Mark A. Ferguson, Communications Coordinator
SASKATOON - Scientists at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron are ready to test the Medical Isotope Project (MIP) facility after receipt of the commissioning licence from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
With the licence, the MIP will undergo rigorous testing to ensure the facility is ready to produce medical isotopes in the very near future.
The CLS will have the ability to produce medical isotopes using X-rays from a particle accelerator instead of a nuclear reactor. The project is being led by the CLS along with partners from the National Research Council of Canada, and medical researchers in Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto.
“After many years of hard work, we are extremely excited to begin testing the Medical Isotope Project facility,” said Mark de Jong, CLS director of accelerators. “We have made tremendous progress so that we can begin the production of isotopes very soon. Our goal is to produce medical isotopes safely, reliably and affordably, and we have almost reached that goal.”
The MIP facility uses a particle accelerator to bombard a target made of molybdenum-100 metal with high-energy X-rays. The X-rays knock a neutron out of the nuclei of some of the molybdenum-100 atoms in the target, converting them to the isotope molybdenum-99. The molybdenum-99 decays into technetium-99m that is used for tagging radiopharmaceuticals for medical diagnostic tests. After the molybdenum-99 has decayed, the remaining molybdenum-100 in the solution is recovered and recycled into additional targets.
Technetium-99m is by far the most used medical isotope in Canada with about 5,500 medical scans daily.
According to de Jong, two or three accelerator systems like the one operating at the CLS could produce enough medical isotopes to supply all of Canada.
The Medical Isotope Project was funded in January 2011 by Natural Resources Canada’s Non-nuclear reactor Isotope Supply Program. The CLS-led project received $10 million with an additional $2 million from the Province of Saskatchewan.
About the CLS:
The Canadian Light Source is Canada’s national centre for synchrotron research and a global centre of excellence in synchrotron science and its applications. Located on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon, the CLS has hosted 2,600 researchers from academic institutions, government, and industry from across Canada and 20 countries on over 5,600 user visits, delivering over 20,000 experimental shifts to users since 2005. CLS operations are funded by Western Economic Diversification Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, National Research Council of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan.
Synchrotrons work by accelerating electrons in a tube at nearly the speed of light using powerful magnets and radio frequency waves. By manipulating the electrons, scientists can select different forms of very bright light using a spectrum of X-ray, infrared, and ultraviolet light to conduct experiments.
Synchrotrons are used to probe the structure of matter and analyze a host of physical, chemical, geological and biological processes. Information obtained by scientists can be used to help design new drugs, examine the structure of surfaces in order to develop more effective motor oils, build more powerful computer chips, develop new materials for safer medical implants, and help clean-up mining wastes, to name a few applications.
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