Science Blast: Healing with Magnetic Healing

Magnetic heating may replace surgery to cure some infections

Scientists are testing the approach on hard-to-treat infections on artificial joints
electromagnetic coil
An electromagnetic coil around a limb would selectively heat metal in an artificial joint (shown inside coil) without hurting any surrounding muscle and bone. Researchers are testing this approach to treat infections on medical implants.  SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTERImplanted metal parts — such as artificial joints or pins and plates that hold bones together — can help people with injured or aging bodies. Once repaired, patients often can run, jump and play again. But sometimes bacteria in the body find and hide out in these implants. When this happens, it may take surgery to rout those germs. But what if doctors could kill those germs from outside the body, without drugs or cutting someone open? Two scientists are developing a way to do just that. The trick to make it happen: a special magnet.One reason these infections can be so tough to treat is that they form biofilms. These are thin sheets of bacteria and other gunk bind together beneath a protective, sticky layer. Plaque growing on teeth is one type of biofilm. But while you can scrub away plaque with a good toothbrush, a biofilm isn’t so easy to get rid of when it’s inside your knee or sandwiched beside a titanium plate in your toe. Only about one or two percent of patients with artificial joints develop one of these infections. But that still adds up to a lot of people.

And once they develop, such infections can be very painful and expensive to treat. Often, the patient needs more surgeries to remove the infected joint and put in a new one. They may also need a lot of antibiotics.

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