Cell electropermeabilization (also termed cell electroporation) is nowadays a routine technique used in biochemical and pharmacological studies for the in vitro introduction of nonpermeant molecules into living cells. But electric pulses can be used as well in vivo for the delivery of drugs or DNA into cells of tissues. This review then gives an updated overview of the therapeutic perspectives of cell electropermeabilization in vivo, in particular of the antitumour electrochemotherapy (i.e., the combination of a cytotoxic nonpermeant drug with permeabilizing electric pulses delivered to the tumours) and of in vivo DNA electrotransfer for gene therapy. After a short summary of the present knowledge on cell electropermeabilization (particularly in vivo), the basis, the present achievements, and the challenges of electrochemotherapy are described and discussed, which includes an overview of still open questions and an update on recent clinical trials. DNA electrotransfer for gene therapy is an emerging field in which results are rapidly accumulating. Present knowledge on DNA electrotransfer mechanisms, as wel as the potentialities of DNA electrotransfer to become an efficient non-viral approach for gene therapy, are reviewed. Copyright © 2000 Elsevier Science S.A.
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