Sunday, August 20, 2006

Gold and silver are good medicine: "Scientists have developed a new 'golden bullet' to help in the fight against deadly cancers. Adding tiny particles of gold to an existing cancer drug boosts its power by 50 per cent, they have found. This then helps the medicine kill off more malignant cells while leaving healthy tissue unharmed... The new study by a team at the University of East Anglia is based on a system which uses a light sensitive drug to target cancer cells. The drug homes in on the the tumour and when exposed to light, it starts to produce an active form of oxygen. This oxygen is toxic to the cancer cells so makes them die off. Dr David Russell and his team wanted to see if there was any way of boosting the effectiveness of the system, officially called photo-dynamic therapy. They attached gold nanoparticles to the drug and used it on cervical cancer cells in the laboratory. It emerged that the gold led to 50 per cent more of the active oxygen, known as 'singlet oxygen', being produced. As expected this then led to more cells taking up the drug and dying off... Professor David Philips, an expert in photo-dynamic therapy from Imperial College London said results so far bode well for the future studies. It is also not the first time that scientists have turned to precious metals to help fight disease. Experts have long known silver can tackle the superbug and can be highly toxic to other bacteria. Silver's antibacterial properties were used by sailors in the past, who put silver coins in barrels of water to purify it. The metal is still used today in water purification and is also used in some plasters and hospital dressings to try to prevent infections with MRSA."

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