Mechanisms of the Anti-Cancer Activity Generated by Magnetosomes

Edouard Alphandéry
Caroline Maake (source: UZH)

Recently, magnetosomes have attracted much attention for biotechnological applications — in particular, their ability to generate heat under application of an external alternating magnetic field has opened exciting avenues for novel cancer treatment, going so far as to cure certain cancers in mice.

Magnetosomes are naturally occurring magnetic nanoparticulate structures composed of magnetite that can oxidize into maghemite and that are surrounded by lipid bilayer membranes. They are produced by magnetotactic bacteria, which use these particles to swim in the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field to find the optimal environment for their development. Magnetosomes display a number of appealing properties that distinguish them from the majority of chemically synthesized nanoparticles.

Already two proofs of concept in mouse cancer models have indicated the strong potential of magnetosome-generated heat to cure cancer. In a first series of experiments, magnetosomes were administered to breast-cancer-bearing mice, followed by the application of an external alternating magnetic field to raise tumor temperatures to ~43 °C. The treatment resulted in full tumor disappearance one month following treatment. A second series of experiments applied the same treatment to mice with U87 glioblastoma, resulting in full tumor disappearance one month following the beginning of the treatment.

Previous in-vitro and in-vivo studies have demonstrated the significant advantages of magnetosome-based hyperthermia over commonly used treatment options for cancer (i.e., surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy). These include the lack of severe systemic side effects, a minimally invasive procedure that spares healthy tissues, long-term tumor control and repeatability.

Building on these very promising developments, the Mechanisms of the Anti-Cancer Activity Generated by Magnetosomes project is exploring the therapeutic potential of magnetosome-based hyperthermia as an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment strategy for difficult-to-treat malignant diseases in animal and human patients, such as sarcoma and glioblastoma. The project will look at the role of the immune system in magnetosome-based treatment as well as the effect of magnetosomes on the quality of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is commonly used for clinical follow-ups after treatment.

The project is being led by Caroline Maake and Edouard Alphandéry at the Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

The project is being led by Caroline Maake and Edouard Alphandéry at the Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

Science and Philosophy Between Academia and the Public Sphere

Michael Hagner

Illusions, while a source of courage, strength and consolation, can also be dangerous. One task of science and philosophy is thus to shed light on them. Without illusions, reason could never have achieved the successes we associate today with the so-called scientific revolution and the sociopolitical enlightenment of the 18th century: insight into our place in the cosmos (Copernican turn), the universal laws governing the physical world (Newtonianism, theory of relativity, quantum mechanics), and the developmental principles common to all life forms (theory of evolution, genetics). Much the same holds true for improvements in social and physical living conditions, including the challenge to despotism posed by the separation of powers, a substantial reduction in hunger due to increased crop yields, the containment of infectious disease, etc.

In Western societies, the “enlightenment mentality” appears to be under threat. Technological achievements, which largely owe their existence to this mentality, can be turned against it — the internet, for example, which makes accessible vast quantities of knowledge while also offering platforms for the rapid dissemination of untruths, myths and conspiracy theories. It is therefore vital that science and philosophy combat anti-enlightenment tendencies in public, while meeting the academic standards set by scholars. Scientists and philosophers can be easily seduced into oversimplifying complex ideas when they are responding to a widely felt need for the world to be interpreted and made meaningful, and may encourage a lack of critical thinking. And the need for meaning fosters a climate conducive to the flourishing of illusions.

By “opening spaces for thought and keeping them open,” we create a philosophy that understands itself as both an ally of scientific skepticism and an advocate of a human need for meaning. The Science and Philosophy Between Academia and the Public Sphere project endeavors to provide a historical, systematic and problem-oriented reconstruction of a corresponding conception of critical thinking. How critical thinking can retain its critical and self-critical edge in the public sphere is therefore one of the project’s key questions. It also indirectly touches on the science communication strategies employed on a large scale by university PR departments today. No less relevant in this context is the media, both old and new, which constitute their own public spheres.

