Gold Nanoparticles Functionalization — A Boon For Biomedical Science

Nanotechnology has virtually exploded in the last few years with seemingly limitless opportunities across all segments of our society. If gene and RNA therapy ever realize their full potential, there will be a great need for nanomaterials that can bind, stabilize, and deliver these macromolecular nucleic acids into human cells and tissues. Many researchers have turned to gold nanoparticles, as gold is thought to be relatively well tolerated in humans and provides an inert material upon which nucleic acids can attach.

The unique chemical and physical properties of gold nanoparticles render them as an effective tool for various biomedical applications. Gold nanoparticles, as such, can be easily functionalized with a wide variety of polymers and biomolecules using gold-thiol chemistry. The various properties of gold nanoparticles are mostly size dependent, whereas their stability is mainly dependent on the surface property of the functionalized nanoparticles such as charge, steric, hindrance, etc.

Gold nanoparticles functionalization is necessary for their stability, functionality, and biocompatibility. The ultimate goal in functionalization is to preserve the properties of the gold nanoparticles and the bound biological molecule. In other words, the biological molecule should be stable and able to retain its biorecognition properties and nanoparticles should be able to retain their unique properties such as strong plasmon absorption bands, light scattering, etc.

For biomedical applications, surface functionalization of gold nanoparticles is essential in order to target them to specific disease areas and allow them to selectively interact with cells and biological molecules. In general, their functionalization can be performed by either using chemical functional groups or biological molecules.

In what concerns the domain of health and medical applications, gold nanoparticles have been successfully used as a part of treatment of some diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis was among the first conditions where the use of gold was part of the therapy since it has been found that gold particles implanted near arthritic hip joints relieved pain. There have also been some vitro experiments which have proved that gold nanoparticles combined with microwave radiation can destroy the beta-amyloid fibrils and plaque which are characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.

But perhaps the most important medical purpose for which nanoparticles can be used is the localization and treatment of cancer. It has already been shown that by directing gold nanoparticles into the nuclei of cancer cells, they can only not hinder them from multiplying, but also kill them. With the help of science, researchers have been able to explore the great latent potential that gold has.

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