A recent study has shown that gold could boost the effectiveness of drugs used to treat lung cancer cells. The Independent reported that the precious metal increased the effectiveness of drugs used to treat lung cancer cells.
The research team encased minute fragments called gold nanoparticles, in a chemical device.
While this has not yet been tested on humans, it is hoped that a device of the kind could one day be used to reduce side effects of current chemotherapy treatments by precisely targeting diseased cells without damaging healthy tissue.
Gold is a safe chemical element and can accelerate, or catalyse, chemical reactions. The scientists discovered properties of the metal that allowed these catalytic abilities to be accessed in living things without any side effects.
The device has been shown to be effective after its implantation in the brain of a zebrafish, suggesting it can be used in living animals. The study was carried out in collaboration with researchers at the University of Zaragoza's Institute of Nanoscience of Aragon in Spain, which was funded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK), and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
Dr Asier Unciti-Broceta, from the University of Edinburgh's CRUK Edinburgh Centre, said, "We have discovered new properties of gold that were previously unknown and our findings suggest that the metal could be used to release drugs inside tumours very safely.''
A package could be developed to target only the diseased and cancerous cells and leaving the healthy cells alone, drastically cutting the harmful and potentially life threatening side effects of chemotherapy as we know it today.
According to Dr Unciti-Broceta, gold was not known to have this property of a delivery metal that could carry the chemotherapy drugs directly into the tumour and thus prevent it from affecting the healthy cells in its path of travel. But he called it a ''step forward''.
This could lead to a technology in future where a device could be made that could go directly into the tumour with the doctor being able to control the release of the drug into the tumour alone, according to experts.