Modified Blumlein pulse-forming networks for bioelectrical applications.
Intense nanosecond pulsed electric fields (nsPEFs) have been shown to induce, on intracellular structures, interesting effects dependent on electrical exposure conditions (pulse length and amplitude, repetition frequency and number of pulses), which are known in the literature as "bioelectrical effects" (Schoenbach et al., IEEE Trans Plasma Sci 30:293-300, 2002). In particular, pulses with a shorter width than the plasma membrane charging time constant (about 100 ns for mammalian cells) can penetrate the cell and trigger effects such as permeabilization of intracellular membranes, release of Ca(2+) and apoptosis induction. Moreover, the observed effects have led to exploration of medical applications, like the treatment of melanoma tumors (Nuccitelli et al., Biochem Biophys Res Commun 343:351-360, 2006). Pulsed electric fields allowing such effects usually range from several tens to a few hundred nanoseconds in duration and from a few to several tens of megavolts per meter in amplitude (Schoenbach et al., IEEE Trans Diel Elec Insul 14:1088-1109, 2007); however, the biological effects of subnanosecond pulses have been also investigated (Schoenbach et al., IEEE Trans Plasma Sci 36:414-422, 2008). The use of such a large variety of pulse parameters suggests that highly flexible pulse-generating systems, able to deliver wide ranges of pulse durations and amplitudes, are strongly required in order to explore effects and applications related to different exposure conditions. The Blumlein pulse-forming network is an often-employed circuit topology for the generation of high-voltage electric pulses with fixed pulse duration. An innovative modification to the Blumlein circuit has been recently devised which allows generation of pulses with variable amplitude, duration and polarity. Two different modified Blumlein pulse-generating systems are presented in this article, the first based on a coaxial cable configuration, matching microscopic slides as a pulse-delivery system, and the other based on microstrip transmission lines and designed to match cuvettes for the exposure of cell suspensions.