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Experimental Electric Pulse Technique May Solve Stent Dilemma

by Lynn Shapiro, Writer | April 08, 2009
Prof. Boris Rubinsky
of the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem
A technique called irreversible electroporation (IRE), which appears to prevent restenosis better than angioplasty and stent implantation, has been developed by researchers led by Professor Boris Rubinsky of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

While angioplasty and coronary stents are now the gold standard for re-opening arteries in patients who have suffered a heart attack, it is ironic that stents--inserted to keep the arteries open--sometimes damage the arterial wall and make restenosis more likely.

Using IRE, electrical fields are applied across targeted cells, penetrating the cell membranes. The electrical fields damage only the cell membranes responsible for restenosis, causing no collateral damage to other structures in the treated area, Hebrew University says.

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In an article published March 9 in the journal PLoS ONE, Rubinsky's team demonstrated that IRE "can efficiently, safely and quickly destroy the cells responsible for the restenosis phenomenon in rats," Hebrew University said. The pre-clinical study showed that IRE successfully destroyed almost all of those cells in less than 23 seconds. Clinical trials are currently being designed.

"While the phenomenon of irreversible electroporation was known for decades, a team led by Rubinsky developed a new mode of application that affects only selected molecules in tissue, and as a consequence, it has become only recently rigorously considered in medicine for various applications of tissue removal," Hebrew University says.

IRE was also recently used on human beings in Melbourne, Australia, to kill prostate, liver and lung tumors.

Professor Rubinsky is the director of the Center for Bioengineering at the Selim and Rachel Benin School of Engineering and Computer Science of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is also a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Prof. Jay Lavee, head of the heart transplant unit at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, is cooperating with Prof. Rubinsky in development of the IRE technique for heart patients.