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ODU's Laroussi Receives Accolades for Cold Plasma Research Efforts

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Old Dominion University researcher Mounir Laroussi, whose plasma pencil has achieved worldwide attention for its potential to kill various cancer cell lines, delivered a keynote address at a recent gathering of the world's leading bioplasma researchers in Italy.

Laroussi, director of the Plasma Engineering and Medicine Institute and professor of electrical and computer engineering with the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, delivered the opening plenary lecture at the European joint COST (Cooperation in Science in Technology) actions meeting in Bertinoro, Italy.

COST is managed by the European Commission and was created to foster cooperation among that continent's major research laboratories. Laroussi's talk, entitled "Activation of Liquid Media by Low Temperature Plasma for Biomedical Purposes," was attended by representatives of major European labs working in the field of plasma medicine.

Laroussi's specialty is the plasma that can be created in regular atmospheric conditions and used in a variety of applications, such as dental or wound-healing treatments, that do not burn normal human tissue. Conventional plasma, like that present in lightning and television sets, is created in the absence of atmospheric pressure and is radically hot.

As part of his research into atmospheric plasma, Laroussi developed the plasma "pencil," a hand-held device that emits a stream of cool plasma. The miniature light saber has been featured in a broad array of popular media, including National Geographic, as well as professional publications. The articles have noted its germ-killing applications and ease of use.

In late 2015, a paper by Laroussi, his Ph.D. student Soheila Mohades and Old Dominion colleague Nazir Barekzi, lecturer of biological sciences, on the use of low-temperature plasmas to kill cancer cells was featured in the journal Biointerphases, published by the American Vacuum Society.

In the article, "Killing adherent and nonadherent cancer cells with the plasma pencil," Laroussi and his co-authors discuss the use of the plasma pencil to kill leukemia and prostate cancer cells.

Recently, researchers in Laroussi's lab have conducted work on killing carcinoma, as well as colorectal and prostate cancer and leukemia cells, through direct exposure (using plasma directly on the cells) and indirect exposure (treating a biological medium with the plasma and applying it to the cancerous cells).

"The plasma-activated medium is as effective in killing cancer cells as the direct treatment by plasma," Laroussi said. "This is very encouraging. We are now engaged in more research on the application of plasma to cancer."

Laroussi is co-organizer of the Third International Workshop on Plasma for Cancer Treatment, which will take place in Washington on April 11 and 12. Laroussi founded the annual workshop in 2014 to bring together major research groups from around the world working on the application of cold plasma in cancer treatment.

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