As the field of nanomedicine grows, knowledge of the interactions between magnetic fields and living cells is of increasing importance. In a recent Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics article Vitalii Zablotskii et al. reviewed current research into the impact of high-gradient magnetic fields on living cells. Find out more from the authors below.
An organism’s life depends on an intricate balance between cell death and renewal. This balance can be altered or disrupted by tiny magnetic forces applied to the cell body or its organelles. The exact mechanisms of magnetic field effects on cell functionality still elude our complete understanding. However, some of the underlying mechanisms were identified for different types of cells exposed to a high-gradient magnetic field (HGMF). We were able to show that in HGMFs cell life and death are driven by magnetic gradient forces . For example, mesenchymal stem cells and human leukemia cells exposed to an HGMF on micro-magnets characterized by extremely high magnetic gradient, up to 106 T/m, showed quite different responses during the life and death of the cells. The stem cells migrate to areas with the strongest magnetic field gradient (see figures (b,c)) and build up interconnected cell networks, while the human leukemia cells exhibit swelling followed by apoptosis.
We discuss the effects of static HGMFs on cell growth, morphology and cytoskeleton organization (see figure). The effect of the HGMFs on gene expression of stem cells and their differentiation pathways is another very exciting and important question that could not be left out.
Several broader questions have also been proposed and discussed. How do cells react in response to an applied HGMF? What is the role of magnetic gradient force in the cell machinery? Does the Lorentz force influence the motion of intracellular and/or intercellular ions? How can tumors be arrested by an HGMF? Are magnetically induced cell divisions known to exist? How can high-gradient magnetic fields be used as a tool for controlling cell machinery? Why is it so challenging to identify cellular and subcellular effectors of an HGMF? Of course, a lot of research lies ahead before these important questions can be answered with absolute confidence.
Driving cell functions with HGMFs opens new opportunities to study intercellular and intracellular processes and provides new routes to controlling cell fate. In a wider context, this means that we may expect the discovery of new, exciting, biological effects of magnetic fields by achieving experimental facilities that provide the highest values of magnetic field gradients.
 V. Zablotskii, O. Lunov, S. Kubinova, T. Polyakova, E. Sykova, A. Dejneka. Topical Review: “Effects of High-gradient Magnetic Fields on Living Cell Machinery” 2016 J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 49 493003
About the authors
DrSc Vitalii Zablotskii is a senior researcher at the Institute of Physics Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, working in magnetism and biophysics. His main research activities focus on the study of magnetic field effects on living organisms, targeted magnetic drug and cell delivery as well as magnetic nanostructures and magnetic phase transitions.
Dr Oleg Lunov is a senior researcher at the Institute of Physics Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, working in cell and molecular biophysics. He is focused on research into how different external physical cues (e.g. non-thermal plasmas, mechanical stress, surface topography, functionalized nanoparticles, etc.) affect cell functionality.
Dr Sarka Kubinova is a senior researcher at the Institute of Experimental Medicine Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. She is focused on the interdisciplinary research reconnecting physics with regenerative medicine and stem cells to reveal new knowledge and methods for the treatment of various diseases.
Tatyana Polyakova is a researcher at the Institute of Physics Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. She studies magnetic domain structures of ultrathin films and magnetic field effects on living cells.
Prof. Eva Sykova is with the Institute of Experimental Medicine Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague. She is focused on using stem cells and biomaterials in regenerative medicine. New biophysical approaches, such as low-temperature atmospheric plasma or high-gradient magnetic fields, are studied in terms of their interactions with biological systems and optimized for medical applications.
Dr. Alexandr Dejneka is head of the Division of Optics of the Institute of Physics Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, working in the interdisciplinary research that combines biophysics, optics and solid state physics. His group has, for many years, focused on the development and application of advanced optical techniques based on spectroscopy, microscopy, and ellipsometry http://www.fzu.cz/en/department/21.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License Figure taken from V. Zablotskii, O. Lunov, S. Kubinova, T. Polyakova, E. Sykova, A. Dejneka. Topical Review: “Effects of High-gradient Magnetic Fields on Living Cell Machinery” 2016, J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 49 493003. Image (c) IOP Publishing. All rights reserved.
Categories: Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics