A Nanomagnetic way to Stimulate Neurons in our Bodies

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Nanomagnetic disks facilitate the study of the effect on neurons

Neurons in our bodies are affected by chemical and electrical stimuli as well as mechanical stimuli, such as pressure and vibration. It was not easy to study the effect directly, as there is no way to measure cell alert. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were able to find a new way to test this.

The results are an important step in arriving at new therapies like nervous stimulation to treat Parkinson’s and other similar diseases. These treatments require external wires, while the new system allows the injection of molecules that are activated by relying on an external magnetic field.

The results were published in the ICC journal, which was published by Daniela Gregorck and Alexander Cinco with Assistant Professor Polina Anikeva, as well as a research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston and Spain.

The new method allows the stimulation of cells inside the body without the use of chemical methods or drugs, and without electrical tools or wires. “The nervous system is special,” Cinco says. “Neurons reveal different forces, so we feel touch, hear, and balance.” The team targeted a group of neurons known as the dorsal root ganglion, which forms a knot between the central and peripheral nervous system and is further affected by mechanical forces.

The cornerstone of this process was the development of tiny discs with unusual magnetic properties, which allowed them to vibrate when exposed to a magnetic field. The diameter of the tablets is about 100 nanometers or about 1% of the targeted neurons ’volume, and they are injected in large quantities to achieve a great effect on the pressure receptors. “We created nanoparticles to produce forces for cells to discover and be influenced by,” Cinco added.

The researcher Anikiva said that ordinary nanoparticles need large magnetic fields to activate them and obtaining materials that provide mechanical strength with a medium-strong magnetic field was a difficult problem, and the solution was in the development of magnetic nano-discs.

The nanorods contain atoms that spin in a vortex fashion without applying an external magnetic field, allowing the particles to behave without creating magnetic properties, which makes them stable in solutions. The field direction changed.

Anikiva, Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science, Engineering, and Cognitive Science, added that the work combines multiple disciplines, such as chemistry, electrical engineering, and biological sciences.

The team initially used particles of a ferromagnetic alloy to provide the necessary forces, but they were not biocompatible. The researchers attempted to develop hematite particles, that is, iron oxide, to convert it into nanotubes. The hematite is transformed into magnetite, which has the magnetic properties needed by researchers, which are vital for the body. The color turns from red to black.

“We had to confirm the state of the rotation of the atoms of matter,” Gregorck said. The researchers experimented with nanoparticles and demonstrated, using the holographic systems presented by the team in Spain, that they interacted as expected, providing the forces necessary to influence neurons.

This opens a lot of treatment, making the effect on pressure-sensitive neurons anywhere in the nervous system possible, to stimulate individual organs directly without electrodes or medications.