Nanomagnets could combat drug-resistant bacteria, researcher says

May 14, 2013 | by Tami Dennis

Drug-resistant bacteria have made headline after headline, created problem after problem. And yet, they're still with us. One City of Hope researcher has a provocative aim, however: To remove multidrug resistant bacteria from our blood using nanomagnets as "nanobiotics."

Anil Suresh, Ph.D.,  is a staff scientist in the City of Hope lab of Jacob Berlin, Ph.D. An expert on nanoparticles and their use in biomedical applications, Suresh has been especially focused on using nanoparticles to improve drug delivery.


Drug-resistant bacteria create the potential for significant health risks, but one researcher has a theory on how to remove them from the bloodstreatm. Researcher Anil Suresh plans to rist test his approach on E. coli, shown here. Drug-resistant bacteria create the potential for significant health risks, but one researcher has a theory on how to remove them from the bloodstream. Researcher Anil Suresh plans to test his approach on E. coli, shown here.


One planned project, however, takes a different tack. Noting that current research often focuses on developing nanoparticles as drug delivery agents that target certain cells, Berlin and Suresh began to wonder if nanoparticles could be targeted to disease-causing organisms and then used to remove the harmful organisms from the bloodstream, specifically through magnetic force.

After all, recent research has shown that magnetic shifts can be used to concentrate iron oxide nanoparticles at cancer metastases. And other studies have shown they have the potential to remove heavy metals, steroids, proteins and even cancer cells from the blood.

So, building on his experience at City of Hope, Suresh proposes attaching extremely tiny magnets, referred to in research terms as “super paramagnetic iron oxide nanomagnets,” to the surface of E. coli bacteria using antibodies. He then intends to use a strong permanent magnet — outside the body — to remove the magnetically tied E. coli from the bloodstream completely.{C}

Suresh said his project, still in the planning stages, would not introduce foreign materials into the bloodstream and would thereby avoid side effects. After testing his hypothesis on E. coli, he plans to then move to tests on malaria-causing Plasmodium, typhoid-causing Salmonella and black-fever-causing Lieshmania bacteria.


City of Hope researcher Anil Suresh theorizes that dangerous bacteria could be removed from the bloodstream using nanomagnetized particles. City of Hope researcher Anil Suresh theorizes that dangerous bacteria could be removed from the bloodstream using nanomagnets.


He wrote in a recent proposal: “This novel proposal will model, optimize and achieve novel targeting strategy using permanent magnets to control and remove multidrug resistant microorganisms labeled with nanomagnets and will improve the current therapeutics drastically, in particular it will enable new and immediate treatment for several dreadful multidrug resistant microbes.”

The plan is not only provocative, but also promising. So promising in fact that India’s Department of Biotechnology, part of the Ministry of Science and Technology, has awarded him the prestigious Ramalingaswami Re-entry Fellowship for 2012-2013. The fellowship is awarded to just 50 Indian citizens who are working overseas in various fields of biotechnology and life sciences and would like to take up a scientific research position in India.

Winners are able to work in any of the scientific institutions or universities in the country and are eligible for research grants for five years, with an appraisal for another five years based on the progress.

Suresh said bacteria-causing diseases are still a major threat; the emergence of multidrug resistance is a significant health concern and a challenging task.

"I strongly believe that my project will do some justice to the current therapeutics," he said. "If everything works as planned, we might not have to worry about drug resistance, side effects caused by the drugs, etc. The proposed nanoparticles-based 'nanobiotics' strategy would be the simplest and safest approach ever implemented for the treatment of blood-borne bacteria."

Berlin called the award "well-deserved," saying how he's looking forward to seeing Suresh "bring the promising idea of 'nanobiotics' to life."

"It is a joy to see Anil win such a prestigious award," he said. "Anil has made significant contributions to our work here at City of Hope developing new nanoparticles to target the delivery of cancer drugs. He is an incredibly creative and passionate scientist. India is lucky to have him returning home to tackle such a devastating problem."

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