Gold Flakes May Cure Macular Degeneration

Gold Flakes May Cure Macular Degeneration

It is always exciting when new research shows great promise, especially coming from such an unconventional source. Using gold to treat macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness on the globe, has received some notable attention. In laboratory testing, gold is shining way beyond anyones expectations taking it from a precious metal to its fullest potential; fighting disease.

The Next Level

Macular degeneration research continues to forge ahead offering some significant disease fighting advancements. These consist of:

  • Stem cell support 
  • Pharmaceutical treatment
  • Prosthetic tools to navigate limited sight
  • Complimentary alternative medicine for retinal support such as: vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements; acupuncture and homeopathy

Now, experimentation is underway using gold flakes (microscopic pieces of actual gold metal). This application may be able to slow and eventually reverse visual deterioration caused by macular degeneration and AMD (age-related macular degeneration). 

Gold has long been applied in settings outside the jewelry industry showing up in dental fillings, skin care treatments, blood circulation capability, and many electronics components. However, using gold for AMD treatment has never been done, until now. If this research continues to show positive feedback, in less than ten years, gold flakes may cure macular degeneration. 

10 Billion Flecks

Like the grains of sand that make up a shoreline, 10 billion gold flecks in the form of ‘gold nanoparticles’ have been administered in rodent laboratory experiments. Through multiple injections, these coated titanium dioxide gold nanowires embed and act just like the body’s natural photoreceptors. It was shown that by injecting the gold into the sub-retina it was able to seamlessly replace damaged rod and cone photoreceptor cells. Once light hits the gold, it acts accordingly. 

IFL Science reported,

“The gold-coated nanowires, no longer than 100 nanometers in length [a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter; a meter is about 39 inches long], sit in the place of rod and cone photoreceptor cells at the back of blind mice retinas. When light hits these artificial nanoparticles, it generates a small voltage, sparking a response from neurons in the visual system, just like normal.”

The UK site i-News describes the process in more detail, 

“The technique involves implanting billions of gold miniscule ‘nanobars’ into the retina. These capture near-infrared light rays, absorbing their heat and slowly releasing it into the eye. The heat makes the damaged photoreceptors vibrate and that movement helps them bind with functional genes delivered to the retina at the same time through a separate injection – and sight is restored.”

Why Gold?

There have been many attempts at using natural materials to assist or replace damaged retinal photoreceptors. Some previous metal electrode arrays included: 

  • Cadmium sulfide-carbon nanotubes
  • Semiconductor silicon photodiodes
  • Conducting polymers 

However, these metals were difficult to administer and maintain. Nature Communications published some good research by scientists working at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. It was stated that,

“These photo-responsive devices require additional microelectronic processing for signal generation, transduction and processing, posting limitations for in vivo applications. Breaking this bottleneck requires capabilities for engineering large interaction surfaces/interfaces between retinal cells and semiconductor micro/nano-structures.” 

Gold offers a better solution. Although expensive, gold is able to handle the instant transfer of particles (namely electrons, protons, photons, neutrons). 

The study continued,

“Herein, we demonstrate an oriented gold nanoparticle-decorated titania NW [nanowire] arrays-based artificial photoreceptor interfaced with retinal degenerated [] blind mouse retinas, for real-time transduction of photo-coded information. Retinal ON responses to green, blue and near UV [ultraviolet] light are robustly recorded with high spatial and temporal resolutions, indicating direct stimulation of bipolar cells without affecting the rest of retinal circuit.”

Overall, this study showed how gold nanoparticles can be injected and integrated into the rodent retina acting as a type of photoreceptor prosthesis (artificial body part) without rejection.

Wet AMD Gold Treatment

About ninety-percent of those struck by macular degeneration struggle with dry AMD. Dry AMD is the slow degeneration of photoreceptors, retinal pigment epithelium, and other macula layers. Wet AMD afflicts approximately ten percent of patients usually presenting as dry AMD first. The wet portion of this disease involves the leakage of new blood vessel growth behind the retina. Known as choroidal neovascularization or CNV, this leakage envelops the area as well as causes scar tissue and eventually blindness (much sooner than dry AMD).

The research study, ‘Kilovoltage Radiosurgery with Gold Nanoparticles for Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): A Monte Carlo Evaluation’ (Monte Carlo is an analysis tool for modeling the transport of neutral (photons or neutrons) or charged (electrons or protons) particles based upon the probability distribution for radiation interaction with matter) by Brigham & Woman’s Hospital, Boston, MA, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, Harvard Medical School stated that, 

“In conclusion, this study provides impetus to improve treatment effectiveness of radiotherapy of wet AMD by targeting macular endothelial cells with gold nanoparticles. By using Monte Carlo simulations we showed that a significant dose enhancement to the endothelial cells can be obtained and consequently the dose to the organs at risks can be reduced. This type of treatment may help patients with AMD to preserve vision reducing at the same time the need of anti-VEGF injections every few years.”

For wet AMD which continues to be the more rapid road to blindness, this is excellent news. Using gold particles, even in the laboratory setting, shows great promise for the future of managing this stage. This is particularly true for the treatment of dry AMD which, as stated, is the first stage before wet AMD. Therefore, if gold therapy can be used early, wet AMD may become a thing of the past. 

Gold flecks may cure macular degeneration. According to Dr. Daniel Hillier of the German Primate Center in Göttingen, 

“We want to give hope to blind people with these findings and will further intensify our research activities in this area. We have also demonstrated this method in cultured human retinas [in the lab], so the next step is clinical trials.”

Although the testing is preliminary, some advocates are estimating an accelerated path toward mainstream applications. In no time at all, you may see your eye doctor, get an AMD diagnosis, and immediately be administered a simple delivery of gold flecks to your retina for immediate reversal of this once debilitating disease.