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Magnetic Nanohybrids for Cancer Therapy

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Using magnetic nanoparticles to treat cancer

Nanomaterial structures can be used to heat cancerous tumours, leading to cell death. Researchers have been working to improve the efficiency of this promising treatment.

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Nanotechnology has huge potential in medical research and the treatment of disease. Nanomaterial development has progressed from single particles to multicomponent structures known as nanohybrids, which offer new properties to exploit. Iron-based magnetic nanohybrids have unique magnetic properties and low toxicity levels, qualities which make them promising candidates for diagnostics and therapy in nanomedicine. This includes magnetic hyperthermia (MHT), a treatment using heat generated by nanomaterials to induce cancer cell death. “Magnetic hyperthermia is a non-invasive method for cancer therapy using magnetic nanoparticles, which are subjected to an alternating magnetic field for local heating to the therapeutic range of 42-45 °C,” explains Aram Manukyan, head of the Solid State Physics Laboratory at the Institute for Physical Research, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia. In the EU-funded MaNaCa project, researchers aimed to establish a solid basis of research for iron-oxide nanoparticles in cancer diagnosis, therapy and treatment. The project also sought to improve the ability of nanoparticles in medical applications. The project combined expertise from three European universities: Aristotle University in Greece, the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany and the Institute for Physical Research of the National Academy of Sciences in Armenia; and research specialists Intelligentsia Consultants. “The obtained results, which have been published in high-rank journals, are considered competitive for further biomedical exploitation,” says Manukyan.

Improving the heating efficiency of nanoparticles

The team studied the structural and magnetic characteristics of magnetic nanohybrids, using new-generation facilities in European partner organisations, such as a high-resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM), magnetometry, X-ray diffraction and also highly sensitive hyperthermia devices. To improve the heating efficiency of nanoparticles, the team tested out various strategies, including changing the physical parameters, such as size, saturation magnetisation and nanoparticle effective anisotropy – the ability of a material to assume different properties when measured in different directions. Hybrid nanoparticles, which are a system consisting of two or more components, can be adjusted to have different magnetic characteristics, providing high-efficiency MHT. The team’s investigations into magnetic particle hyperthermia revealed that iron content is the determining factor in the heating efficiency.

Building multidisciplinary connections

The connections established through the MaNaCa project have provided multidisciplinary training for young researchers in the emerging high-technology field of magnetic theranostics – innovative and personalised treatment of cancer. “The training of early-stage researchers involved a multidisciplinary scientific methodology as well as hands-on experiences in the lab,” notes Manukyan. The project allowed for exchanges of staff between the universities to share knowledge of this emerging field. “In addition, the project’s activities included technical and soft skill training, career development consultations, joint publications, joint participation in conferences, organisation of summer schools, workshops and an international conference,” remarks Manukyan. The MaNaCa team organised the ‘1st International Conference on “Armenia’s Perspectives in Current Oncology Theranostics” (APRICOT’) in Armenia. The event explored the use of magnetic nanohybrids in a range of biomedical areas, including hyperthermia treatment, medical diagnostics, sensing devices, toxin removal and drug delivery. “The conference can also be called a great achievement of the project,” says Manukyan. “This was the first conference held in Armenia related to magnetic nanohybrids in biomedicine, which we plan to organise regularly.”

Keywords

MaNaCa, cancer, treatment, nanomaterials, nanohybrids, magnetic, biomedicine, nanoparticles, heating

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