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Researchers create method to obtain gold and silver nanoparticles with anti-cancer properties

  • Dr Antonio Castillo Nara, researcher at the Faculty of Chemistry and Biology and head of the Laboratory of Fungal Virology of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, after four years of research created a method that allows to obtain gold and silver nanoparticles through an ecofriendly process, using extracts from leaves and fruits for its synthesis.

 

For the past few years, Dr Antonio Castillo Nara, head of the Laboratory of Fungal Virology of the Faculty of Chemistry and Biology, and his research team made up of students and professors of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, has been working on the development of a method to obtain gold and silver nanoparticles through an ecofriendly process, by using extracts from leaves and fruits.

This is a low-cost technology that does not produce toxic substances, as other technologies do. Universidad de Santiago de Chile is one of the first institutions in Latin America to develop these microscopic particles, which are highly attractive for the international market.

According to Dr Castillo, the technology that they developed has allowed to prove that silver nanoparticles have anti-microbial properties; the smaller they are, the more powerful they will be.

The researcher also highlights the anti-cancer properties of these nanoparticles, as they can stop tumor growth, among many other applications, like alternative medicine. The anti-bacterial mechanisms of action of metallic nanoparticles are different from the ones of antibiotics currently in use, and they are able to control systemic in-hospital infections

Nowadays, the laboratory is focused on developing higher-quality smaller nanoparticles through the safest methods possible, both for the environment and the researchers. These microscopic particles are larger than the atoms and molecules, but they are invisible to the human eye. In spite of this, they can produce large-scale changes.

The researchers used a process called “nanoparticle green synthesis”, in which they used any living organism, like plants, human cells, eukaryotic cells, bacteria, fungi, protozoans and others.

“We have focused on obtaining nanoparticles by using fungi and plants. The advantage of using fungi is that they have the ability to reduce metal, form the nanoparticle and stabilize it. The nanoparticle gets covered by molecules that prevent its growth or contact with other particles,” the researcher explains. 

Currently, nanoparticles have different applications both in biotechnology and biomedicine. For example, they are used in cosmetics, sportswear, dietary supplements, drugs, medical treatments, electronics, sensors, and others.

In this regard, foreign companies have already contacted the researchers at the university to produce and buy this technological development for its high commercial quality.

Translated by Marcela Contreras

Autor: 
Soledad Fuentes Mansilla