Comparative study on cellular entry of incinerated ancient gold particles (Swarna Bhasma) and chemically synthesized gold particles

Sci Rep. 2017 Sep 6;7(1):10678. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-10872-3.


Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are used for a number of imaging and therapeutic applications in east and western part of the world. For thousands of years, the traditional Indian Ayurvedic approach to healing involves the use of incinerated gold ash, prepared with a variety of plant extracts and minerals depending on the region. Here, we describe the characterization of incinerated gold particles (IAuPs) in HeLa (human cells derived from cervical cancer) and HFF-1 (human foreskin fibroblast cells) in comparison to synthesized citrate-capped gold nanoparticles (AuNPs). We found that while individual IAuP crystallites are around 60 nm in size, they form large aggregates with a mean diameter of 4711.7 nm, some of which can enter cells. Fewer cells appeared to have IAuPs compared to AuNPs, although neither type of particle was toxic to cells. Imaging studies revealed that IAuPs were in vesicles, cytosol, or in the nucleus. We found that their nuclear accumulation likely occurred after nuclear envelope breakdown during cell division. We also found that larger IAuPs entered cells via macropinocytosis, while smaller particles entered via clathrin-dependent receptor-mediated endocytosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Calotropis* / metabolism
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Drug Combinations
  • Endocytosis
  • Gold* / chemistry
  • Gold* / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Latex* / metabolism
  • Lead / metabolism
  • Metal Nanoparticles* / chemistry


  • Drug Combinations
  • Latex
  • swarnabhasma
  • Lead
  • Gold
  • Arsenic