Magneto would approve of new magnetized yeast cells

Some Frankenstein yeast cells had part of their own DNA removed and some human cell tissue put in. Why did this happen? So they could be so stuffed full of iron that they're super-magnetized and moved with magnets. Are us mere mortals far behind?

Harvard Medical School scientists are pleased to announce that they've taken the first step towards ending the reign of man and beginning the ascendance of the mutant resistance. In other words, they're pleased to announce that they've taken a step towards understanding how animals sense magnetic fields through the iron in their nerve cells. The researchers found a way to inject a massive amount of iron into yeast cells — cells which are large and easy to observe in the laboratory — and to watch these augmented cells respond to magnetic fields more strongly than other cells.

First off, gene surgery was necessary to make these cells Magneto-compliant. Most yeast cells have a gene that shuttles extra iron to specialized areas where they have little effect — that transporter gene had to be deleted. Next, genes for human ferritin proteins were added. These proteins form a shell around iron and keep it from being chucked out of the cell as well. Finally, the yeast cells were fed an iron-rich diet that left them stuffed with the metal. Although there are already yeasts that can be made iron-rich and manipulated with magnets, these cells went far above and beyond.

The technique that gave us these proteins could be used to allow researchers to separate out certain cells from a mixed population, organize cells into tissues, and track cells with an MRI. And of course, make us all dance for Magneto someday.

Image: Screened. Via PLoS Biology.