Gold nanoparticles: a revival in precious metal administration to patients

Nano Lett. 2011 Oct 12;11(10):4029-36. doi: 10.1021/nl202559p. Epub 2011 Sep 7.


Gold has been used as a therapeutic agent to treat a wide variety of rheumatic diseases including psoriatic arthritis, juvenile arthritis, and discoid lupus erythematosus. Although the use of gold has been largely superseded by newer drugs, gold nanoparticles are being used effectively in laboratory based clinical diagnostic methods while concurrently showing great promise in vivo either as a diagnostic imaging agent or a therapeutic agent. For these reasons, gold nanoparticles are therefore well placed to enter mainstream clinical practice in the near future. Hence, the present review summarizes the chemistry, pharmacokinetics, biodistribution, metabolism, and toxicity of bulk gold in humans based on decades of clinical observation and experiments in which gold was used to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The beneficial attributes of gold nanoparticles, such as their ease of synthesis, functionalization, and shape control are also highlighted demonstrating why gold nanoparticles are an attractive target for further development and optimization. The importance of controlling the size and shape of gold nanoparticles to minimize any potential toxic side effects is also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Biological Availability
  • Gold / adverse effects
  • Gold / chemistry
  • Gold / pharmacokinetics
  • Gold / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Metal Nanoparticles*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Gold