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Burn healing facilitated with the use of cold plasmas

In a paper published in the Journal of Pathology, a team of researchers from the Army Biomedical Research Institute and the Plasma Physics Laboratory (LPP) has shown, for the first time, the beneficial effects of cold plasmas on the healing of post-burn skin grafts.

Every day throughout the world, more than 800 people die as a result of third-degree burns. Every year in France, nearly 12,000 burns patients require hospitalization, 30% of them children aged under five.
A major public health issue, the prognosis for severe burns could be significantly improved thanks to the research described in this publication. The team, which includes doctors, biologists and plasma physicists, managed to demonstrate the benefits of applying cold plasma to grafted skin, grafting being the most widely used technique to replace and help to reconstitute skin damaged by extensive third-degree burns.

Cold plasmas are partially-ionized gases, i.e. gases within which some of the atoms and molecules have lost their electrons after an input of energy. They can easily be produced in the laboratory or industrially by applying an electric current to a gas. The plasma source used for this study, designed and characterized by École Polytechnique’s Plasma Physics Laboratory, generates an electrical discharge in a flow of helium, which on contact with the ambient air, in turn creates reactive chemical species of oxygen and nitrogen such as nitric oxide, known to promote healing.

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La peau est composée d’un assemblage cellulaire organisé en trois couches successives qui sont l’épiderme (epidermis), le derme (dermis) et l’hypoderme (subcutaneous fat). La brûlure peut être classifiée en termes de degrés (1er, 2ième ou 3ième), ces degrés représentant la profondeur des dommages causés aux différentes couches de la peau (respectivement l’épiderme, le derme et l’hypoderme). Les plasmas froids sont des gaz partiellement ionisés, c’est-à-dire dont une partie des atomes ont perdu leurs électrons. Ils forment un panache-plasma composés de particules chargées - électrons et ions. Dans cette étude, il a été démontré que les plasmas froids améliorent la formation des vaisseaux sanguins dans le derme. Le derme est un tissu conjonctif qui assure la tenue mécanique de la peau. L’augmentation de la vascularisation induit un apport en sang supérieur qui est bénéfique pour la guérison des brûlures et la cicatrisation des greffes de peaux.

The study shows that skin grafted after a third-degree burn and subjected to low doses of cold plasma heals more quickly thanks to better generation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) in the graft. The nitric oxide generated by the plasma is one of the possible explanations for this improved vascularization because it has been shown that the plasma increases the bioavailability of nitric oxide in the treated endothelial cells. The source of the nitric oxide may be the plasma (exogenous inflow) or the cell itself : the study shows that the treatment triggers the production of nitric oxide synthase, a protein that enables cells to produce nitric oxide (endogenous production). However, other reactive chemical species and the electrical field produced by the plasma may also be involved.

The study was carried out as part of the PlasmaSkin program, co-financed by École Polytechnique and its Foundation as well as by the Defense Innovation Agency of the DGA (French defense technology procurement agency). The DGA is interested in this research because 10% of combat injuries are accompanied by severe burns.

Read the full publication in the Journal of Pathology :
"Cold atmospheric plasma modulates endothelial nitric oxide synthase signalling and enhances burn wound neovascularisation" Constance Duchesne, Sébastien Banzet, Jean-Jacques Lataillade, Antoine Rousseau, Nadira Frescaline. The Journal of Pathology (2019)


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Tutelles : CNRS Ecole Polytechnique Sorbonne Université Université Paris Sud Observatoire de Paris Convention : CEA
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Exploitant du site : Laboratoire de Physique des Plasmas, Ecole Polytechnique route de Saclay F-91128 PALAISEAU CEDEX
Hébergeur : Laboratoire de Physique des Plasmas, Ecole Polytechnique route de Saclay F-91128 PALAISEAU CEDEX
Directeur de la publication : Pascal Chabert (Directeur)