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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Restoring Hearing With Beams of Light

Gene therapy and optoelectronics could radically upgrade hearing for millions of people

13 min read
A computer graphic shows a gray structure that’s curled like a snail’s shell. A big purple line runs through it. Many clusters of smaller red lines are scattered throughout the curled structure.

Human hearing depends on the cochlea, a snail-shaped structure in the inner ear. A new kind of cochlear implant for people with disabling hearing loss would use beams of light to stimulate the cochlear nerve.

Lakshay Khurana and Daniel Keppeler

There’s a popular misconception that cochlear implants restore natural hearing. In fact, these marvels of engineering give people a new kind of “electric hearing” that they must learn how to use.

Natural hearing results from vibrations hitting tiny structures called hair cells within the cochlea in the inner ear. A cochlear implant bypasses the damaged or dysfunctional parts of the ear and uses electrodes to directly stimulate the cochlear nerve, which sends signals to the brain. When my hearing-impaired patients have their cochlear implants turned on for the first time, they often report that voices sound flat and robotic and that background noises blur together and drown out voices. Although users can have many sessions with technicians to “tune” and adjust their implants’ settings to make sounds more pleasant and helpful, there’s a limit to what can be achieved with today’s technology.

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