The Gold Nanoparticle in Medicine
Nanotechnology is a branch of science that exploits both the properties exhibited by materials at the scale of a few nanometres and our rapidly evolving understanding of biology and chemistry to build materials with specific roles.
Gold plays a special role in nanotechnology…
Advances in nanotechnology and a greater understanding of how to manipulate materials at the nano-scale have once again brought gold to the attention of medical researchers. Gold nanoparticles are being used extensively in the development of innovative medicines and medical techniques, including ‘needle-less’ vaccine delivery and anti-microbial agents.
“These encoded gold nanoparticles are unprecedented in their information content,” says senior author Hanadi Sleiman, who holds the Canada Research Chair in DNA Nanoscience. “The DNA nanostructures, for their part, can be re-used, much like stamps in an old printing press.”
- Medical researchers are now identifying ways to exploit gold’s unique properties and build advanced diagnostic devices and treatments
- Gold nanoparticles are used to detect biomarkers in the diagnosis of heart diseases, cancers, and infectious agents
- They are also common in lateral flow immunoassays, a common household example being the home pregnancy test
2. Therapeutic Agent Delivery:
- Gold can be used to build highly-targeted methods for delivering drugs into the human body
- Therapeutic agents can be coated onto the surface of gold nanoparticles
- The large surface area-to-volume ratio of gold nanoparticles enables their surface to be coated with hundreds of molecules (including therapeutics, targeting agents, and anti-fouling polymers)
3. Treatment of Cancer:
But perhaps the most promising area of research is in the treatment of cancer…
Nanotechnology research is developing more efficient and accurate methods of delivering drugs and other cancer treatments. Anti-cancer drugs are being delivered directly to tumours using gold nanoparticles. The drug is bound to gold particles, which are injected into the bloodstream and travel to the site of the tumour, treating it while leaving surrounding tissue largely unaffected.
Photodynamic Therapy: Another approach to treating cancer is the use of “nanoshells”, consisting of a gold-coated core of silica, which heat up when a laser light of a specific frequency is directed at them. These particles are injected into the tumour, which is then illuminated with a near-infrared laser, destroying the cancer cells with heat.
In addition, there is evidence to suggest that clusters of gold atoms can detect and kill cancer cells commonly left behind after tumor-removal surgery.
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