Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cell shocked

11.03.2004


SC researchers present new electric pulse technology



A new technology that uses electric fields to alter the "guts" of a cell may lead to improved methods of treating diseases such as cancer and leukemia, according to researchers in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

The technology, called electroperturbation, exposes cells to electric pulses just tens of nanoseconds (tens of billionths of a second) long, said electrical engineer Thomas Vernier, an investigator on a collaborative study to develop the technology.


Results of the work - supported primarily by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research with additional funding from the Army Research Office - were reported today at the national Nanotechnology 2004 conference in Boston, Mass.

The pulses are so brief and intense that they pass virtually undetected through the outer membrane of the cell without damaging it, Vernier said. But these fast-rising pulses pack such a powerful punch to the intracellular structures of the cell that they can dramatically change its biochemical balance, or trigger the start of cell death, a process known as apoptosis.

"In essence, we’re delivering thousands of volts to the cell in mere nanosecond intervals," said Vernier, an expert in semiconductors who is an engineering manager at the USC Viterbi School’s Information Sciences Institute.

"These high-frequency pulses are so short that they pass right through the cytoplasmic membrane without altering its structure," he said. "But they jolt the cell’s insides and, when delivered in strong enough doses, prompt the cell to self-destruct."

Still a fairly new application, nanosecond electric pulsing uses "Ultra-short Pulsed Systems Electroperturbation Technology," or UPSET. The technology, which has been in development at the school’s department of electrical engineering since 2001, is supported by grants secured by the project’s principal investigator, Martin Gundersen, a professor of electrical engineering.

Vernier and a research team from the department of electrical engineering, the department of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the Biophotonics Laboratory at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have been testing the UPSET technology by exposing leukemia cells to high-frequency electric fields.

The technique has advantages over conventional T-cell treatments, Vernier said. For starters, it is noninvasive and can be delivered remotely, without attaching contacts or probes directly to the cells. The hope is that nanoelectric pulsing one day may replace procedures such as surgical removal of tumors or toxic treatments such as chemotherapy.

Nanosecond pulsing is an improvement over an older technique, called electroporation, Vernier said. Electroporation delivers longer duration electric pulses on the order of microseconds to milliseconds. The pulses punch holes in the cell’s external membrane, but they also can inadvertently fry the cell.

Ultra-short electric pulses deliver shorter and higher-frequency bursts of electricity, which do not puncture the cell’s outer membrane or raise its temperature enough to damage the cell. Instead, Vernier said, the swift spike in voltage simply rearranges the cell’s insides, such as its nucleus and mitochondria, without altering its outer shell.

Working in Gundersen’s laboratory on the third floor of USC’s Seaver Science Center, Vernier uses UPSET to study the biological mechanisms that trigger cell death.

Healthy cells automatically self-destruct when they become unhealthy or when their numbers grow too large. Mutated cells, such as cancer cells, lose the capacity to self-destruct and, instead, begin to proliferate rapidly. So Vernier and his colleagues zap cells with different pulse exposures to see how the cells react.

After exposure, the cells are treated with membrane-staining dyes and imaged to identify internal changes. Vernier’s team also is studying the effects of the technology on different types of cells.

"The more powerful nanosecond pulsing requires a very sophisticated solid-state micropulse generator, a coaxial cable and special spark-gap switch, all of which we are designing and assembling at USC," Vernier said.

Initial observations of the UPSET system have shown that the nanosecond pulses produce bursts of calcium inside cells within milliseconds after the pulse is delivered, Vernier said.

"This is important because calcium ions serve as regulatory messengers in a wide variety of processes across the physiological landscape of the cell," he said. "We are very interested in understanding how we might be able to use calcium ion releases to alter specific intracellular structures."

As the technology is refined, Vernier believes UPSET may become a more practical and convenient tool for treating a variety of diseases. The technology also is likely to lead to other biologically inspired nanomachines that one day may be capable of coaxing unhealthy cells into healing or killing themselves.

Usha Sutliff | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.usc.edu/

More articles from Process Engineering:

nachricht New manufacturing process for SiC power devices opens market to more competition
14.09.2017 | North Carolina State University

nachricht Quick, Precise, but not Cold
17.05.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

All articles from Process Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>