Non-thermal plasmas can be generated by electric discharges in gases. These plasmas are reactive media, capable of superficial treatment of various materials. A novel non-thermal atmospheric plasma source (plasma needle) has been developed and tested. Plasma appears at the end of a metal pin as a submillimetre glow. We investigate the possibility of applying the plasma needle directly to living tissues; the final goal is controlled cell treatment in microsurgery. To resolve plasma effects on cells, we study cultured Chinese hamster ovarian cells (CHO-K1) as a model system. When these are exposed to the plasma, instantaneous detachment of cells from the surface and loss of cell-cell interaction is observed. This occurs in the power range 0.1-0.2 W. Cell viability is assessed using propidium iodide (PI) and cell tracker green (CTG) fluorescent staining utilizing confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). Detached cells remain alive. Use of higher doses (plasma power >0.2 W) results in cell necrosis. In all cases, plasma-influenced cells are strictly localized in submillimetre areas, while no reaction in surrounding cells is observed. Due to its extreme precision, plasma treatment may be applicable in refined tissue modification.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.