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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Beating the Diagnostic Clock
16 December 2005 (All day)
Researchers and clinicians who use radioactive tracers to pinpoint disease are in a race against time. The radioactivity in these compounds degrades so quickly, they can wink out of existence in a matter of minutes. Now scientists have developed a new type of chip that vastly speeds up the production of radioactive tracers, a development that could lead to an array of new compounds for detecting and treating disease.
The use of medical imaging techniques that use radioactive tracers has increased dramatically in recent years. In 2005, about 3 million clinical exams throughout the world were performed using one of these technologies--positron emission tomography (PET)--which can track everything from cancer in its earliest stages to Alzheimer's disease. But despite its resolution, PET is limited by the hours it can take researchers to synthesize and purify the radioactive compounds the technology relies on. By the time these compounds enter the body, they may have already exhausted much of their life, making extended analysis impossible.
To get around this problem, researchers led by Hsian-Rong Tseng at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Stephen Quake at Stanford University in California created a microfluidics chip capable of carrying out all the chemical reactions necessary for automatically synthesizing the most common PET probe called fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). While microfluidics resemble standard microchips, they contain an array of channels, pumps, and valves for moving fluids around. In this case, those pieces were all controlled by a computer. And by automating the synthesis and speeding up the reactions by reducing the volume of chemicals used, the researchers were able to reduce the time needed to synthesize FDG 10-fold.
"I see it as a very enabling technology," says Victor Pike, a PET imaging expert at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In addition to making FDG cheaper and easier to produce, same technique could likely be used to automate the synthesis of a wide variety of other PET probes, Pike says. That could greatly expand the number of tracer compounds used in research, he says, which in turn may lead to benefits in treating a wide variety of diseases.