Gold nanoparticles are bang on trend at the moment. Their unique properties have spurred researchers to examine potential applications in a wide variety of fields; from photovoltaics (solar panels) to conductors, drug delivery systems to novel cancer therapies. Now, a startup company called NanoLipo is investigating their use as a potential alternative to traditional liposuction.
Gold nanoparticles may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of burning fat, but then again using the most lethal bacterial toxin in the world to get rid of wrinkles also sounds like a strange concept on the face of it.
University of California San Diego professor and nanomedicine expert Adah Almutairi, co-founder of NanoLipo, was inspired by promising studies using gold nanoparticles as a potential anticancer agent. Amongst other things, researchers have been using an infrared laser to excite gold particles in cancer cells which causes them to emit heat and consequently destroys the cells. Almutairi wondered if the same strategy could be used to destroy fat cells.
Armed with the knowledge that fat melts at a lower temperature than the one that causes connective tissue or nerve cells to burn, the idea seemed viable to Almutairi so she and her team started some proof-of-concept preliminary tests. On butter and bacon.
While that may sound ridiculous (and a waste of delicious bacon), the researchers proved that an 800-nm laser (which is typically used in hair removal) could rapidly melt the fat that had been previously injected with gold nanorods. Yes, a finger will also melt a stick of butter, so the team turned to animal models. The procedure involves injecting the nanoparticles into the fatty area, aiming an infrared laser at the tissue and then sucking the melted fat out with a needle. So far, the results have been “astounding” according to Richard Fitzpatrick, a clinical adviser to the company.
According to John Lyon, Chief Executive Officer of the company eLux Medical which licensed NanoLipo, if all goes well human clinical trials will be initiated later this year. The team hope that if the results are as positive as the animal studies, then the procedure could be available from as early as 2017.