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A Golden Cure: Market for Gold Nanoparticles Expected to Hit $8 Billion in Next Five Years

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Silver has long played an important role in the medical field. For centuries, it has been used as an antibacterial agent and to fight infections. Silver also serves an important role in x-ray and medical imaging. Now silver’s big brother, gold, is starting to muscle into the world of healthcare.

According to the market research firm Global Market Insights, the market size for gold nanoparticles is projected to reach $8 billion by 2022. As Forbes recently reported, gold’s increasing use in the healthcare industry will drive that growth.  Gold nanoparticals are used in a wide range of medical applications, including imaging, diagnosis, drug delivery, photo-thermal therapy, and even as  a coating for titanium-based dental implants.

In the most recent development, researchers have discovered gold nanoparticles can serve as a vehicle to deliver cancer medication directly into cancer cells. The drug shuts down a molecule called telomerase. This process keeps malignant cells from rejuvenating and growing out of control.

The best part: Only cancer cells are attacked by the miniature knights in golden armor. Unlike the traditional slash-and-burn methods (chemotherapy and radiation), which often do more harm than they help, healthy cells remain completely unharmed with this treatment. The same gold nanoparticles can also be used to deliver a dose of cancer-killing radioactivity to cancer cells. So far, the best results have been achieved utilizing both approaches in a one-two punch.”

Researchers are also developing a cancer treatment known as photothermal therapy that utilizes gold particles to carry heat into cancer cells, thereby destroying them.

Gold nanoparticles (GNPs) are irradiated by near-infrared light, leading to the excitation of the surface electrons and converting the light into heat. The GNPs form large clusters inside the cancer cells and release their heat load—which destroys the cancer cells’ membranes and proteins and causes irreversible damage.”

The gold nanoparticles used in medical applications are tiny, smaller than a red blood cell. Nevertheless, the increasing use of gold in the healthcare field will add to the demand for the yellow metal. While the amount of gold used in any single treatment is extremely small, the cumulative amounts add up. And unlike most applications for gold, medical treatments use the metal up, permanently diminishing the supply. This will becomes even more significant as the world approached peak gold.

As the Forbes article points out, the increasing role of gold in the medical field could have a substantial impact on demand over the long-run.

Add to that the other, non-medical industrial uses for gold nanoparticles—such as specialty inks for the electronics industry that are used in storage devices, hard disks, microchips, thin film transistors, and photo sensors—and it seems heightened industrial demand for the yellow metal is all but unstoppable.”

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