Magnetic fluids offer hope for damaged retinas

In searching for a way to distribute the material more evenly inside the eye, Dailey came up with the concept of using magnetic fluids, which are known for their maneuverability. He discussed the concept with Riffle, a polymer chemist, who then designed the biocompatible, silicone magnetic nanofluids.

If it works, it will be wonderful, says Dailey, who cautions that the technology still needs further safety testing. This could be a major innovation in how retinal detachment repair is done.

Our labs work may open the door for a whole host of new medical applications for magnetic nanoparticles, adds Riffle. Similar fluids are being developed by her lab for use in targeted drug delivery.

Riffle and her colleagues are developing magnetic, biodegradable microspheres that can be attached to specific drugs, such as chemotherapy agents. With the aid of a magnet placed outside the body, the medicated fluid microspheres could be directed to hard-to-reach tumor sites, such as the lung, prostate and brain. Riffle believes that a similar technique can eventually be used to deliver DNA to specific cells for gene therapy.

Another possible use of magnetic fluids is magnetic hyperthermia. By passing an alternating magnetic field across a magnetic fluid, the particles will heat up, destroying tissue in their path. This method looks promising as a noninvasive means of treating brain tumors, the researcher says.

There are still problems to be worked out before the fluids are ready for human trials, says Riffle. Due to the potential toxicity of cobalt, she is now experimenting with an iron-based material, magnetite, which is believed to be less toxic to cells. Riffle and her associates are also attempting to coat the experimental nanoparticles with silica material shells so that they will not lose their magnetism over time, giving them the potential to be permanently implanted, she says.

Magnetic fluids have been used in industry


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