A Bead on Disease; June 2009; Scientific American Magazine; by Kate Wilcox; 2 Page(s)
Using a magnetic field to literally pull diseases from the bloodstream sounds like a sci-fi dream. But scientists may have found a way to do just that, at least for sepsis, a potentially lethal blood infection that can lead to multiple-organ failure.
Biologist Donald E. Ingber of Harvard Medical School, his postdoctoral fellow Chong Wing Yung and their colleagues have devised a way to filter pathogens from the blood of septic patients using micron-size magnetic beads. In their model system, beads coated with an antibody that binds to sepsis-causing bacteria or fungi mix with blood drawn from a patient. After the antibody-coated magnets have bound with the pathogen, they are pulled via a magnetic field into a saline solution that flows alongside the blood and sweeps them away. The filtered blood goes back into the patient. In tests using 10 to 20 milliliters of blood, the method removed 80 percent of the pathogens.