magnetic attraction…

Now here’s an interesting little item: using magnets to remove pathogens from the bloodstream… I must admit that when I saw the topic on SciTechDaily my first thoughts were very sceptical. The idea that sleeping on magnets can cure whatever ails you, for example, has always been a bit much for me to swallow. But on reading the original story – it does sound possible.

A research team looked at the possibility of using magnets to help clear pathogens from samples of human blood – but it was nothing to do with somehow using magnetism to ‘get’ the baddies. Instead, they took tiny magnetic beads & coated them with antibodies to a disease-causing organism; in this case, the fungus Candida albicans. When the treated beads were mixed with contaminated blood, the antibodies linked with specific antigens on the surface of the Candida cells, so that each little bead became the centre of a cluster of fungus cells. The whole lot could then be removed using a larger magnet, drawing the beads+fungus clumps out of the blood & into a collecting fluid.

At the moment, this is at the stage of a bench-top experiment. But it has more science behind it than some of the other claims you hear about magnets… Out of curiosity I went looking & found that using tiny magnetic beads to grab substances out of solution has been done elsewhere – to separate specific RNA or DNA sequences, for example (Oster, Parker & Brassard, 2001). So this technique isn’t novel, & has been tried & tested in other applications already.

And I’ve learned something new. A little curiosity can take you a long way!

J.Oster, J.Parker & L.a Brassard (2001) Polyvinyl-alcohol-based magnetic beads for rapid and efficient separation of specific or unspecific nucleic acid sequences. Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials 225(1-2): 145-150. doi:10.1016/S0304-8853(00)01243-9

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