Researchers Use Living Bacterial ‘Magnets’ to Guide Viruses Engineered to Attack Cancer Tumors

Medical researchers in England call this a “bugs as drugs” approach, and this has been successfully used to attack prostate and breast cancer cells

The amazing Oncolytic Virus, occurs in nature, is known for having the ability to cause cancer cells to burst open and die. However, its life in the human body is short mostly because it gets dissolved by the immune system before it gets to attack cancer tumors.

Now, researchers at the Sheffield group, funded by Cancer Research UK, have also found they can guide Oncolytic viruses if they’re coated with magnetized particles. The magnetic coat gets the virus to attack the cancer tumors by getting to them without getting vaporized.

“The magnets help protect the virus but crucially they also help them to target a tumor,”  Dr Munitta Muthana, one of the new project’s leaders, told The Guardian. We place a magnet over a tumor and it will draw the virus speedily and directly to it.”

An oncolytic virus has a diameter of about 180 nanometers (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter) while the magnets needed to be about 50 nanometers in size. “These tiny magnets could be made in the laboratory but we have found bacteria do a better job of manufacturing them than we could,” the Dr. added.

The bacteria that was found is a microbe found in soil that absorbs iron oxides to align itself with Earth’s magnetic field, called magnetosomes.“These microscopic magnets they make are perfectly shaped and ideally suited to the microscopic packages we need to target deep cancers,” said Dr Faith Howard, another project leader.

Having developed the technology, the Sheffield team is now working to ensure they can manufacture sufficient supplies so that clinical trials on humans can begin soon.