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The plasma pencil, a miniature light saber that Mounir Laroussi created more than five years ago, has been shown in recent tests to kill leukemia cells, according to a paper published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics by Laroussi's research team.

A broad array of popular media, including National Geographic, as well as professional publications have noted the germ-killing applications, and the ease of use, of Laroussi's plasma pencil. In the past few years, the ODU electrical engineer has collaborated with life scientists at the university to study the way the so-called "cold" plasma that shoots from his hand-held pencil can kill diseased cells and bacteria.

Now, Laroussi and Nazir Barekzi, a research scientist with ODU's Laser and Plasma Engineering Institute, which Laroussi directs, have published "Dose-dependent Killing of Leukemia Cells by Low-temperature Plasma." The article was given special treatment as a "fast track communication" when it was released online earlier this month by the Applied Physics journal.

The researchers found that the morphology and viability of human T-cell leukemia cells were affected in a dose-dependent manner after treatment with low-temperature atmospheric pressure plasma pulses fired from the plasma pencil. The leukemia cells were treated in vitro in a tissue culture plate.

"The outcome of this study revealed that the effect of plasma exposure was not immediate, but had a delayed effect, and increasing the time of plasma exposure resulted in increased leukemia cell death," they wrote in the article.

preliminary, but he said he believes the results hold promise as a component of a leukemia treatment.

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Published on: November 1, 2012