New research might take the shine off gold nanoparticles

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers might put the brakes on a gold rush going on in drug delivery. Gold nanoparticles have recently shown great promise in delivering anti-cancer drugs directly to their targets (see stories here and here), but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on the work of Reinhold Hutz and his grad student Jeremy Larson, who are looking into whether gold nanoparticles target and disrupt the female reproductive tract.

Back in 2009, the paper reports Hutz and then-grad-student Rose Stelzer published a paper in the Journal of Reproduction and Development that showed gold nanoparticles accumulate in ovarian cells that specialize in estrogen production. They also found that the gold nanoparticles alter the amount of estrogen the cells make, which prompted the scientists to wonder whether they could cause female infertility. Further research showed that the gold nanoparticles altered genes involved in ovarian steroid production.

The article does state, however, that Hutz admits that changes to the chemistry of gold nanoparticles could make them less toxic. That is one element of nanotechnology that is sometimes forgotten when toxicity studies are done. Fine-tuning to the size and chemical makeup of the nanoparticle have an impact on how the body reacts to it.

The next step, Hutz tells the paper, is to take a look at this data inside an actual animal. "Since these studies were conducted outside the animal, more research is needed to determine if environmentally relevant exposures to engineered nanoparticles would pose a significant risk to the mammalian reproductive system," he said.

- read the article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel