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Working groups

Five WGs have been established following the scientific plan:



Working group 1 - Basic Mechanisms of Electroporation and Modeling

WG1 Leader: Marie-Pierre Rols, IPBS-CNRS, France

(the following description has been extracted from the Memorandum of Understanding)

OBJECTIVES: To obtain in-depth knowledge of biological, physical and chemical mechanisms underlying electroporation.

Computer simulations will be combined with experiments to investigate the interaction of externally applied electric fields with cell membranes. Models of cells membrane ranging from the microscopic (molecular) level to the macroscopic (tissue) level will be constructed using molecular dynamics simulations, coarse grained modelling, and finite element modelling. The results of simulations of these models will be compared with experimental results obtained on biological systems of increasing complexity, from planar lipid bilayers and vesicles to cells and tissues. The results of molecular dynamics simulations will be correlated with experiments on lipid bilayers and cells and then integrated into models of cell membrane and tissue electroporation. The modelling will concern electroporation as well as transport of molecules facilitated by electroporation. The direct visualization of electroporation processes (membrane deformation, membrane poration, transport of molecules, membrane fusion) will be performed by current and voltage clamp measurements (planar lipid bilayers, vesicles, and cells), fluorescence microscopy, confocal microscopy and spectroscopy (single cell level), MRI, MRI CDI and MREIT, chemiluminescence, bioimpedance measurements, and two photon and intravital microscopies (tissue level).

The results of this Working Group will be used in activities of WG 2-4. In this WG, participation of experts
from BMBS, CMST, FA and MPNS domains is required.

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Working group 2 - Food Processing and Pharmaceuticals

WG2 Leader: Giovanna Ferrari, ProdAI S.c.a.r.l. & University of Salerno, Italy

(the following description has been extracted from the Memorandum of Understanding)

OBJECTIVES: To gain knowledge on process-product interactions in food and pharmaceutical applications involving electroporation, and combine it with latest findings in other application areas to improve equipment and process design.

With regard to electroporation application in food industry, the following methods and means are of high importance and will be applied:

  • Characterisation of key interactions: dependent on type of application, either microbial inactivation studies or techniques to detect successful cell disintegration will be applied. In the microbial area, classical microbial techniques such as plate counting, but also advanced techniques such as flow cytometry, isothermal calorimetry and fluorescent staining of cells will be used to detect the effect of processing conditions on microbial cells. For plant tissue, impedance measurements will be applied to evaluate cell disintegration, whereas technological benefits, such as extraction improvement, tissue softening or drying enhancement will be evaluated making use of application oriented analytical techniques.

  • Equipment design: The design of treatment chambers will be based on modelling and coupling of electric and current density fields as well as flow pattern. This will allow the design of chambers with optimum processing homogeneity.

  • Process monitoring: Processing parameters suitable as a dose parameter will be identified to develop process monitoring tools with regard to HACCP concepts in food processing.

The results of this WG will be used in the activities of WG4 and WG5. In this WG, participation of experts from FA, CMST, MPNS, BMBS and ICT domains is required.

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Working group 3 - Medical Applications

WG3 Leader: Julie Gehl, Harlev Hospital, Denmark

(the following description has been extracted from the Memorandum of Understanding)

OBJECTIVES: To disseminate present clinical applications, develop new applications and standardize clinical protocols.

Several medical applications of electroporation are gaining momentum. Electrochemotherapy (ECT) is reversible membrane permeabilization of tumour cells in combination with non-permanent cytotoxic drugs. ECT is already routinely used in about 80 cancer centres in the EU for the treatment of cutaneous and subcutaneous tumour nodules. Current clinical trials focus on internal tumours using recently developed novel electrodes. This European technology is being disseminated inside and outside the EU and this dissemination must be accompanied by continuous upgrading of the pulse generators, electrodes and protocols. Cancer can also be treated by two other emerging electroporation-related technologies that do not require the concomitant administration of a drug: by irreversible electroporation and by the use of nanosecond-long very intense electric pulses, for which the cell death mechanisms are still under investigation. The efficiency of the latter technology will be evaluated by means of flexible pulse generators and exposure systems allowing to explore a wide range of exposure conditions. Then, by establishing exchanges with WG1, the related basic mechanisms will be further elucidated. On the other hand, another technology, the nucleic acids (DNA or RNA) electrotransfer, which also requires reversible electroporation, is finally reaching the clinical stage. This technology may address many inherited and acquired diseases, including infectious diseases. Preclinical results are promising but there is a lack of homogeneous protocols. The Action can be fundamental in this field, as it may generate the emergence of a true European technology (like the ECT technology, comprising specific pulse generators, electrodes and protocols).

