AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Magnets: Fun Toy or Deadly Tool?

Taken by: USCPSC

Cancer is one of the most well known diseases, yet it is one of the hardest to treat. The research of different treatments for cancer is ongoing and innovative. According to a recent study in South Korea magnets may be the next step in cancer treatment. A way for magnets to assist the body in targeting and killing off cancer cells has been discovered and is being researched and developed.

A problem with current cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy is that they can only be targeted to a certain extent. With this experimental form of cancer treatment, using magnets, the body’s natural functions are used to kill the cells in a tumor. The human body naturally goes through a process called apoptosis, or the process of programed cell death. Apoptosis is used by the body when it is first developing allowing fingers and toes to grow individually, and it is used daily to kill off skin cells that have been damaged by weather. The researchers in South Korea are using this process to target and kill off the cancer cells.

The researchers applied zinc-doped iron oxide nanoparticles to colon cancer cells. This allows for the cells to naturally bind with antibodies, which then bind to the death receptors on the cancer cells. The researchers then applied a magnetic field, which caused  the death receptors to send out a signal telling the system to attack the cell. When this occurs chemicals are sent out and the cells of the tumor that had zinc-doped iron oxide nanoparticles on them were killed.

Sadly this innovative new cancer fighting technique has its downsides. In their experiments only half the exposed cells were killed although none of the cells they weren’t targeting were harmed. And when this method was tested on zebra fish some grew abnormal tails, which means that this method may be innovative but it still has plenty of testing to go through before it will be used on humans.

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  1. jk1234

    Progress on cancer treatment options has been improving a lot lately. Using magnets to have cancer cells self-destruct is a huge innovation. Also, there is a new drug called T-DM1 that might be able to give cancer patients another option. Read more at:

  2. rawgdog

    Cool post henroids! Interestingly, magnetic treatment has also been utilized to relieve Epilepsy. According to a recent article (below), a study in Germany in 1999 found that a dose of low frequency magnetism could reduce or limit seizures. Researchers placed a coil to the side of the head that directed magnetic pulses into the brain. The study group reported fewer seizures, some by almost half. Unfortunately the effects are only temporary (about six to eight weeks). But it is still fascinating how magnetism may be used to cure diseases. Hopefully such innovative techniques continues to arise!

  3. saysquad

    Henroids,this is a very intriguing article! I knew magnets were not just for fun (e.g – MRI machine…), but I was unaware of the fact that they could be so useful with fighting cancer. There are many different methods to fight cancer, but according to an article I found, Darwin, and his theories, could be the solution to it all. For more information, click the hyperlink below.

  4. troybolton

    I find this very interesting! It is good to know that we are finding new ways to combat cancer. It is always good to think outside the box because innovation leads to progress. One promising new Idea to fight cancer, is to starve the patient. Rats who had neuroblastoma, a deadly nerve cancer, were given Chemotherapy along with periods of fasting. The rats that fasted had an 80% fatality rate as opposed to the other rats, who were given only Chemotherapy, who had a 100% fatality rate. It is ideas like these that allow us to combat diseases. Good Article!

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