"My research is not focused on any particular type of cancer, I study only the magnetic relaxation of the nanoparticles and I see how the interactions can achieve greater warming in a future cancer treatment."
The words are by Daniela Paola Valds graduated last year in Physical Sciences at the Balseiro Institute and she is currently studying the Master in Physical Sciences at the same institute, under the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) and the 39; National University of Cuyo (UNCuyo).
The young scientist of Mar del Plata, had the initiative last May to contact three other colleagues to propose them to devise an innovative project together: combining two experimental treatments against cancer.
The project is called "Combined magnetic therapy: a new approach without drugs for the treatment of cancer" and aims to design and test the combined application of two experimental treatments against cancer: one is called hyperthermia and the other it is magneto-mechanical destruction.
The revolutionary idea of Valds and his three colleagues, the Spanish Irati Rodrigo, of the University of the Basque Country, the English Emma Welbourne and the American Michael Stanton, of the University of Cambridge, was presented in June during a magnetism training in San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador, organized by IEEE, the world's largest electrotechnical association.
The project was the winner and won a $ 5,000 prize. Both Valds and his Spanish colleague, Irati Rodrigo, work in the field of research on hyperthermia of magnetic fluids. This experimental treatment consists of injecting and locating the magnetic nanoparticles in the tumor area. Thus, an oscillating magnetic field is applied.
"The particles take part in the energy stored in the field and therefore they can release it as heat, if the temperature of the area has increased sufficiently, above 40 ° C, the cancer cells can be killed", explains Valds.
For their part, the other two co-equipers of this international project, Emma Welbourne and Michael Stanton, work at the University of Cambridge in the experimental treatment of magneto-mechanical destruction. It consists in locating the magnetic particles in the shape of the disks in the tumor area and applying a low frequency alternating magnetic field.
"This generates an oscillating movement of the discs, which transmits a mechanical force to the cell, which can break down the cell membrane, thus causing the death of the cancer cells to" stick "with the discs," says the young woman. physics.
Valds says that the biological culture in which the combination of experimental therapies will be tested will consist of colon cancer cells. Before applying the treatments, this culture will be "nourished" with nanoparticles and magnetic disks.
"To do this, we first have to" synthesize "or, in other words, form those particles with a nanometric dimension, that is very small," says the young woman and claims to have synthesized nanoparticles in the magnetic resonance laboratory of Bariloche, with the researcher Enio Lima Jr. as a mentor. Meanwhile, in Cambridge, their co-crews were responsible for generating the discs that will be used in the magneto-mechanical destruction.
"My colleague Irati, in Spain, to make the most biological part, that is, give the particles to the cell culture to see how they react, once all this is done, we will be able to apply the treatments," says Valds. This test will be carried out at the beginning of October, in Leioa, Spain. The team's expectations suggest that cells that do not die from hyperthermia can be destroyed mechanically. "We hope that by combining two existing treatments we can achieve a more effective one," he adds.
Before the question about the subject of his teacher thesis, which is being developed in Balseiro, in the Magnetic resonance laboratory with a CNEA scholarship, the young physicist tells that his research topic includes nanoparticle array simulations for the use in magnetic hyperthermia.
And he adds that in this way he continues his thesis topic: he studies the interactions between the nanoparticles when they are arranged in the form of chains and observes how these interactions influence the warming that could be achieved in a hyperthermia treatment. His thesis director is dr. Emilio De Biasi, CONICET researcher who creates models and simulations in different areas of magnetism.
What are the next steps of the award-winning international project?
Valds travels in mid-September to England to meet the rest of the team. All will perform microscopy studies in the laboratories of the University of Cambridge. They will use a confocal microscope and another that allows to apply a magnetic field. "We will use them to see if the different particles are incorporated or not by the cells, if they are grouped or arranged, among other aspects," he explains.
In October, the group of young researchers went to Spain to continue with the final phase of the work: "In Leioa we will apply both treatments to an in vitro cell culture of colon cancer, there is a team to do experiments of hyperthermia, by my colleague Irati Rodrigo. "And in January 2019, they plan to present the results at the" 2019 Joint MMM-Intermag "conference to be held in Washington DC, in the United States.
-Cule are currently the great challenges of hyperthermia, which is the field in which you are investigating in Bariloche?
-The great challenge is to transfer the results of treatments in water or phantoms (experimental arrangements that simulate certain tissues or organelles) to treatments in living beings (eg rats), where the demand becomes even more complicated. To do this, we must return to the physical bases of hyperthermia and conduct a systematic study of the problem and all its variables. The topic of interactions is very important because it has been seen that particles inside the cells intertwine.
-What is the connection between the above international project and your teacher's thesis?
-The project for which I have been awarded should not do directly with my teacher because we are not going to do simulations or work specifically with a series of nanoparticle chains, but can integrate the theoretical-computational vision of my teacher's thesis with the experimental part of hyperthermia. That is to say, the idea is not to combine them, but it is very good to have the opportunity to do something experimental on hyperthermia, not to be left alone with the simulations.
-How are you living this gift?
I am fully grateful to public education, which allowed me to learn from excellent teachers and professors, to work on what I am passionate about today. Public education opens its doors.