Electroporation: Definition, Uses, & Benefits


Electroporation is a method of transfection used to facilitate the transfer of DNA, RNA, proteins, and small chemical molecules into cells. Electroporation can also be referred to as electropermeabilization. This method is used in large-scale protein production and even cancer therapy.

What is electroporation?

Electroporation is a technique used to introduce DNA, RNA, proteins, and small chemical molecules into cells. It is particularly useful for large-scale protein production and even in cancer therapy. This technique can be used on bacteria and yeast because it does not require the use of transformation or transfection agents.

How does electroporation work?

Electroporation is a method of introducing DNA into a cell. It uses a short electric pulse to create pores in the cell membrane. This allows the DNA to enter the cell and become part of its genetic makeup. The pores are temporary and close after a short period of time, so they won’t allow toxins or other harmful substances to enter your cells.

Electroporation is a technique used to facilitate the transfer of DNA and other molecules into a cell. When cells are exposed to an electric field, their membranes become permeable and can be subsequently fused by various agents such as DNA or lipids.

What is electroporation used for?

Electroporation is used in:

Genetic engineering

The most common use of electroporation is in genetic engineering. A small electric pulse is applied to cells containing a piece of DNA that you want to transfer into the cell’s genome. This allows some of the DNA to enter the cell and become part of its genetic makeup. The pores are temporary and close after a short period of time, so they won’t allow toxins or other harmful substances to enter your cells.

Protein production

Electroporation is used to produce proteins in bacterial cells. This can be done by inserting a gene that codes for the protein of your choice into the genome of a bacterial cell. The electric pulse opens up pores in the cell’s membrane, allowing messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules containing the gene to enter and start producing protein.

Cancer therapy

Electroporation is used to treat cancer by delivering DNA into tumor cells. A virus or other vector carrying the DNA is used as a carrier; it will infect and enter the tumor cell, then release its load of DNA through pores in the cell’s membrane.

Bacterial and yeast studies

Bacterial and yeast studies have shown that electroporation can be used to carry out gene knockouts and other genetic manipulations in bacteria and yeast. This method is used to study the effects of gene knockout or overexpression in a particular organism. It can also be used for large-scale mutagenesis studies, producing hundreds of thousands of strains per experiment.

Creating transgenic animals

Transgenic animals are animals whose DNA has been altered by the introduction of foreign genes. The most common method of creating transgenic animals is to use electroporation to transfer a plasmid containing a gene into embryonic stem cells (ESCs). These ESCs can then be used to produce cloned offspring that carry the new gene.

Creating transgenic plants

Transgenic plants are created by introducing foreign DNA into a plant’s cells. This is usually done to introduce new traits or to silence genes that cause disease. The most common way to create transgenic plants is through the use of Agrobacterium tumefaciens (AT) bacteria. AT bacteria naturally colonize the roots of many plant species, including tomatoes and potatoes, where they can transfer their own DNA into the host genome.

Advantages of Electroporation

Electroporation advantages

It’s a non-invasive

It’s a non-invasive technique that doesn’t require any surgery, incisions or stitches. Instead, it uses an electric field to deliver DNA into your cells by punching holes in their membranes.It is non-viral, non-toxic, and can be used on all cell types including human and animal cells.

It’s non-destructive

Electroporation doesn’t kill your cells or damage their DNA like other methods do. This makes it ideal for studying single cells from human tissue samples—you don’t have to worry about damaging the very thing you’re trying to study!

It’s quick

Electroporation takes only about 30 seconds per sample—much faster than other methods for delivering DNA into living cells like transfection (about 3 hours) or chemical conjugation (1 hour). That means researchers can get back on track quickly after each electroporation experiment and start analyzing results sooner!

Disadvantages of Electroporation

While electroporation is powerful, it does have its drawbacks. As a biological technique, it has limitations that make it unsuitable for certain applications. In fact, there are several situations where electroporation should not be used at all. For example:

Electroporation isn’t always efficient.

Electroporation isn’t always the most efficient method for introducing DNA into cells. The process of introducing DNA into a cell can sometimes be improved through techniques such as transfection (introducing DNA with a virus) or lipofection (introducing DNA with liposomes). Electroporation may also be less effective than these methods because it requires large amounts of energy to open pores in the membrane of biologic structures like cells. This requires more time and voltage than other methods.

Can’t be used in all cells.

Electroporation works on cells with high transfection efficiency, which means they are easy to permeabilize and therefore easily transfected. If you want to use electroporation on a cell line that’s not known for its transfection efficiency, it’s possible you’ll need to do other methods of transfection first in order for the cells to be permeable enough for electroporation.

Can’t be used if you’re using small plasmids.

Because electroporation uses electric fields, which can cause heating and shearing of your DNA, it’s not ideal if you’re using a small plasmid with low transfection efficiency. The smaller the plasmid is, the more likely it will be damaged by the electric field during electroporation.

The technique has been used for decades and continues to be an effective way of transferring DNA into cells. If you’d like to learn more about the potential uses for MDMR gene editing, feel free to view our blog or resources page.