Gold Nanoparticles Can Be Used To Kill Cancer Cells, New Study Shows

The gold can grow within cancer cells in just 30 minutes.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Gold isn't just a decoration. It can actually serve some useful purposes. One of these is entering tumor cells to help with x-ray imaging and even killing the cancer.


This discovery was made by Dipanjan Pan, a professor of chemical, biochemical, and environmental engineering at UMBC. “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,” said Pan in a statement.

A short process 

The issue with using gold in cancer cells is getting it to enter them. For their new work, Pan and his team found a way to grow the gold directly inside the cancer cells.

This method is much quicker than the other approaches and doesn't require much gold. The treatment can work in a time period as short as 30 minutes, compared to other options which can take up to 24 hours or more.

Gold is the quintessential noble element that has been used in biomedical applications since its first colloidal synthesis more than three centuries ago,” Pan noted.

“To appreciate its potential for clinical application, however, the most challenging research ahead of us will be to find new methods of producing these particles with uncompromised reproducibility with functionalities that can promote efficient cellular binding, clearance, and biocompatibility and to assess their long-term term effects on human health. This new study is a small but important step toward that overarching goal.”

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The researchers also tested the gold's function on mice taking the process a step further. They began by growing gold nanoparticles inside the tumors of living mice.

Once that was achieved, they then targeted the nanoparticles with lasers to heat them up and eradicate the cancer cells. This method isn't entirely new.

Cancer cells have been killed in a similar fashion before but it is the first time that the gold was grown inside the cells themselves. Is there anything this precious metal cannot do?