Biomolecules as Model Indicators of In Vitro and In Vivo Cold Plasma Safety

Caitlin Heslin, Daniela Boehm*, Brendan F. Gilmore, Julianne Megaw, Theresa A. Freeman, Noreen J. Hickok, P. J. Cullen, Paula Bourke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The potential applications for cold plasma in medicine are extensive, from microbial inactivation and induction of apoptosis in cancer cells to stimulating wound healing and enhancing the blood coagulation cascade. The safe bio-medical application of cold plasma and subsequent effect on complex biological pathways requires precision and a distinct understanding of how physiological redox chemistry is manipulated. Chemical modification of biomolecules such as carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids treated with cold plasma have been characterized, however, the context of how alterations of these molecules affect cell behavior or in vivo functionality has not been determined. Thus, this study examines the cytotoxic and mutagenic effects of plasma-treated molecules in vitro using CHO-K1 cells and in vivo in Galleria mellonella larvae. Specifically, albumin, glucose, cholesterol, and arachidonic acid were chosen as representative biomolecules, with established involvement in diverse bioprocesses including; cellular respiration, intracellular transport, cell signaling or membrane structure. Long- and short-term effects depended strongly on the molecule type and the treatment milieu indicating the impact of chemical and physical modifications on downstream biological pathways. Importantly, absence of short-term toxicity did not always correlate with absence of longer-term effects, indicating the need to comprehensively assess ongoing effects for diverse biological applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number613046
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Physics
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was conducted with the financial support of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under Grant Number 14/IA/2626 and 15/SIRG/3466 and by the Irish Research Council New Foundations Strand 3a–PLasmaAPPS grant. Research reported in this publication was also supported by a NIH/SFI/HRC tripartite consortium grant through NIAMS of the National Institutes of Health under award number RO1AR076941. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Heslin, Boehm, Gilmore, Megaw, Freeman, Hickok, Cullen and Bourke.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • cold atmospheric plasma
  • cytotoxicity
  • In vivo toxicity
  • mutagenicity
  • safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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