Fighting Blood Diseases Using Magnetic Attraction

Bob Michaels

November 29, 2011

2 Min Read
Fighting Blood Diseases Using Magnetic Attraction

Working to exploit the powers of nanotechnology, scientists at the University of Zurich (Switzerland) are developing nanomagnets with the goal of using them someday to cleanse the blood of diseases. For example, the technology could eventually find its way into treatments for patients suffering from drug intoxication, bloodstream infections, and cancers.

The nanomagnets consist of magnetized nanoparticles that are coated with carbon and laced with antibodies specific to molecules of interest, including inflammatory proteins such as interleukins or metals such as lead. When the nanomagnets are placed in the bloodstream and the blood is run through a dialysis machine or similar device, dangerous compounds can be removed from the body.

After attracting target substances, a magnetic separator gathers the nanomagnets in a reservoir and separates them from the recirculating blood, remarks Inge Herrmann, a chemical engineer at the University of Zurich and the project's team leader. According to a study in the journal Nephrology Dialysis and Transplantation, the researchers were able to remove 90% of the heart drug digoxin in an hour and half. Now, the scientists are using the technology in a study involving rats with sepsis.

Despite the technology's promise, the question remains as to whether the particles are toxic and whether they can interfere with the blood's ability to clot. However, early test results indicate that the nanomagnets do not damage cells or promote clotting. Allaying fears that the magnets can harm the body, Herrmann has presented data showing that the nanomagnets are partially taken up by monocytes and macrophages, two forms of immune cells. An important proof of principle, this finding highlights that the technology may eventually be safe for use in clinical applications.

Sign up for the QMED & MD+DI Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like