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The discovery in the early 2000's that magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) complexed to nonviral or viral vectors can, in the presence of an external magnetic field, greatly enhance gene transfer into cells has raised much interest. This technique, called magnetofection, was initially developed mainly to improve gene transfer in cell cultures, a simpler and more easily controllable scenario than in vivo models. These studies provided evidence for some unique capabilities of magnetofection. Progressively, the interest in magnetofection expanded to its application in animal models and led to the association of this technique with another technology, magnetic drug targeting (MDT). This combination offers the possibility to develop more efficient and less invasive gene therapy strategies for a number of major pathologies like cancer, neurodegeneration and myocardial infarction. The goal of MDT is to concentrate MNPs functionalized with therapeutic drugs, in target areas of the body by means of properly focused external magnetic fields. The availability of stable, nontoxic MNP-gene vector complexes now offers the opportunity to develop magnetic gene targeting (MGT), a variant of MDT in which the gene coding for a therapeutic molecule, rather than the molecule itself, is delivered to a therapeutic target area in the body. This article will first outline the principle of magnetofection, subsequently describing the properties of the magnetic fields and MNPs used in this technique. Next, it will review the results achieved by magnetofection in cell cultures. Last, the potential of MGT for implementing minimally invasive gene therapy will be discussed.


Jose I Schwerdt, Gerardo F Goya, M Pilar Calatayud, Claudia B Hereñú, Paula C Reggiani, Rodolfo G Goya. Magnetic field-assisted gene delivery: achievements and therapeutic potential. Current gene therapy. 2012 Apr 1;12(2):116-26

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PMID: 22348552

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