"The yeast were magnetized by adding genes to increase their ability to sequester iron and by mutating other genes to increase their magnetic properties by altering their metabolism," said Dr. Silver. Although yeast with just the iron transporter deleted became magnetic, yeast that express the human ferritin gene in combination with this deletion displayed stronger magnetism. This suggests that magnetization does not rely on magnetic properties in normal yeast cells, but shows that it can be induced by manipulating the existing iron transport system or by introducing iron sequestering genes.
The researchers conducted further genetic experiments to determine which signaling pathways contributed to the induced magnetization. They identified a gene that controls the reduction-oxidation conditions of a cellreduction-oxidation referring to chemical reactions in which atoms transfer electrons between one anotherand that also induced the formation of iron-containing particles and magnetization of the cells.
The wider impact of this study is that it shows how magnetization might be induced in other non-magnetic organisms. Even cells without intrinsic magnetic properties might become magnetized through changes to existing pathways of iron storage and by altering regulation of reduction-oxidation conditions. These findings open up many new potential avenues for research, including the examination of how magnetic particles function in neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, magnetization is "contactless, remote, and permeable" so it's one potential way to generate interactions between cells, for example, that might be useful for both bioengineering and therapy.
"There are several applications," said Dr. Silver about this approach. "In bioprocessing, th
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