Human beings have been using precious metals in their daily lives for centuries. When it was first discovered, gold was primarily ornamental, used to decorate sacred locations and powerful people. Today, this precious resource serves as a valuable tool in modern life, and supports many industrial, technological and scientific advances.
In this blog, the first in our series on the functions of gold, we take a look at how gold is used in the medical industry. Newmont’s purpose is to create value and improve lives through sustainable and responsible mining. Our mission is to transform mineral resources into shared value for our stakeholders and lead the industry in shareholder returns, safety, social responsibility and environmental stewardship. Gold can also bring positive change to the lives of many around the world with its scientific applications – one of which is helping medical researchers improve healthcare techniques.
Gold has been used in medicine for centuries, most commonly in dentistry. Over the last decade, thanks to advances in nanotechnology and a greater understanding of how to manipulate materials at the nano scale, gold has captured the attention of medical researchers around the world. The biomedical versatility and non-toxic properties of tiny bits of gold known as nanoparticles are helping to advance diagnostic testing and disease treatment.
Color control is one of the key assets of gold in a clinical setting. By altering the size, shape and charge of gold nanoparticles, scientists can manipulate them to react with varying color responses when mixed with DNA samples. This technique is at the heart of millions of Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) used to detect disease worldwide. Malaria RDTs work by applying a single drop of blood to a test strip. If malaria is present, gold nanoparticles react to produce a color mark on the strip.
Gold nanoparticles are also being used to both diagnose and treat cancer. The World Gold Council has supported Professor Qun Huo at the University of Central Florida and Dr. Cheryl Baker of M.D. Anderson-Orlando’s Cancer Research Institute to help accelerate the commercialization of their technology which utilizes gold to identify cancer-related proteins in blood samples. The potential of similar gold nanoparticles to actually treat tumors is also currently being investigated – these particles are able to travel through the blood stream and deliver a drug very precisely into a tumor to help kill it without requiring surgery. This particular technology is currently in Phase II clinical trials.
Despite gold’s reputation as a high cost precious metal, the amount of gold required in these types of diagnostic tests and disease treatments is minimal and relatively inexpensive. As many as 35 million diagnostic tests can be manufactured using the amount of gold from a single wedding ring.
Stay tuned for our next blog in this series on how gold is used. For more about the uses of gold in medicine, check out this video from the World Gold Council, and find out more about Newmont’s commitment to sustainable gold mining at BeyondtheMine.com.