Four Amazing Uses of Precious Metals in Medicine

Gold Guys four amazing uses

A customer recently stopped by The Gold Guys in Duluth, MN, asking if we buy silver. He told me about the silver plated door knobs in his late 1800’s home. He theorized that the homeowners installed the silver plated door knobs to provide protection from spreading microbes, much like the hand sanitizer or antibacterial soaps do for us today. As a precious metals assayer, as well as a current doctor of pharmacy student, this customer’s story sparked my interest on the medicinal uses of precious metals today.

#1 Silver has Antimicrobial Properties

Apparently, the antimicrobial effects of silver utilized by the Duluth, MN, homeowners in the late 1800’s are still taken advantage of in modern medicine. Silver carries out its antimicrobial action when silver ions bind to and disrupt protective microbial cell membranes, inhibiting enzymes needed for survival  inside the microbe’s cell and iGold Guysinterrupting DNA replication needed for the microbe to replicate. Silver is considered a broad-spectrum antimicrobial, meaning it can act on a wide variety of microbes including bacteria and fungi. Silver is used in topical preparations, like CURAD® Silver Solution, to provide antimicrobial protection during wound healing. Bandages are also prepared with embedded silver particles, like Actisorb, as a dressing for wounds. In hospitals, silver medical equipment (surgical tools, needles, door handles, etc.) are being utilized more to help prevent the spread of the “superbug” MRSA. Additionally, prescription topical drugs, like silver sulfadiazine, are used to prevent infection in patients with severe burns. 

#2 Gold as a Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Gold preparations were one of the original treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and have been used for RA therapy for around 75 years. Gold is still being used today for RA treatment. Gold salt solutions, like Myochrysine® (gold sodium thiomalate), are injected into the affected joints. A capsule form, Ridaura® (auranofin), is also available for RA treatment  but is not as effective. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation and pain in affected joints. Gold has anti-inflammatory properties which helps reduce the joint inflammation and pain experienced  by patients with RA. In addition, some scientists believe gold also may modify the autoimmune response slowing disease progression. Gold is actually very effective in treating RA symptoms, but has largely been replaced by new, better tolerated, more convenient medications.

#3 Platinum Treats Cancer

Platinum chemotherapy drugs play an important role in current cancer therapy. Cisplatin, a common platinum chemotherapy drug, is used to treat testicular, bladder, ovarian, lung and several other types of cancers.  These platinum cancer drugs are thought to work by platinum binding to both strands of DNA in cancer cells so the cancer cell cannot repair or make new DNA. This is good because cancer cells need to make new DNA to quickly make new cells and form tumors. Unfortunately, like many cancer treatments, platinum cancer drugs can cause severe side effects for patients and cancer tumors can become resistant to the platinum drug.

#4 So Can Gold (possibly)

Scientists have recently discovered an exciting new method to delivering cancer drugs to patients. Introducing… Gold ‘nanoshells’! These gold nanoshells are exciting because they have the potential to better target cancer cells without attacking the patient’s healthy cells. Basically, better killing of cancer cells with less side effects. How scientist create these gold nanoshells that target tumor cells is quite complicated, and frankly over my head. But once they are made, they are administered to the patient, given time to attach to cancer cells, then exposed to an infrared light that destroys the tumor cells but no other healthy cells around it. This is  new medical technology and the therapy is currently undergoing clinical trials.