How gold could alert you to a heart attack

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

While people don’t have the benefit of knowing when they’re going to have a heart attack, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering professors are working on the next best thing – a test strip with the potential for early detection in some cases.

The NYU professors, along with colleagues from Peking University, are developing a new colloidal gold test strip for cardiac troponin I (cTn-I) detection. cTn-I, they explained, is a marker for myocardial infarction, and patients experiencing this type of heart attack have cTn-I levels that are several thousand times higher than usual.

The test strip uses microplasma-generated gold nanoparticles (AuNPs), and the authors report that is has demonstrated far higher detection sensitivity than conventional test strips. They noted that the new cTn-I diagnostic is based on specific immune-chemical reactions occurring between antigen and antibody on immunochromatographic test strips using AuNPs.

The surfaces of the gold nanoparticles generated by the microplasma-induced liquid chemical process attract more antibodies versus AuNPs produced by traditional chemical methods, the NYU professors said. The result is significantly higher detection sensitivity.

Kurt H. Becker, a professor in the NYU Department of Applied Physics and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, WeiDong Zhu, a research associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and their colleagues have published their findings in a recent edition of the journal Plasma Processes and Polymers.

According to the university, the use of microplasmas to generate AuNP utilizes a special microplasma technology developed by Becker and Zhu. These microplasmas have previously been used in dental applications such as tooth whitening and root canal disinfection, biological decontamination through the inactivation of microorganisms and biofilms, and the disinfection and preservation of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The microplasma-assisted synthesis of AuNPs also has tremendous potential for other types of biomedical and therapeutic applications, including the detection of tumors, cancer imaging, drug delivery, and treatment of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, they added.

However, it will still take several years for the use of gold nanoparticles in therapy and disease detection in patients to become an everyday thing, and even longer for therapeutic applications, the authors said. One of the biggest challenges they have to overcome, Becker explained, is that synthesizing monodisperse, size-controlled gold nanoparticles, even using microplasmas, is too expensive, time-consuming and labor-intensive to be widely used.

The microplasma technology used in this work is based on research funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Other co-authors of the study include Ruixue Wang, Shasha Zuo and Dong Wu of the Peking University Academy for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies, and Jue Zhang and Jing Fang, from the Beijing, China-based university’s College of Engineering.

Last October, Google announced that it was working on a pill that could use nanotechnology to detect several potential health issues, including potential heart attacks and strokes. While the device was designed primarily to detect the early signs of cancer, it could also identify when fatty plaques were about to break free from blood vessel linings and stop blood flow.

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