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
JUN 10, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Covalent organic frameworks provide the backbone for new aerogels
JUN 10, 2021
Covalent organic frameworks provide the backbone for new aerogels
New aerogels developed at Rice University are highly durable and capable of producing light. The aerogels are composed o ...
JUN 20, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Illuminating the dark side of e-waste recycling
JUN 20, 2021
Illuminating the dark side of e-waste recycling
A new study published in the journal Resources, Conservation, and Recycling evaluates the shortcomings of electronics re ...
JUL 09, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Cluster of Free-Floating Planets Captured by Kepler Telescope
JUL 09, 2021
Cluster of Free-Floating Planets Captured by Kepler Telescope
The Kepler Space Telescope has captured evidence of mysterious free-floating planets, or planets that are alone in deep ...
JUL 23, 2021
Earth & The Environment
How Much for a Healthy Ecosystem? Value & Policy in Forest Ecosystems
JUL 23, 2021
How Much for a Healthy Ecosystem? Value & Policy in Forest Ecosystems
Whether you know it or not, healthy ecosystems are an essential part of your life and many of the services you use daily ...
AUG 01, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
New Compound Halts Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's
AUG 01, 2021
New Compound Halts Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's
Chemists have synthesized new compounds that can halt neurodegeneration linked to Alzheimer’s and other neurologic ...
SEP 16, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
American Astronomical Society Commits to Open Access Journals
SEP 16, 2021
American Astronomical Society Commits to Open Access Journals
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) will move to open access format by January 1, 2022. AAS publishes six journals: ...
Loading Comments...