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Jefferson Lab detector technology aids development of cystic fibrosis therapy

Newport News, Va. To study the structure of the nucleus of the atom, DOE's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility develops and employs a wide range of cutting-edge detector technologies. Now, Jefferson Lab scientists have used their expertise to build a small animal medical imager that's helping researchers develop a new gene therapy technique for cystic fibrosis.

"Our core expertise is instruments. Once you have instruments with different imaging capabilities, you want to spin-off that technology in ways that can do the most good," says Stan Majewski, Jefferson Lab Detector Group leader.

For use in new, more sensitive detectors for medical imaging, Majewski and his group are adapting the technology that detects photons and other high-energy particles produced when the Lab's electron beam strikes an experimental target. In medical imaging, photons are emitted by a radioactively labeled molecule that has attached to other molecules in the body. This technology allows doctors to image cellular function in areas of interest and has already proved its usefulness, for instance, in imaging cancer tumors.

According to Jefferson Lab's principal investigator on this project, Drew Weisenberger, the team has designed and built several small animal imagers for use in biomedical research. "Researchers use animals all the time in developing imaging technologies. Dr. Lee is using our technology in research with mice, and we're working together with him to improve the technology and produce the images he needs," Weisenberger says.

Zhenghong Lee, a researcher with Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland, is using the small animal medical imager in cystic fibrosis gene therapy studies along with colleagues Assem Ziady and Pamela Davis. They're researching a new way to replace the defective gene that causes cystic fibrosis, a deadly disease that affects about 30,000 Americans and which
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