The main objective of the PlasTHER network is to explore the possibilities of plasmas at atmospheric pressure to develop and consolidate new medical treatments. This is an initiative funded by the European Union in the framework of COST actions. The network, led by the UPC, brings together research groups, the medical community, industry and patient associations from 24 European countries. They will work over the next few years on promoting new cancer treatments, the repair and regeneration of tissues, and new emerging infections, among other areas.
Plasma gas medicine is an interdisciplinary field that came about two decades ago as an innovative area between physics, chemistry, engineering and life sciences. It is an emerging area that combines plasma gas technology with clinical medicine and bioengineering to use cold plasmas at atmospheric pressure for human and veterinary treatments, for disinfection and healing of wounds or in cancer treatments, among others. This is a potent technology that involves a high number of reactive species (molecules, atoms, ions, electrons, photons, UV and visible radiation), which have been shown to affect cells via complex biochemical processes. This technology opens the door to new opportunities in plasma gas medicine.
However, despite scientific and technological advances in medicine, treatments based on this technology are still not entirely effective to fight against cancer, achieve the regeneration and repair of tissue or combat drug-resistant pathogens, including new infections. To ensure that plasma gas technology advances effectively in these and other areas, it is not only necessary to identify the mechanisms involved in the therapeutic action, but also to improve the coordination and cooperation of the scientific community that works in this field in several disciplines, and its relation with industry.
To promote the development of the European research programme in plasma gas medicine and to lead European activity in this field, the COST Therapeutical applications of Cold Plasma (PlasTHER) Action has been implemented, led by the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC). The project is coordinated by Cristina Canal, a researcher from the Biomaterials, Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering Group (BBT), director of the PlasmaMED lab and professor of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, associated with the Barcelona East School of Engineering (EEBE) and the Biomedical Engineering Research Centre (CREB).
The PlasTHER Action is funded by the European Union in the framework of COST Actions. It coordinates a network of over a hundred experts in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering and medicine from 24 countries. A synergic network of research staff, the medical community, industry and patient associations that, during the next few years, will explore the possibilities of plasmas at atmospheric pressure in medicine to share, develop and consolidate treatments that are being researched and to promote European leadership in this field.
One of the priorities of the PlasTHER Action is to promote plasma gas technology and its use as a standardised therapy in various biomedical applications of great importance to society. This will be achieved, for example, by taking advantage of its antimicrobial potential for skin treatment and in cancer therapies.
In this respect, the intensification of research in the last five years in the various areas of plasma gas medicine, particularly in sterilisation and decontamination, wound healing and cancer treatments, urgently requires the standardisation of protocols as well as orientation of the knowledge generated in a common direction. This will enable all the efforts and public investment made to date in basic and applied science to be translated into benefits for society and the health system.
With this aim, PlasTHER COST is established as an interdisciplinary network to share the latest advances in the basic mechanisms of plasma action and the operating conditions that are most suitable to achieve efficient treatments. In addition, the network will work on the generation of standardised protocols within the community in the various therapeutic areas that are involved, and in the definition of a road map for each area.
To achieve these challenges, the network is organised into six work groups, focused on different areas of technology development: biological interaction mechanisms of plasma gas; microbial effects of plasma gas; tissue regeneration; cancer therapy; combined therapies; and ethical regulation, dissemination and transfer of technology.