Updated October. 08, 2012 04:33
A Yonsei University research team has achieved a breakthrough in the fight against cancer.
Magnetic nano-particles injected in the vicinity of cancer cells cling to the apoptosis receptor DR4, which can order cancer cells to kill themselves. When a magnetic field is projected from outside the body, nano-particles become magnetic and deliver the suicide order to the DR4, changing cellular activities and the cancer cells disappear within a few days.
Led by chemistry professor Cheon Jin-woo and medical professor Shin Jeon-soo of Yonsei University, the team developed a technology that can control cellular activities utilizing nanotechnologies. The breakthrough enables magnetic nano-particles to find certain cells such as those of cancer and operate at a certain time.
Cheon said, We succeeded in our experiment on colorectal cancer cells in which we activated the 15-nano-meter (one nanometer is one-billionth of a meter) switch of a round nano-particle by projecting a magnetic field from outside the body, which delivered the suicide order to the cells.
Cancer cells disappeared without a trace after this technology was applied. Normal cells of bones or muscles disappear when their life cycles end because they order themselves to die at the proper time. If a dead cancer cell leaves residue, this can cause side effects such as inflammation.
Inducing cancer cells to commit suicide by using a magnetic field entails less side effects than applying chemical chemotherapy, which uses highly toxic chemicals to kill cancer cells. The magnetic nano-particles are safe for the human body because they are used as contrast agents of magnetic resonance imaging, Cheon said.
The research team said the nanomagnets can be used not only to kill cancer cells but also to activate necessary functions such as blood vessel creation and the immune system. The team`s research paper was published Sunday in the Internet edition of Nature Materials, a global authority in nanotechnology and a sister magazine of Nature.
Professor Cheon is the recipient of the 24th Incheon Award in the science and technology category in 2010.