Innovation is an essential component of any society or community that seeks to avoid the trappings of conformity. To that end, here is the most recent post in the occasional series titled “Innovation All Around Us”.
Using Gold to Fight Cancer
Gold’s existence has been recorded in multiple cultures for well over 2000 years. Throughout the rise of mankind this element has been desired, hoarded, and fought over. While gold no longer tantalizes the western world into conflicts for global domination, in several South American and African countries it does remain an industry fraught with conflict and environmental concerns due to extraction methods involving mercury. The people who expose themselves to the dangers of mining gold will never earn enough money to own this product of their labor. Despite the negatives of bringing gold to market, gold still occupies a place of reverence as an object representing beauty and love.
Moving past gold as a symbol of beauty and love it seems gold has potential in the fight against cancer. Through research conducted at several different institutions including Rice University in Texas and MD Anderson Cancer Center, gold is playing a role in destroying cancer cells.
“Oncologists are now injecting cancer patients with ultra-tiny, gold-wrapped spheres. The nanoparticles, each smaller than a red blood cell, accumulate in a tumor after slipping out of the bloodstream through little holes in the tumor’s rapidly growing vessels. Once there, the gold waits—until an oncologist blasts it with near-infrared light.
Despite gold’s shiny quality, the spheres are made to absorb rather than reflect certain wavelengths of light, a property used against the cancer cells. “We artificially contaminate the tumor,” says Sunil Krishnan of MD Anderson. The nanoparticles convert the light into heat, and as temperatures in the tumor climb above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the cancer cells deform, shrivel and then disintegrate.
In experiments in mice, Krishnan is zapping the scraps of pancreatic cancer remaining after a tumor is removed surgically. But clinical trials in people, including for cancers of the head, neck and lungs, are targeting tumors without surgery. Although gold can be expensive, some potential therapies use as little as 3 percent of the amount in a typical wedding band.”[i]