Nanomagnetism: an ally in the struggle against cancer
Magnetic hyperthermia, an area of applied and interdisciplinary physics that brings progress on the potential uses of magnetic nanoparticles in biomedical research.
Group of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials (G3M) Instituto de Física de la Universidad Nacional de La Plata (Institute of Physics of the National University of La Plata).
In the broad and complex field of study offered by the nanomagnetism area investigating the properties, effects and behaviour of objects at the nanoscale when subjected to a magnetic field, the emergence of the Group of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials (G3M) Instituto de Física de la Universidad Nacional de La Plata (UNLP -Institute of Physics of the National University of La Plata) led by senior researcher at CONICET and professor at the UNLP, Homero Francisco Sanchez. Since 2009, the group focused its investigation into the possible applications of magnetic nanoparticles in biomedicine, including magnetic hyperthermia, magnetofección, transport and magnetic drug delivery.
Therapeutic treatment for diseases such as cancer, tumour growth or cellular aging is a topic of interest to science and society as a whole. Similarly, nanotechnology has managed to give some answers to needs in the area of health. In this context, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation of the Nation held a workshop in June that brought together researchers, scientists and business representatives in order to bring cases of linkage and transfer for the nanotech development of goods and services.
In this respect, the magnetic hyperthermia appears as a novel therapy with high selectivity and low aggressiveness to treat localized solid cancerous tumours. The procedure works as an "intelligent system" in which nanoparticles of iron oxide are used, the less toxic to cells, which when exposed to an alternating magnetic field absorb energy and then release it as heat in tumours. Thus the programmed death of cancer cells is induced. "The advantage of working with magnetic nanoparticles is their behaviour, we can manipulate them externally to fulfil a task, that is, we can have an answer to demand remotely," says Sánchez, who is carrying out the research project with Marcela Beatriz Fernández van Raap.
With reference to contributions made by the G3M group in this subject, there has been progress in the generation of nanoparticles synthesis protocols, evaluating levels of cytotoxicity (toxicity at the cellular level) in specific crops, the definition of nanoparticles and optimum magnetic fields, identifying the mechanisms by which they dissipate heat and the evaluation in vitro of the effect of magnetic hyperthermia in certain cell cultures.
The group also works with ferrofluids, an element that allows particles in a stable colloidal suspension, i.e. with stable properties over time and suitable for carrying and delivering drugs magnetic gels. In turn, they must be supported from the biological point of view: "The problems we encounter imply discipline cross-functionality, at the same time we must meet biological and physical requirements which often mean that what optimizes the physical part not necessarily is acceptable from a biological point of view or vice versa, "says Andrea Pereyra, member of the group that also leads research in the team of Doctor Rodolfo Goya Instituto de Investigaciones Bioquímicas de La Plata (INIBIOLP - Biochemical research Institute of La Plata).
Meanwhile, as regards to the coming advances in magnetic hyperthermia, it is beginning to work live “In vivo”, that is, using a closer model to what would be the development in human tumours, experimenting with lab mice model in collaboration with Dr. Patricia Setton Instituto de Química y Fisicoquímica Biológicas – CONICET / UBA (IQUIFIB - Institute of Chemical and Biological Physical Chemistry) To this end, the group has an RF applicator Leici developed by the laboratory of the Facultad de Ingeniería Electrónica de la UNLP (Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the University of La Plata).
The G3M is formed by researcher members of CONICET H. Francisco H. Sánchez, Marcela B. Fernández van Raap, Pedro Mendoza Zélis y Gustavo A. Pasquevich. In this project postdoctoral fellows are involved: Diego F. Coral and Andrea Pereyra, doctoral fellows Diana Arrieta Gamarra, Guillermo A. Muñoz Medina, Juan M. Orozco Henao, Daniel Actis, Paula Soto and Mr. Nicolás Mele. The G3M maintains a fruitful interdisciplinary collaboration with groups in the country and from abroad, which brings together doctors and PhD in physics, medical physics, biological sciences, medicine and engineering and scholars from countries like Colombia, Peru and Argentina. The G3M is a group with interdisciplinary integration, which focuses its studies on the production, handling and application of nanoparticles, colloids and magnetic gels, approaching them from basic physics, material design, and optimization of their responses to magnetic stimuli applied externally.