Gold as IBD treatment? Researchers say nanoparticle therapy is promising

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic disease including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Millions of adults in the United States with this disease suffer from gastrointestinal inflammation that can be completely debilitating and painful. There’s no cure, and most current treatments come with an array of undesirable side effects. This is what has inspired researchers from China to explore an alternative treatment option that utilizes gold nanoparticles.

In some past works, gold nanoparticles have been discovered to get rid of a variety of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which is a type of free radical that accumulates and damages cell DNA, RNA, and proteins. This provides a basis for the most recent study because IBD patients show an increased level of ROS. To conduct the work, this team orally administered gold nanoclusters to mice with colitis.

Their results were promising, showing removal of ROS, increased antioxidants, and a significant reduction in gastrointestinal inflammation with no clear side effects within 24 hours. Additionally, the team found several other practical advantages to using this method instead of relying on conventional treatments for IBD. This treatment is much more cost-effective, shelf-stable, easily mass-produced, and stored better.

“The storage of Au25 nanoclusters was not affected by pH, temperature or solution medium, and their good physiological stability and acid resistance meant they were easily able to access the inflamed colon. They also have good biocompatibility and chemical stability and can remove a variety of ROS. And the fact that these nanoclusters can be administered orally, means there is no need for invasive procedures,” adds Fei Wang of China’s The Seventh Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University and one of the paper’s authors, in a statement.

More extensive research is required before beginning clinical trials for application in IBD patients. This research team believes that their findings back several previous studies conducted by researchers that also advocate for the large-scale use of gold nanoparticles as the primary treatment option for IBD patients. Future works should begin to look at long-term side effects and complications, since although none were observed soon after, some may not show up unless there’s regular use over time.

Until these questions can be answered, at the very least, they agree that care for this condition should be more individualized since current treatments don’t work for everyone. In several cases, they cause more harm than good due to adverse side effects.

Gold nanoparticles for IBD
Synthesis of Au25 nanoclusters and the treatment process for colitis in mice. (Credit: FEI WANG)

This study is published in the journal Fundamental Research.

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