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Death Valley discovery with potential medical and imaging uses

Badwater Basin, lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere, at Death Valley National Park. (Credit: Dennis Bazylinski and Christopher Lefèvre)

Badwater Basin, on the edge of Death Valley National Park, is in the science and nanotech news this week. A research team led by Dennis Bazylinski and colleagues at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) has announced the discovery of a new type of magnetotactic bacteria, which are simple, single-celled organisms found in almost all bodies of water.

As their name suggests, they orient and navigate along magnetic fields like miniature swimming compass needles…This is due to the nano-sized crystals of the minerals magnetite or greigite they produce.

The presence of these magnetic crystals makes the bacteria and their internal crystals–called magnetosomes–useful in drug delivery and medical imaging.

This multi-national research team is funded by U.S. and French governmental agencies.

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