Gold Considered for HIV Treatment

A team of researchers have been studying the possibility of using nanoparticles of gold as part of treatment for HIV. According to Christian Melander, a chemistry professor at North Carolina State University and a member of the study team, they are excited about the possibility.

"We had some very sound scientific reasoning that we thought this would work and we would get a better result," said Melander.

Particles of gold measuring one billionth of a meter are incorporated on an experimental HIV drug that was long shelved because of its harmful side-effects. The previous experiment during the 1990’s involving TAK-779, which was supposed to bind the cells in your body and prevent the virus from infecting them, caused irritation at the site of the injection and had poor absorption rate in the body. The researchers then found out that these effects were caused by ammonium salt, but removing the substance caused the drug to lose activity.

The possibility of using TAK-779 as a treatment for HIV was shelved in 2005, but Melander got a eureka moment on his way to the gym when his colleague asked him, "What would you do with a nanoparticle of gold?"

Gold nanoparticles have been used for cancer treatment. Using the right dosage, tiny particles of this precious metal are well-tolerated by the body. According to Melander, it makes sense to them using gold nanoparticles as the starting point for treatment of all sort of disease, including HIV.

Melander now works with a team of researchers from NC State, University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and the University of Colorado to see if nanoparticles of gold can be able to fix this long-shelved drug.

They first put healthy human blood cells into a series of Petri dishes. Some of the dishes were given a modified version of the drug, which contains one nanoparticle of gold instead of ammonium salt. Other dishes, meanwhile, were given similar medications but without the gold.

The researchers have found that when they introduced the HIV virus in all dishes, the only cells that outstood the virus were those that received the new version of the drug, which contained a gold nanoparticle.

Melander assured that despite the use of gold in the drug, each dose would contain about 50 cents worth of gold. In theory, this resulting drug would cost slightly higher than current HIV treatments.

 
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