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Your favourite gold necklace could be getting in the way of your anti-ageing programme. This is according to a new study published in the journal Nanotoxicology, which has found that gold nanoparticles from personal care products, solar cells and certain drug delivery agents can accelerate ageing and the onset of diabetes, delay wound healing and inhibit fat storage in the body.
In order to determine whether basic cell functions were disrupted when exposed to very low doses of nanoparticles, the researchers tested the impact of nanoparticles in vitro on multiple types of cells, including adipose (fat) tissue. Your subcutaneous adipose tissue resides around your internal organs for padding, in your yellow bone marrow and in your breast tissue. It helps to insulate your body from heat and cold, and also functions as a reserve of nutrients.
Led by Tatsiana Mironava, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Molecular Engineering at Stony Brook University, the researchers found that the gold nanoparticles penetrated a type of adult stem cells, the human adipose-derived stromal cells, almost instantly, and accumulated in the cells with no obvious pathway for elimination. This can affect your wellbeing as the presence of the particles disrupted multiple cell functions, such as movement, replication (cell division) and collagen contraction, which are all essential processes in wound healing.
However, the researchers argue that their most disturbing discovery was that the particles interfered with genetic regulation, RNA expression and inhibited the ability to differentiate into mature adipocytes or fat cells. Professor Mironava explained, ‘Reductions caused by gold nanoparticles can result in systemic changes to the body. Since they have been considered inert and essentially harmless, it was assumed that pure gold nanoparticles would also be safe. Evidence to the contrary is beginning to emerge.’
When adipose-derived stromal cells were exposed to nanoparticles, it ignored appropriate cues and failed to differentiate. However, Professor Mironava added, ‘We have learned that careful consideration and the choice of size, concentration and the duration of the clinical application of gold nanoparticles is warranted. The good news is that when the nanoparticles were removed, normal functions were eventually restored.’