New experiments have found that silica nanoshells coated with gold and placed into cancerous tumours, kill the malignant cells when exposed to an external source of near-infrared light. The findings were made by researchers at Rice University and the University of Texas and are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Gold is used as the coating at it readily absorbs energy and turns it to heat. It is also able to carry biological markers, such as antibodies or proteins, to direct the nanoshells to their target tissues. The near-infrared light is applied externally through the skin and does not affect surrounding living tissue but makes the nanoshells hot enough to kill the tumour.
Although to date only tested in vitro and on mice, it is believed the technology can be used to replace or supplement chemotherapy and surgery.