Hot gold nanoparticles can cook cancer cells

There are many possible ways to kill a cancer cell, and one of them is to cook them to death. There are nanoparticles worth their weight in gold to do just that. Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen are experimenting with tiny gold particles' ability to melt the lipid membranes surrounding cells, paving the way for pinpoint precision when attacking tumors.

The researchers used optical tweezers, which is focused laser light that can trap and hold the gold nanoparticles. "The particles can be heated using infrared light from the optical tweezers and by turning the light up and down you can control the heat," researcher Anders Kyrsting said in a news release.

To measure how hot the gold nanoparticles got, they were moved closer and closer toward an artificial cell membrane composed of lipids. When the lipids melted, they could calculate the temperature. It turns out that the gold particles are able to reach several hundred degrees at a light intensity of less than 1 watt.

Melt the lipids in a cell membrane, and the cell dies -- but only that cell, since the heat dissipates at a cell's length away. The research appears in Nano Letters.

- read the release
- and check out the abstract in Nano Letters