Using Magnets to Capture Cells for the First Time

Achievement date: 

An interdisciplinary research team of mechanical, electrical, and bioengineers at the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Translational Applications of Nanoscale Multiferroic Systems (TANMS), headquartered at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has created novel magnetoelastic nanostructures to capture individual cells. This marks the first time that magnetic manipulation of individual cells has been achieved.


The innovative approach of using magnetoelastic nanostructures to alter magnetic fields at such a small scale is a fundamental departure from contemporary methods that limit control to the bulk. TANMS has demonstrated that controllable and localized magnetic manipulation at nanoscales can capture individual cells. This breakthrough has direct applications for medicine. Large arrays of cells can be used for highly parallel experimentation to hasten the pace of research. In practice, it can also be used to develop personalized treatments for cancer and other diseases.


The novelty of this research is founded on the magnetoelastic function of the nanostructures made from nickel-cobalt (Ni/Co) and the exotic iron alloy, Terfenol-D. Magnetoelasticity, also called the inverse magnetostrictive effect, is a property of materials like Terfenol-D to convert physical strain into magnetic energy. This property is used to locally manipulate the magnetic field at a scale sufficiently small to capture individual cells.