Subcellular effects of nanosecond electrical pulses

Karl H. Schoenbach, Ravindra Joshi, J. Kolb, Stephen Buescher, Stephen Beebe

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Electrical models for biological cells predict that reducing the duration of applied electrical pulses to values below the charging time of the outer membrane causes a strong increase in the probability for electric field interactions with intracellular structures. For electric field amplitudes exceeding MV/m such pulses are expected to cause electroporation of cell organelles, with the required electric field amplitude scaling linearly with the inverse of pulse duration. Experimental studies where human cells were exposed to pulsed electric field of up to 300 kV/cm amplitude with duration as short as 10 ns, have confirmed this hypothesis. The observed effects include the breaching of intracellular granule membranes without permanent damage to the cell membrane, abrupt rises in intracellular free calcium levels, and enhanced expression of genes. At increased electric fields, the application of nanosecond pulses induces apoptosis in biological cells, an effect that has been shown to reduce the growth of tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5447-5450
Number of pages4
JournalAnnual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology - Proceedings
Volume26 VII
StatePublished - 2004
EventConference Proceedings - 26th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, EMBC 2004 - San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: Sep 1 2004Sep 5 2004


  • Apoptosis
  • Calcium release
  • Intracellular electro-effects
  • Nanosecond pulsed electric fields


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