Cells with Baggage
It’s nice to know that those smart cookies up at MIT are getting something pretty sweet accomplished. Reported on bbc.com but originally published in Nano Letters, researchers have found a way to attach a polymer rucksack filled with magnetic nanoparticles to cells which allows the cell to be manipulated by a simple magnet. The “rucksack” was created using polymer multi-layer technology with a three layer system that contains polymers designed to stick to the cell wall, hold the rucksack’s payload, and encase the other two layers which was built on a patterned surface that allows the layers to form only in certain places. A liquid mixture of live cells is then poured over a batch of rucksacks, which immediately latch onto the cell’s walls. Upon heating, the rucksacks disconnect from the cell walls, leaving the cells floating around with their new accessories.
This break-through has opened up the doors for tons of research opportunities that would allow scientists to literally dictate the movement of specific cells in order to minimize the amount of medicine a person has to actually take. Instead of flooding the body with huge amounts of prescription drugs that can sometimes produce nasty side effects, the medication can be sent directly to the source of the problem which, in theory, should also be more effective.
So far, the lymphocyte cells, a type of cell involved in the immune system, have been the only ones tested. However, the cells were still able to perform their normal functions and were ultimately not harmed in the carrying of the rucksack. As long as this research continues, I believe the world of drug treatment could be vastly altered if this new technology is able to live up to the hype scientists believe it can.