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Gold Nanoparticles Might Make a Non-Toxic Treatment for Lymphoma

Lymphoma cells are tricked into eating gold nano particles and starve them to death

2 min read
Gold Nanoparticles Might Make a Non-Toxic Treatment for Lymphoma
Photograph by Gazimal/Getty Images

Gold in nanoparticle form is perhaps more precious than the macroscale variety when it comes to treating diseases. While the usual application areas for nanotechnology, such as electronics, are finding uses for gold nanoparticles, it is perhaps in the area of drug delivery and the detection and treatments of diseases such as cancer where they are destined to have their biggest impact.

Along these lines, researchers at Northwestern University have used gold nanoparticles to treat a common form of cancer, known as B-cell lymphoma—the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

In research to be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, C. Shad Thaxton, M.D., and Leo I. Gordon, M.D. showed that they could trick B-cell lymphoma, which prefers to eat HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol—otherwise known as the “good cholesterol”—into eating gold nanoparticles instead of the HDL. Once the B-cell lymphoma cells start eating the gold nanoparticles (or artificial HDL particles), they get plugged up and can no longer feed on any more cholesterol. Deprived of their favorite food, the lymphoma cells essentially starve to death.

With this treatment, Thaxton and Gordon demonstrated that it could inhibit human B-cell lymphoma tumor growth in mice.

"This has the potential to eventually become a nontoxic treatment for B-cell lymphoma which does not involve chemotherapy," said Gordon in a press release. "It's an exciting preliminary finding."

Since the nanoparticles have nearly the same size, shape and surface chemistry as natural HDL cholesterol, Thaxton believed when he first developed it that it might have some use in treating heart disease. "At first I was heavily focused on developing nanoparticles that could remove cholesterol from cells, especially those involved in heart disease," Thaxton said in the press release.

When Thaxton gave a presentation on the nanoparticle back in 2010, Gordon was in the audience and it occurred to him that it might have some use in treating lymphoma.

Gordon had noticed that lymphoma patients had dramatic decreases in HDL cholesterol, so he thought this nanoparticle might have some use in drug delivery in cancer patients.

When the researchers started to collaborate, they made a surprising discovery.  The nanoparticle by itself was just as effective at reducing the lymphoma as the nanoparticle in combination with the drug was.

It was at this point that they began to examine the mechanisms by which the artificial HDL nanoparticles interacted with the lymphoma. They discovered that the spongy surface of the gold nanoparticle draws out the cholesterol from the lymphoma cell and the gold core blocks the cell from absorbing any more cholesterol.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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