Reduction and degradation of amyloid aggregates by a pulsed radio-frequency cold atmospheric plasma jet

Surface-borne amyloid aggregates with mature fibrils are used as a non-infectious prion model to evaluate cold atmospheric plasmas (CAPs) as a prion inactivation strategy. Using a helium–oxygen CAP jet with pulsed radiofrequency (RF) excitation, amyloid aggregates deposited on freshly cleaved mica discs are reduced substantially leaving only a few spherical fragments of sub-micrometer sizes in areas directly treated by the CAP jet. Outside the light-emitting part of the CAP jet, plasma treatment results in a ‘skeleton’ of much reduced amyloid stacks with clear evidence of fibril fragmentation. Analysis of possible plasma species and the physical configuration of the jet–sample interaction suggests that the skeleton structures observed are unlikely to have arisen as a result of physical forces of detachment, but instead by progressive diffusion of oxidizing plasma species into porous amyloid aggregates. Composition of chemical bonds of this reduced amyloid sample is very different from that of intact amyloid aggregates. These suggest the possibility of on-site degradation by CAP treatment with little possibility of spreading contamination elsewhere, thus offering a new reaction chemistry route to protein infectivity control with desirable implications for the practical implementation of CAP-based sterilization systems.