Major medical breakthrough in Saskatoon

Watch above: Canadian Light Source marks significant milestone

SASKATOON – There’s been a major medical breakthrough in Saskatoon.

Researchers at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) have created medical isotopes without the use of a nuclear reactor. The isotopes are produced with a dedicated linear accelerator resulting in molybdenum-99.

Mark de Jong, the medical isotopes project leader, has been working on this for more than three years.

“This is the first time we’ve said, hey, we want to build an accelerator that’s dedicated to isotope production.”

The first shipment of molybdenum-99 was sent to Manitoba’s Prairie Isotope Production Enterprise (PIPE) in late October. There technetium-99m will be extracted from it which is used for medical image testing.

“Then we start the process of Health Canada licensing,” said Kennedy Mangera representing PIPE.

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Pharmaceutical drugs are added to the technetium-99m, patients are injected and advanced medical imaging can be obtained, detecting health problems like heart disease and cancer.

When the Chalk River isotope producer went down in 2007, Canada faced a shortage. That’s when de Jong and his team started searching for alternate ways to produce the isotopes. The federal government contributed $10 million and the researchers began the journey.

Health Canada approval of the medical isotope is expected in approximately two years. Full production is pending that approval. The linear accelerator could produce enough isotopes to supply Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

De Jong hopes the idea will be expanded across the country and eventually replace nuclear reactor isotope production.

In Canada, 5,000 medical scans are performed daily.

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