Improved Medical Imaging, Drug Development May Result From Radioactive 'Understudy'

Broadway stars have understudies. Now, an increasingly popular radioactive isotope has its own stand-in. Developed in part by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the substance might ultimately improve medical imaging, speed up clinical trials of many drugs and facilitate efforts to develop more individualized medical treatment.

The number of medical images obtained through the technique known as positron emission tomography (PET) is increasing at a rate of 20 percent a year - and this has correspondingly increased the use of fluorine-18, the radioactive isotope of choice in the vast majority of PET procedures. Injected into the bloodstream while bound to "carrier" molecules, fluorine-18 lights up the body during PET scans to perform such jobs as revealing tumors, monitoring heart activity and determining which regions of the brain are active during certain tasks.


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