Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


With Magnetic Nanoparticles, Scientists Remotely Control Neurons and Animal Behavior

Research could lead to remote stimulation of cells to treat cancer or diabetes

Clusters of heated, magnetic nanoparticles targeted to cell membranes can remotely control ion channels, neurons and even animal behavior, according to a paper published by University at Buffalo physicists in Nature Nanotechnology.

The research could have broad application, potentially resulting in innovative cancer treatments that remotely manipulate selected proteins or cells in specific tissues, or improved diabetes therapies that remotely stimulate pancreatic cells to release insulin.

The work also could be applied to the development of new therapies for some neurological disorders, which result from insufficient neuro-stimulation.

"By developing a method that allows us to use magnetic fields to stimulate cells both in vitro and in vivo, this research will help us unravel the signaling networks that control animal behavior," says Arnd Pralle, PhD, assistant professor of physics in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and senior/corresponding author on the paper.

The UB researchers demonstrated that their method could open calcium ion channels, activate neurons in cell culture and even manipulate the movements of the tiny nematode, C. elegans.

"We targeted the nanoparticles near what is the 'mouth' of the worms, called the amphid," explains Pralle. "You can see in the video that the worms are crawling around; once we turn on the magnetic field, which heats up the nanoparticles to 34 degrees Celsius, most of the worms reverse course. We could use this method to make them go back and forth. Now we need to find out which other behaviors can be controlled this way." [The video is available by clicking on the "watch video" link above.]

The worms reversed course once their temperature reached 34 degrees Celsius, Pralle says, the same threshold that in nature provokes an avoidance response. That's evidence, he says, that the approach could be adapted to whole-animal studies on innovative new pharmaceuticals.

The method the UB team developed involves heating nanoparticles in a cell membrane by exposing them to a radiofrequency magnetic field; the heat then results in stimulating the cell.

"We have developed a tool to heat nanoparticles and then measure their temperature," says Pralle, noting that not much is known about heat conduction in tissue at the nanoscale.

"Our method is important because it allows us to only heat up the cell membrane. We didn't want to kill the cell," he said. "While the membrane outside the cell heats up, there is no temperature change in the cell."

Measuring just six nanometers, the particles can easily diffuse between cells. The magnetic field is comparable to what is employed in magnetic resonance imaging. And the method's ability to activate cells uniformly across a large area indicates that it also will be feasible to use it in in vivo whole body applications, the scientists report.

In the same paper, the UB scientists also report their development of a fluorescent probe to measure that the nanoparticles were heated to 34 degrees Celsius.

"The fluorescence intensity indicates the change in temperature," says Pralle, "it's kind of a nanoscale thermometer and could allow scientists to more easily measure temperature changes at the nanoscale."

Pralle and his co-authors are active in the Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics and the Integrated Nanostructure Systems strategic strengths, identified by the UB 2020 strategic planning process.

In addition to Pralle, who has an adjunct position in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in UB's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, co-authors are Heng Huang and Savas Delikanli, both doctoral students in the UB Department of Physics, Hao Zeng, PhD, associate professor in the physics department, and Denise M. Ferkey, PhD, assistant professor in the UB Department of Biological Sciences.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the UB 2020 Interdisciplinary Research Development Fund.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Ellen Goldbaum | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>