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July 16th, 2009
Scientists have discovered a way to create cancer-fighting nanoparticles using nothing but gold salts and a cup of Darjeeling tea, according to a paper published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.
Nanoparticles are particles much smaller than those commonly used in chemical or industrial applications, small enough that they can pass through cell membranes designed to keep foreign particles out. Because even widely studied elements and compounds act drastically different on the nano scale, nanotechnology is a burgeoning area of scientific research.
Most nanoparticles are manufactured during intensive industrial processes involving toxic chemicals and byproducts. Recently, however, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia discovered a process for producing nanoparticles by adding gold salts to a soybean-water mixture. Naturally occurring soy phytochemicals interact with the salts to produce stable gold nanoparticles, with no toxic byproducts.
"Our new process only takes what nature has made available to us and uses that to produce a technology that has already proven to have far-reaching impacts in technology and medicine," researcher Kattesh Katti said.
Researchers then repeated the same procedure with Darjeeling tea instead of soy, and found that once again, phytochemicals naturally found in the tea transformed the salts into pure, nano-scale particles of gold. Furthermore, the phytochemicals bind to the outside of the gold particles. This means that the microscopic particles could be injected into tumor cells, carrying cancer-fighting tea compounds directly to where they could provide the most benefit.
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