MRIs Guide Magnetic “Seeds” to Destroy Cancer Cells

Researchers are using MRI scanners to guide 2mm metal spheres to the site of a tumor, and heating them to kill cancerous cells.

A recent Interesting Engineering article discussed a potential new function for MRI scanners: killing cancer. A team of researchers at the University College London used the machine to guide a magnetic “seed” through the brain, destroying cancer cells in its path. The novel therapy is called “minimally invasive image-guided ablation” (MINIMA). The “seeds'' are actually 2mm metal spheres called ferromagnetic thermoseeds. Magnetic propulsion generated by an MRI scanner guides them to the site of a tumor (tracked to within 0.3 mm accuracy) where they are remotely heated to kill nearby cancer cells.

The researchers plan to modify the shape of the seeds so they can act as a miniature cutting knife that can be led through tissue for precise and non-invasive intervention.

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