In South Korea, scientists used a magnetic field to get cancer cells to actually self-destruct. The body removes old, defective, and infected cells through the process of programmed cell death (PCD), or apoptosis.
So what is apoptosis?
The initiation stage can be further subdivided into extrinsic pathway and intrinsic pathway. The extrinsic pathway is initiated by cell surface death receptors on a variety of cells,where the intrinsic pathway is the result of the release of pro-apoptotic molecules into the cytoplasm and increased mitochondrial permeability.
The execution stage is when the nucleus breaks down and the phagocytosis is where dead cells and apoptotic cells are removed before they undergo secondary necrosis.
Professor Jinwoo Cheon of Yonsei University in Seoul and a team of scientists conducted experiments on bowel cancer cells using magnetic fields to induce apoptosis.
So what they did was they attached iron nanoparticles to antibodies, which bind to “receptor”molecules on cancer cells. When the magnetic field is applied, these molecules cluster together, automatically triggering “self-destruct” signal. As the cells shrink and break into fragments, these are engulfed and consumed by immune cells.
The result of the experiment shows that more than 50% of the bowel cancer cells were destroyed and untreated cells remained completely unaffected and unharmed. They now plan to test the technique on a range of cancers to see if it can destroy other tumours as well.
But still there are some limitations because the experiment has only been conducted in highly artificial laboratory conditions and in animal models only. And also, the main problem is that when apoptosis fails, the rejected cells are allowed to keep dividing uncontrollably so the tumors can develop.
So, still, there's a long way to go before it's ready to be tested in humans, but research like this shows just how ingenious scientists around the world are becoming in the quest to beat cancer.