The gross majority of the perceivable universe is made of plasma, but most of us have no clue what it is. Although it may seem like something out of science fiction, new research on plasma’s regenerative properties points to a future filled with cold plasma fountains of youth.
Cosmic Goo? What are you?
After the Solid, Liquid and Gaseous states, Plasma is defined as the Fourth State of Matter. Plasma is formed when a gas is superheated or exposed to an electromagnetic field. The electrons in the gas become ionized, and the atomic particles break apart. Like a gas, Plasma lacks structure outside of a container, but even though the molecules have disassociated from one another, they are still highly conductive.
Our Sun, like most stars, is composed mostly of superheated hydrogen and helium gasses, and therefore composed mostly of plasma. Naturally occurring plasma is extremely hot (sometimes several thousand degrees), making it unrealistic for human applications. When cooled, however, plasma may have tremendous medical applications.
Researchers at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology investigating medical uses for cold plasma has already found that while low-temperature plasma destroys microbes, its application left healthy tissues unaffected. The overuse of antibiotics in Health Care and in raising livestock have in part led to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains, or “Super Bugs”. Cold plasma offers a viable alternative to antibiotics that promotes sterile healing without exacerbating the antibiotics issue.
Don’t Just Regenerate– Rejuvenate!
Natural Aging, as well as some diseases like HIV, Diabetes and Cancer, compromise normal immune function. When a person’s immune function is suppressed, wounds and lesions take longer to heal. Non-healing wounds can lead to infection, extensive tissue damage and even cell death, forcing doctors to consider the risks of surgery or, in seriously advanced cases, amputation.
Building on their previous findings, the Russian team slight to investigate cold plasma’s regeneration properties. They found that exposing damaged cells to cold plasma lead to functional activation of cells, meaning the damaged cells were not only repaired, but rejuvenated.
The study focussed primarily on the two types of cells involved in wound healing: fibroblasts (connective tissue cells) and keratinocytes (epithelial cells that make up skin tissue). In exposing these two types of cells to cold plasma, the researchers found that there was no damage to the cellular DNA. Instead, as researcher Elena Petersen explains, applying the cold plasma to wounds incited a natural process called autophagy, “which removes damaged organelles from the cell and reactivates cellular metabolic processes.” Therefore, cold plasma essentially caused regeneration at the cellular level, and a reduction in activity that leads to aging.
The researchers plan to conduct future studies in order to understand the exact molecular mechanisms of cold plasma treatments, and to explore the treatment’s effectiveness while taking the patient’s age into account. Before we imagine the potential cosmetic applications of cold plasma fountains of youth, the Russian team’s work has immediate applications for the treatment of certain diseases, allergies, and genetic disorders.