Researchers in Zurich, Switzerland, are developing nanomagnets that could someday strip potentially harmful substances from the blood. The technology might be used to treat people suffering from drug intoxication, bloodstream infections, and certain cancers.
The project involves magnetized nanoparticles that are coated with carbon and studded with antibodies specific to the molecules the researchers want to purge from the blood: inflammatory proteins such as interleukins, or harmful metals like lead, for example. By adding the nanomagnets to blood, then running the blood through a dialysis machine or similar device, the researchers can filter out the unwanted compounds.
"The nanomagnets capture the target substances, and right before the nanoparticles would be recirculated, the magnetic separator accumulates the toxin-loaded nanomagnets in a reservoir and keeps them separated from the recirculating blood," explains Inge Herrmann, a chemical engineer at the University of Zurich who is leading the work