Researchers use magnets to cause programmed cancer cell deaths

Oct 08, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
A schematic representation of the magnetic switch for apoptosis signalling in in vitro cells and in a zebrafish. Credit: (c) Nature Materials (2012) doi:10.1038/nmat3430

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers in South Korea has developed a method to cause cell death in both living fish and lab bowel cancer cells (in vivo and in vitro) using a magnetic field. The application of the magnetic field, as described in their paper published in the journal Nature Materials, triggers a "death signal" that leads to programmed cell death.

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 . 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, ) occurs, causing destruction of the tumor.

The work is based on apoptosis, a process that continually occurs in . 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 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 .

The researchers applied zinc-doped iron oxide to colon , which naturally bind to antibodies. Those antibodies then bind very strongly to what is known as the death receptor 4(DR4) which exists on DLD-1 colon cancer cells. When a magnetic field is applied, the death receptor sends out a signal telling the system to attack the cell. Chemicals are then sent, killing the tumor.

In their experiment, the team found that more than half of the tumor cells exposed to the treatment were killed, while none of the untreated cells died. Unfortunately, other experiments with zebra fish resulted in the growth of abnormal tails. The team notes that their research is still in its infancy and that far more research will need to be done to see if the process can be refined and eventually tested in human trials.

Explore further: Pressure probing potential photoelectronic manufacturing compound

More information: A magnetic switch for the control of cell death signalling in in vitro and in vivo systems, Nature Materials (2012) doi:10.1038/nmat3430

Abstract
The regulation of cellular activities in a controlled manner is one of the most challenging issues in fields ranging from cell biology to biomedicine. Nanoparticles have the potential of becoming useful tools for controlling cell signalling pathways in a space and time selective fashion. Here, we have developed magnetic nanoparticles that turn on apoptosis cell signalling by using a magnetic field in a remote and non-invasive manner. The magnetic switch consists of zinc-doped iron oxide magnetic nanoparticles5 (Zn0.4Fe2.6O4), conjugated with a targeting antibody for death receptor 4 (DR4) of DLD-1 colon cancer cells. The magnetic switch, in its On mode when a magnetic field is applied to aggregate magnetic nanoparticle-bound DR4s, promotes apoptosis signalling pathways. We have also demonstrated that the magnetic switch is operable at the micrometre scale and that it can be applied in an in vivo system where apoptotic morphological changes of zebrafish are successfully induced.

Related Stories

Research identifies how cancer cells cheat death

Jun 08, 2011

Research led by David Litchfield of The University of Western Ontario has identified how biochemical pathways can be "rewired" in cancer cells to allow these cells to ignore signals that should normally trigger their death. ...

A gene that protects against colorectal cancers

Dec 14, 2011

The research team in France has developed an animal model carrying a mutation of the DCC gene. Mice carrying the mutation develop tumours, because this gene can no longer induce the death of the cancer cells. This discovery ...

Cell recycling protects tumor cells from anti-cancer therapy

Mar 06, 2008

Cells have their own recycling system: Discarded cellular components, from individual proteins through to whole cellular organs, are degraded and the building blocks re-used in a different place. The scientific term for this ...

How 'IAP antagonist' chemicals kill tumors

Nov 15, 2007

Chemical compounds specially designed to neutralize proteins that would otherwise allow tumor cells to cheat death have been recognized for some time by scientists as a promising new avenue for cancer therapy. Now, two studies ...

Recommended for you

A new way to make microstructured surfaces

Jul 30, 2014

A team of researchers has created a new way of manufacturing microstructured surfaces that have novel three-dimensional textures. These surfaces, made by self-assembly of carbon nanotubes, could exhibit a ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Henka
5 / 5 (1) Oct 08, 2012
Holy crap, I was happily reading the promising work, when I abruptly read the line "Unfortunately, other experiments with zebra fish resulted in the growth of abnormal tails."

What a jolt.
StarGazer2011
3 / 5 (2) Oct 08, 2012
This sounds similar to the Kanzius Machine (http://www.kanziu...ch.org/)

Its amazing how little money these approaches are getting; my explaination is that drug companies will only fund research into treatments and not cures, as the revenue goes on for longer.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) Oct 08, 2012
drug companies will only fund research into treatments and not cures, as the revenue goes on for longer.
Yes US healthcare is all about keeping victims on the financial drip tube. Curing them would be "socialism" according to our libertarian members.
StarGazer2011
1 / 5 (2) Oct 08, 2012
drug companies will only fund research into treatments and not cures, as the revenue goes on for longer.
Yes US healthcare is all about keeping victims on the financial drip tube. Curing them would be "socialism" according to our libertarian members.

Libertarians? Really? Democrats and Republicans have both failed to fund this research.
The neo-cons would argue that its more important to protect the current institutions (drug companies) than to support upstarts; and would try to regulate the research into impossibility while starving it of funding.
The soft-left would say that people need to be protected from any risky treatments; and would try to regulate the research into impossibility while starving it of funding.
The post-socialist left would say that its more important to preserve the power of existing institutions by keeping people dependent on government handouts; and would try to regulate the research into impossibilitiy while starving it of funding!
kochevnik
1 / 5 (3) Oct 09, 2012
@StarGazer2011 Your post makes no sense. By omission you vouch for corporate welfare and the zionist banksters, which is exactly whom the neocons serve. I have a video of a Washington neocon lobbyist demanding that Americans be murdered by some hired guns and Iran be blamed. Why isn't he being tried for terrorism and instead getting a big fat promotion for wanting Americans dead?

Your polemics only prove you're brainwashed and incapable of conducting a rational conversation.
Bowler_4007
not rated yet Oct 14, 2012
Holy crap, I was happily reading the promising work, when I abruptly read the line "Unfortunately, other experiments with zebra fish resulted in the growth of abnormal tails."

What a jolt.
i'd rather grow a tail than die because of cancer, so long as this treatment doesn't cause other diseases or dangerous deformaties its not a big issue
StarGazer2011
1 / 5 (1) Oct 18, 2012
@StarGazer2011 Your post makes no sense. By omission you vouch for corporate welfare and the zionist banksters, which is exactly whom the neocons serve. I have a video of a Washington neocon lobbyist demanding that Americans be murdered by some hired guns and Iran be blamed. Why isn't he being tried for terrorism and instead getting a big fat promotion for wanting Americans dead?

Your polemics only prove you're brainwashed and incapable of conducting a rational conversation.


what?!

Im just saying that all politicians are enemies of the people; doesnt matter what they call themselves. Left wing/Right wing both belong to the same elite vulture pecking the eyes out of humanity.

I thought that was obvious.