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Technoscience

Fluorine-18 guarantee use of the tomograph

The IEN, the Institute of Nuclear Engineering, of Rio de Janeiro, has acquired a new particle accelerator of the cyclotron type, capable of producing fluorine-18, a radioactive substance that is essential for the production of high quality images by positron emission emitting tomographs (PET). This technology makes it possible to detect diseases, such as cancer, at an earlier stage, and to improve the visualization of other organs of the human body. In the PET system, fluorine is injected into the patient and is distributed throughout the organism, sticking to glucose molecules. “With cancer, being a tissue with an altered metabolism, the glucose stays concentrated in that spot, even in the smallest tumors”, explains Sérgio Cabral, the IEN’s superintendent.  Fluorine-18, however, has a half-life of 109 minutes, a limitation on the expansion of PET tomography. It needs to be located near to a production unit. In Brazil, this type of substance is produced by companies in the CNEN, the National Nuclear Energy Commission, like the IEN, or the Ipen, the Energy and Nuclear Research Institute, of São Paulo, the only manufacturer of this kind of radioisotope. There are 96 cyclotrons in the United States. In the world, the number of PET tomographs has reached 400. Here, the only one belongs to Incor, the Heart Institute, in São Paulo. According to José Cláudio Meneghetti, the director of Incor’s radioisotope service, Brazil cannot go on depending on governmental institutes that have the radioisotopes production assured them by the Federal Constitution. “Hospitals and clinics should have the possibility of owning an apparatus called the mini-cyclotron.  That would allow the expansion of PET tomographs and make diagnostics easier.”

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