The technique involves inserting nanomagnets into monocytes – a type of white blood cell used to carry gene therapy – and injecting the cells into the bloodstream. The researchers then placed a small magnet over the tumour to create a magnetic field and found that this attracted many more monocytes into the tumour.
This new technique could also be used to help deliver therapeutic genes in other diseases like arthritic joints or ischemic heart tissue.
Better targeting of gene therapy would be helpful for gene therapy for transhuman performance enhancement as well.
Though the concept of magnetic targeting for drug and gene delivery has been around for decades, major technical hurdles have prevented its translation into a clinical therapy. By harnessing and enhancing the monocytes’ innate targeting abilities, this technique offers great potential to overcome some of these barriers and bring the technology closer to the clinic.
The team are now looking at how effective magnetic targeting is at delivering a variety of different cancer-fighting genes, including ones which could stop the spread of tumours to other parts of the body.