Magnetotactic bacteria as sources of model magnetic nanoparticles and biorobots for targeted therapies (MAT2017-83631-C3-1-R) : MINISTERIO DE ECONOMÍA Y COMPETITIVIDADDuración, From: January 2018 to: September 2021
Coordinadora: M.L. Fernández-Gubieda


Magnetotactic bacteria are aquatic microorganisms that swim along the Earth’s magnetic field lines towards low oxygen regions, using chains of nanoparticles biomineralized internally (called magnetosomes) as compass. The different species of magnetotactic bacteria synthesize perfectly stoichiometric magnetite nanocrystals, with genetically controlled sizes and shapes, surrounded by a biocompatible membrane, making them ideal for biomedical use. This project is oriented in two complementary directions: first, the thorough study of the magnetic properties of the magnetosomes and its relation with other nanoparticle systems, and second, the exploitation of magnetotactic bacteria for biomedical applications.

On the one hand, the high quality of magnetosomes makes them a perfect model system to investigate the relation between structure and magnetic properties, and to define experimental methods and characteristics for the appraisal of nanoparticle systems. This will be accomplished by comparing the magnetosomes to nanoparticles with distinct origin and properties, such as chemically produced magnetite nanoparticles and rare-earth based ones, obtained by mechanical alloying. The three systems will be studied using macro- and micro-characterization techniques, supported by analytical and modelling methods, in order to assess the influence of the structure, morphology and arrangement of the nanoparticles on their magnetic properties, and reproducibility. Intensive use of in-house and Large Scale Facilities techniques will be arranged.

On the other hand, we propose to employ the magnetosomes for cancer therapies based on magnetic hyperthermia and targeted drug delivery, using the previously acquired knowledge to optimize the final in-vitro tests. Additionally, this part of the project proposes a novel and more ambitious initiative, oriented towards exploiting the living bacteria as self-propelled biorobots for cancer treatment, using their tendency to navigate along definite magnetic directions and oxygen gradients. Ideally, guided inside the body by external magnetic fields towards hypoxic tumor regions, they can produce a therapeutic action both by releasing heat (hyperthermia) and therapeutic drugs (drug delivery). To test this approach, we will build a laboratory station composed of microfluidic channels mimicking human blood vessels in which the bacteria can be remotely controlled by using a magnetotaxis setup, while their position and movement will be tracked by a combination of microsized magnetic sensors and optical microscopy. The final drug and heat release will be activated by an incorporated magnetic hyperthermia system.

To carry out the project a multidisciplinary team of researchers from materials science, physics, microbiology, electronic engineering and medicine is gathered. 

MAGNET-CELLPATCH H2020-MSCA-IF-2017. Marie Curie Felowship (Idoia Castellanos)Multimodal magnetic cellular-patches with synergistic effects for high performance theranostics
Entidad financiadota: European Comisión EU proposal 798830
Duración,  desde: 2019 hasta:2021
Coordinadora: M.L. Fernández-Gubieda