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From wikipedia: Biomagnetism is the phenomenon of magnetic fields produced by living organisms.

The present scientific definition took form in the 1970s, when an increasing number of researchers began to measure the magnetic fields produced by the human body. The first valid measurement was actually made in 1963,[1] but the field began to expand only after a low-noise technique was developed in 1970.[2] Today the community of biomagnetic researchers does not have a formal organization, but international conferences are held every two years, with about 600 attendees. Most conference activity centers around the MEG (magnetoencephalogram), the measurement of the magnetic field of the brain.

Do viruses produce such a field?

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viruses are not bio, but they can be magnetic. Just ask any virologist... ;) –  Lo Sauer Sep 25 '12 at 11:16
    
possible duplicate of Do viruses have a magnetic field? –  jonsca Sep 25 '12 at 13:55
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Hi user1432. You've got the right idea in trying to improve your questions to get answers, however please use the edit link to do so rather than creating a new question. –  Rory M Sep 25 '12 at 20:53
    
Noted. Thanks. I'll try to delete the closed one when I have more time. –  user1432 Sep 26 '12 at 15:26
    
Viruses are bio. Something does not need to be alive to be biological. For chemistry all that is required is that it contains carbon. Would you consider a random strand of DNA not biological? –  Andrey Dec 13 '13 at 17:54

3 Answers 3

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Please excuse the phrasing, which is not scientifically rigorous. The post only serves as a starting point.

Any electric current (the net movement of electrons) induces an magnetic field, and any magnetic field in turn induces an electric field. Indeed, each other is just one side of the same coin. The first to join these two into what is known as electromagnetism was JC Maxwell in his four fundamental equations.

Biomagnetism results from the flow of electricity within special functional tissues, located in organisms. (Some organisms have pure electrical junctions rather than 'interconnects' which rely on chemical messengers as vertebrae do. See this classical paper, and Evolution of nervous systems )

Certain heavy atoms have asymptotic magnetic field effects (a thankful property for many NMR structural biologists). As such, even if a metalloprotein with such heavy metal-atoms were to move inside the virus, driven for instance by a chemical oscillator (which would eventually come to a standstill), the effect would really have to be theoretically predicted first, and then empirically measured, rather than coincidentally just discovered (like say Penicillin). That is because it is very expensive to do science at such small scales, and the required hardware and human resources are in competition with projects that promise greater outlooks.

Further Questions:

My answer would be another question:

What sense would it make for a terrestrial virus to potentially benefit from producing an electric current inside, to motivate theoretical scientists to look into such a matter?

Or, what virus features would account for the sufficient flow of electricity to be considered a mechanism ( - as the magnetism at these scales is just the 'side effect') ?

Considerations:

( During the life-cycle of a typical virus, the virus does produce a magnetic effect, as the information-carrier molecule is charged, and the production of a new virus requires the net transport of charged molecules. Note, that by convention viruses are not living entities. )

Afaik, the field of biomagnetism only really took off due to the invention and commercialization of the SQUID.

This is just a starting point, motivated by the challenged notion of viruses. Virologists have a much better and up-to date grasp on the matter.

Killing a virus:

On a less serious side-note, one way to kill any virus is to put it on a Magnetar.

I hope this helps as a starting point...

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Many living things have significant magnetic fields. they are mostly the result of bacteria who assemble a tiny cluster of magentite within their cell bodies. These tiny iron magnets are sensitive enough to respond to earth's magnetic field, which seems to be the best known function of the magnetic particle.

Symbiotic magentobacteria are one of the mechanisms of migratory bird's uncanny ability to find their way along their magnetic route.

I don't believe a virus has ever been a magnetic particle discovered in a virus, though you never say never in biology, esp with microlife.

There are other means by which electrical and magnetic fields may be sensed by living things, but the individual magnetic fields of typical atoms in biological samples are too weak to sense without a big-ass magnet. I don't know of any verified theory that gives any validity to this being important except maybe metal atoms inside proteins whos electromagnetic fields help guide ions and electrons along specific paths in the cell. These are very local phenomena - spanning only 100 nm or so.

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My markedly unverified theory is that we should be able to alter our own magnetic fields to improve resistance to viruses, similar to the manner in which the earth's EM field shields us from solar excretions. –  user1432 Sep 26 '12 at 15:21
    
From what I can see, this is hard theory to support. Its hard to verify a theory when the magnetic fields cannot be measured. the magnitudes of field you seem to be pointing at wouldn't stop something as large as a viral particle. The fields are weak partly because non metals can't make magnets in the sense that we typically see them. Look up ferromagnetism for more details on this. –  shigeta Sep 26 '12 at 18:41
    
Apart from that, what kind of magnetic field would you need to influence a virus? Not influencing your own cells at the same time? –  January Sep 30 '12 at 15:21
    
it would be hard to influence a virus with a magnetic field - if this were obvious how to do this it would certainly be tried. you might want to study MRI and how it differentiates between different kinds of tissues. this might be a good direction, but it is still a bit of a long road to making something work. –  shigeta Sep 30 '12 at 15:26
    
@shigeta RNA and DNA can be partially aligned in a magnetic field in an NMR spectrometer due to their elongated shape. You could likely do the same with viruses, as long as they aren't globular. But that still wouldn't do more than slightly change their preferred orientation in solution. –  Mad Scientist Oct 1 '12 at 11:14

Every atom produces a magnetic field, so the formally correct answer would be "yes" (assuming that viruses belong to the tree of life, which is disputed -- otherwise, one would not use the prefix 'bio').

However, biomagnetism as a science (and not pseudoscience) is concerned with more measurable effects. The biomagnetism of a virus will be negligible compared to all the surrounding cells, and hardly measurable.

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Given that viruses are using the same building blocks as the rest of the known organisms (RNA/DNA), claiming that they do not belong to the tree of life sounds odd. Of course they do (as in, they share a common ancestor). Is this really a notable position? –  Konrad Rudolph Sep 30 '12 at 11:11

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