Researchers Use Magnets to Successfully Kill Cancer Cells_Featured_, Healing Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
(Phys.org) A major problem with treating cancer is how to effectively and efficiently apply a therapy, one that discriminates between cancer and healthy cells: killing the bad while retaining the good. Numerous methods have been tried over the years with varying degrees of success. In this new research, the team has been experimenting with the introduction of iron oxide nanoparticles, which attach to antibodies, into the system. The antibodies, in turn, bind to tumor cell receptors. When a magnetic field is introduced, the nanoparticles bunch up or cluster, which triggers a natural response called a death signal. When that happens, apoptosis (aka, programmed cell death) occurs, causing destruction of the tumor.
The work is based on apoptosis, a process that continually occurs in living organisms. This process is marked by biochemical events that lead to changes in cells causing their death; it is referred to as a programmed death because it controls the way cells grow in multi-cellular organisms. One clear example is the way cells between the fingers are allowed to die, while digits grow as individual members. Therefore, apoptosis is considered a healthy process as opposed to necrosis, where cells die due to trauma. Normally the process occurs when old or faulty cells are detected, such as when skin cells are damaged from exposure to the elements. When such cells are detected, chemicals are delivered which cause the cells to break apart, effectively killing them. In the present study, researchers took advantage of this process by causing such chemicals to be sent to tumor cells.
Image: Nature Materials