Cincinnati -- Chemists at the University of Cincinnati have found a way to determine what happens to medical imaging agents as they travel through the body and accumulate inside various tissues and organs.
The agents combine a radioactive tracer such as technetium with a ligand or compound that can target the tissue or organ of interest. For example, a common application is a heart imaging agent which can detect blockages in blood flow following a heart attack. This information is important to doctors planning follow- up therapy and rehabilitation.
"Doctors can get very good images this way," said Distinguished Research Professor William Heineman who has studied the fundamental chemistry of several heart, skeletal and brain imaging agents at UC. "You see bright regions where muscle tissue is normal and very dark areas where blood flow is blocked."
Heineman is an analytical chemist who also has a great deal of experience developing sensors which can detect compounds at extremely low concentrations, as low as 3,000 molecules. So, in his recent research, Heineman, chemistry professor Carl Seliskar, and chemistry graduate students decided to try to develop a sensor to see if they could monitor what happens to an imaging agent after it enters the body.
"We just happened to be in a unique position of knowing something about nuclear medicine and also about developing sensors. We're probably the only group in the world with those two skills."
The sensors are tiny carbon fibers, the same graphite fibers used to make lighter tennis rackets and golf clubs, coated with a thin layer of polymer. The package then becomes a probe which can be inserted directly into the heart tissue.
"We can get these fibers as free samples and simply take out
a single fiber and make it into a sensor by coating it with the
polymer that gives us the selectivity needed to detect the
imaging agent in the presence of other compounds in tissue. Then
we insert it into the
Contact: Chris Curran
University of Cincinnati