These brief summaries are
drawn from several sources and are issued throughout the year.
Laroussi Explores Plasma's Importance to Modern Medicine
On November 10, 2009, the Coalition for Plasma Science sponsored a presentation before a roomful of Congressional staff about a new avenue of research that may benefit the healthcare industry: plasma medicine.
CPS Chair Lee Berry introduced speaker Prof. Mounir Laroussi, Director of the Laser and Plasma Institute at Old Dominion University. Laroussi has been involved in CPS's "About Plasmas" series, authoring a two-page overview of how plasmas are being used to protect against biological hazards. This talk was titled, "Gas Plasma - A New Technology for Modern Medicine."
After reviewing states of matter and discussing where the audience may have observed plasmas, both man-made and naturally occurring, Laroussi described the difference between thermal plasmas, such as those used for welding, and low-temperature ("cold") plasmas, which do not destroy the materials they contact.
Laroussi discussed the effects of low-temperature plasma on prokaryotic cells (bacteria), noting aspects of plasmas that make them effective at changing or destroying cells: heat, UV radiation, charged particles and reactive species. He explained that plasmas can be used to destroy bacteria and proteins found on medical instruments without exposing the tools to the possibly destructive high temperatures of an autoclave or to the toxicity of ethylene oxide.
There has been less research with regard to the effect of cold plasmas on eukaryotic (or mammalian) cells - until recently. Preliminary investigations indicate that short exposures of cold plasma to mammalian cells can lead to cell detachment without killing the cells, or "apoptosis," (programmed cell death). These studies suggest that cold plasmas could play a role in killing cancer cells, healing wounds and coagulating blood. Laroussi also noted that there are dental applications to anticipate: cold plasmas could be used to treat periodontal diseases and tooth decay.
Laroussi's talk generated a lot of interest and questions. He is working with CPS on a future publication about the medical applications of plasmas.
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