The treatment of chronic wounds and skin disorders plays an important role in medicine. The rise in drug-resistant bacteria and hospital infections, in particular, poses an increasing challenge. In response to this problem, a team headed by Prof. Gregor E. Morfill, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, has developed various plasma devices and prototypes that can be used to destroy bacteria, fungi and even viruses. The devices generate a so-called cold atmospheric plasma: a highly diluted mixture of molecules consisting of charged atoms and molecules (ions), free radicals and ultraviolet light. When the plasma device is held over an open wound on the body, the plasma flows over the wound like a puff of air and kills the bacteria in the wound area without contact or pain. Even drug-resistant bacteria and hospital infections can be treated in this way.
The effectiveness of this new treatment method has already been proven in a clinical study. Under the supervision of Dr. Georg Isbary and Prof. Wilhelm Stolz, 291 treatments were administered to 36 patients with chronically infected wounds at the Clinic for Dermatology, Allergology and Environmental Medicine at the Klinikum Schwabing, Städtisches Klinikum München GmbH. In addition to receiving standard treatment with antibiotics, the patients also underwent five minutes of plasma therapy. The results of the study, which have already been published in the prestigious British Journal of Dermatology, showed that, compared to the control group which only underwent standard treatment, these patients had 34% fewer germs – irrespective of the germ type and resistance pattern. These very positive initial results show that this technology marks the advent of a completely new approach to the treatment of chronically infected surface wounds.
Another promising field of application for the new plasma devices, which are also available as small hand-held prototypes, is the disinfection of temperature-sensitive surfaces, for example, human skin. Doctors and hospital personnel can thereby disinfect their hands in a matter of a few seconds without using lotions, ointments and sprays, the long-term use of which can cause skin problems. These convenient devices are even suitable for use in the home for the disinfection of cuts and in the prevention of periodontitis.
The Fondation URGO, which has set itself the aim of improving the diagnosis and treatment of chronic wounds, presented the URGO research prize to the recipients at a ceremony held in Bremen. The prize is awarded to innovative projects based on interdisciplinary medical-nursing concepts, the central element of which is the transfer of scientific knowledge to practice. Max Planck Innovation, the technology transfer organisation of the Max Planck Society, has provided support for this project since the disclosure of the invention and is now assisting with its marketing.
About Max Planck Innovation
As the technology transfer organisation of the Max Planck Society, Max Planck Innovation acts as a link between industry and basic research. Our interdisciplinary team advises and supports scientists in the evaluation of their inventions, the filing of patents and establishment of companies. We also provide industry with a central point of access to the innovations developed at the Max Planck institutes. In providing these services, we fulfil an important task: we facilitate the transfer of the results of basic research to economically and socially beneficial products.
Further information about the Fondation URGO research prize (in German):
Website of the Plasma Health Care project at the MPE:
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