Particular attention will be paid to the form of knowledge and critique cultivated in the classical feuilleton, guided by the working hypothesis that the linguistically differentiated feuilleton typically seeks (or sought) to open spaces for thought and keep them open, rather than submitting to a binary, quasi-dogmatic logic of “either/or.” Further excursions into the history of ideas (Fichte, Schopenhauer, Marx, Dilthey, Nietzsche, Dewey, Max Weber, Heidegger and Rorty, among others) will extend the problem-oriented and systematic line of inquiry, contributing to the debate within the fields of science and philosophy and also addressing a non-academic public. In addition, the project will explore the intersection between historical-epistemological science studies and philosophy.

The project is being led by Michael Hagner, Michael Hampe and Uwe Justus Wenzel at ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

NZZ: “A flying guardian of Earth’s ecosystems”

Michael Schaepman

NOMIS scientist Michael Schaepman’s remote sensing and biodiversity research has been featured in an article by Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ). The article, “Ein fliegender Wächter für die Ökosysteme der Erde” (in English, “A flying guardian of Earth’s ecosystems”), describes Schaepman’s work using remote sensing technologies to monitor the Earth’s rapidly changing ecosystems. Starting on a small scale, Schaepman and a scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab are using an imaging spectrometer to monitor the Swiss National Park’s ecosystems.

Capturing and understanding the diversity of plants, their physiological and morphological properties, and their genetic variation is vitally important to monitoring plant diversity, the processes contributing to coexistence and ecosystem functioning, and how diversity responds to environmental change.

Schaepman is professor of remote sensing and is leading the project Remotely Sensing Ecological Genomics at the University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. By establishing a biodiversity observatory to systematically measure plant functional traits, phylogenies and intraspecific genetic variation in a variety of ecosystems, the project’s scientists will be able to predict how ecosystems respond to accelerating global change drivers.

eikones announces four new NOMIS fellows

eikones has announced four new NOMIS Postdoctoral Fellowship recipients for 2018-2019: Zeynep Gürsel, Sean Silver, Philipp Ekardt and Tobias Wilke. eikones — Center for the Theory and History of the Image at the University of Basel is dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of images as instruments of human knowledge and cultural practice. The fellowships support groundbreaking research in the interdisciplinary field of image studies, specifically concerning the function of images as models in epistemic, aesthetic and didactic contexts.

Zeynep Devrim Gürsel is a media anthropologist and associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. She completed her PhD in anthropology with a designated emphasis in film studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2007. Her scholarship involves both the analysis and production of images. She is the author of Image Brokers: Visualizing World News in the Age of Digital Circulation (University of California Press, 2016), an ethnography of the international photojournalism industry during its digitalization at the beginning of the 21st century. She is also the director of Coffee Futures, an award-winning ethnographic film that explores contemporary Turkish politics through the prism of the everyday practice of coffee fortune-telling. As a NOMIS Fellow at eikones she will be working on Portraits of Unbelonging, the first in-depth exploration of the official role of photography in the history of Armenian emigration to the United States.

Sean Silver completed his PhD in 2008 at the University of California, Los Angeles and is now associate professor of literature at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. He has written widely on the literature, philosophy and sciences of 17th and 18th century Britain. He is author of The Mind Is a Collection, an award-winning exhibit catalogue and virtual museum of objects used to model cognitive processes in 17th and 18th century Britain and Europe. As a NOMIS Fellow at eikones he will be studying complexity in the 17th and 18th century arts, a project blending computer-aided network modeling with readings of early-modern philosophical and literary texts.

