Monday, 29 October 2012

Leukaemia could be treated with blasts of plasma

Scientists have found that cancer cells from leukaemia sufferers are killed when they are exposed to a type of matter known as cold plasma.
These streams of ionised gas, similar to the material found inside decorative plasma balls and plasma televisions, are thought to trigger the in built self destruct mechanism in the cancerous cells while healthy cells remain unscathed.
The researchers now believe it will be possible to develop a dialysis style treatment where the blood of leukaemia is patients is passed through plasma streams to destroy the cancer cells.
Professor Mounir Laroussi, director of the laser and plasma engineering institute at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, said: “Leukaemia is the most common childhood malignancy and accounts for approximately one out of three cancers in children
“Although there is a lot of fundamental scientific work that needs to be done, but one can imagine a machine similar to the one used for dialysis where the blood undergoes treatment by low temperature plasma.”
The researchers, whose work is published in the scientific journal Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics by the Institute of Physics, exposed the leukaemia cells to a four minute blast of plasma. The cells died around 12 hours after being treated.
Other scientists have previously proposed using streams of plasma to kill off viruses such as the common cold.
It is thought the cold plasma produces highly reactive molecules that interact with the cancer cells.
As the cancer cells take up more molecules from the blood than healthy cells, the researchers say they will be more effected by the plasma and will die.
The researchers now plan to do more work to see how healthy red and white blood cells are effected by the plasma to ensure it will not have any toxic effects if used as a treatment.
Professor Laroussi added: “Cancer cells multiply rapidly and therefore are much more likely to take up the reactive species (molecules) generated by the plasma.
“Our next steps are treating healthy cells and comparing them to the effects on cancerous cells. “

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