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Gold in Tech: Stitch Me Up Doc

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We continue to see new innovations using gold in the field of healthcare. The next time you have surgery or cut yourself, doctors could close you up with a substance using the yellow metal.

Researchers at the University of Arizona have developed a sealant made of liquid silk and gold nanoparticles that could replace traditional sutures, staples and adhesives for closing wounds.

Known as a “laser-activated nanosealant” or LANS, the substance consists of a silk solution mixed with gold nanorods. Once applied to the wound, a laser heats the nanorods causing the substance to gently interlock with surrounding tissue proteins, creating a seal. The gold quickly cools once the laser is shut off, minimizing heat damage to tissues.

According to NewAtlas.com, researchers have created two types of LANS. One takes the form of a patch designed for closing wounds on organs within the body, while the other is a paste that is applied to skin wounds.

Prof. Kaushal Rege was the senior author of a paper on the study.

Our results demonstrated that our combination of tissue-integrating nanomaterials, along with the reduced intensity of heat required in this system is a promising technology for eventual use across all fields of medicine and surgery. In addition to fine-tuning the photochemical bonding parameters of the system, we are now testing formulations that will allow for drug loading and release with different medications and with varying timed-release profiles that optimize treatment and healing.”

Researchers at the University of Central Florida are also using gold as they work to develop a quick detection device for heart attacks. Associate professor of materials science and engineering Parag Banerjee leads the research team.

Our goal here is to basically remove that guesswork and give first responders, EMTs and hospitals the ability to go in, take a small blood sample and confirm that such an event has indeed taken place.”

According to SpaceCoastDaily.com, Banerjee and his team are developing a “lab-on-chip” made with gold nanoparticles that will detect cardiac troponin I, a protein released into the blood when heart muscle cells sustain damage.

The chip will consist of gold nanoparticles whose surfaces will carry tiny cavities like mold casts, specifically in the shape of cardiac troponin I. Much like a key that only fits a certain lock, only cardiac troponin I will fit in that shape. Once the protein rests in this cavity, changes in the gold’s electrical conductivity from binding with the protein will result in a readout, such as an illuminated LED light, thus indicating the presence of cardiac troponin I in the blood.”

These are just two of many healthcare innovations using gold that we’ve seen over the last several months. For instance, scientists have developed a blood test using gold nanoparticles that could help with cancer treatment. In fact, scientists have developed a number of cancer treatments using gold nanoparticles over the last few years. Researchers in Mumbai recently moved a step closer to treating surface tumors caused by oral, breast and cervical cancer, along with other tumors such melanoma and colon cancer, through photothermal ablation using gold-polymer nanoparticles and near-infrared light. Earlier this year, a team of Chinese researchers announced they were able to partially restored the sight of blind mice by replacing their deteriorated photoreceptors – sensory structures inside the eye that respond to light – with nano-wires made of gold and titanium.

We generally think of gold as an investment as well as money, but it is increasingly being used to improve our quality of life and heal the sick. The use of gold in the field of medicine, and more broadly in technology and industry, will likely put upward pressure on demand for the yellow metal in the future.

The demand for gold in tech applications grew for the seventh consecutive quarter in Q2 2018. Over the past decade, the tech sector accounted for more than 380 tons of gold demand annually. That’s 13% ahead of central bank purchases during the same time period.

Tech demand for both gold and silver will likely continue to increase over the next several decades. Silver demand has always been heavily influenced by industrial use, but gold is becoming more and more important in industry, especially in high tech applications. It’s important to consider these supply and demand fundamentals as you analyze the broader precious metals markets.

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