In recent years, advanced technologies have been applied in many areas of healthcare for diagnosis, and therapeutic applications that make treatments and recovery easier, faster and more comfortable for patients. The exponential growth of today’s healthcare cost is a major concern for all of us. Medical technologies can offer high quality healthcare at moderate cost. Application of plasma or plasma medicine is one of such advanced technologies which have been often implemented in modern day healthcare. Plasma medicine concerns the direct treatment of human cells or tissues with plasma. To understand plasma, first we need to realize that matter exists in different forms in the universe.
We are familiar with the existence of three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas. Plasma is simply one such form of matter, popularly known as the fourth state of matter. It is an ionized gas produced by discharging some neutral gas in between two electrodes. Although the desired gas could be discharged in vacuum or at atmospheric pressure depending on the voltage applied to the electrode, atmospheric plasmas are more preferable for medical utilization.
The primary reason of using such plasmas in healthcare is due to the significant presence of chemically reactive atomic and molecular species which can effectively kill the pathogens. Moreover, atmospheric plasmas are cold enough to harm any living cells or tissues but sufficiently hot to produce reactive species essentially needed for treatment. Therefore, such plasmas can be used effectively for blood coagulation in wound treatment and wound healing.
In most of the modern cauterization devices, plasma provides the required heat to cauterize and desiccates the blood cells whereas atmospheric plasmas contains sufficient amount of nitric oxide (NO) to stimulate the regenerative processes for wound healing. In modern dentistry, plasma can be used in tooth bleaching, since plasma consists of energetic particles, and several reactive radicals that break hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) into hydroxyl radicals (OH) which is known as the prime bleaching agent. Another promising application of plasmas in dentistry is the disinfection of dental cavities due to its high efficiency at deactivating oral bio-films. Recent studies have showed that atmospheric plasmas have the capability to selectively belt down the cancer cells without affecting the normal cells much. Atmospheric plasmas could also be used for sterilisation of the some heat sensitive and complicate shaped medical tools which are often difficult to sterilize using conventional methods.
Although atmospheric plasma exhibits tremendous potential in healthcare, its mode of actions on pathogens and wound healing is still a mystery for the researchers. Moreover, numerous technical challenges regarding the production of atmospheric plasmas limit its pertinence in healthcare. Research on such plasmas for healthcare is a growing and India too is no longer lagging behind.