Electroporation is a versatile method for increasing the permeability of the cell membrane, which is used in the treatment of tumors, gene therapy, food pasteurization, and water purification. Slovenians are at the very top in research and application solutions in this field. The pioneers are both the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the University of Ljubljana (UL FE) and Ljubljana Insitute of Oncology (OI), who, with the aim of connecting researchers, doctoral students and company representatives, are organizing the First Slovenian Congress on Electroporation. At the meeting, which will be held on February 17 and 18 in Bled, participants will learn about the latest research and planned directions for further work in this area. The participation was also confirmed by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, dr. Igor Papič.
Networking, knowledge sharing and development guidelines
A large number of researchers are involved in electroporation in Slovenia, which was also confirmed by The First World Congress on Electroporation in 2015 in Portorož and last year’s fourth world congress in Copenhagen, which was attended by a strong lineup of Slovenian experts from various fields – from technical generator solutions to preclinical and clinical studies. This year’s first Slovenian electroporation congress is organized by prof. dr. Damijan Miklavčič from UL FE, who together with his colleagues significantly contributed to the understanding of the very phenomenon of electroporation and its use, and prof. dr. Gregor Serša with OI. The goal of the congress is to create an opportunity for new collaborations and to ensure the advancement of electroporation and electroporation-based procedures and therapies, as well as to improve communication within the center. In this way, experts in Slovenia will be able to connect even more and devote themselves to important scientific issues.
Outstanding achievements of Slovenian experts in electroporation
In more than three decades, the close cooperation of UL FE, or more precisely the Laboratory of Biocybernetics and OI, has borne many fruits and ensured exceptional recognition of scientific achievements on a global scale. Electrochemotherapy, gene transfection in cancer therapy, and the upcoming heart ablation are three clinical applications where it was Slovenian researchers who broke the ground and significantly contributed to the development of these therapies.
Slovenians are at the top of the world in the field of electroporation
Slovenians, specifically representatives of UL FE and OI, have been involved in the development of electrochemotherapy from the very beginning. It is an approach to the ablation of cancer cells, in which, with the help of electroporation, we facilitate the entry of the medicine that kills such cells into the cancer cells. This is achieved by exposing the cells to short high-voltage electrical pulses. Slovenian industry and science further confirmed their importance in the field of electroporation with the project and consortium SmartGene.Si, whose coordinator was the OI, as part of which they developed a new gene therapy for the treatment of skin tumors of the head and neck. The medicine, the preparation process, and the entire production environment are the result of the Slovenian knowledge and experience of the experts who participated in the project for more than three years. The consortium is currently in the phase of clinical testing of the treatment of skin tumors with gene therapy, in which patients are first injected with the genetic code for interleukin-12, which is introduced into the tumor cells by electrotransfer. In addition, since 2015, the Laboratory of Biocybernetics at UL FE has been cooperating with the world’s largest manufacturer of medical equipment, the company Medtronic, with which they research and develop a method of cardiac ablation using electroporation, which is safer than the currently most commonly used radiofrequency ablation and according to clinical results so far at least equally effective.
60 years of the Biocybernetics Laboratory
This year, in addition to the organization of the electroporation congress, the Laboratory for Biocybernetics will mark another important milestone, as 60 years have passed since its establishment. The laboratory was founded at UL FE in 1963 by academician prof. dr. Lojze Vodovnik, and their work is still connected with research into the interaction of electric currents and electromagnetic fields with biological systems. At the same time, this year the international doctoral school EBTT is also celebrating its 20th anniversary. To mark these important milestones, the Faculty of Electrical Engineering is preparing a number of activities.
More information and the program of the first Slovenian congress on Electroporation is available at https://kongres2023.elektroporacija.si.