White Cucumbers sliced and rocks in water… not really

In nanomagnetic cancer treatment, blue fluid with therapeutic nanomagnets targets tumor cells (right). But the nanomagnets leave healthy cells (left) alone.

In its tomorrow issue, New Scientist reports that researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) had a brilliant idea to make bone-marrow biopsies more efficient for patients affected by leukemia. In “Nanoparticles that cancer cells can’t resist,” the magazine writes that the basic idea is to use magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles encased in a biocompatible material. When these nanoparticles are injected in the body, they gather around cancer cells, turning them into minuscule magnets that are easily captured by other magnets encased in the tips of biopsy needles. The researchers want now to start clinical trials and think that a commercial clinical device will be available in five years.

Magnetic needles for biopsies

You can see above a “photo of the tip of a magnetic needle, left, showing the two 2 mm long, 1 mm diameter cylindrical magnets separated by a nonmagnetic steel spacer 2 mm long. A nonmagnetic stainless-steel stiffening rod 17 cm long abuts the lower magnet and the ensemble is encased in a polyimide tube. On the right is a 5 cm long polyimide sheath that slips over the tip of the needle.” (Credit: UNM)

Here is how New Scientist summarizes the concept. “The idea is to use magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles encased in a biocompatible material. These in turn can be coated with antibodies that bind to chemicals found only in cancerous cells. When injected into the body, thousands of the particles stick to cancer cells, turning them into miniature magnets. The cells can then be drawn towards magnets encased in the tip of a biopsy needle.”

But will it work? “A mathematical model of the system confirmed that significant numbers of cancer cells, laden with nanoparticles, could be attracted to a needle within two or three minutes. In the lab, the researchers showed that a magnetised needle could attract leukaemia cells surrounded by nanoparticles and suspended in blood or other synthetic materials designed to mimic bodily fluids. Nanoparticles have been used before to destroy diseased cells but this is the first time they have actually retrieved cells.”

Via Cancer Blogs