Researchers at Harvard University have found that gold particles, attached to an anti-inflammatory agent, may improve the recovery from muscle injuries – offering potential raft of physical therapy treatments for anyone ranging from athletes to the elderly.

Scientists at both the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have published their findings in the scientific journal PNAS - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the USA.

Their research was to find a solution to making Interleukin 4 (IL-4) more effective. At present it’s a strong anti-inflammatory but it fades into the bloodstream quickly, rather than staying around the muscle injury, making it of little benefit currently and, if you have multiple injections of it, there are unpleasant side effects.

The Harvard research teams found that the IL-4, combined with gold particles, will cling to the muscle tissue for longer rather than dissipating. This reduces the need for reapplication, while improving the effectiveness of the anti-inflammatory, and lessens the side effects. One added benefit was that – whether from the gold or from reduced inflammation – the muscle regeneration was quicker.

David   Mooney

Professor David Mooney, core faculty member of the Wyss Institute. Photo courtesy of

David Mooney, a professor of Bioengineering at Harvard and a co-author of the study, said: "This work demonstrates that modulating the inflammatory response is a potent method for promoting the regeneration of functional tissues."

The testing has only been conducted on mice so far but given the success it’s expected that trials will advance in the next few years. The teams are also hopeful that the approach could be a new way to treat inflammatory diseases throughout the body.

This isn’t the first case of gold being useful in medical treatments. Research conducted in Israel in 2016 was published in January this year. The team, from Tel Aviv, found that gold helped increase the potency of radiation so by attaching it to tumours and affected areas they could intensify the radiation therapy without increasing the risk or side effects for the patient. This study is ahead of the Harvard work, having moved from mice to planned human trials before the end of this year.


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To read about the Israeli research on gold in cancer treatments, visit: