Gold nanoparticles are often used to destroy tumors and hold back cancer. Researchers from the University of Sharjah have now developed a new method for the synthesis of gold nanoparticles, that makes them even deadlier to tumors, while lowering their overall toxicity and thus making them safer for use.
One of the most common techniques used in the fight against cancer, is delivering gold nanoparticles into tumors. The nanoparticles absorb laser light at high efficiency, heat up and destroy the cancer cells. In a way, they act as tiny antennas that respond only to a certain frequency that doesn’t harm the body – but blows up the tumor cells that were infiltrated by the nanoparticles.
While other metal nanoparticles are also occasionally being used for the same purpose, gold nanoparticles are superior to all others, especially because of their low toxicity. Their manufacturing process, however, can be quite expensive, and can even cause environmental damage. To counter those issues, researchers are using living organisms – bacteria, fungi and plants – which uptake gold ions and develop them into nanoparticles. In fact, gold particles can even be generated by tumor tissues in the lab.
Gold nanoparticles that were manufactured in a biological setting, however, are not composed of gold alone. In their generation process, they also absorb some of the biological molecules – proteins, mainly – that exist in the cells where they are incubated. Which leads to a fascinating question: can gold nanoparticles be grown in cancer cells and absorb some of their surface proteins, so that they can later identify these cells better when they’re being injected into the body? If that is the case, then such techniques could lead to the creation of nanoparticles that are much more effective at countering cancer.
Two researchers from the University of Sharjah, in collaboration with the Cairo University, Beckman Research Institute and Beni-Suef University, have recently attempted to answer this question. The research was published in the scientific journal PLOS.
The team, with Prof. Sameh S. M. Soliman from the University of Sharjah as the lead author, has attempted to generate gold nanoparticles with biological molecules extracted from breast cancer cells. Gold ions were incubated with those molecules, absorbed them, and had their properties change significantly when compared to gold nanoparticles generated in other cells.
The gold nanoparticles generated from the molecules found in breast cancer cells, were compared against ones that were generated by normal fibroblasts. The ‘cancer nanoparticles’ showed significantly better anticancer activity against those same breast cancer cells. They were also less toxic then the other nanoparticles, and harbored different organic molecules that apparently allowed them to target the cancer cells more efficiently.
The process used in this study to generate gold nanoparticles from cancer cells is highly novel, and is likely to have significant anticancer applications. It will lead to treatments that are more efficient while also having a less toxic and harmful effect on the body. As such, it is yet another advancement in the war against cancer, and stands to benefit the whole of humanity.
Original content by Nawartna