, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 167-176
Date: 27 Jun 2009

Nucleic Acids Electrotransfer-Based Gene Therapy (Electrogenetherapy): Past, Current, and Future

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About 25 years after the publication of the first report on gene transfer in vitro in cultured cells by the means of electric pulses delivery, reversible cell electroporation for gene transfer and gene therapy (DNA electrotransfer) is at a cross in its development. Present knowledge on the effects of cell exposure to appropriate electric field pulses, particularly at the level of the cell membrane, is reported here. The importance of the models of electric field distribution in tissues and of the correct choice of electrodes and applied voltages is highlighted. The mechanisms involved in DNA electrotransfer, which include cell electropermeabilization and DNA electrophoresis, are also surveyed. This knowledge has allowed developing new nucleic acids electrotransfer conditions using combinations of permeabilizing pulses of high voltage and short duration, and of electrophoretic pulses of low voltage and long duration, which are very efficient and safer. Feasibility of electric pulses delivery for gene transfer in humans is discussed taking into account that electric pulses delivery is already regularly used for localized drug delivery in the treatment of cutaneous and subcutaneous solid tumors by electrochemotherapy. Because recent technological developments made DNA electrotransfer more and more efficient and safer, this non-viral gene therapy approach is now ready to reach the clinical stage. A good understanding of DNA electrotransfer principles and the respect of safe procedures will be key elements for a successful future transfer DNA electrotransfer into the clinics.