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Nat Nanotechnol. 2016 Nov;11(11):941-947. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2016.137. Epub 2016 Aug 15.

Magneto-aerotactic bacteria deliver drug-containing nanoliposomes to tumour hypoxic regions.

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NanoRobotics Laboratory, Department of Computer and Software Engineering, Institute of Biomedical Engingeering, Polytechnique Montréal, Montréal H3T 1J4, Canada.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, McGill University, Montréal H3A 2B4, Canada.
McGill University Health Centre, Montréal H4A 3J1, Canada.
Department of Chemistry, University of Montréal (UdM), Montréal H3C 3J7, Canada.
Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC), University of Montréal, Montréal H3T 1J4, Canada.
Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University, Montréal H3A 1G1, Canada.
Department of Oncology, Segal Cancer Centre, Jewish General Hospital, McGill University, Montréal H3T 1E2, Canada.
Departments of Biochemistry, Medicine and Oncology, Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre, McGill University, Montréal H3A 1A3, Canada.


Oxygen-depleted hypoxic regions in the tumour are generally resistant to therapies. Although nanocarriers have been used to deliver drugs, the targeting ratios have been very low. Here, we show that the magneto-aerotactic migration behaviour of magnetotactic bacteria, Magnetococcus marinus strain MC-1 (ref. 4), can be used to transport drug-loaded nanoliposomes into hypoxic regions of the tumour. In their natural environment, MC-1 cells, each containing a chain of magnetic iron-oxide nanocrystals, tend to swim along local magnetic field lines and towards low oxygen concentrations based on a two-state aerotactic sensing system. We show that when MC-1 cells bearing covalently bound drug-containing nanoliposomes were injected near the tumour in severe combined immunodeficient beige mice and magnetically guided, up to 55% of MC-1 cells penetrated into hypoxic regions of HCT116 colorectal xenografts. Approximately 70 drug-loaded nanoliposomes were attached to each MC-1 cell. Our results suggest that harnessing swarms of microorganisms exhibiting magneto-aerotactic behaviour can significantly improve the therapeutic index of various nanocarriers in tumour hypoxic regions.

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