Metallic nanotechnology may turn out to be the most precious way to utilise metals, at least when it comes to increasing healthspan and lifespan.
When panning for gold, the bigger the nugget the better. But, in the field of metallic nanotechnology that is not the case at all. Tiny particles of metals, including gold and silver, can be manipulated in the body using heat and light, and the impact on future health research and applications could be immense. These microscopic metallic particles can be formed, cut and joined through the use of heat and light.
Researchers at the University of Bath in the UK, led by professor of physics Ventsislav Valev, have outlined a raft of potential applications for the use of these microscopic particles, concluding that metallic nanotechnology could transform everything from renewable energy to disease diagnostics and the treatment of cancer. 
The TRL score for this Longevity.Technology domain is currently set at: ‘Late proof of concept demonstrated in real life conditions’
The TRL score for the technology addressed in this article is: “Technology refined and ready for initial human trials”
PhD student Lukas Ohnoutek voiced optimism over the use of nano medicine both to improve the accuracy of diagnostics, but also to treat a number of diseases. Following the success of on-command delivery of drugs in animal trials, he predicts that this type of medical treatment, which uses nano materials to deliver medicine to very specific parts of the body before they are released in a very controlled way will be available for human patients in the near to medium future.
“It is crucial to increase the efficiency of drugs and to reduce side effects, and this is something that can be achieved with on-command drug delivery,” he said. “By illuminating metal nanoparticles, it is possible to control the location, time, and amount of drug released in a patient.”
Another member of the research team, the research fellow Dr Kristina Rusimova, was even more hopeful about the potential implications of nano medicine for the treatment of cancer. Combining this application of metallic nanoparticles with photothermal cancer therapy (PTT) could be key to destroying tumours, she said.
The technique works by injecting nanoparticles into a patient’s body so they can be targeted at a cancerous tumour. Radiation therapy is then used to heat up and destroy that particular tumour without causing extensive damage to surrounding tissue. Promisingly, animal trials on mice, cats and dogs have demonstrated that this technique can destroy even advanced tumours.
“In each case,” said Dr Rusimova, “the treatment seemed successful, which is very encouraging for treatment in humans. We know that human trials have been approved and are currently ongoing, so we are cautiously optimistic.”
Other potential applications include advancements in biomedical imaging which could have major implications for the future of diagnostics, in turn leading to improved treatment outcomes, if this use of metallic nanoparticles lives up to its promise.
Longevity.Technology has previously outlined research to create nano machines with the ability to navigate to the site of disease. “This research field offers some truly amazing perspectives for the future,” said Prof Valev, summing up the University of Bath study document. As reported previously by Longevity.Technology, it seems good things really could come in small packages.
Image credit Ventsislav Valev and Alex Murphy