Published: 04 Sep 2017

Gold in healthcare diagnostics

Noble metals and their compounds have a long and distinguished history as therapeutic agents in medicine.

Recent years have seen tremendous progress in the design and study of nanomaterials geared towards biological and biomedical applications, according to a study by Science State College of Health Sciences, Dhaka and Medical College for Women and Hospital, Dhaka. The gold nanoparticles are now more precious than regular gold because of their wide use and applications.

The gold nanoparticles can target tumor cells by an accumulation and entrapment process, known as permeation and retention effect imposed by angiogenic vessels and improper lymphatic flow. Therefore, the nanoparticles can accumulate selectively inside the cancerous cells at higher concentrations than the normal cells.

Gold nanoparticles have attracted intense interest, because they are easily prepared, have inherently low toxicity, high surface area, readily attach to molecules of biological interest and photo -physical and optical properties, as per a joint article released by the Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Medicine, Medical College for Women, and Hospital, Dhaka. These unique attributes have great importance in chemotherapy, cancer diagnosis, bacterial diagnosis and drug delivery.

In early 2017, a multi-institutional team led by Tony Hu, PhD, an associate professor at Arizona State University, reported their results in Nature Biomedical Engineering, claiming to have discovered a new blood test using gold for the detection of pancreatic cancer. The disease is one of the deadliest cancers as it is seldom detected until it has spread to other organs, and only 8 percent of people with pancreatic cancer survive five or more years after diagnosis (Standford University).

The researchers developed biosensors by using gold nanoparticles that selectively bind to cancer proteins, changing its light emitting properties. The researchers were able to accurately identify the patients with pancreatic cancer — even those with early stage disease — as well as the patients with chronic pancreas inflammation.

With larger clinical trials, the blood test could be used to screen for pancreatic cancer and potentially save thousands of unsuspecting lives every year.