UCLA bioengineers use gel-like material containing tiny magnetic particles to manage pain

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) bioengineers have shown that a gel-like material containing tiny magnetic particles could be used to manage chronic pain from injury or disease. The study described that use of biochemical forces that push and pull on cells to treat disease. The study was published in Advanced Materials.

Dino Di Carlo, UCLA professor of bioengineering and the principal investigator of the study said, “Much of mainstream modern medicine centres on using pharmaceuticals to make chemical or molecular changes inside the body to treat disease. However, recent breakthroughs in the control of forces at small scales have opened up a new treatment idea—using physical force to kick-start helpful changes inside cells. There’s a long way to go, but this early work shows this path toward so-called ‘mechanoceuticals’ is a promising one.”

According to the labmanager.com report, small magnetic particles were used by the researchers, they put the particles inside a gel to control cell proteins that respond to mechanical stimulation, and which control the flow of certain ions. These proteins play a role in the sensations of touch, pain and they are on the cell’s membrane.

Andy Kah Ping Tay, a recent UCLA doctoral graduate who was the lead author of the study said, “Our results show that through exploiting ‘neural network homeostasis,’ which is the idea of returning a biological system to a stable state, it is possible to lessen the signals of pain through the nervous system. Ultimately, this could lead to new ways to provide therapeutic pain relief.”

In laboratory tests, they applied a magnetic field to generate a “pulling” force on the particles, which was transmitted through the gel to the embedded cells. By increasing the force steadily over time, the researchers found that the neurons adapted to the continuous stimulation by reducing the signals for pain.

In the study, the team suggested that the magnetic gel could be tailored with different biomaterials for therapies for cardiac and muscle disorders.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health. Tay was supported at UCLA by a fellowship from the International Brain Research Organization; and the Endeavour Research Fellowship from the Australian government’s Department of Education and Training.

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Published: August 9, 2018 12:52 pm