Imagine a catastrophe – nobody nods at the sight of gold in your hand. Try a nearby health research place then! They would want it.
Gold uses in medicine extend back to the time of mummies. When unbandaged, gold pieces here and there sparkle in their teeth. Gold in modern medicine is indispensable. Moreover, it’s not rare to see headlines with novel gold applications. Scientists almost experience an urge to put gold in every corner of the human body. That’s because on the subconscious level, whatever is rare and is a pain to get is thought to be useful for everything. Humans are hilarious beings! So, scientists never get tired at digging. They inject gold spheres and strands into rats and rabbits, smile when their hypothesis are supported and scratch their heads when not. Subconscious mind of scientists tells this but what does their conscious mind tell them?
It tells that gold is very biocompatible. Meaning that body doesn’t look at it as something foreign which must be eliminated. Here is an example to understand better, maybe not such a good one but shows the main idea. People with gold teeth don’t get the mess that you get if you have a splinter. No redness, pus or pain. Gold’s refusal to react with other things is the reason why. It stays perfectly unchanged. Oxygen, acids, body fluids, bacteria have no affect on the way it looks nor on the atoms inside it. The conscious mind also constantly reminds scientists of three other traits of gold: can be shaped into thin strands, conducts electricity and is heavy. Remember the gold mining article where I said that gold settles at the bottom of a pan because it is heavier than most elements found in nature? Hence, with this load of goodies scientists will not leave gold in piece.
Sometimes gold turns out to be beneficial in a specific medical endeavor, other times not so. At the end of the day, uniqueness does not equal safeness and bad side effects from gold-based procedures do happen.
Anyways, to satisfy your healthy curiosity, here are some of the the ills that gold helps with:
- Inflammation and pain in joints
- Infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV
- Certain cancers
- Lagophthalmos. An interesting one. It is inability to close eyelids fully. How does gold help? Gold is injected under the skin of eyelids making them heavier. Because of increased weight, force of gravity pulls eyelids down completely when eyes are being closed
- Blockage of blood vessels. For example, tiny gold tubes are put inside the blood vessels leading to heart
In addition, pacemakers which make hearts beat quicker are plated with gold. Of course, teeth implants. Finally, in cosmetic surgery, gold filaments are placed under the skin to reduce wrinkles and tighten the skin. But that’s more a luxury than a necessity, so the procedure is reserved for a few.
As for novel uses, I will talk about those that medical community has been raving about in the last little while.
Bones tougher than submarine hulls
This one is unbelievable. The study published in July of this year found that a mix of titanium and gold is harder than pure titanium. Precisely, 3 parts titanium, 1 part gold. Called titanium-3-gold. That’s not something to be expected because titanium by itself is harder than gold. So, the finding seems illogical. But pay attention, titanium-3-gold is extremely hard only when the metals are combined at high temperatures. Now, to imagine titanium strength, think about this. It is one of the ingredients in the hulls of submarines. It prevents underwater vessels from being squished under the huge water pressure.
These days, to replace body parts where hardness is vital, titanium is mostly used. However, titanium-3-gold opened the door into even harder metal. The head scientist says that the metal they got is “4 times harder than pure titanium”. On top of that, titanium-3-gold outcompetes pure titanium as it wears out more slowly, even more accepted by the body and is cheaper to make. Soon people would walk around with teeth, joints and bones that are harder than submarines. Not bad at all.
Gold heats tumors to death
Tiny gold-plated particles were used earlier in attempts to destroy cancerous tumors but with marginal success. You guessed it, I am talking about nanoparticles. They are very tiny. At least 10,000 times smaller than a millimeter. In spring of 2015, a group of scientists thought of something great. Here is their thinking:
What if we anchor gold nanoparticles to these special compounds that are attracted to acidic spots in the human body? We know that cancer cells love acid and are acidic themselves. These compounds would take nanoparticles exactly to the locations of tumors. Then we will apply a beam of radiation. Similar to last time, gold nanoparticles should absorb 100 times more radiation than human flesh this way heating up the immediate space around them. If these special compounds work, because tumors and nanoparticles are so close together, gold will release enough heat to kill most of the tumors.
So, with such hopes in mind, they went ahead and did a test on a sample of lung tumor. Their hypothesis was supported as 75% of tumor was destroyed. They left home that day quite pleased.
I guess one day this discovery should equate in patients with reduced side effects from radiotherapy. Hence, there would be less hair loss and vomiting as above method requires less radiation to banish tumors.
If you have been craving for some science lately, I am sure you are now satisfied after reading this! Drop any of your thoughts here.