Effects of electrical pulses on the dielectric properties of biological cells

A. L. Garner, J. Yang, N. Chen, J. Kolb, K. C. Loftin, R. J. Swanson, S. Beebe, R. P. Joshi, Karl H. Schoenbach

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Despite a basic knowledge of cells' biochemical processes, their electrical properties, particularly the changes in membrane properties upon the application of pulsed electric fields (PEF's), have not yet been fully characterized. Microsecond pulses above a certain threshold cause electroporation of the cell membrane while nanosecond pulses of higher voltage additionally porate the inner organelles. We used Time Domain Dielectric Spectroscopy to measure the conductivity of HL-60 (human leukemia) cell suspensions as a function of time after 10 ns, 78.5 kV/cm pulses and 50 μs, 1.1 Kv/cm pulses, which have the same energy. The conductivity increased immediately after the 50 μs pulse, indicating that ion channels in the HL-60 membranes initially opened. However, the conductivity decreased immediately after the ultrashort pulse, indicating that ion channels initially closed. The conductivity decreases significantly approximately 40 minutes after both pulses. This suggests that not only do the pores or channels opened close, but pores or channels open in the membrane prior to the pulse may close as well. These measurements were an intermediate step in determining the electrical properties of HL-60 cells using a two-shell model. Once determined, these electrical parameters will be used in electroporation models developed at Old Dominion University.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-55
Number of pages4
JournalConference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena (CEIDP), Annual Report
StatePublished - 2003
Event2003 Annual Report: Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dieletric Phenomena - Albuquerque, NM, United States
Duration: Oct 19 2003Oct 22 2003


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