The mechanism(s) responsible for the breakdown (nanoporation) of cell plasma membranes after nanosecond pulse (nsEP) exposure remains poorly understood. Current theories focus exclusively on the electrical field, citing electrostriction, water dipole alignment and/or electrodeformation as the primary mechanisms for pore formation. However, the delivery of a high-voltage nsEP to cells by tungsten electrodes creates a multitude of biophysical phenomena, including electrohydraulic cavitation, electrochemical interactions, thermoelastic expansion, and others. To date, very limited research has investigated non-electric phenomena occurring during nsEP exposures and their potential effect on cell nanoporation. Of primary interest is the production of acoustic shock waves during nsEP exposure, as it is known that acoustic shock waves can cause membrane poration (sonoporation). Based on these observations, our group characterized the acoustic pressure transients generated by nsEP and determined if such transients played any role in nanoporation. In this paper, we show that nsEP exposures, equivalent to those used in cellular studies, are capable of generating high-frequency (2.5MHz), high-intensity (>13kPa) pressure transients. Using confocal microscopy to measure cell uptake of YO-PRO®-1 (indicator of nanoporation of the plasma membrane) and changing the electrode geometry, we determined that acoustic waves alone are not responsible for poration of the membrane.
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