Scientists from the University of Granada have successfully created magnetic bacteria that could be added to foodstuffs and could, after ingestion, help diagnose diseases of the digestive system like stomach cancer. These important findings constitute the first use of a food as a natural drug and aid in diagnosing an illness, anywhere in the world.
The researchers - members of Bionanomet, the Metallic Bionanoparticle research group of the Department of Inorganic Chemistry and the Institute of Biotechnology of the University of Granada - have conducted this research in collaboration with BIOSEARCH SA, a private company. Their results have been published in the latest issue of Advanced Functional Materials.
To design these magnetic bacteria, the researchers looked to Nature. They tried to copy magnetobacteria, which naturally produce very limited numbers of internal magnets that, essentially, provide them with a means of orienting themselves as if they possessed an internal compass.
These artificial magnetic bacteria could have biomedical applications in magnetic resonance imaging - to facilitate diagnosis - or in heating malign cells through magnetic hypothermia and, thus, curing diseases like cancer.
This new technology - patented by BIOSEARCH SA - is still only in an experimental phase but it will facilitate the use of these probiotic bacteria, common in food, to diagnose and treat tumours and as an edible iron supplement.
This research has been financed by IDEA, the regional government of Andalusia's Agency for Innovation and Development. The project has led to the registration of a patent for the technology and its applications and to a first publication in one of the most highly ranked journals in the field of applied materials.