Bacteria engineered to produce magnetic nanocrystals
04/17/2014

In 1963 scientists first reported the existence of bacteria that swim toward the North Pole.

Online PR News – 17-April-2014 – Piscataway – In 1963 scientists first reported the existence of bacteria that swim toward the North Pole. Since then we've learned that these magnetotactic bacteria contain special membrane-bound organelles called magnetosomes that manufacture magnetic nanocrystals within cells. However, the bacterial strains that naturally contain magnetosomes are difficult to culture in the lab – so a recent study aimed to isolate the genes required for magnetosome formation and function in and to express those genes in a more tractable model organism.

In a new Nature Nanotechnology paper, Kolinko et al. report that a minimal cassette of 29 genes can induce magnetosome biosynthesis within the model organism R. rubrum. This is the first report of genetically engineering an organism to sense magnetic fields – with huge implications. Magnetosomes can be readily taken up by other cells, allowing them to be manipulated by electromagnetic fields – for targeted tumor therapies and many other biomedical and industrial applications.

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