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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nuclear Engineering: Medicine Applications

Nuclear Engineering focuses on solving several of the world's most important grand-challenge problems. The last three years have seen much happen for Nuclear Engineering.

Nuclear Engineering is all about devising how to use radioactive materials in manufacturing, agriculture, medicine, power generation, and many other ways, perhaps the most important being in medicine, where over 1/3 of all procedures in the United States use nuclear techniques.

In nuclear medicine, small amounts of radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals are used for diagnosis and therapy. Radiopharmaceuticals are medicinal products that are radioactive when used in patients. They are used in specialised hospital departments, primarily for diagnostic purposes. Nuclear processes are used to provide images inside the human body, to detect and measure biochemical processes, and to provide therapy. The radiation from the radiopharmaceutical makes it possible to photograph the distribution of the medicinal product throughout the body. The radiation is usually very low, lower than the level of radiation from X-ray investigations.

A major event in 2000 was the FDA approval of the first Monte-Carlo code for use by doctors to design radiation therapy for cancer. Based on nuclear reactor design methods, this new tool now allows doctors to take detailed magnetic resonance imaging data (another nuclear technique) and predict with great accuracy how to deposit precisely enough radiation to kill cancer tumours without damaging surrounding tissue. Previous crude calculation methods often forced doctors to cause damage to substantial amounts of healthy tissue, or to miss completely killing tumours.

The use of radiopharmaceuticals is expected to increase rapidly as new diagnostic methods are developed. Nuclear medicine is being considered for use in infection imaging, neurology and other fields. At this time, most therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals involve the treatment of cancer. On-going research is being conducted to expand nuclear medicines to treat other diseases as well.

Nuclear diagnostic testing can be performed on almost every organ of the body. There are currently over 100 nuclear medical exams, with more being developed. Some of these include brain scans, bone scans, cardiac stress tests and thyroid studies. Prior to the test, the radiopharmaceutical is administered to the patient orally, intravenously, or by inhalation. The radioactive material is short-lived, and either converts to a non-radioactive substance, or passes quickly through the body.

Advancements in nuclear medicine technology is expected to represent a key strategic factor in opening up new clinical opportunities for radiopharmaceutical agents. Growth in Radiopharmaceuticals market will be based on the development of new products, and robust demand for cardiology procedures, sales of oncology products, in particular, FDG for PET imaging. Establishment as well as expansion of FDG-PET reimbursement to all cancer types and also for non-oncology applications is expected to further boost the demand for radiopharmaceuticals.

Gravatom is a leading provider of solutions and equipment for radiopharmaceutical processing in UK. They specify, design, manufacture, install and validate process equipment and integrated containment technologies.

They offer a disciplined approach to the application of current good practice to comply with GMP, radiopharmaceutical, safety, health and environmental regulations.

Their expertise derives from more than 30 years’ experience of containment and handling solutions.

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