Non-thermal atmospheric pressure dielectric barrier discharge plasma has recently emerged as a novel tool in medicine. The operating principle of this plasma discharge is similar to the Dielectric Barrier Discharge (DBD) introduced by Siemens in 1862 (1). DBD occurs at atmospheric pressure in air or other gases when high voltage of sinusoidal waveform or short duration pulses is applied between two electrodes, with at least one electrode being insulated. The insulator prevents current build-up between the electrodes, creating electrically safe plasma without substantial gas heating. This approach allows direct treatment of biological systems without the thermal damage observed in more conventional thermal plasma (3).
Non-thermal plasma can kill bacteria or induce apoptosis in malignant tissues. It can be applied in sub-lethal doses to elicit specific biological effects, including gene transfection (8-10), cell detachment (11-14), wound healing (5, 15-17) and blood coagulation. Non-thermal plasma can even have selective effects. In recent studies, non-thermal plasma initiated blood coagulation and bacteria deactivation without inducing measurable toxicity in the surrounding living tissue. Non-thermal plasmas can be used in medicine for either direct plasma treatment or indirect plasma treatment (4).
Plasma is composed of charged particles (electrons, ions), electronically excited atoms and molecules, radicals, and UV photons. Both direct and indirect plasma treatment expose cells or the tissue surface to active short and long lived neutral atoms and molecules, including ozone (O3), NO, OH radicals, and singlet oxygen (O2 1Δg). However, direct plasma treatment allows a significant flux of charged particles, including both electrons and positive and negative ions like super oxide radicals , to reach the surface. Non-thermal plasma density, temperature, and composition can be changed to control plasma products.
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