Bio-synthesis of gold nanoparticles by human epithelial cells, in vivo

E Larios-Rodriguez, C Rangel-Ayon, S J Castillo, G Zavala, R Herrera-Urbina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Healthy epithelial cells, in vivo, have the ability to synthesize gold nanoparticles when aqueous tetrachloroauric acid is made to react with human skin. Neither a reducing agent nor a protecting chemical is needed for this bio-synthesis method. The first indication of gold nanoparticle formation is the staining of the skin, which turns deep purple. Stereoscopic optical micrographs of human skin tissue in contact with aqueous tetrachloroauric acid clearly show the staining of the epithelial cells. The UV-Vis spectrum of these epithelial cells shows an absorption band with a maximum at 553 nm. This absorption peak is within the wavelength region where the surface plasmon resonance (SPR) band of aqueous colloidal gold exhibits a maximum. Transmission electron micrographs show that gold nanoparticles synthesized by epithelial cells have sizes between 1 and 100 nm. The electron diffraction pattern of these nanoparticles reveals a crystalline structure whose interplanar distances correspond to fcc metallic gold. Transmission electron micrographs of ultra-thin (70 nm thick) slices of epithelial cells clearly and undoubtedly demonstrate that gold nanoparticles are inside the cell. According to high resolution transmission electron micrographs of intracellular single gold nanoparticles, they have the shape of a polyhedron.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355601
Issue number35
StatePublished - 2 Sep 2011


  • Chlorides/metabolism
  • Colloids/chemistry
  • Epithelial Cells/metabolism
  • Gold/chemistry
  • Gold Compounds/metabolism
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Metal Nanoparticles/chemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Nanotechnology
  • Particle Size
  • Skin/chemistry
  • Surface Plasmon Resonance


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