This is a brief introduction to the emerging field of irreversible electroporation in medicine. Certain electrical fields when applied across a cell can have as a sole effect the permeabilization of the cell membrane, presumable through the formation of nanoscale defects in the cell membrane. Sometimes this process leads to cell death, primarily when the electrical fields cause permanent permeabilization of the membrane and the consequent loss of cell homeostasis, in a process known as irreversible electroporation. This is an unusual mode of cell death that is not understood yet. While the phenomenon of irreversible electroporation may have been known for centuries it has become only recently rigorously considered in medicine for various applications of tissue ablation. A brief historical perspective of irreversible electroporation is presented and recent studies in the field are discussed.

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