Philipp Ekardt has held teaching and research positions at the Peter Szondi-Institute for Comparative Literature at Freie Universität Berlin, he was a member of the Bilderfahrzeuge project at the University of London’s Warburg Institute, and served as editor-in-chief of the journal Texte zur Kunst. His first monograph Toward Fewer Images: The Work of Alexander Kluge, partly based on his PhD dissertation at Yale University, has been published as an OCTOBER Book with MIT Press. He is currently completing his second book — to appear with Bloomsbury Academic — which reconstructs Walter Benjamin’s fashion theory, tracing its implications and manifest relations with the fashion criticism of its moment and the history of Paris couture, attending to its connections with sociological and morphological theories, proposing a reevaluation of the term elegance as an aesthetic concept, while also investigating the subject of fashion as an epistemic object that allowed Benjamin to reconsider fundamental questions such as time and material. As a NOMIS Fellow at eikones he will be working on Assemblages and Compositions: Image Models in Goethe and Lady Hamilton, looking at the writings of Goethe and the art of attitudes performed by Lady Hamilton to investigate a historical formation, as well as an entirely different epistemic model, in which a surprisingly different logic for the configuration of movement, gesture and image is encountered.

Tobias Wilke is a literary and media historian. He completed a binational doctorate (co-tutelle) at Princeton University (PhD) and the University of Tübingen (Dr.phil.) in 2008. Subsequently, he was postdoctoral fellow (2008-2009) and project leader (2009-2012) in the research cluster “Languages of Emotion” at the Freie Universität Berlin, as well as assistant professor of German literature at Columbia University, New York (2009-2018). His research focuses on the literature of European modernism, the history of media and media theory from the 19th through the 21st centuries, intersections between literary history and the history of science, the history of emotions, and sound studies. He is the author of Medien der Unmittelbarkeit: Dingkonzepte und Wahrnehmungstechniken 1918-1939 (Wilhelm Fink, 2010) and Einführung in die Literatur der Jahrhundertwende (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 3rd ed. 2016; together with Dorothee Kimmich), and editor of several other books. As a NOMIS fellow, he will be completing a book titled Sound Writing: Experimental Modernism and the Poetics of Speech, examining the history of the notion of linguistic “articulation” at the intersection of graphic recording technologies, scientific cultures of experimentation and poetic practices of the avant-garde, ca. 1870-1970.

NCEAS: Michael Schaepman’s collaborative biodiversity and remote sensing work is advancing ecosystem research

Michael Schaepman

The collaborative work of NOMIS scientist Michael Schaepman has been highlighted in an article by Alex Jamis at NCEAS, “By air and sea, synthesis research is improving how scientists capture the big picture on ecosystem change,” describing how his and other “synthesis science” is helping researchers keep pace with the planet’s rapidly changing ecosystems.

By reconciling the differences in data and methodologies of different disciplines and approaches, synthesis science “can lead to new methods that are often more broadly applicable and effective at helping researchers answer difficult questions, which can mean better science for decision-making.”

“Biodiversity and remote sensing were largely disjointed activities in the past,” says Schaepman. “But technological advances in both fields and the use of synthesis science to monitor changing biodiversity have led to a more impactful methodology for tracking global biodiversity change.”

Schaepman is professor of remote sensing and is leading the project Remotely Sensing Ecological Genomics at the University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

Tony Wyss-Coray named one of TIME’s 50 most influential people in health care

NOMIS Distinguished Scientist Awardee Tony Wyss-Coray has been named to TIME magazine’s inaugural “Health Care 50” list, highlighting the top 50 people behind the extraordinary innovation in health care in the United States in 2018. The list pays tribute to the physicians, scientists, and business and political leaders who, in the face of the United States’ problematic health-care system, are transforming health care.

Wyss-Coray was recognized for his work in using blood plasma as a potential treatment for the aging human brain. This groundbreaking work has earned him countless other prizes, including the 2017 NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award.

Also included in the list is Salk Institute scientist Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who was recognized for his scientific innovations in addressing the shortage of human organs for transplant. The Salk Institute has been a NOMIS partner since 2008.

The prestigious Health Care 50 list was curated by TIME’s team of health editors and reporters. The contributions were then evaluated based on key factors, including originality, impact and quality.

NOMIS is supporting Wyss-Coray’s continued research into identifying the circulatory factors that influence aging and using those factors to rejuvenate the aging or degenerated brain.