Technology & innovation

Anti-cancer innovation in the CIS—from bio-ceramics to neutron generators

6 Jul '11
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor

All across the CIS, anti-cancer research teams are developing innovative ways to fight cancer. Today we will look at a number of the most intriguing developments, starting with Moscow’s A.F. Ioffe Research Institute of Applied Physics and Ukraine’s V.N. Karazin Kharkov National University. Now seeking investors to commercialize their new class of magnetic ceramics, the team uses an alternating magnetic field and a synthesized ferrite-based composite material to kill tumor cells.

Like many new promising medical technologies, the Russo-Ukrainian magnetic ceramics research is being supported by the Fundamental Research Funds of the two countries. With strong demand from CIS oncology clinics and MRI scanner makers, the developers are now seeking investors to commercialize their innovation.

Biocompatibility + magnetic particles = new bio-ceramics

The focus of the Moscow-Kharkov research team is the development of an innovative magnetic bio-composite—an artificially created inhomogeneous solid comprising at least two elements—by marrying the most useful properties of apatite-(CaOH) and ferrites.

Apatite-(CaOH), or hydroxyl apatite, is a well-known biocompatible material widely used to replace damaged osseous tissue because it is chemically and structurally similar to the mineral component of human bone.

Ferrites are chemical compounds that include ferric oxide and other metals’ oxides. For this particular project, so-called single-domain ferrites are used. Their particles are very small, consisting of just one constituent with concordantly oriented magnetic moments of molecules, and act as permanent magnets.

The researchers use ferric oxide and baryta (barium oxide) as the magnetic particles. Apatite-(CaOH) and the ferrite are ground in a ball mill; then the resultant powder is dried and specially pressed. After drying and pressing, the molded powder is sintered in a humid environment at 1,200 degrees Celsius.

How it works

Simply put, the treatment uses ferrite particles to create a biocompatible material; places it where a malignant tumor is located and then creates an alternating magnetic field to allow the ceramics to kill malignant tumor cells. (Initial results were published in the scientific magazine Solid State Physics in April—Ed. note).

Technically speaking

The bio-ceramics that the team has developed stops and even eradicates cancerous growth by mimicking apatite-(CaOH)’s superb bioactive properties.

With an increase in the concentration of magnetic particles and an alternating magnetic field, the powder also has a special thermal effect. Researchers believe the effect occurs because of a hysteresis magnetization reversal or a random re-orientation of the particles’ magnetic moments—depending on the size and composition of ferrites.

By using an alternating magnetic field, the heat released by the ferrites easily kills neoplastic cells (the latter perish at 42-45 degrees Celsius).

A new bio-composite

According to experts, the magnetic characteristics of the new bio-composite are a major advance over what is currently used—including bio-glass ceramics.

On top of fighting cancer, the new bio-composite’s magnetic particles can be used in other medical areas. For example, they greatly augment picture contrast in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Other CIS innovators

In Lvov, West Ukraine, Cell Biology Institute specialists recently invented an enzyme that decomposes incurable neoplastic cells that damage liver, skin, prostate and blood.

Belarus and Russian scientists are teaming up in their research in the field of photodynamic cancer therapy.

Earlier this summer, Novosibirsk’s Budker Nuclear Physics Institute tested its new elementary particle accelerator on cancer-afflicted living cells. Its innovative boron-neutron capture therapy works by introducing boron-containing substances in a living organism that move to a tumor. Once there, the damaged area is then irradiated with neutrons causing what the developers refer to as a “micro-nuclear blast.”

The Novosibirsk scientists claim their ‘nuke strike’ technology works perfectly on animals, killing cancer while leaving surrounding areas intact.

They believe that one day, “the accelerator will be used to treat brain cancer.” However, it will require three-to-five years of research before testing on human cells can begin and an estimated $15m in investment.

Regional roundup

Other regional scientific hubs include the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Medical Radiology Research Center in Obninsk, Kaluga region, which has developed Russia’s first compact neutron generator to treat malignant tumors.

In Tomsk, Siberian State Medical University has come up with innovative y-emitting tracers that developers say will dramatically improve early-stage diagnostics of cancer.

Earlier this year Russia’s Skolkovo Foundation—a body set up to facilitate fundraising and streamlining of project selection for Russia’s ‘new Silicon Valley’ innovation hub outside Moscow—pledged an estimated $70m for the rest of 2011 to fund up to 20 Russian biomed projects.
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Tags: neutron (9) / cancer (69) / composite (56) / innovation (287) / bio ceramics (0) /

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