HEALTH – Usually used to create jewelry, gold, with amazing properties, could perhaps become the new remedy for cancer. In any case, this is the bet of a team of American researchers, who wants to beat cancer with gold nanoparticles, according to a study published Thursday, September 10 in the American medical journal Nature Communications.
In nanometric form, that is to say one billionth of a meter, gold has remarkable properties. These molecules capable of going to the heart of tumor cells have been under study for several years, as part of anti-cancer strategies. Like photothermy, a technique consisting of injecting gold nanoparticles into the bloodstream of patients, and tested several times in the United States on mice in 2017.
An innovative method
But the method developed by American researchers is innovative: this time, it involves growing gold nanoparticles directly inside cancer cells. To get substances inside tumors, the team used polyethylene glycol as a delivery vector for ionic gold, gold salts dissolved in a liquid. When introduced into the tumor, the acidic cellular environment converts gold from its ionic form into gold nanoparticles.
“We have developed a unique system in which the gold nanoparticles are reduced by cellular biomolecules and these are able to retain their functionality, including the ability to guide the remaining clusters towards the nucleus”, welcomed in a press release the teacher of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering at UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) Dipanjan Pan, who participated in the study.
Main advantage of this method? Its speed of action. According to the researchers, the transformation of salts into gold nanoparticles takes 30 minutes, while other gold-based treatments take more than 24 hours, according to the study’s authors. And for good reason, only a low concentration of gold in cancer cells is enough for the process to be effective, unlike other conventional laboratory methods.
The treatment is still far from seeing the light of day
When experimenting with mice, the researchers went further. They grew gold nanoparticles inside the cancer cells of living animals, before lighting them with lasers. Under the action of light, the gold particles heat and cook the tumor, destroying nearby cancer cells.
The essays are considered encouraging by Professor Dipanjan Pan: “This experiment has shown that intracellular formation and nuclear migration of gold nanoparticles is a very promising approach for the application of drug delivery”. If he qualifies the study as “an important step towards an ultimate goal”, he nevertheless recognizes that the treatment is still far from seeing the light of the day: “before the phases of clinical trials, it will be necessary to assess the long-term effects of nanoparticles on human health ”, he concludes.
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