Standard electroporation with pulses in milliseconds has been used as an effective tool to deliver drugs or genetic probes into cells, while irreversible electroporation with nanosecond pulses is explored to alter intracellular activities for pulse-induced apoptosis. A combination treatment, long nanosecond pulses followed by standard millisecond pulses, is adopted in this work to help facilitate DNA plasmids to cross both cell plasma membrane and nuclear membrane quickly to promote the transgene expression level and kinetics in both adherent and suspension cells. Nanosecond pulses with 400–800 ns duration are found effective on disrupting nuclear membrane to advance nuclear delivery of plasmid DNA. The additional microfluidic operation further helps suppress the negative impacts such as Joule heating and gas bubble evolution from common nanosecond pulse treatment that lead to high toxicity and/or ineffective transfection. Having appropriate order and little delay between the two types of treatment with different pulse duration is critical to guarantee the effectiveness: 2 folds or higher transfection efficiency enhancement and rapid transgene expression kinetics of GFP plasmids at no compromise of cell viability. The implementation of this new electroporation approach may benefit many biology studies and clinical practice that needs efficient delivery of exogenous probes.
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