Scientists in the US have developed a way to rapidly generate libraries of gold nanoparticles that could have an array of applications in the pharmaceutical industry, from target and drug discovery studies to drug delivery.
The team, headed by Jim Hutchinson of the University of Oregon's Materials Science Institute, said their technique allows rapid incorporation of specific functionality into the gold nanoparticles and can be used to incorporate a wide range of functional groups. It can also provide access to new materials inaccessible by other methods, claims the group.
In drug discovery, gold nanoparticles are attracting interest because they have been shown to enhance the native signals of chemical constituents in cells, and can be designed to detect conformation changes in proteins.
Meanwhile, for drug delivery, gold nanoparticles are being used to deliver protein-based drugs, and are of particular utility because the particles can carry multiple active groups. For example, they can be designed with targeting groups that direct treatment to a particular cell type, and also carry pharmacologically active groups that exert a therapeutic effect.
"We've discovered a method for generating a diverse library of functionalised gold particles quickly and easily," said Hutchison. "Basic research of this type is the key to finding out what kinds of new electronic, optical and pharmaceutical products actually will come to market."
The article describes how to synthesize the versatile particles, built with cores of 11 gold atoms, and discloses their properties. Nanomaterials and technologies are projected to become a trillion dollar industry by 2010 and affect every industrial and consumer product sector, Hutchison said.
One of the keys to understanding the size-dependent properties and applications of nanoparticles is generating libraries of particles with different sizes for physical study. Earlier this year, Hutchison's laboratory reported success in generating a similar library of larger particles, with cores having about 100 gold atoms, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The 11-atom and 100-atom libraries span a size range of 0.8 to 1.5 nanometers, a range of particular interest to nanoscientists and technologists.
The latest research is featured on the cover of the 5 September issue of Inorganic Chemistry .