Modeling of electric field distribution in tissues during electroporation

Selma Corovic, Igor Lackovic, Primoz Sustaric, Tomaz Sustar, Tomaz Rodic, Damijan Miklavcic
Biomedical Engineering Online 2013, 12: 16

BACKGROUND: Electroporation based therapies and treatments (e.g. electrochemotherapy, gene electrotransfer for gene therapy and DNA vaccination, tissue ablation with irreversible electroporation and transdermal drug delivery) require a precise prediction of the therapy or treatment outcome by a personalized treatment planning procedure. Numerical modeling of local electric field distribution within electroporated tissues has become an important tool in treatment planning procedure in both clinical and experimental settings. Recent studies have reported that the uncertainties in electrical properties (i.e. electric conductivity of the treated tissues and the rate of increase in electric conductivity due to electroporation) predefined in numerical models have large effect on electroporation based therapy and treatment effectiveness. The aim of our study was to investigate whether the increase in electric conductivity of tissues needs to be taken into account when modeling tissue response to the electroporation pulses and how it affects the local electric distribution within electroporated tissues.

METHODS: We built 3D numerical models for single tissue (one type of tissue, e.g. liver) and composite tissue (several types of tissues, e.g. subcutaneous tumor). Our computer simulations were performed by using three different modeling approaches that are based on finite element method: inverse analysis, nonlinear parametric and sequential analysis. We compared linear (i.e. tissue conductivity is constant) model and non-linear (i.e. tissue conductivity is electric field dependent) model. By calculating goodness of fit measure we compared the results of our numerical simulations to the results of in vivo measurements.

RESULTS: The results of our study show that the nonlinear models (i.e. tissue conductivity is electric field dependent: σ(E)) fit experimental data better than linear models (i.e. tissue conductivity is constant). This was found for both single tissue and composite tissue. Our results of electric field distribution modeling in linear model of composite tissue (i.e. in the subcutaneous tumor model that do not take into account the relationship σ(E)) showed that a very high electric field (above irreversible threshold value) was concentrated only in the stratum corneum while the target tumor tissue was not successfully treated. Furthermore, the calculated volume of the target tumor tissue exposed to the electric field above reversible threshold in the subcutaneous model was zero assuming constant conductivities of each tissue.Our results also show that the inverse analysis allows for identification of both baseline tissue conductivity (i.e. conductivity of non-electroporated tissue) and tissue conductivity vs. electric field (σ(E)) of electroporated tissue.

CONCLUSION: Our results of modeling of electric field distribution in tissues during electroporation show that the changes in electrical conductivity due to electroporation need to be taken into account when an electroporation based treatment is planned or investigated. We concluded that the model of electric field distribution that takes into account the increase in electric conductivity due to electroporation yields more precise prediction of successfully electroporated target tissue volume. The findings of our study can significantly contribute to the current development of individualized patient-specific electroporation based treatment planning.

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