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Special ‘magnetic’ bacteria help stomach cancer diagnosis

Scientists from the University of Granada in Spain have developed a type of magnetic bacteria which can be added to food to help diagnose diseases of the digestive system, including stomach cancer.

The research team say the patented technology is still only in experimental phases but it includes the use of ‘magnetic’ probiotic bacteria. The bacteria, which is edible, is created through combining the magnetic particles with pro-biotic bacteria in food.

In order to help the fight against cancers like stomach cancer, scientists have tried to imitate the ‘magnetobacteria’ that are produced naturally. Magnetobacteria contain internal magnetic crystals, allowing the bacteria and even dead cells, to align with each other, and the new bespoke bacteria intends to copy that behaviour by using their internal magnets as a compass to help detect cancer cells within the digestive system. The tiny particles then settle around the cancerous growth and can be sensed through MRI scans, and can help in destroying malignant cancer cells through magneto hyperthermia.

Researchers said that, “These artificial magnetic bacteria could have biomedical applications in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scans) to facilitate diagnosis, or in heating malign cells through magnetic hypothermia and thus curing diseases like cancer.”

Magnetic hypothermia is a relatively new treatment for cancer patients. Magnetic particles such as the lab-created magnetic pro-biotic bacteria here, are inserted into the blood stream and bind to the cancerous cells. An alternating magnetic field is applied to a localised area previously known through MRI scans (on which the particles – and therefore the tumours- show) which causes the particles to generate heat, which destroys the cancer cells by raising their temperature to 40-43°C.

This new technology will facilitate the use of these probiotic bacteria, common in food, to diagnose and treat tumours and as an edible iron supplement, said the report published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, and is likely to be a huge step in the diagnosis of digestive system diseases.

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