DevelopmenRemote control of drug-loaded magnetotactic bacteria and internalization in glioblastoma cancer cell lines

by / Tuesday, 22 August 2017 / Published in

MAGNETOSOME–DevelopmenRemote control of drug-loaded magnetotactic bacteria and internalization in glioblastoma cancer cell lines

Magnetotactic bacteria contain nanometer sized magnetic crystals (magnetosomes) generally composed of magnetite, Fe3O4, that act as internal compass, allowing the bacteria to “sense” the Earth’s magnetic field and navigate accordingly. Since their discovery in 1975, the main interest on these bacteria has been focused on the extraction and use of the magnetosomes for different kinds of biomedical applications, including cancer treatment, due to the high crystallinity and intrinsic biocompatibility of the magnetosomes. However, very recently a few groups have started investigating the possibility of using the bacteria as a whole, instead of the isolated magnetosomes, for more innovative applications.

Since the magnetotactic bacteria can sense magnetic fields, they can be externally detected, manipulated and guided. Moreover, magnetotactic bacteria use the Earth magnetic field guidance in order to find the low oxygen concentration regions in water that they prefer to live. This is ideal for cancer treatment: since the tumor area is low in oxygen, due to the tumor tendency to rapidly outgrow its blood supply, magnetotactic bacteria would be inherently attracted towards these hypoxic regions of the tumor. Therefore, targeting the tumor area with these bacteria becomes easier and more efficient than with nanoparticles.

Despite the evident potential, the research on this area is still very preliminary, with only a few labs around the world starting to work on specific problems, such as modeling the movement of the bacteria inside the blood vessels or studying their functionalization with anticancer drugs. Therefore, in order to push forward the implementation of the magnetotactic bacteria in medicine, it is necessary to develop an ambitious research project that contemplates all the steps of the clinical realization process, from the mass culture and functionalization of the bacteria, to their final tests in drug delivery or hyperthermia for in vivo cancer treatment.

Thus, the main objective of the present project is to use magnetotactic bacteria as micro-robots that can be remotely controlled by external magnetic fields in order to deliver anticancer drugs to glioblastoma cancer cells.

The interdisciplinary nature of the project will have a strong impact on the PhD student’s career, who will gain skills in different areas including magnetism, microbiology, cell biology, electrical engineering, etc. During the project, the student will also participate in a network of different national and international collaborators. Besides, complementary skills in management, communication, transfer of knowledge and teamwork will also be obtained. The acquired knowledge and skills together with high quality publications will facilitate his/her future career.

Our Group is comprised of a mixture of biologists and material physicist that have a long experience in the study of this kind of magnetotactic bacteria, with several papers published in high impact factor journals in the last few years.

Funding Body:


Project duration:
36 Month


María Luisa Fernández-Gubieda

María Luisa Fernández-Gubieda

Magnetic characterization; X-ray absorption spectroscopies; Magnetic nanoparticles;
Magnetotactic bacteria; biomedical application of magnetosomes



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