Zinc Ferrite Nanoparticles Kills Tumor Cells to Keep Other Tissues Safe


A cancer cell being attacked by some sort of an antibody. / Photo by: royaltystockphoto via 123RF


Cancer therapies using nanoparticles are currently undergoing intensive research to ensure the safety of patients while frying the tumors. In a study at the University of Buffalo, scientists developed magnetic nanoparticles that can destroy cancer cells without harming healthy tissue in other parts of the body.

In the study, the scientists created two types of nanoparticles, each composed of metal alloys. The first type has manganese cobalt ferrite, while the second type has zinc ferrite. They exposed both types to magnetic fields to determine their heat efficiency. The manganese cobalt ferrite nanoparticles reached the maximum heating power upon exposure to high magnetic fields. On the other hand, the zinc ferrite nanoparticles can attain maximum heating power under an ultra-low magnetic field, making it feasible for clinical applications.

The scientists believe that the zinc ferrite particles may be useful in bone cancer treatment, and to prove this, they need to recreate the scenario. 

Typically, a patient who undergoes surgery for bone tumor removal would need an artificial material called bone cement, a substance that fills the voids in the bones. The cement could be a potential method for the nanoparticles to enter the body to kill remaining tumor cells.

So, they embedded the particles into the bone cement and administered it to a pork rib. Then, they heated the particles using an ultra-low magnetic field. The small number of nanoparticles or one percent of the cement was able to reach the right temperature to destroy tumor cells.

“The treatment will only heat up the region where nanoparticles are without affecting healthy tissues that are further away, so we anticipate few side effects,” said Dr. Hao Zeng, a professor of physics at the UB College of Arts and Sciences.

The magnetic field that triggers the nanoparticles does not require any contact or insertion of any probe, making the procedure less invasive compared to conventional treatments.