WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, SUPERMASTER2011
Researchers from ETH in Zurich are taking advantage of the unique properties of magnets and nanoparticles to design a system that would help remove unwanted chemicals from the body, such as a dangerous accumulation of drugs.
To give the system specificity, the magnetic nanoparticles are covered in antibodies that only target the particular chemical or cell that researchers would like to remove. Then, “right before the nanoparticles would be recirculated, the magnetic separator accumulates the toxin-loaded nanomagnets in a reservoir and keeps them separated from the circulating blood,” lead author Inge Herrmann from ETH, told MIT’s Technology Review.
Passing the blood through a dialysis machine would capture the toxins and nanoparticles. The group demonstrated that they could remove 75 percent of the heart drug digoxin, which can be lethal if taken at too high a dose, after just one pass. Herrmann is now looking to develop a similar system for removing the excessive and deadly cytokines released into the blood during sepsis, a severe bacterial infection of the blood.
Still, some hurdles remain. "Having high circulation times, no immune response, and having the magnets not cluster with each other—that's a real challenge," O. Thompson Mefford, from Clemson University told Technology Review.