The Financial Times of the U.K. reports that magnets could
help scientists perform body scans to search for viruses.
By injecting patients with particles of iron oxide only 50
nanometers across, scientists at the Harvard Medical School
believe they can accurately detect the presence of viruses
inside the body in less than half the time of conventional
The nanoparticles would be given a sticky coating of the sugar
dextran to adhere a layer of antibodies for the viruses under
investigation. These particles would be injected into the
patient and any viruses present will stick to the antibodies
to form a cluster of magnetic particles that could be detected
by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The technology would increase the accuracy of tests in half
the usual time. Patients would undergo nothing more evasive
than a quick injection and the iron nanoparticles would be
This magnetic virus detection technique could be available
in hospitals within the next few years since most of the components
have been used in human medicine.