Researchers Synthesize Gold Nanoparticles Capable of Attacking Cancer Cells

NYUAD Research Scientist Farah Benyettou and Associate Professor of Chemistry Ali Trabolsi

Press Release

Fast facts:

  • Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are small gold particles with a diameter of 1 to 100 nm, which, once dispersed in water, are also known as colloidal gold. They also absorb light energy and heat.
  • Gold nanoparticles are being explored widely for use in high technology applications such as sensory probes, electronic conductors, therapeutic agents, organic photovoltaics, and drug delivery in biological and medical applications.
  • Researchers are exploring using gold nanoparticles as a combined drug delivery and hyperthermia agent in order to raise the temperature of malignant cells and cause their destruction.
  • Aqueous one pot synthesis of triphenylphosphine-functionalized gold nanoparticles is unprecedented.

A team of NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) researchers developed a new, one-pot synthetic approach to obtain water-stable and “ready to use” gold nanoparticles that can be heated with a simple green laser, improving the gold nanoparticles’ ability to penetrate and destroy malignant cells through hyperthermia and simultaneously releasing chemotherapeutic drugs. The unique design of these nanoparticles reduces the side effects of the drugs, potentially improving patients’ quality of life.

In the paper titled Aqueous Synthesis of Triphenylphosphine-Modified Gold Nanoparticles for Synergistic In Vitro and In Vivo Photo-thermal Chemotherapy, published in Chemistry - A European Journal, NYUAD Research Scientist Farah Benyettou and Associate Professor of Chemistry Ali Trabolsi, in collaboration with Professor of Biology Kirsten Sadler, presented the process of creating triphenylphosphine-functionalized gold nanoparticles by simply heating a solution of the triphenylphosphine gold (I) chloride salt in water under microwave irradiations. Biocompatible gold nanoparticles coated on the surface with triphenylphosphine molecules penetrate cancerous cells in preference. By combining the nanoparticles with heat, the researchers found a dramatically improved cell killing compared with heat or the nanoparticles alone. Combined therapies, and consequently improved cancerous cell killing, were achieved when cancer cells were irradiated with a green laser.

Since nanoparticles are constrained to the area of the cancerous tissue, the heat produced by absorbed laser energy causes the localized temperature to rise and release the drug that kills the cancer cells without damaging the surroundings. Therefore, nanoparticles are actually heating agents and drug delivery systems. The drug-coated particles manifested strong potential to act as an antimetastatic agent by inhibiting adhesion and invasion of cancer cells.

 

“In addition to being environmentally-conscious and economical, this new approach presents a range of possibilities for the further development of novel phosphine-functionalized nanoparticles.”

Associate Professor of Chemistry Ali Trabolsi
 

“These ‘ready-to-use’ water-soluble nanoparticles possess a programmable anti-cancer drug-releasing ability and pH/photo-thermal dual responsiveness that allow them to leave healthy cells unharmed."

NYUAD Research Scientist Farah Benyettou

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and science campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly-selective liberal arts, engineering and science curriculum with a world center for advanced research and scholarship enabling its students to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from 115 nations and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.