Gold Nanoparticles Could Be the Key to Safer Surgeries

by Jenzl Guerrero, age 17

To prevent the formation of blood clots during operations, surgeons have relied on blood thinners like heparin to do the trick. But new technology, using particles of gold too small to see or measure, has given researchers a way to stop blood clots for the procedure and restore them afterward.

In the journal PloS One, Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, a bioengineer at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory and her team developed the technique. Dr. Hammad-Schifferli said the technique has the potential to improve current surgical procedures.

The researchers attached strands of DNA to gold nanoparticles, and then mixed them together in test tubes with human blood. Dr. Hamad-Schifferli and her team used infrared laser beams to trigger the particles to release the specific strands of DNA that prevent clotting. Afterwards, they used a similar procedure to release other strands that restore clotting.

Dr. Hamad-Schifferli explained, “Having that reversible switch is important. During surgery you want to temporarily suspend clotting, and when the surgery is done, you want to restore it.”

Using heparin and similar blood thinners is a reliable technique in the prevention of clotting. Even so, as the operation comes to a finish, these blood thinners take time to leave the bloodstream. The gold nanoparticle method could save time and reduce risk during surgery. But incorporating this technique is a “far-off” goal, said Dr. Hamad-Schifferli.

[Source: New York Times]