Researchers from the Scientific and Educational Center 'Smart Materials and Biomedical Applications' have performed a joint interdisciplinary research work on the development of a novel approach for treating leukemia through nanomaterials.
The research team was headed by Kateryna Levada and was also assisted by collaborators from the Center for Immunology and Cellular Biotechnology of the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University.
The researchers investigated how magnetic nanoparticles can be exploited in in vitro environments to obtain a selective antitumor effect. The new technique is built on the combined effect of permanent magnetic fields and nanoparticles on human cancer cells.
Leukemia, also called lymphoblastic leukemia, is known to be the most common type of blood cancer in adolescents and children. This medical condition impacts the bone marrow and causes the degradation of the immune system in humans. It is responsible for causing 75% to 80% of acute leukemia, which also impacts adults.
Existing techniques for treating leukemia are built on chemotherapy; however, chemotherapy is very costly and while it is toxic to tumor cells, it can also affect the entire human body. Hence, to overcome these barriers, new strategies utilizing nanomaterials are urgently required. In their new study, the team applied continuous magnetic fields and magnetic nanoparticles.
For their analysis, the researchers also used magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles, since they offer a potential basis for developing biomedical applications.
These are biocompatible materials and can be altered in the days to come, for instance, they can be covered with numerous shells and can also be modified with fluorescent labels (for microscopic techniques).
To design targeted antitumor medications, the impact of the material utilized both on the tumors and the healthy cells of the body need to be studied. Mononuclear cells—the first cell line of human blood—were used as a model of healthy cells. Human lymphoblastic leukemia cells are the second cell line under the unique name, called “Jurkat.”
The researchers, therefore, were able to concurrently analyze the effects of nanoparticles and magnetic fields on both cancerous and healthy human cells. They used permanent magnets, which were attached in a fixed position in culture plates, as sources of the magnetic field.
Next, they supported the permanent magnets to avoid any displacement at the time of the experiments.
After all the required components were placed, the culture plates containing the cells were also positioned on top of the plates—this approach ensured that magnetic fields are evenly distributed on the surface of the plates comprising the wells with the cells.
The study results demonstrated that the combined action of magnetic fields and nanoparticles after a treatment of 24 hours affected the Jurkat cells—that is, their viability was reduced. It was observed that iron oxides enter the tumor cells and trigger the discharge of reactive oxygen species, disturbing cellular processes.
In particular, researchers were interested in the fact this “therapy” did not suppress the healthy cells (human blood mononuclear cells) in any way.
Thus, the use of nanoparticles based on iron oxides with optimized characteristics (shape, size, chemical composition) will allow in the future to achieve a therapeutic effect by generating reactive oxygen species in cancer cells. The difference in the susceptibility of healthy body cells and tumor cells to the effects of nanoparticles will provide a selective therapeutic effect and, therefore, minimize side effects.
Larisa Litvinova, MD, Director of Center for Immunology and Cellular Biotechnology, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University
Kateryna Levada from the Laboratory of Biomedical Applications of the Scientific and Educational Center “Smart Materials and Biomedical Applications” added, “The interdisciplinary approach in this study, namely, the joint work of scientists from various scientific fields, allowed us to demonstrate the interaction of these nanomaterials with cell cultures and, thus, to reveal the potential application significance of our developments.”
We also express our deep gratitude to our collaborators - Center for Immunology and Cellular Biotechnology IKBFU, under the leadership of Larisa Litvinova, for a joint interesting and productive scientific project.
Kateryna Levada, PhD, Head of the Laboratory of Biomedical Applications of Scientific and Educational Center “Smart Materials and Biomedical Applications”
Pshenichnikova, S., et al. (2021) Control of oxidative stress in Jurkat cells as a model of leukemia treatment. Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials. doi.org/10.1016/j.jmmm.2020.167623.