Go with the flow

Queen's researchers use magnetic fields to control bacteria with the potential to deliver drug treatments.

Go with the flow
This microscope slide features a small channel through which Queen's researchers simulated the flow of a human bloodstream.

In order to influence a specific type of bacteria to swim against strong currents, Queen scientists are using magnetic fields. It could open up the capability of utilizing the tiny creatures for sedate conveyance in conditions with complex microflows – like the human circulatory system.

During the study, scientists mainly focused on studying and manipulating the mobility of magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) – tiny organisms that contain nanocrystals sensitive to magnetic fields.

Dr. Carlos Escobedo said, “MTB have tiny (nanoscopic) organelles called magnetosomes, which act like a compass needle that helps them navigate to nutrient-rich locations in aquatic environments – their natural habitats – by using the Earth’s magnetic field. In nature, MTB plays a key role in Earth’s cycles by influencing marine biogeochemistry via transporting minerals and organic matters as nutrients.”

Analyzing how does MTB acts with magnetic fields and currents, scientists introduced stronger currents and magnetic fields to see if the bacteria could still navigate successfully. By increasing the rate of flow and the strength of the magnetic field, MTB’s were able to swim strongly and conceitedly against the current.

Mr. Rismani Yazdi said, “They were even able to swim across a strong current with ease when we moved the magnet perpendicular to the flow.”

The group’s achievement in coordinating MTB through a perplexing and quick-moving condition could be a huge advance toward utilizing the microscopic organisms to transport pharmaceuticals through the human circulation system to treat tumors specifically.

Scientists are now planning to bind therapeutic drugs to the bacterial bodies for transport.