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March 27, 2014

Laroussi Chairs International Plasma Medicine Workshop

topstory1-lgLaroussi in his lab with Ph.D. student Soheila Mohades
By Jim Raper

Mounir Laroussi, who directs Old Dominion's Laser & Plasma Engineering Institute (LPEI), was the main organizer of the 1st International Workshop on Plasma for Cancer Treatment, which was held March 25-26 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Laroussi, who co-chaired the workshop with Michael Keidar of GWU, has been recognized for his international leadership in plasma medicine and is the inventor of the much publicized plasma pencil, a hand-held device that shoots out a plume of room-temperature plasma. Although the plasma is cool to the touch, it can kill germs and tumor cells under certain conditions.

The workshop brought together about 60 researchers from the United States, Europe, Japan, South Korea and China, who will report on their latest findings.

"In my own lab at ODU we have gotten encouraging results with prostate cancer, leukemia and carcinoma," Laroussi said. "Because of the quantity and quality of work being done in the field, I had an idea a few months ago to organize an international workshop where leaders in the field can meet and discuss their work." (The web site of the workshop is www.iwpct2014.org.)

In October 2012, Laroussi and LPEI researcher Nazir Barekzi, a biologist, reported in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics that after10 minutes of treatment with cold plasma, more than 90 percent of human leukemia cells were destroyed in an in vitro test. In December 2013 Barekzi and Laroussi published a review paper on the effects of cold plasma on cancer cells in Plasma Processes and Polymers (Wiley). This paper has become one of the journal's most downloaded papers of the last couple of months.

Laroussi, who is a professor of electrical and computer engineering in ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, chaired one of the workshop's oral sessions and he and Barekzi presented "Utility of Plasma Devices to Treat Cancer" at a second session.

Oktay Baysal, dean of the Batten College, joined with David Dolling, dean of GWU's School of Engineering and Applied Science, in welcoming the workshop participants.

ODU has had plasma medicine research under way for more than a decade. Last year, Laroussi developed and co-taught an ODU course - Biomedical Applications of Low Temperature Plasmas - that is believed to be the first of its kind anywhere.

Plasma medicine is an emerging interdisciplinary field encompassing the technology of low-temperature plasmas and applications of the plasmas in wound healing, electrosurgery, cancer treatment and dentistry.

Most plasmas in the universe are supercharged gases that are very hot at Earth's atmospheric pressure; lightning is an example. Controlled in a vacuum, conventional thermal plasmas can also be used in television screens and neon lights. But Laroussi is a pioneer in the cold plasmas, which are also called non-equilibrium plasmas in that the heavy atomic nuclei within them are not energetically supercharged, but light electrons are.

Laroussi is the primary editor of, and a contributor to, a textbook, "Plasma Medicine: Applications of Low-Temperature Gas Plasmas in Medicine and Biology," which was published in 2012 by Cambridge University Press.