Magnetic fields enable contact-free movement of small objects and particles in space. This magnetic manipulation can become an important tool in the field of minimally invasive therapy, as it allows surgeries to be performed more gently and drugs to be administered in a more targeted manner. Catheters and endoscopy capsules, which are directed with magnetic fields into hard-to-reach areas of the body, are already in clinical use today. Current research is focusing on the development of magnetically controlled micro-swimmers, which are intended to serve as drug transporters in the body, or the use of therapeutics bound to magnetic nanoparticles in order to increase the concentration locally at the target site using magnetic fields.
For precise and safe application, however, magnetic manipulation requires close monitoring of the motion of the manipulated objects. Besides clinically established methods such as X-ray-based imaging, MRI or ultrasound, Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) is particularly suitable for the visualization of magnetic nanoparticles. It enables real-time resolved, three-dimensional visualization of particles and objects without the use of ionizing radiation. MPI scanners offer the advantage that the magnetic fields can be used both for direct visualization of the objects to be moved and for their magnetic manipulation.
At Fraunhofer IMTE, new methods for magnetic manipulation and techniques for visualization are developed. Through a combination of high-precision Additive Manufacturing, the production of special nanoparticles and computer-aided simulation of the movement behavior, novel micro-robots are designed and tested. The developed technologies offer a broad range of applications and a variety of possibilities in individualized diagnostics and therapy.