Plasma medicine: An emerging field in medicine
Plasma drug sounds straight out of science fiction-Plasma Physics and medicine? But believe it or not, this emergent field of medicine is the direct application of cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) on human biology for medical purposes. This area lying on the interface between two seemingly different fields (Plasma Physics and Medicine) is currently creating rounds all over the world, and the surprising fact lies that fun has just begun.
What is plasma medicine?
Plasma medicine is the application of plasma physics for therapeutic purpose. The twentieth century has seen the advent of several biological applications of physical phenomena-like X-Rays, MRI Machine, X-Ray crystallography-all of them have provided a means to gain excellent biomedical information about the human body.
Effects of plasma on biological specimens have mainly been studied for a past decade. For example, it is known that it holds great potential to shut down a large variety of microorganisms, which also include Multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacteria. MDR bacteria pose a huge problem in developing countries, where people take medicines/drugs off counter and diseases causing bacteria to gain resistance from constant exposure. It has also shown potential to cause angiogenesis (mainly, the formation of new blood vessels) and tissue regeneration (formation of new tissues and cells) by catalyzing the proliferation of cells.
It has also been shown in the literature that it can cause cell apoptosis (cell death) in mammalian cells showing cancer. This inevitably opens up several fields of research in the area of oncology. Also, compared to other radiation therapies like laser therapy, chemotherapy, phototherapy, etc., plasma treatment is considerably safer. It’s softer and more controllable.
Further experiments on its applicability are still under research.
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Applications of plasma medicine
Plasma medicine has been shown to be applicable in the following regions:
- Oncology: It is non-invasive and plasma-based therapy is targeted. The experimental results on mammals have shown little to no side effects (whereas the chemotherapy-the current course of action undertaken when a patient suffers from a cancer-has wide range of side effects like constant pain, weight loss, and considerable loss in immunity and WBC count) This is not the case for plasma therapy.
- Wound healing: Plasma medicine also shows tremendous promise in wound healing (especially useful during trauma and emergency medicine where you require quick patching to prevent blood loss and accelerate healing) The elevated rates of angiogenesis and tissue regeneration are critical steps in wound healing which on quickening can ease healing.
- Destroying MDR bacteria: essential for curing MDR bacteria causing diseases.
- Treatment of pathogen-based skin diseases and skin decontamination
- Treatment of chronic and infected wounds by eradicating infection around the area and accelerating healing.
- Another important application is found in dentistry, where one can disinfect root canals in addition to accelerated wound healing of the wounded region. Additionally, one also expects treatment of intraoral infections and dental implants to be shortly after rather successful clinical trials.
- Possible applications in ophthalmology or plastic surgery are also explored.
- Disinfection with plasma is considered to be fast and efficient within seconds and also benign to the skin.
- It has also been shown to inactivate the spores of the bacteria, which is necessary for epidemic control.
Companies working on it
Following companies are currently working on Plasma medicine:-
- US Medical Innovations: With products like Canada Hybrid Plasma Scalpel, Electrosurgical Units and Coagulators using Argon Plasma technology and Canady Hybrid Plasma technology, USMI is one of the leading companies on applications of Plasma Technology on medicine.
- Plasmatreat: With intensive exchanges with various universities based in Germany, it currently is developing Openair plasma to heal wounds. Openair Plasma is also used for disinfection (developed nearly fifteen years back)
- Coldplasma Medical technologies
- Terraplasma Medical GmBH: This is currently working on developing a medical device for treating chronic and acute wounds using cold atmospheric plasma. The device is small, battery operated and easily adjustable to the needs of patients, nurses, and doctors. It inactivates all sorts of microbes-including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and spores. It is pain-free, safe to use, efficient, quick and more importantly, clinically proven.
- Plasma Surgical: it focuses on enhancing surgical processes by integrating PlasmaJet into clinical practice.
Current market overview
Ever since its introduction in the past decade, it has shown immense potential to grow. Intensive research is conducted throughout the world to improve various technologies to ensure fast, efficient and hassle-free treatments for wounds and cancer which has become a constant menace in this world. The international demand and massive interest of media in this novel technology have lent support and funding to ever-growing vertical and horizontal market. However, the poor communication between the stakeholders might be troubling, but the targeted therapy promised by plasma medicine is sure to overcome such hurdles.
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