Precious metals are used in many different industries, from industrial manufacturing to jewelry. One industry where precious metals have great importance is the medical industry. Precious metals have many healing qualities used to treat various conditions. Their unique properties have cemented precious metals’ crucial role in the world of healthcare.
The use of precious metals in medicine can be traced back thousands of years. Precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum have distinctive physical and chemical properties that make them useful in a variety of medical applications. It is thought that gold was used to treat bone disorders and other inflammatory conditions. Silver has also long been used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to treat wounds and infections. Platinum was not discovered until 1735, and was first used in medicine in the 19th century.
To this day, precious metals are still used in medicinal practices. Gold is used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Gold has anti-inflammatory properties, and when gold salt solutions are injected into affected joint areas in rheumatoid arthritis patients, it has been seen to reduce joint inflammation and pain. Recently, gold has also been tested as a possible treatment for cancer. Gold nanoshells have the ability to target cancer cells without destroying as many healthy cells. This can lead to fewer side effects than other treatments like modern radiation and chemotherapy. Although a complicated process, gold nanoshells are currently under clinical trials as a new form of treatment.
Another important aspect of gold in the medical field is its use in brain implants and other medical devices. Gold is highly conductive and does not wear over time, which makes the metal essential to create electrodes for medical devices.
Silver is known for its antimicrobial properties, making it a valuable asset to fight off infections. Many medical devices are coated in silver as protection against infections. Hospital use of silver medical equipment is on the rise to fight against the spread of the superbug MRSA. X-ray film uses silver as a key component, however, digital film is decreasing the demand for silver in this industry. Silver is also used in wound dressings and creams because of silver’s ability to keep bacteria away and let the body heal. Like gold, silver is also being developed to create silver nanoparticles. In nanoparticle form, silver can be even more effective at fighting off bacteria and promoting good health.
Although FDA-approved products containing silver are safe to use and the toxicity of silver is low, large amounts of silver ingested or topically applied can accumulate in the body leading to a condition called argyria, which turns the skin blue when exposed to light. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry classifies argyria as only a cosmetic condition.
Platinum is also used in many medical devices as well as a treatment to target and kill cancer cells. Platinum is used in chemotherapy drugs to treat various types of cancer by binding to both strands of DNA in cancer cells so the cell cannot repair itself or make new DNA. Unfortunately, the drug can cause major side effects and lead to the cancer tumor developing resistance to the platinum drug. Platinum is also used as an essential component in peacemakers, implantable defibrillators, catheters, and other medical devices. Platinum is biocompatible, inert within the body, durable, and electrically conductive, making it a key aspect of important devices.
Precious metals have always had an essential role in the healthcare industry. As research continues on the properties of precious metals, we will continue to see their importance grow in the medical industry. Over recent years, exciting developments have come forth, and this trend should continue for the years to come.
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