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Saturday, 25 February 2012

Molecular imaging

Interview with Simon Cherry from the University of California,  incoming editor-in-chief of the journal Physics in Medicine and Biology.

Cherry focuses on the benefits of "molecular imaging", which can pinpoint the biochemical and molecular changes that accompany the very early stages of chronic diseases such as cancer or neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. As Cherry explains, such information is impossible to obtain with traditional clinical-imaging techniques such as X-ray or MRI, which largely reveal structural changes in the human body.

Cherry also explains how the Cerenkov effect – a well-established physical phenomenon – is now being exploited within the medical arena. The effect occurs when certain radionuclides, in addition to emitting gamma rays, also give off charged particles that, temporarily at least, travel through tissue faster than light in that medium. The particles emit characteristic "Cerenkov radiation" that can be used for imaging purposes. "Cerenkov luminescence imaging" is particularly useful for radionuclides such as yttrium-90 that do not emit any gamma rays and so are not easy to image by other means.

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