Tiny magnetic particles as huge helpers in medicine



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In his most famous speech in 1959, the well-known physicist and Nobel Prize winner Richard P. Feynman spoke about his vision of a miniaturized mechanical surgeon inside blood vessels. This surgeon detects “faulty” parts of the body, “takes a little knife and slices them out”. “Other small machines might be permanently incorporated in the body to assist some inadequately-functioning organ“, says Feynman. The implementation of what seemed a bold vision sixty years ago is most real today. Such “small machines” – of which Richard Feynman had no concise idea of how to implement them – are the research topic in the Nanomagnetic Medical Engineering group. Ferrous nanoparticles, so called SPIOs, are investigated and developed further. SPIOs is an acronym for superparamagnetic iron oxides. The superparamagnetic property of the rust-coloured SPIOs lets them behave differently from an ordinary fridge magnet. Being superparamagnetic means, that the SPIOs are not magnetic permanently, only when exposed to magnetic field of another strong magnet. Only then the SPIOs turn into tiny magnets themselves and can be targeted precisely – even inside the human body.