Lourdes Marcano, a magnetic materials researcher at the University of Oviedo, works with bacteria. And the first thing it teaches us is that they are not bad, quite the contrary. This tells us that a 60 kg person has three kilograms of bacteria in his body that perform vital functions. She investigates bacteria found in nature, especially in fresh water such as rivers, streams or swamps and also in marine sediments, and with them she wants to build biological nanorobots and eliminate invasive treatments such as radio or chemotherapy. wants to do
A doctor in our body
Marcano tells us that the idea is to have a tiny doctor that we put in our body and be able to move around our entire body looking for a problem. Once it finds it, it eliminates it and once it checks that everything is fine, it later leaves our body.
In the Magnetic Measurement Laboratory of the Scientific and Technical Services of the University of Oviedo, in the Mieres campus, the magnetic properties of bacteria are measured. They are tiny, less than the width of a hair, but they may hold the key to treating diseases such as cancer.
Bacteria with magnetic properties
The researcher shows us how she places samples of bacteria inside an electromagnet to detect their magnetic behavior and how they can be guided with a magnet inside our organism. Inside these bacteria are magnetic nanoparticles with a diameter of about 50 nanometers (100 times smaller than blood cells) which are arranged inside the bacteria as a chain.
It acts like a magnetic compass and guides the bacteria in a direction solely defined by the magnetic field. Imagine we could orient and stick those malignant cells with a magnet. Lourdes Marcano tells us that these bacteria like low oxygen areas and tumors are their ideal areas because there is a lack of oxygen because tumor cells are eating everything and they will naturally go there.
The idea would be to use them to treat cancer through magnetic hyperthermia or drug transport: they would direct the bacteria to where the tumor is located, and burn the cancer cells or release the drugs through heat or other means. To leave they would be hemmed from the outer regions. external stimuli. This way the treatment would be more personalized and localized.
Also, the side effects of radio and chemotherapy can be avoided. His research is supported by a Leonardo Grant from the BBVA Foundation. There is a long way to go, but the first step has already been taken.