Supplying the medical community with radioactive isotopes

23rd March 2017
Posted By : Enaie Azambuja
Supplying the medical community with radioactive isotopes

The Brookhaven National Laboratory is highlighting some of the work it’s been doing to provide radioactive medical isotopes to the clinical community. At Brookhaven, for example, a generator for producing technetium-99m out of molybdenum-99 was developed decades ago, and the technology is used today daily to help treat cancer patients. They lab is also responsible for developing 18FDG, a glucose molecule with a radiotracer attached to it.

BLIP produces Strontium-82, a relatively stable isotope that can be transported and used in hospitals to generate Rubidium-82, a radiotracer that reveals reduced blood flow in heart muscle under stress. This precision scanning points physicians to coronary arteries that need treatment. Credit: Washington University School of Medicine.

Producing alpha emitters that have great potential in medicine, such as actinium-225, though, requires a particle accelerator run by experts in many branches of physics and engineering. The laboratory is currently working on creating a variety of isotopes using its Brookhaven Linac Isotope Producer (BLIP)

The process involves placing targets made of different materials and bombarding them with protons, siphoning off the products and containing them for further processing. To be able to produce more medical isotopes, which have been in short supply for years, Brookhaven has recently installed a “beam raster” that guides the proton beam over a larger area of a target, leading to greater isotope production. Thanks to this, they’ve been able to ramp up production of Strontium-82, which is turned to the radiotracer Rubidium-82, by more than 50%.

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