Cold Plasma Could Treat Chronic Wounds for People with Diabetes

Released: Monday, July 20, 2020

A first-of-its-kind device shows that indirect exposure to “cold plasma” — partially ionized gases generated from room air — could treat the diabetic wounds that frequently lead to amputation.

Lower limb wounds that won’t heal and resist antibiotic treatment are among the most common causes of leg amputation for those living with diabetes. An estimated 30.3 million Americans have diabetes. Every year 5 percent of them develop foot ulcers and 1 percent require amputation.

But a new device tested at the University of Tennessee in collaboration with researchers at Pennington Biomedical may offer help. The device uses atmospheric plasma to significantly reduce the harmful bacteria in the wounds of diabetic mice.

Plasma is generated when enough heat is applied to a gas or gases. In cold or non-thermal plasma only a tiny fraction of the electrons (1 in 1 billion or so) are heated. The result is that plasma is generated at around room temperature.

The device generates a cool cloud of gas that wafts across the wound and covers the infected tissue. The size and shape of the wound do not matter.

Other plasma systems require bottled gases, high-temperature plasma, and/or direct plasma exposure. These systems behave more like fire extinguishers. Gases are jetted into the treatment area, exposing tissues to potential damage from harmful UV radiation, a strong electric field, or transient ion bombardment.

The new study, published in the journal Shock, shows one to two 20-minute treatments with the atmospheric plasma reduced the harmful bacteria in the wounds of diabetic mice.

For more information on how you can support this and other projects at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, visit