Gold has been the currency of many civilizations because of its advantageous and attractive bulk properties. Many modern civilizations have left the gold standard, but the attractiveness of gold has not decreased. One reason is because of the development of gold nanoparticles.
Although gold nanoparticles have been formed as early as the 4th century AD because of incorporation into cups such as shown in Figure 1, it has not been until the past 50 years that researchers have developed gold nanoparticle formation techniques and exceptionally characterized these particles enabling their usefulness.
Gold nanoparticles have found numerous applications both within and outside of biology. For example, the gold nanoparticles could be used as therapeutic delivery vehicles. Furthermore, specially shaped and sized nanorods can be exothermically excited by 700-800 nm light. This could be used to produce a hyperthermia treatment of tumors where the nanoparticles could be coated with a ligand for the tumor and then light shown only in the location of the tumor for site-specific therapy.
In addition, gold nanoparticles are commonly used in biological assays as detection agents for certain pathological conditions. Outside of biology, gold nanoparticles can serve as catalysts for chemical reactions and also be used in printable electronics. These and other currently investigated applications for gold nanoparticles provide a rich future for gold in our modern society.
About the author: John Hickey is a second year Biomedical Engineering PhD candidate in the Jon Schneck lab researching the use of different biomaterials for immunotherapies and microfluidics in identifying rare immune cells.
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