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Are Gold Nanoparticles Toxic?
July 13, 2011 21:32

Gold nanoparticles

Gold nanoparticles are these days often used in medicine for purposes of treating and diagnostics of various  diseases. However, scientists from all over the world have hot arguments about possible toxicity of this product of nanotechnologies and ability of these particles to cause mutations in living beings. Russian researchers from Saratov State Medical University and the Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Plants and Microorganisms (Russian academy of sciences) decided to observe the effect gold nanoparticles have on a process of erythrocyte formation. This process can be used as an indicatior of mutagenesis. 

Other scientists have already performed some studies of gold nanoparticles' toxicity on laboratory animals, however, only few of such studies exist to date, and results obtained are controversial. Researchers from Saratov have worked with laboratory rats, which received colloid gold nanoparticles with diameter of 16 and 55 nanometers every day during one week. Rats also ate hollow silicon particle wih diameter of 160 nanometers, which are covered with thin golden film. Suspension was made from gold nanoparticles by means of adding them to one mililiter of physiological solution (an isotonic solution of several salts in water, resembling physiological fluids of a warm-blooded animal) in order to make swallowed gold weigh 57 micrograms per day. After one week of feeding rats with small amounts of the precious metal, researchers analysed red bone marrow of the rats, where red blood cells are known to form. 

Scientists concentrated on studying primitive erythrocytes or polychromatophil cells, which have both basophilic and acidophilic material in their cytoplasm. These cells were visually screened for changes, caused by possible mutagenicity of gold nanoparticles. Tests were based on a simple and standard observation, often used when a substance is suspected to cause mutations - additional micronuclei appear, when a mutagen affects a cell. Examinations of polychromatophil cells showed no signs of additional micronuclei, thus researhers have concluded that gold nanoparticles with diameter of 15, 55, and 160 nanometers taken orally by rats, didn't cause any mutations in these animals. Perhaps, researchers should continue looking at polychromatophil cells of rats that ate gold nanoparticles, some time after the experiment's end in order to confirm that mutations never appeared in tested animals.

Abovementioned research was undertaken due to many reasons, and one of them was a well-known fact that particles can affect DNA depending on their size - smaller particles are more likely to cause mutations in living organisms. Tiny particles with only 1.4 nanometers in diameter are known to bind with DNA and disturb normal functioning of genes. Russian researchers believe that further studies and thoroughly designed experiments are required for better understanding mechanisms of possible toxicity of gold nanoparticles of various size.

Source: Science & Technologies

Anna Kizilova

Author: Anna Kizilova

Tags: health biology nanotechnologies Russian academy of sciences  

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