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Could Breakthrough Cancer Treatments Raise Industrial Gold Demand?

Commodities / Gold and Silver 2017 May 11, 2017 - 05:14 PM GMT

By: HAA

Commodities

Shannara Johnson : Precious metals aren’t just used as investments and for jewelry—some of them have a wide range of industrial applications as well.

Silver, for example, is used (and used up) in a multitude of products, from solar panels to glass coatings, LED chips, semiconductors, touch screens, water purification, and more.


Silver’s big brother gold, on the other hand, has far fewer industrial uses. However, that could change very soon.

According to the latest numbers from market research firm Global Market Insights, the market size for gold nanoparticles is projected to reach $8 billion by 2022.

Most of the growth is expected to come from a growing trend to use gold in medical applications—for imaging, diagnosis, drug delivery, and photo-thermal therapy, as well as coating titanium-based dental implants.

Here are a few examples of the most exciting new uses for gold nanoparticles.

Knights in Golden Armor

According to laboratory research presented at the 2016 Cancer Conference of the UK-based National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI), the yellow metal might have a bright future in the medical sector.

Research into the best ways to transport a drug directly into the heart of a cancer cell where the chromosomes reside has been going on for years, but it has recently reached the breakthrough stage.

Scientists from the Cancer Research UK/MRC Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology have figured out how to deploy gold nanoparticles as safe vehicles for a drug that shuts down a molecule called telomerase in the cancer cell—a process that keeps the malignant cell from rejuvenating and growing out of control.

The best part: Only cancer cells are attacked by the miniature knights in golden armor. Unlike the traditional slash-and-burn methods (chemotherapy and radiation), which often do more harm than they help, healthy cells remain completely unharmed with this treatment.

The same gold nanoparticles can also be used to deliver a dose of cancer-killing radioactivity to cancer cells. So far, the best results have been achieved utilizing both approaches in a one-two punch.

Cancer Research UK’s CEO, Sir Harpal Kumar, stated that “this research adds further insight into [gold’s] potential. Ensuring that treatment is accurately targeted at cancer and avoids healthy cells is the goal for much of cancer research, and this is an exciting step towards that.”

Blowing Up Cancer Cells with Heat

Serving as transporters for drugs and radiation is not the only way gold nanoparticles can be utilized in revolutionary new cancer treatments. They are also helpful in “photothermal therapy,” as a 2016 article in the Journal of Nanomaterials describes.

Gold nanoparticles (GNPs) are irradiated by near-infrared light, leading to the excitation of the surface electrons and converting the light into heat. The GNPs form large clusters inside the cancer cells and release their heat load—which destroys the cancer cells’ membranes and proteins and causes irreversible damage.

Granted, there have been setbacks. For example, some of the gold nanoparticles can end up in and around normal cells, so the lasers used to heat up the GNPs could hurt those cells as well. That’s especially precarious in cases where tumors surround vital tissues like nerves or arterial walls.

Some recent improvements in the scientists’ methodology look promising, though. They equipped the GNPs with immune protein antibodies that specifically latched on to cancer cell receptors, and instead of firing continuous laser beams, they used ultrashort infrared pulses.

One unintended but favorable side effect of this new approach was higher temperatures wherever GNPs formed large clusters. As a consequence, the greater heat would vaporize adjacent water molecules, which created tiny bubbles that expanded and “exploded,” blowing up the cancer cells. Normal tissue wasn’t affected.

In cases where most of the tumor was able to be surgically removed, after secondary treatment with GNPs, the survival rate of tested lab mice was 100%. All residual cancer cells had been eradicated.

It remains to be seen if this therapy will work on humans as well as it does on rodents, but if it does, we may be looking at a revolution in the history of cancer treatments that makes the old-school, harmful therapies obsolete.

Cumulative Effect: Every Little Bit Counts

Now, how much gold is actually being used in these therapies?

Not much. A gold nanoparticle is smaller than a red blood cell, and some of the above-mentioned therapies use as little as 3% of the amount found in a typical wedding band.

© 2017 Copyright Hard Assets Alliance - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable,but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


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