Biomedical Applications of Low Temperature Plasma.

Collaboration with Professor David Graves

Exploring Antimicrobial Effects
Within the last fifteen years, low-temperature, atmospheric-pressure air plasma has been shown to have toxic effects against a variety of bacteria and other microorganisms. We study the application of air plasma as a means of surface and liquid disinfection. Currently, we are working to understand the relationship among plasma processing parameters, plasma chemistry, and microbial killing; we also aim to elucidate the biochemical and genetic effects of plasma treatment. An eventual goal of the project is to develop a low-cost, portable plasma sterilizer suitable for use in the developing world or emergency medicine.

Investigating Cancer Applications
Ambient plasma treatment has been shown to kill cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. We are investigating the potential for plasma-assisted gene transfection, in collaboration with Dr. Nancy Boudreau at UCSF. Our eventual goals are to increase the efficacy of novel gene therapies, and to determine the direct effects of plasma treatment on mammalian cells in order to help develop cancer therapies that can be used in conjunction with existing therapies.

Plasma-Liquid Interactions
Since most interactions between plasma and biological targets include a moist tissue layer or aqueous phase, a better understanding of the interactions between ambient-pressure plasmas and liquids is needed. Using both experimental and computational tools, we study how reactive species are generated and transported across phases. We hope to be able to better “tune” ambient pressure plasmas for target applications including cancer therapy, water and surface disinfection, nitrogen fixation, and even treatment of toenail fungus.

Plasma discharge on a water surface

An industrial pollutant, before and after plasma oxidation