Magnetic Bacteria Carry Drugs into Tumors

cancer cell

At first glance, the biology of magnetic, underwater-dwelling, oxygen-averse bacteria may seem of little relevance to our most pressing human health problems. But science is full of surprises. A paper published in Nature Nanotechnology presents an inspired use of these bacteria to deliver anti-cancer drugs to tumors, specifically targeting the oxygen-starved regions generated by aggressively proliferating cells.

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Targeted Medicine: Using Bacteria as Navigators

Badwater Basin in Death Valley, California
Recently, a new strain of bacteria was isolated from brackish water at the Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park in California and characterized as a novel species of magnetotactic bacteria (1), a type of bacterium that synthesizes nanocrystals of magnetite (Fe3O4) and greigite (FeS4). These bacteria orient themselves and navigate along geomagnetic fields using intracellular, membrane-bound magnetic nanocrystals, collectively named the magnetosome.

[Yawn] Another bacterial strain in a world where bacteria are one of the most abundant life forms. Ho hum, right? Not so fast! Wait until you see what these bacteria—or more specifically, the magnetosomes—can do. Magnetotactic bacteria might provide us with a great new tool to target delivery of chemotherapeutic drugs, recombinant proteins and medically relevant antibodies, ligands and nucleic acids to treat a wide range of diseases. Continue reading “Targeted Medicine: Using Bacteria as Navigators”