Nano lighting rods for electroporation-based therapies

Bachelor's thesis (TFG) proposal for Biomedical Engineering students at Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Electroporation is a phenomenon in which the cell membrane, when exposed to short high electric field pulses, increases its permeability to ions and macromolecules. This phenomenon can be transient and yield viable cells after treatment (reversible electroporation) or can severely alter cell homeostasis and result in cell death (irreversible electroporation). There are some important applications of electroporation in medicine and biotechnology such as gene transfection or tumor destruction methods.

Two major drawbacks of electroporation-based therapies are: the lack of selectivity and the need to deliver high voltages to the patient (up to 3kV). We believe that these two drawbacks may be addressed with the help of nanoparticles.

Nanotechnology has generated an emerging field in medicine: nanomedicine. Biomedical nanomaterials can open the landscape of targeted therapy, diagnosis/sensing, tissue engineering or prosthesis/implants. The physicochemical properties of the nanomaterials determine their functionality. Therefore, it is key to rationally design (i.e. customize) them depending on the requirements of each application.

Within this TFG project, it will be explored in silico and in vitro the use of plasmonic edged nanoparticles for enhancing electroporation. We hypothesize that plasmonic nanoparticles in contact with the cell membrane will facilitate cell electroporation due to local enhancement of the electric field by the tips. That is, we hypothesize that the nanoparticles will act as lighting rods. This TFG project will be developed in collaboration with the Integrative Biomedical Materials and Nanomedicine Lab (CEXS-UPF).

Contact: Antoni Ivorra <antoni.ivorra@upf.edu>