The Fabrication and Operation of a Continuous Flow, Micro-Electroporation System with Permeabilization Detection

Joseph J. Sherba, Maria Atzampou, Hao Lin, Jerry W. Shan, David I. Shreiber, Jeffrey D. Zahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current therapeutic innovations, such as CAR-T cell therapy, are heavily reliant on viral-mediated gene delivery. Although efficient, this technique is accompanied by high manufacturing costs, which has brought about an interest in using alternative methods for gene delivery. Electroporation is an electro-physical, non-viral approach for the intracellular delivery of genes and other exogenous materials. Upon the application of an electric field, the cell membrane temporarily allows molecular delivery into the cell. Typically, electroporation is performed on the macroscale to process large numbers of cells. However, this approach requires extensive empirical protocol development, which is costly when working with primary and difficult-to-transfect cell types. Lengthy protocol development, coupled with the requirement of large voltages to achieve sufficient electric-field strengths to permeabilize the cells, has led to the development of micro-scale electroporation devices. These micro-electroporation devices are manufactured using common microfabrication techniques and allow for greater experimental control with the potential to maintain high throughput capabilities. This work builds off a microfluidic-electroporation technology capable of detecting the level of cell membrane permeabilization at a single-cell level under continuous flow. However, this technology was limited to 4 cells processed per second, and thus a new approach for increasing the system throughput is proposed and presented here. This new technique, denoted as cell-population-based feedback control, considers the cell permeabilization response to a variety of electroporation pulsing conditions and determines the best-suited electroporation pulse conditions for the cell type under test. A higher-throughput mode is then used, where this 'optimal' pulse is applied to the cell suspension in transit. The steps for fabricating the device, setting up and running the microfluidic experiments, and analyzing the results are presented in detail. Finally, this micro-electroporation technology is demonstrated by delivering a DNA plasmid encoding for green fluorescent protein (GFP) into HEK293 cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere63103
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number179
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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