The assessment of cold atmospheric plasma treatment of DNA in synthetic models of tissue fluid, tissue and cells

Endre J. Szili, Nishtha Gaur, Sung Ha Hong, Hirofumi Kurita, Jun Seok Oh, Masafumi Ito, Akira Mizuno, Akimitsu Hatta, Allison J. Cowin, David B. Graves, Robert D. Short

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


There is a growing literature database that demonstrates the therapeutic potential of cold atmospheric plasma (herein referred to as plasma). Given the breadth of proposed applications (e.g. from teeth whitening to cancer therapy) and vast gamut of plasma devices being researched, it is timely to consider plasma interactions with specific components of the cell in more detail. Plasma can produce highly reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) such as the hydroxyl radical (OH), peroxynitrite (ONOO-) and superoxide () that would readily modify essential biomolecules such as DNA. These modifications could in principle drive a wide range of biological processes. Against this possibility, the reported therapeutic action of plasmas are not underpinned by a particularly deep knowledge of the potential plasma-tissue, -cell or -biomolecule interactions. In this study, we aim to partly address this issue by developing simple models to study plasma interactions with DNA, in the form of DNA-strand breaks. This is carried out using synthetic models of tissue fluid, tissue and cells. We argue that this approach makes experimentation simpler, more cost-effective and faster than compared to working with real biological materials and cells. Herein, a helium plasma jet source was utilised for these experiments. We show that the plasma jet readily induced DNA-strand breaks in the tissue fluid model and in the cell model, surprisingly without any significant poration or rupture of the phospholipid membrane. In the plasma jet treatment of the tissue model, DNA-strand breaks were detected in the tissue mass after pro-longed treatment (on the time-scale of minutes) with no DNA-strand breaks being detected in the tissue fluid model underneath the tissue model. These data are discussed in the context of the therapeutic potential of plasma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number274001
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jun 15 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


  • DNA
  • molecular beacon
  • phospholipid vesicles
  • plasma jet
  • plasma medicine
  • synthetic cell model
  • tissue model


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