o The Frog Blog: Biology Prize Entries 2011 - Magnetic Nano - Particles

Monday, 14 March 2011

Biology Prize Entries 2011 - Magnetic Nano - Particles

Magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) are microscopic particles that have been changed and manipulated with magnetic fields. They are made of magnetic elements such as iron, nickel or cobalt, or compounds of these elements. MNPs are normally around 1 micrometer wide, although larger particles can measure as much as 500 micrometers in diameter.

Magnetic nanoparticles have recently had huge focus in the research field. With the design of 'theranostic' molecules, MNPs will play a crucial role in developing one-stop tools to simultaneously diagnose, monitor and treat a wide range of common diseases and injuries.

Multifunctional particles, modelled on viruses such as those that cause flu and HIV, are being researched and developed to carry signal-generating sub-molecules and drugs to particular targets. A sprinkling of tiny MNPs and an application of external magnetic force will give us a new means of confirming specific ailments or releasing drugs at exact points within a living system.

Already MNPs have sparked interest after being attached to stem cells and used in vivo to remedy heart injury in rats. In humans, Berlin's Charité Hospital used a technique which involved MNPs, called hyperthermia, to destroy a particularly severe form of brain cancer in 14 patients. The technique — which took advantage of the fact that tumour cells are more sensitive to temperature increases than normal cells — sent MNPs acting as nano-heaters directly against the inoperable tumours and essentially cooked them to death. Magnetic nanoparticles will almost certainly have an important role in the future of medicine.

Hannah Wentges, Form V

Image Credit: N.R.Fuller, Sayo-Art

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