2 July 2012
Rideal Travel Bursar Luke Green reports on Magnetic Carriers 2012, Minneapolis, Minnessota, USA 22-23 May 2012:
The magnetic carrier’s series of meetings gives research scientists and industrial suppliers the chance to showcase their latest developments in the field of magnetic carriers. Advances in all fields of magnetic carriers were presented, including diagnostics, therapy, analytics, separation chemistry, labelling, actuation and synthesis.
Urs Hafeli (the conference organiser) opened the meeting with an overview of the highlights. In the field of magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) and their application, a further 4000 journal citations and 600 patents have been added since the last meeting two years ago. New directions in research were presented including microwave (MW) chemistry, which has become a popular medium of heating with many research teams beginning to study MW effects in syntheses. Research into magnetic catalyst’s, and surfactants (for clearing oil spillages) is proving useful whilst toxicological studies are allowing the behaviour of MNPs in the body to be better understood. Specifically in biomedicine, MNPs have been successfully shown as agents to improve neovascularisation and reduce atheroscelerosis.
In an invited talk, Kannan Krishnan described the fundamentals behind magnetic particle imaging (MPI) and the requirements for good MPI agents. A good imaging agent will exhibit a good signal with high magnetic saturation at low applied magnetic field; the frequency required for a signal is dependent on the coercivity of the particles. Brownian motion should be minimised so that the applied field can be aligned with the anisotropy of MNPs. To conclude, emphasis was placed upon the requirement for better phase transfer methods, improved control of particle anisotropy and increased size monodispersity.
A particularly active discussion of the fundamentals behind magnetic hyperthermia took place and there appears to still be some confusion around this field indicating that there is still work to be done in elucidating the mechanism of heating. It also became clear that the practical method (orientation of particles within field) exhibits high variability and there is a need for standardisation in order for results between teams to be comparable.
In the field of diagnostics, sub pM detection of PSA (for detection of prostate cancers), voice recognition and magnetic tweezers are all showing promise; Tim St Pierre demonstrated the use of MRI in the quantitative analysis of Fe content in patients with sickle cell disease and Steven Saville showed that the relaxometry time of MNP solutions could be adjusted by forming chains.
In other areas, MNPs are finding application as magnetic bar codes; a mini NMR system shows potential with high moment MNPs, a new analytical technique FFF-SAXS allows measurement of core size as opposed to hydrodynamic size (often presented as measurement from photoelectron spectroscopy). Magnetic separation is a growing field with several demonstrations and discussions of systems for fractionation of magnetic microspheres, cells, proteins and MNPs. In the field of flow chemistry, measurement of flow rates were demonstrated through the use of giant magneto resistance – magnetic cilia disrupt a magnetic field to give an electronic signal.
Personally I found the conference useful on several levels. Lectures showcasing research into the synthesis of MNPs gave me new insights and ideas for my own research into MNP synthesis on a very immediate timescale. One aspect of my research investigates the phase transfer of MNPs from organic to aqueous phase and I was inspired by a novel method (Mingli Peng) involving the chemical change of a stabiliser to make it stable in solution as opposed to via chemical addition or stabiliser exchange. Before attending the conference I attended a careers consultation at the RSC, which made me realise how passionate I am about my research and the potential abroad to widen my capacity. At the conference I really took the opportunity to network extensively and make useful contacts with researchers in academia and industry in, Australia, Germany and the USA. I hope to continue correspondence with such contacts both on a professional and a personal level.
In my opinion this was a hugely successful conference which inspired and excited me whilst providing useful opportunities for further learning and career progression; I am thus extremely grateful to the SCI and RSC for their support which allowed me to attend such a useful conference.