Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical & Computer Engineering

Committee Director

Mounir Laroussi

Committee Member

Wayne Hynes

Committee Member

Frederic D. McKenzie

Committee Member

Sylvain Marsillac


Biomedical applications of low temperature plasmas (LTP) may lead to a paradigm shift in treating various diseases by conducting fundamental research on the effects of LTP on cells, tissues, organisms (plants, insects, and microorganisms). This is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary research field that involves engineering, physics, life sciences, and chemistry to find novel solutions for urgent medical needs. Effects of different LTP sources have shown the anti-tumor properties of plasma exposure; however, there are still many unknowns about the interaction of plasma with eukaryotic cells which must be elucidated in order to evaluate the practical potential of plasma in cancer treatment.

Plasma, the fourth state of matter, is composed of electrons, ions, reactive molecules (radicals and non-radicals), excited species, radiation, and heat. A sufficient dose (time) of plasma exposure can induce death in cancer cells. The plasma pencil is employed to study the anti-tumor properties of this treatment on epithelial cells. The plasma pencil has been previously used for the inactivation of bacteria, destroying amyloid fibrils, and the killing of various cancer cells. Bladder cancer is the 9th leading cause of cancer. In this dissertation, human urinary bladder tissue with the squamous cell carcinoma disease (SCaBER cells) is treated with LTP utilizing two different approaches: direct plasma exposure and Plasma Activated Media (PAM) as an advancement to the treatment. PAM is produced by exposing a liquid cell culture medium to the plasma pencil. Direct LTP treatment of cancer cells indicates a dose-dependent killing effect at post-treatment times. Similarly, PAM treatment shows an anti-cancer effect by inducing substantial cell death. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) have an important role in the biomedical effects of LTP treatment. This study demonstrates the capability of the plasma pencil to transport ROS/RNS into cell culture media leading to their activation. The effectiveness of PAM against SCaBER cells is the highest when it is used immediately after preparation. It is found that the killing effect of PAM decreases gradually over time, depending on the dose of plasma exposure. Hydrogen peroxide is known as one of the most stable and impactful ROS in biological systems. Measurements show that the plasma pencil generates a significant amount of hydrogen peroxide in PAM. Interestingly, the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in PAM decreases gradually over time, which correlates well with the decrease of PAM effectiveness with storage time. While the effects of PAM treatment on cancerous epithelial cell lines have been studied, much less is known about the interaction of PAM with normal epithelial cells. Effects of PAM on non-cancerous Madin-Darby Canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cells indicates that MDCK cells are much more robust than SCaBER cells against PAM treatment. The dose of PAM, which causes a widespread death in SCaBER cells, does not significantly impact viability and morphology of MDCK cells. Time-lapse imaging of normal cells shows that PAM treatment inhibits cell proliferation and random migration. In addition, immunofluorescence staining shows that PAM treatment causes a significant reduction in the nuclear localization of proliferation marker, Ki-67, without any damage to the morphological properties of cells including adhesions and cytoskeleton function. This dissertation clearly demonstrates the capability of PAM treatment in inducing death in cancerous cells that can be important for cancer therapy. Hydrogen peroxide is identified as an important ROS responsible for the anti-tumor properties of PAM, although much additional work remains to comprehensively understand all the involved ROS/RNS and their role in PAM treatment.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).





Movie1_control sample.avi (2173 kB)
Control 1

Movie2_PAM sample.avi (2098 kB)

Movie3_Control sample.avi (2556 kB)
Control 3

Movie4_PAM sample.avi (2507 kB)