World’s Most Precious Metal Now Used to Diagnose Disease

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Researchers are studying gold nanoparticles for a new way to diagnose serious diseases.A startling health breakthrough from Canada could set the stage for a new way to diagnose serious diseases. This could be a nice step in the direction of making simple, portable diagnostic devices. This could be quite useful in areas of the world where heading to the hospital for an MRI is not realistic.

The researchers are studying gold nanoparticles—doses that are extremely small. They are attempting to customize those gold particles to illuminate cancer cells so the tumors would come to light for an easy diagnosis. One day, the particles could be used to deliver drugs to fight the tumors.

They have designed a device that lets technicians test for many diseases at the same time, with a high degree of accuracy. Gold is used because it emits an intense color that is easy to spot.

Gold particles are used, for instance, in a typical pregnancy test. By sensing a certain hormone in the urine, the gold particles turn the pregnancy “stick” red, revealing a pregnancy. Elsewhere, gold particles are combined with DNA and, if it turns blue, a certain disease (like malaria) is present.

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The study gets rather complicated now, but essentially they’ve created a way where a DNA sample turns red, reflecting the presence of a particular disease. The advantage is you don’t need much of a person’s DNA material to notice color changes. The DNA could come via a blood sample or, more simply, a saliva sample—or even both. This way, researchers could test for multiple diseases in the span of a few minutes.

Their research opens some big doors, with the hope that the technology could lead to efficient, inexpensive, over-the-counter tests for diseases as serious as HIV. But it could swing open many more doors as well, to other serious health problems.

Stay tuned, as the future of medical care is being crafted today.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Vollick, E., “Pour, shake and stir: How gold particles, DNA and water have potential to shape the future of medicine,” University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine web site, March 4, 2013;