HowStuffWorks ‘Gold Nanoparticles’ —
In a study published in the July 2007 issue of Analytical Chemistry, scientists from Purdue University detailed their use of gold nanoparticles to detect breast cancer. Their work, along with similar studies at other universities, has the potential to radically change breast cancer detection.
The procedure works by identifying the proteins found on the exteriors of cancer cells. Different types of cancer have different proteins on their surfaces that serve as unique markers. Nanorods, gold nanoparticles shaped like rods, use specialized antibodies to latch onto the protein markers for breast cancer, or for another cancer type. After the nanorods bind to proteins in a blood sample, scientists examine how they scatter light. Each protein-nanorod combination scatters light in a unique way, allowing for precise diagnoses.
The use of gold nanoparticles is not new to this study. These tiny particles — it would take 500 of them to span the width of a human hair — are particularly suited to detect toxins, pathogens and cancers and are a subject of much experimentation [Source: BBC News]. The scientists at Purdue used nanorods capable of attaching to three types of breast cancer markers, with two of the markers identifying how invasive the cancer is. The lead researcher on the study, Joseph Irudayaraji, said that these nanorods could one day form part of a much more thorough test, binding to up to 15 unique markers [Source: Physorg].
So, perhaps investing in gold isn’t such a bad idea —or perhaps