Artificial magnetic bacteria "turn" food into natural drugs

May 12, 2014 by José Manuel Domínguez-Vera
Artificial magnetic bacteria are probiotic bacteria surrounded by thousands of magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles. The bacteria are living magnets that align with an external magnetic field. They may have many applications as magnetic drugs.

Scientists from the University of Granada have successfully created magnetic bacteria that could be added to foodstuffs and could, after ingestion, help diagnose diseases of the digestive system like stomach cancer. These important findings constitute the first use of a food as a natural drug and aid in diagnosing an illness, anywhere in the world.

The researchers—members of Bionanomet, the Metallic Bionanoparticle research group of the Department of Inorganic Chemistry and the Institute of Biotechnology of theUniversity of Granada—have conducted this research in collaboration with BIOSEARCH SA, a private company. Their results have been published in the latest issue ofAdvanced Functional Materials.

To design these magnetic bacteria, the researchers looked to Nature. They tried to copy magnetobacteria, which naturally produce very limited numbers of internal magnets that, essentially, provide them with a means of orienting themselves as if they possessed an internal compass.

Biomedical applications

These artificial magnetic bacteria could have in magnetic resonance imaging—to facilitate diagnosis—or in heating malign cells through magnetic hypothermia and, thus, curing diseases like cancer.

This new technology—patented by BIOSEARCH SA—is still only in an experimental phase but it will facilitate the use of these , common in food, to diagnose and treat tumours and as an edible iron supplement.

Explore further: Scientists transfer genes required for formation of intracellular biocompass into a non-magnetic host

More information: "Artificial Magnetic Bacteria: Living Magnets at Room Temperature." Miguel Martín, Fernando Carmona, Rafael Cuesta, Deyanira Rondón, Natividad Gálvezand José M. Domínguez-Vera. Advanced Functional Materials. 2014. DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201303754

Related Stories

New nanoparticle delivers, tracks cancer drugs

October 29, 2013

( —UNSW chemical engineers have synthesised a new iron oxide nanoparticle that delivers cancer drugs to cells while simultaneously monitoring the drug release in real time.

Magnetic nanoparticles detect and remove harmful bacteria

November 19, 2007

Researchers in Ohio report the development of magnetic nanoparticles that show promise for quickly detecting and eliminating E. coli, anthrax, and other harmful bacteria. In laboratory studies, the nanoparticles helped detect ...

LANL develops first genetically engineered 'magnetic' algae

October 19, 2011

LANL scientists have genetically engineered "magnetic" algae to investigate alternative, more efficient harvesting and lipid extraction methods for biofuels. The researchers seek to reduce the cost of algae-based biofuel ...

Recommended for you

Self-sealing syringe prevents blood loss in hemophilic mice

October 28, 2016

(—For people whose blood does not clot appropriately, such as those with hemophilia, diabetes, or cancer, getting an injection or blood draw with a hypodermic needle is not a trivial matter. Because the needle ...

A composite thread that varies in rigidity

October 27, 2016

EPFL scientists have developed a new type of composite thread that varies in stiffness depending on its temperature. Applications range from multifunctional robots to knitted casts, and even tunable medical devices.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.