The researchers, led by Tatsiana Mironava, a visiting assistant professor at Stony Brook, detail their research, "Gold nanoparticles cellular toxicity and recovery: Adipose Derived Stromal cells," in the journal Nanotoxicology.
Together with co-author Dr Marcia Simon, the researchers tested the impact of nanoparticles in vitro on multiple types of cells, including fat tissue, to determine whether their basic functions were disrupted when exposed to very low doses of nanoparticles.
The study is the first to demonstrate the impact of nanoparticles on adult stem cells, revealing that adipose derived stromal cells involved in regeneration of multiple organs, including skin, nerve, bone, and hair, ignored appropriate cues and failed to differentiate when exposed to nanoparticles.
The research states that the presence of the particles disrupted multiple cell functions, such as movement; replication (cell division); and collagen contraction; processes that are essential in wound healing.
According to the researchers, the most disturbing finding was that the particles interfered with genetic regulation, RNA expression and inhibited the ability to differentiate into mature adipocytes or fat cells.
"Reductions caused by gold nanoparticles can result in systemic changes to the body," said Mironava. "Since they have been considered inert and essentially harmless, it was assumed that pure gold nanoparticles would also be safe. Evidence to the contrary is beginning to emerge."
"Nanotechnology is continuing to be at the cutting edge of science research and has opened new doors in energy and materials science," said Miriam Rafailovich, another co-author. "Progress comes with social responsibility and ensuring that new technologies are environmentally sustainable. These results are very relevant to achieving these goals."
All the results were from in vitro tests suggesting that conditions may vary slightly from real-life situations.