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Gold Nanoparticles Revisited

A couple of news reports came up today about gold nanoparticles, tiny spheres far smaller than a cell, coated with pure gold. One builds on a story we first talked about over a year ago; the other is very new -- and very weird.

Researchers at UC San Francisco have published work in the journal Cancer Letters describing the use of gold nanoparticles and a laser to detect and kill cancer cells. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it should: we first reported on the use of gold nanoparticles and lasers by researchers at Rice University to eliminate cancer cells in July of 2004. This research focused on a different type of cancer than the Rice work, as well as a different type of laser. [In addition, as the lead researcher on the project indicates in the comments, they use a different, significantly smaller, form of gold nanoparticle.](Coincidentally, while looking through the Cancer Letters site for a direct link to the abstract, I stumbled across yet another piece of research on gold nanoparticles, lasers and cancer, from Belarus.) What all of this means is that the gold nanoparticle & laser approach to cancer elimination looks to be an extremely robust method. I honestly believe we'll have an effective cure for cancer in tests before the decade is out.

That is, if we're not busy using gold nanoparticles to build circuits out of bacteria.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska have shown that bacteria coated with gold nanoparticles can function as an electronic circuit. The bacterial species Bacillus cereus will form bridges between gold electrodes on a microchip; when dipped in a solution of gold nanoparticles and a synthetic protein, the nanoparticles will coat the bacteria, which are still alive. This, in turn, allows the completion of a circuit. The value of the bacterial component comes from the way living bacteria respond to environmental conditions -- the hybrid bio-nanochip created by the Nebraska team was made as a humidity sensor, but other kinds of environmental sensing technologies are possible with the method.

Comments (2)

Ivan El-Sayed:

hi, thanks for the coverage. I performed the above I should note that the researchers at Rice used a different particle known as a "Nanoshell". These are gold coated silica. We are using pure gold, something that was overlooked. The pure gold appears better since the entire particle absorbs heat (not just the outer gold coating) and our particles are much smaller than the nanoshells (40nm vs 160nm). We have submitted further work exploring these difference. anything over 100nm is quite huge from a cell's point of view. so we are hopeful this new material may be even more succesful. At any rate, it is all very exciting.


Ivan, thanks for the comment -- and thank you for the clarification on the differences between the Rice research and what you're doing at UCSF. I'll update the text accordingly.


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