Gold is a precious metal in every way. Its unique characteristics on a nanometric scale make this chemical element an exceptional weapon in medicine and, especially, against cancer. The ability of this metal to interact with biomolecules, the zero toxicity and its conductivity make it a great tool for diagnosing tumors, intervening them or for transporting therapeutic compounds. But its nanoparticles have elusive behavior during processing and can lose their properties. A research team, led by Ana Alcudia Cruz, from the Department of Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry of the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Seville, who has worked closely with the researcher group Rafael Prado Gotor, of the Department of Physical Chemistry of the Faculty of Chemistry, and that of Professor Ricky Wilman, of the University of Nottingham, has managed to develop a gold ink that can be printed with a 3D injection device and create a stable compound; a fundamental door for use in the fight against cancer.
“Gold interacts with biomolecules on the walls of tumor cells and can serve as a biomarker [indicador de un estado biológico] or as a vehicle to carry molecules that react with carcinogens, ”explains Belén Begines, first author of the research published in Scientific Reports, from the Nature group.
The use of this precious chemical element as a beacon of a carcinogenic process was already highlighted by an investigation by the University of Queensland (Australia), also collected in the same publication, where it was shown that the DNA of cancer cells, unlike that of healthy ones, is configured in a nanostructure related to gold, which allows it to be used to detect the disease and is effective in a high percentage of cases in an approximate time 10 minutes
At the same time, scientists from Rice University (Houston, United States) have developed a therapy (already in clinical trial) to treat prostate cancer based on ablations guided by gold nanoparticles and the use of these microparticles is also investigated of the metal to subject the affected areas to hyperthermia treatments (localized increase in temperature).
All these advances face a common problem, the characteristics of gold nonoparticles can be lost in their physical or chemical processing, when added to other substances. “We set out to create a long-term stable gold ink that would allow us to take advantage of the biocompatibility and conductivity characteristics of this chemical element,” highlights the researcher at the Hispanic university and links with the British group, with whom she has worked for three years.
The research of the universities of Seville and Nottingham has culminated with a gold ink and a polymer made with the monosaccharide arabinose (sugar) that can be printed in three dimensions through an affordable technology and that has remained stable for six months versus days or hours of stability of other inks, in which the pressure of the printheads to create the droplets altered the characteristics of the nanoparticles or blocked the device.
The achievement opens a fundamental door to the diagnostic or therapeutic use of gold against cancer. “Our technique allows using several inks [compuestos complejos] simultaneously and at high resolution. You can create an object at once, ”Begines explains. In this way, the necessary compounds could be manufactured in a short time and with an existing technology depending on the uniqueness of each patient.
“It has been a first step. The next is to get a biosensor or the manufacture of microelectrodes and improve and study the compound, ”adds the researcher.
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