Microdosimetric and radiobiological effects of gold nanoparticles at therapeutic radiation energies

Tara M. Gray, Shaquan David, Nema Bassiri, Devanshi Yogeshkumar Patel, Neil Kirby, Kathryn M. Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to quantify the microscopic dose distribution surrounding gold nanoparticles (GNPs) irradiated at therapeutic energies and to measure the changes in cell survival in vitro caused by this dose enhancement. Methods: The dose distributions from secondary electrons surrounding a single gold nanosphere and single gold nanocube of equal volume were both simulated using MCNP6. Dose enhancement factors (DEFs) in the 1 μm3 volume surrounding a GNP were calculated and compared between a nanosphere and nanocube and between 6 and 18 MV energies. This microscopic effect was explored further by experimentally measuring the cell survival of C-33a cervical cancer cells irradiated at 18 MV with varying doses of energy and concentrations of GNPs. Survival of cells receiving no irradiation, a 3 Gy dose, and a 6 Gy dose of 18 MV energy were determined for each concentration of GNPs. Results: It was observed that the dose from electrons surrounding the gold nanocube surpasses that of a gold nanosphere up to a distance of 1.1 μm by 18.5% for the 18 MV energy spectrum and by 23.1% for the 6 MV spectrum. DEFs ranging from ∼2 to 8 were found, with the maximum DEF resulting from the case of the gold nanocube irradiated at 6 MV energy. Experimentally, for irradiation at 18 MV, incubating cells with 6 nM (0.10% gold by mass) GNPs produces an average 6.7% decrease in cell survival, and incubating cells with 9 nM (0.15% gold by mass) GNPs produces an average 14.6% decrease in cell survival, as compared to cells incubated and irradiated without GNPs. Conclusion: We have successfully demonstrated the potential radiation dose enhancing effects in vitro and microdosimetrically from gold nanoparticles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-317
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Gold nanoparticles
  • Monte Carlo simulations
  • dose enhancement factor
  • microdosimetry
  • radiation therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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