Tuning the Magnetic Vortex State in Magnetite Nanodiscs for Remote Control of Biological Signalling

In this work, we demonstrate the application of anisotropic magnetite nanodiscs (MNDs) as transducers of torque to mechanosensory cells under weak, slowly varying magnetic fields (MFs). These MNDs possess a ground state vortex configuration of magnetic spins which affords greater colloidal stability due to eliminated dipole-dipole interactions characteristic of isotropic magnetic particles of similar size. We first predict vortex magnetization using micromagnetic stimulations in sub-micron anisotropic magnetite particles and then use electron holography to experimentally investigate the magnetization of MNDs 98–226 nm in diameter. When MNDs are coupled to MFs, they transition between vortex and in-plane magnetization allowing for the exertion of the torque on the pN scale, which is sufficient to activate mechanosensitive ion channels in cell membranes.