The results of this WG will also be used in the activities of WG5. In this WG, participation of experts from BMBS, CMST, MPNS, and ICT domains is required.

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Working group 4 - Sustainable Environmental Applications and Biomass Processing

WG4 Leader: Wolfgang Frey, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany

OBJECTIVES: To identify energy-efficient applications of electroporation, to develop them to industrial scale and to improve the economic and technological efficiency of environmental and biomass applications of electroporation.

An important task of WG4 will be to collect and streamline information about ongoing work in various European institutions on environmental applications, which up to now are mainly focused on wastewater treatment for bacterial decontamination and on biomass treatment for energetic use.

As fossil energy resources are running short, the use of biomass as a renewable, CO2-neutral and sustainable feedstock for energy production is gaining increasing importance. Electroporation can improve the efficiency of biomass processing, e.g. fast and energy-efficient dehydration of agriculturally grown green biomass for further processing. It facilitates microalgae processing for lipid extraction and for the extraction of other value-added products promising downstream processing routes and commercialization options which can provide a profitable net energy output at the end of the complete processing chain. Also PEF treatment of biomass prior to biogas production was shown on lab-scale to improve gas yield.

Bacterial decontamination of wastewater by PEF treatment was demonstrated to be of high sustainability, even exceeding the requirements of current European regulations on wastewater treatment.

In all cases development of industrial-scale electroporation facilities and process integration still remain a challenge. Throughout, large mass-flows of several tons per hour have to be administered. Cross-linked to WG5- and WG1-activities, R&D work on one hand has to focus on the reduction of investment costs and operational expenses for electroporation facilities, e.g. by improving component lifetime and user-friendliness and on the other hand on optimizing electroporation protocols with regard to energy-efficiency. This includes the implementation of combinatory processing by using synergies, like lessening overall energy consumption by moderate pre-heating. Also educational work on societal acceptance of pulsed power technology has to be accomplished for preparing a successful market launch of electroporation-related techniques.

To open new prospective areas of applications is another important goal of WG4 activity. Recently, experimental evidence for growth stimulation of plants and fungi after treatment with pulses of nanosecond duration and sub-lethal amplitude was found, which promises applications in biomass production and conditioning. Currently, related basic mechanisms and signaling chains are unknown. For clarification, WG4 aspires a strong linking to WG1. Also collaboration with WG2 is essential for translating basic effects and principles of food processing into environmental applications.

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Working group 5 - Technology Development and Transfer

WG5 Leader: Stefan Toepfl, German Institute of Food Technologies, Germany

(the following description has been extracted from the Memorandum of Understanding)

OBJECTIVES: To exchange technical knowledge on development of safe and reliable electroporation systems for industrial applications and clinical use.

In the activities of this WG, results from WG2-4 will be used. The activities within this WG will primarily focus on:

  • Identification and compilation of safety issues related to the use of high voltage in a humid industrial and clinical environment and consequences for the design of electroporation systems and components. Special emphasis will be laid on large-scale electroporation devices, regarding to the required pulse amplitudes of several 100 kV and currents ranging even to the MA-range. Such systems, for example, demand detailed analysis of the grounding system and aspects of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). Furthermore, safety procedures need to be defined to maintain non-expert operators’ health and safety.

  • Analysis of EMC issues of electroporation devices in different fields of application with respect to inter-system, and intra-system EMC. A reliable and failure-free operation of system components and adjacent facilities has to be ensured. This WG will collect experiences from manufacturers and operators, and propose a catalogue of basic measures to enhance EMC of electroporation apparatus and devices. This information will be provided to the partners and to regulative and standardisation bodies, developing EMC guidelines for electroporation device manufacturing and operation.

  • Currently, the applied electroporation community uses a variety of design concepts for pulse generators and power supplies with respect to different needs of various applications. This topic strives to an information exchange about generator concepts, component life-time and high-voltage switching, i.e.
    gas-discharge and semiconductor switching, ranging from lab-scale devices to industrial-scale facilities. Depending on the property rights situation to be evaluated, the information exchange will be accomplished either by workshops or by an electroporation device technology web site.

In this WG, participation of experts from FA, BMBS, ESSEM, CMST, MPNS and ICT domains is required.

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