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New Production Method for Medical-Grade Radioisotopes

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 24 Jun 2019
A novel technique enables simultaneous production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) and other isotopes without the need for highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium.

Developed by BGN Technologies (Beer Sheva; Israel), the technique uses the naturally occurring and stable molybdenum-100 (Mo-100) isotope and a linear electron accelerator to generate Mo-99 and technetium-99m (Tc-99m). The molybdenum target acts both as a bremsstrahlung converter for the incident electron beam, and simultaneously as a Mo-99 producing target via the 100Mo(γ,n)99Mo reaction on bremsstrahlung photons. Even higher rates of molybdenum yield could be achieved by optimizing the target geometry.

A new production method generates medical grade Mo-99 (Photo courtesy of iStock).
A new production method generates medical grade Mo-99 (Photo courtesy of iStock).

The same process can also be used to simultaneously generate other short-lived radioisotopes such as 18F, 15O, 13N and 11C, which can be used as byproducts for use in positron emission tomography (PET) scans. The technology was co-developed by Alexander Tsechanski, PhD, from the department of nuclear engineering at Ben-Gurion University (BGU; Beer Sheva, Israel), and D. V. Fedorchenko, PhD, from the National Science Center Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology (Ukraine).

“Technetium-99m is a metastable nuclear isomer of technetium-99 that is used in tens of millions of medical diagnostic procedures annually, making it the most commonly used medical radioisotope. The need for uranium and a nuclear reactor to produce this radioisotope is creating a shortage of this important substance,” said Zafrir Levy, senior vice president for business development, exact sciences, and engineering at BGN Technologies. “Tsechanski’s innovation offers a more feasible, cost-effective method, using cheaper electron accelerators for generating Mo99/Tc-99m. We are currently looking for partners for further developing and commercializing this important invention.”

The most important medical isotope, Tc-99m, is obtained from the decay of its parent Mo-99, and is used in more than 80% of all nuclear medicine procedures. Mo-99 is packed into source containment vessels and distributed to hospitals, where nuclear medicine specialists can draw off the Tc-99m as needed for about a week. Because of its unstable nature, Mo-99 does not occur naturally and is traditionally produced using nuclear research reactors powered by enriched uranium in Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Australia, and South Africa.

Related Links:
BGN Technologies
Ben-Gurion University
National Science Center Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology

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