Hitting Gold

Doctors Say They Can Kill Tumors by Growing Gold Inside Them

The gold can be heated up with a laser to destroy cancer cells.

9. 14. 20 / Victor Tangermann
Victor Tangermann
Image by Victor Tangermann

A team of researchers have figured out a way to biosynthesize tiny gold nanoparticles inside cancer cells — to aid in x-ray imaging and even to destroy them.

It wouldn’t be the first time scientist have used gold nanoparticles to fight cancerous growths. But until now, the techniques were limited by the way they were introduced into the cancer. Some methods coaxed the particles latch onto peptides or even white blood cells, as New Atlas reports.

This new technique, however, allows for the biosynthesis of the gold nanoparticles directly inside the cancerous cells, a “highly promising approach for drug delivery application,” according to Dipanjan Pan, professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and co-author of a paper about the technique published in the journal Nature Communications last week.

The team dissolved the gold nanoparticles in a “polyethylene glycol” solution to create ionic gold — essentially gold salts within a liquid.

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Once injected into cancer cells, gold nanoparticles started to generate within cancer cells during a lab experiment, a process that took just minutes.

“We have developed a unique system where gold nanoparticles are reduced by cellular biomolecules and those are able to retain their functionality, including the capacity to guide the remaining cluster to the nucleus,”  explained in a statement.

They then demonstrated the same approach inside a mouse tumor before destroying it by heating up the nanoparticles with a laser, a process known as “photothermal remediation.”

Pan said that “the most challenging research ahead of us will be to find new methods of producing these particles with uncompromised reproducibility,” and assessing how the nanoparticles will affect human health in the long term.

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