New Studies Show Promise of Plasma for Disinfection and Wound Healing

November 30, 2009

The results of two recent studies show that plasma can be used effectively in the making of devices for wound healing and disinfection.

Two recent studies from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany and ADTEC Plasma Technology Ltd in Japan discuss the development of low-temperature plasma devices for disinfection and wound-healing purposes.

At the Max Planck Institute, researchers built and tested a plasma device that disinfects human skin “safely and quickly,” within seconds.

According to the researchers, the skin disinfection procedure — “hand rubbing (3 minutes) or hand scrubbing (5 minutes) – has to be repeated many times a day, with a number of negative side-effects arising from the mechanical irritation, chemical and, possibly, allergic stress for the skin. For the hospital staff, the issue of hand disinfection is equally daunting. Over a typical working day, some 60 to 100 disinfections (in principle) are necessary – each requiring 3 minutes – i.e. a total of 3 to 5 hours!”

When the researchers tested the new plasma device, the disinfecting procedure was cut down to about 10 minutes a day. The researchers also note that “only electricity is needed, no fluids or containers.”

The second device, developed by the Max Planck Institute in combination with ADTEC, is called an “argon plasma torch” and was designed “specifically for disinfecting chronic non-healing wounds.” According to the researchers, one advantage of this device is that is regulates “densities of biologically-active agents, which are designed to ensure that the plasma is deadly for bacteria but harmless for human cells.”

The researchers said that these studies are a first step in the direction of “plasma pharmacology, a step along a path that will require considerable research efforts to harness the full potential of this new field of ‘plasma medicine.’”

Both studies were published in the New Journal of Physics.

“One can treat plasmas like a medical cocktail, which contains new and established agents that can be applied at the molecular level to cells in prescribed intensities and overall doses,” the researchers also said.