Magnetic levitation: a novel way to study weightlessness

Suspending cells in a magnetic field offers an innovative way to study their properties under simulated microgravity

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Researchers from Turkey’s Izmir Institute of Technology have demonstrated a novel method to levitate cell cultures and study their assembly into 3D structures. 

Most cells are weakly repelled by magnetic fields, a property which the team, led by Hüseyin Cumhur Tekin and Engin Ozcivici, exploited to suspend a culture in a specially-designed medium.  The researchers then used this technique to demonstrate how breast cancer cells and bone marrow stem cells form complex 3D structures without the mechanical effects of gravity.

The discovery allows for real-time imaging of cultures, is low-cost, non-toxic, and could be applied in multiple research fields. Currently established levitation techniques do not accurately model microgravity, making the team’s innovation a door-opener to future cellular dynamics research in a way more reflective of true microgravity conditions.


Read the full article at Scientific Reports.

Poster image: Ovarian carcinoma cell cultures aboard the International Space Station in 2001, part of NASA's investigations into tumor cell growth and cancer-related proteins. Image courtesy of NASA.

Kristopher James Kent

Freelance journalist,

I'm a freelance writer and journalist who produces content for Nature, the Nature Partner Journals, and magazines from international universities and government science institutes. I write across a broad range of science topics, though my primary interests lie within medical science, science policy, disability, and mental health.