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Gold Nanoshells May Kill Cancer

Paraphrased by:
Steve Waldrop
November 4, 2003

Tiny gold shells that absorb certain types of radiation may become a new weapon in the ongoing battle against cancer.

Nanoshells are golden balls that have a bit of mica in their center and can be designed to absorb radiation at various frequencies.

The tiny metal balls, could in the near future, be placed inside a person and used to detect and destroy cancerous tumors. The theory is that the nanoshells could attach to a tumor and, when hit by a certain type of light, heat up and kill cancer cells.

The nanoshells are small enough to travel through the human bloodstream. Doctors could then shine near-infrared light on the patients, which is harmless, to light up the shells, revealing the tumor. By increasing the intensity of the light, the bound shells would heat up and kill the cancerous cells.

Researchers in Texas have injected the nanoshells into tumors in mice. They then exposed the tumors to near infrared radiation, heating them enough to kill the cancer but without injuring normal tissue.