The safety and efficacy of cold atmospheric plasma therapy

By Dr Endre Szili, FII Research Fellow

Cold atmospheric plasma is an electrical plasma gas-discharge operated at atmospheric pressure and ambient temperature. There is significant optimism that plasma can be developed for treatment of life-threatening indications such as cancers and chronic wounds.

The medical effects of plasma are governed by reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS). RONS are generated when plasma reacts with oxygen and nitrogen in the air. Plasma produces highly-reactive RONS such as the hydroxyl radical (OH), peroxynitrite (ONOO-) and superoxide (O2-) that can readily modify essential biomolecules such as DNA. These modifications could in principle drive a wide range of biological processes. Against this possibility, the reported therapeutic action of plasmas are not underpinned by a particularly deep knowledge of plasma-DNA interactions.

This paper describes a methodology to assess plasma induced DNA damage in synthetic models of tissue fluid, tissue and cells. Plasma readily induced DNA damage in the synthetic models, which should be useful for focused cancer therapy. In other applications, such as the treatment of an open wound, the imperative should be to limit DNA damage. Therefore, we developed “Plasma Hydrogel Therapy” where hydrogel dressings are used to “filter” highly-reactive RONS to eliminate DNA damage during plasma treatment, but enable the rapid delivery of therapeutic RONS to stimulate wound healing.

Article reference: “The assessment of cold atmospheric plasma treatment of DNA in synthetic models of tissue fluid, tissue and cells”, E.J. Szili, N. Gaur, S.-H. Hong, H. Kurita, J.-S. Oh, M. Ito, A. Mizuno, A. Hatta, A.J. Cowin, D.B. Graves, R.D Short, J. Phys D: Appl. Phys., 50:274001 (2017).