Cytotoxic Gold Nanoparticles

In a new AOP from Nature Chemistry, Vincent Rotello’s group report a new way of killing cells. There system uses gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) as the core, and attached to the core is a diaminohexane group. The diaminohexane fragment is sheathed from the cell by cucurbit[7]uril (CB[7]).

Once the AuNPs enter the cell they can be triggered to expose its cytotoxic diaminohexane appendages by introducing 1-adamantylamine (ADA); ADA outcompetes the diaminohexane for CB[7].

The paper shows some very nice chemistry and it does a nice job selling the point that their gold nanoparticles are toxic to cells. However, I am worried when they say they are “exploring this strategy in vivo…” as the current generation of their system seems indiscriminate. But, I always enjoy being proven wrong.

Link to paper: Recognition-mediated activation of therapeutic gold nanoparticles inside living cells
Other recent papers by Vincent Rotello



  1. Will and I ran into Rotello at the Fall 2009 ACS in Washington at a pub. He was very friendly and very tall.

  2. Also, this paper is rad. Nanoparticles tend to accumulate at tumors due to leaky blood vessels around them, so you could use this selectivity to “switch on” the cell death when desired.

    I find toxicity of nanomaterials fascinating. There’s a 2008 review that goes over the effect of surface chemistry on gold nanoparticle toxicity. Cationic surfaces are generally more toxic than anionic, because they interact with the negatively charged cell membrane.

  3. I bet a beer that their cationic aliphatic polyamine will end up in the liver far more than you’ll see accumulation at a cancer site, but we’ll just have to wait for a follow-up.

  4. So using gold nanoparticles can kill cell. So what what use can this bring to this world? Curing different viruses? For medical use?
    I kind of like the nano with gold, could be used for 3d printing materiial somehow.

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