applications...
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of light metals.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have now developed two new process variants that will considerably expand the areas of application for friction stir welding.
Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovations.
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of...
Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.
Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.
“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...
With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...
30.09.2016 | Event News
29.09.2016 | Event News
28.09.2016 | Event News
30.09.2016 | Materials Sciences
30.09.2016 | Earth Sciences
30.09.2016 | Life Sciences