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Health Care Innovator Interested in Work of ODU Researchers

Dr. Satava with Laroussi in LPEI Lab.

Dr. Richard Satava is one of the nation's leading proponents of technological advances in medicine, which is the reason he wanted to meet this month with faculty members at Old Dominion University.

Two areas of research at ODU were of particular interest to him: plasma medicine and medical modeling and simulation.

Satava, professor of surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center and a science adviser to the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, has been in a variety of positions during his career to bring about innovation in medicine.

He has had other faculty appointments at Yale University and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In recent years, he has been a program manager for the Advanced Biomedical Technology at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and has served on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Committee on Health, Food and Safety. He is currently a member of the Emerging Technologies and Resident Education Committee and Informatics Committees of the American College of Surgeons (ACS).

"I've known Dr. Satava for four or five years. We both serve on the Scientific Organizing Committee of the International Conference on Plasma Medicine. He has been a good person for a researcher like me to know and interact with. The fact that such a distinguished surgeon sees great potential in my work is very satisfying," said Mounir Laroussi, ODU professor of electrical engineering and director of the university's Laser and Plasma Engineering Institute (LPEI).

Satava visited the LPEI laboratories to catch up on the work of Laroussi, who last year was chosen as one of three researchers worldwide to receive the inaugural International Society for Plasma Medicine Award. Laroussi and Satava had worked together to produce "Plasma Medicine," a special issue of the journal Plasma Processes and Polymers that was published in 2008.

Plasmas are a super-excited "soup" that have been called the fourth state of matter - quite different from solids, liquids and gases. Plasmas found in nature, such as in lightning, are radically hot under atmospheric pressure. The cold plasmas that Laroussi typically works with are cool to the touch because only the lightweight electrons in them are energized, and not the heavier nuclei.

But for reasons not yet fully understood, these non-thermal plasmas, under some conditions, have been shown to kill or inactivate bacterial cells while at the same time enhancing the proliferation of healthy cells. Experiments have shown them to be useful for sterilization, treatment of disease and wound healing. Satava is especially interested in the ways that plasmas have been shown to stimulate stem cells to hasten their development into replacement organs.

"What I have learned from plasma medicine is what defines the information age, the possibility of replacing tangibles with two intangibles: information and energy," Satava said. "Plasma medicine may become more important to health care than the Internet is to information sciences."

Satava also attended sessions of the MODSIM 2011 World Conference and Expo, which was held in Virginia Beach Oct. 11-14. ODU's Virginia Modeling, Simulation and Analysis Center (VMASC) was a leading sponsor of the event, and Satava was especially interested in the center's work applying modeling and simulation to the training and assessment of health care professionals. Satava said he was impressed by the collaborations underway between VMASC and the Eastern Virginia Medical School.

This article was posted on: October 24, 2011

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