Optimizing pulsed electric fields to target cancer with calcium ions
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IMAGE: Sample fluorescence images at 50 ms for 0.27 kV/cm to 1.8 kV/cm electric fields. The ground (negative cathode) is at the left and the high voltage (positive anode) is at… view more 

Credit: Dr. Hamid Hosseini

Several different treatment methods are used against cancer and multiple promising approaches are currently under examination by various institutions around the world. In Japan, one method in particular, calcium electrotransfer, is being studied at Kumamoto University’s Institute of Pulsed Power Science.

Pulsed electric fields (PEFs) have multiple applications in biology, ranging from DNA/drug delivery to the elimination of microorganisms in water. Their use against cancer is not new, but their basic effects on cells are still being clarified. Researchers at Kumamoto University’s Bioelectrics Department recently identified the optimal PEF conditions for increasing the permeability of a cell membrane to calcium. This technique is appealing as a potential cancer treatment since cancer cells are particularly sensitive to an abnormal influx of calcium, it is comparatively cheap, and it has few side effects.

The researchers examined calcium intake in HeLa S3 cells via calcium (Ca2+) fluorescence. For each test, they used a fixed amount of energy but changed the PEF pulse count to assess

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