Gold nanoparticles have attracted enormous scientific and technological interest due to their ease of synthesis, chemical stability, and unique optical properties. Proof-of-concept studies demonstrate their biomedical applications in chemical sensing, biological imaging, drug delivery, and cancer treatment. Knowledge about their potential toxicity and health impact is essential before these nanomaterials can be used in real clinical settings. Furthermore, the underlying interactions of these nanomaterials with physiological fluids is a key feature of understanding their biological impact, and these interactions can perhaps be exploited to mitigate unwanted toxic effects. In this Perspective we discuss recent results that address the toxicity of gold nanoparticles both in vitro and in vivo, and we provide some experimental recommendations for future research at the interface of nanotechnology and biological systems.