The holes in the cell membranes which is being punched by electrical pulses could give better delivery of drugs. The effectiveness of many potentially powerful treatments including cancer therapy and gene therapy are limited by the difficulty of getting drug molecules in through cell membranes. Researchers in San Diego, California, have been developing a new way of delivering drugs called electroporation, which involves punching tiny holes into cell membranes using electrical pulses.
Each pulse lasts only millionths of a second, but when applied it opens up microscopic pores in the cell membrane so that drug molecules can enter into the cell. When the pulse is stopped, the holes close up again so the drug stays inside.
Research so far has applied electroporation to cancer chemotherapy, the delivery of DNA for gene therapy, and to the delivery of drugs for a range of medical problems, including heart disease and glaucoma. Some of the applications are now in advanced development, for head and neck tumours, for example. In the future, electroporation could be very widely applied for drug delivery.