Nov
12
2010

Fighting Tumors with Gold

Gold. Pretty, pretty, cancer-annihilating gold. Wait, what? Yep, you read that right. Gold nanoshells are proving themselves mighty effective at killing cancer .

So here’s the process in an overly-simplified nut(nano?)shell –

1. Gold nanoshells are injected into the body.
2. The shells travel the bloodstream and seep into the tumor via the leaky blood vessels that feed it (your other blood vessels are nice and tightly woven).
3. The shiny new gold-nanoshell-infused-tumor is heated with infrared light (the same light that powers your remote controls at home) for about twenty minutes.
4. The gold-nanoshell-infused-tumor gets cooked to a dead crisp, while your healthy cells remain intact and healthy.

Great news if you’re a lab rat and you’re looking to stick around for more experiments since, so far, their studies with lab rats have been 100% effective in killing the cancer.

Also great news (mostly) if you’re a human and you’re looking for a possible cure for cancer that doesn’t involve getting horrendously sick from chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Why “mostly?” Well, because there are Gold Nugget
Gold NuggetCourtesy United States Geological Survey
few questions that ought to be asked:

1. What happens to the rest of the gold nanoshells that don’t make it to the tumor? Are they absorbed by the body? Are they processed by the liver and then passed?
2. If they’re passed through the body via the liver, what happens to them once they’re in our waste-water treatment facilities?
3. What affect do they have on the environment?
4. If the treated water makes it back to our drinking water – will we be consuming gold nanoshells without our knowledge? What then?

It’s very easy to get all rah-rah-sis-boom-bah! about exciting new cancer treatments because we all want it so badly. But it’s also important to ask the difficult questions upfront, so that we’re not facing any nasty surprises down the road (asbestos, anyone?). Meanwhile, I’ll be quietly flying my gold nanoshell flag. Go, fight, win!

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