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Posted 08.16.07


Cyclotron Partnership Dedicates New Building at MU's Research Reactor

MU, Mid-American Cyclotron will supply diagnostic medicine to mid-Missouri area

COLUMBIA, MO - University of Missouri-Columbia Chancellor Brady Deaton, MU Research Reactor Center Director Ralph Butler and Mid-American Cyclotron CEO Scott Brower announced today a new public-private partnership that will supply a much-needed isotope to area medical centers for diagnosing problems such as cancer and heart disease. The cyclotron, the machine that produces the isotopes, will be housed in a new addition to the MU Research Reactor Center, which opened today.

"Researchers have been seeking a cyclotron in Columbia for more than six years," Butler said. "Not only will this machine fill a vital gap in our area's medical diagnostic abilities, but the additional building and associated cyclotron facilities will allow the University to expand its research and teaching capabilities as we continue to investigate the latest technologies in new cancer drugs and diagnostic imaging."

A cyclotron is a particle accelerator that uses a large magnet to increase the speed and energy of protons. Once enough speed is established, a proton is targeted toward a water molecule. When the proton collides with the water molecule, it converts an oxygen atom into fluorine. Unlike the natural fluorine found in tap water, this isotope, known as fluorine-18 or F-18, is unstable and gives off energy in the form of a positron. Fluorine-18, which has a half-life of only two hours, is used by health facilities to medically diagnose problems such as heart disease and produce three dimensional images of various processes in the body.

To diagnose a problem, the patient is injected with F-18 and then photographed with a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) camera. Depending on the health condition, the F-18, which is attached to a sugar molecule, is either attracted to or repelled from the problem area in the body. The PET camera detects the very low amount of radiation emitted from the F-18 and produces a picture that can be used by the physician as a diagnostic tool. Cancerous growths are detected where there is a concentrated amount of fluorine. Conversely, diseased or dying tissue can be found where there is an absence of fluorine. The procedure is similar to an X-ray except that while the X-rays pass through the body, the F-18 emissions come from within the body.

"Right now, if we want to use this diagnostic tool in mid-Missouri, we would have to get our supply of fluorine from St. Louis or Kansas City and that supply can be easily interrupted if there are transportation or weather issues," said Marc Weichelt, vice president of operations for Essential Isotopes "Having this tool here along with the research capabilities at MURR will allow us to not only offer this radiopharmaceutical to mid-Missouri healthcare facilities, but also help us develop new radiopharmaceuticals in our fight against cancer and heart and brain disease."

Weichelt said that the new diagnostic tool can confirm problems in the body weeks to months before other imaging procedures.



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