Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Rare-earth based Magnetocaloric materials for cancer treatment


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Magnetocaloric Effect

Mains level : Magnetocaloric Effect and its application in Cancer treatment

Indian scientists have developed a rare-earth-based magnetocaloric material that can be effectively used for cancer treatment.

Magnetocaloric Effect does have other applications like in the field of medical implants but for use in energy field, it is still in nascent stage.

From exam perspective, do understand what principles lies behind this effect.

What is Magnetocaloric Effect?

  • Magnetocaloric effect (MCE) is a phenomenon where the application and removal of a magnetic field cause certain materials to get warmer and cooler, respectively.
  • This effect normally occurs near its Curie temperature where the application of the field makes the material to warm up and cools up when the field is removed.

Issue of hyperthermia in cancer treatment

  • Advancements in magnetic materials led to the development of magnetic hyperthermia to try to address the issues of side effects of cancer treatment like chemotherapy.
  • In magnetic hyperthermia, magnetic nanoparticles are subjected to alternating magnetic fields of few Gauss, which produce heat due to magnetic relaxation losses.
  • Usually, the temperature required to kill the tumour cells is between 40 and 45°C.
  • However, the drawback in magnetic hyperthermia is the lack of control of temperature, which may damage the healthy cells in the body and also have side effects like increased BP, hair losses etc.

Here comes in, Magnetocaloric materials

  • This hypothermia can be avoided by using magnetocaloric materials, as it can provide controlled heating.
  • The advantage of magnetocaloric materials which heat up or cool down with the application and removal of the magnetic field, respectively is that as soon as the magnetic field is removed, the cooling effect is generated.
  • The team at ARCI chose rare-earth-based alloy for studies as some of the rare earth materials are human body compatible.
  • The heating capacity would increase with the increase in the magnetic field.

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