01 December 2022

Shoot glioblastoma

Glioblastoma cells will be "pierced" by electrical impulses

"First-hand science"

Glioblastoma is the most deadly cancer of the brain. Patients with such a diagnosis usually live only months, and only 6% of them live longer than five years. Recently, scientists have developed a safer and more effective method of destroying brain tumor cells using high-voltage electrical impulses compared to existing ones.

Glioblastoma is a malignant neoplasm that develops from glial cells, "service" brain cells that support its structure and the metabolism of neurons. Glial cells, unlike neurons, are able to divide throughout a person's life and can form tumors.

Standard treatment for glioblastoma includes surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. For the latter, the drug temozolamide is used, which penetrates into the brain through the blood–brain barrier - a biological "filter" that delays not only pathogens and toxins, but also conventional drugs, including most anti-cancer. Temozolamide improves the survival of patients with glioblastoma, but in this case there is no really effective treatment, although the development of specific drugs has been going on for a long time and intensively.

Recently, a group of Canadian and Chinese researchers have developed a new way to fight brain tumors based on the phenomenon of electroporation – the creation of pores in the cell membrane under the influence of an electric field.

Electroporation is already used in the treatment of tumors located in hard-to-reach places, but brain tumors are not among them. The method consists in exposing the tumor to short high-voltage electrical pulses. As a result, the formation of pores in the cell membranes of cancer cells is induced until a critical level is reached, at which the membranes are destroyed and the cells die.

The scientists conducted experiments on glioblastoma cell lines and cultures of healthy cells forming the blood-brain barrier. These cells were subjected to either irreversible non-thermal electroporation (IRE, or NanoKnife), or high-frequency irreversible electroporation (H-FIRE). The goal was to "grope" under which protocols of electric shock treatment glioblastoma cells would be destroyed with minimal risk to surrounding tissues and blood vessels.

It turned out that the mortality thresholds for glioblastoma cells are significantly lower than for the surrounding healthy tissues. So this method can be used if electrodes are inserted directly into the brain through the skull.

According to the researchers, this method of therapy is safer and more effective compared to standard ones. In addition, during the "electrical treatment", the blood-brain barrier will be temporarily disrupted, and this "window" can be used to inject the patient with chemotherapeutic or other drugs, for example, those that help strengthen the antitumor immune response.

Article by Shu et al. Lethal Electric Field Thresholds for Cerebral Cells With Irreversible Electroporation and H-FIRE Protocols: An In Vitro Three-Dimensional Cell Model Study published in the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering.

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