South Korean scientists may have found a way to remove dangerous heavy metals such as lead from blood by using specially designed magnetic receptors.
The receptors bind strongly to lead ions and can be easily removed, along with their lead cargo, using magnets, they wrote in an article in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, a leading chemistry journal.
"Detoxification could theoretically work like hemodialysis: the blood is diverted out of the body and into a special chamber containing the biocompatible magnetic particles," they wrote in a statement.
"By using magnetic fields, the charged magnetic particles could be fished out. The purified blood is then reintroduced to the patient."
Lead is a dangerous heavy metal and is especially toxic to children. Safe and effective detoxification processes are especially important.
The South Korean team, lead by Jong Hwa Jung at the Gyeongsang National University's department of chemistry, managed to remove 96 percent of lead ions from blood samples using these magnetic particles.
Exposure to lead in developed countries is mostly a result of occupational hazards, from lead used in paint and gasoline. Outside of occupational hazards, children sometimes fall victim to lead poisoning. A child who swallows large amounts of lead may develop anemia, muscle weakness and brain damage.
Where poisoning occurs, it is usually gradual, with small amounts of the metal accumulating over a long period of time.