Molecular Effects and Tissue Penetration Depth of Physical Plasma in Human Mucosa Analyzed by Contact- and Marker-Independent Raman Microspectroscopy

Noninvasive epithelial tissue treatment with cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) is a promising option for local treatment of chronic inflammatory and precancerous lesions as well as various mucosal cancer diseases. Atmospheric pressure plasma jets (APPJ) are well-characterized and medically approved plasma sources. There are numbers of medically approved plasma sources for the treatment of epithelial diseases; however, little is known about the biochemical effects of CAP at the plasma–tissue interface. Furthermore, the actual penetration depth of CAP into tissue is currently unclear. Noninvasive and marker-independent Raman microspectroscopy was employed to assess the molecular effects of CAP on single cells and primary human cervical tissue samples. CAP treatment showed immediate and persisting changes of specific molecular tissue components determined by multivariate analysis. Raman imaging identified CAP-dependent changes in the morphology of the tissue, as well as molecular tissue components. The expression of the different components was not significantly altered within 24 h of incubation. DNA and lipids showed the strongest changes upon CAP treatment, which were traced to the basal cell layer of cervical epithelium, corresponding to an average functional plasma penetration depth of roughly 270 μm. In this study, Raman microspectroscopy is shown to be a promising method for molecular single-cell and solid tissue characterization. Regarding CAP treatment of tissues, Raman microspectroscopy could be suitable for the screening of biological mechanisms as well as for future contact- and marker-independent monitoring of plasma tissue effects.