AUG 29, 2019 7:30 AM PDT

Scientists Developed Magnetic Nanoparticles that can Remotely Modulate Neural Circuits

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

Electron microscope image showing iron oxide particles inside a liposome "bubble" (MIT)

Currently, neuroscience researchers rely heavily on invasive procedures to stimulate and record the neural activity of experimental animals. A team of MIT scientists has constructed a type of heat-sensitive, magnetic nanoparticle that can deliver chemical stimulants deep into brain tissues and release them on demand, providing a new means to remotely modulate the behaviors of test subjects.

Liposomal particles are tiny bubble-like structures often consisting of phospholipids bilayers. Due to their biocompatibility, ability to entrap a variety of small and large molecules, and versatility to adopt a wide range of physicochemical and biological properties, liposomes are a popular carrier in biomedical science, capable of delivering anything from plasmid DNA for gene editing, to cytotoxic chemo-agents in cancer therapy.

Magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) can be produced by adding iron oxide to these lipid bubbles. They are not only a good contrast agent in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, but also a perfect vehicle to induce magnetic hyperthermia--a technique extensively used in oncology treatment. In a typical procedure, a colloid preparation made of nanoscale iron oxide compounds is injected directly to the vein that feed a tumor. The colloidal particles get heated up upon exposure to an alternating high-frequency magnetic field, which enables them to "bake" and eventually kill off cancerous tissues within the tumor.

For behavior and neuroscience study, scientists often use recording electrodes to trigger deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS, which involves placing stimulating electrodes deep inside a subject's brain, is effective in treating neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. 

The MIT team aimed to develop a much gentler alternative to replace this invasive procedure. They utilized a so-called magnetogenetic approach--essentially deploying blood-brain barrier (BBB)-crossing MNPs to the targeted brain region and using the thermal energy generated by magnetic hyperthermia to release chemical stimulants encapsulated inside these lipid bubbles.

In the study, they observed the heat generated in the vincinity of their MNPs in the presence of alternating magnetic fields. About 20 seconds later, when the liposomal particles reached a temperature of 42 degrees celsius (107.6 °F), the entrapped drug molecules were seen escaping from the thermally sensitive MNP.

The authors hope that their innovative magnetogenetic approach can one day revolutionize how neuroscience researchers modulate and study intrinsic neural circuits.

This latest research is published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Want to know more about the use of magnetic hyperthermia in cancer treatment? Check out this video below from Nanoprobes Inc.

Cooking Cancer with Magnetic Nanoparticles and Hyperthermia (Nanoprobes Inc)

Source: Phys.org

About the Author
Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
AUG 10, 2022
Space & Astronomy
New Study Discusses Circle of Life for Supermassive Black Holes
AUG 10, 2022
New Study Discusses Circle of Life for Supermassive Black Holes
In a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal, an international team of researchers discuss how black holes e ...
AUG 05, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
Dark Matter Revealed from 12 billion Years Ago
AUG 05, 2022
Dark Matter Revealed from 12 billion Years Ago
Dark Matter is a mysterious matter which accounts for about 85% of the overall matter in our Universe. The reason it is ...
SEP 02, 2022
Space & Astronomy
How Impacts Affect Planetary Bodies
SEP 02, 2022
How Impacts Affect Planetary Bodies
In a recent study published in Nature Communications, an international team of researchers discuss how impacts that plan ...
SEP 04, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Looking Back in Space: NASA's Project Mercury
SEP 04, 2022
Looking Back in Space: NASA's Project Mercury
This series will explore historic space missions from the start of the Space Age to the present day, including both crew ...
SEP 21, 2022
Technology
Researchers Examine "Black Box" of Artificial Intelligence
SEP 21, 2022
Researchers Examine "Black Box" of Artificial Intelligence
In a recent paper presented at the Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence, a team of researchers from the ...
SEP 30, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Ancient Mass Extinctions Likely from Volcanic Activity
SEP 30, 2022
Ancient Mass Extinctions Likely from Volcanic Activity
In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers led by Dartmou ...
Loading Comments...