CT Scans Made More Efficient Thanks to Bismuth
Researchers at Rice University, Texas have been looking into how they can improve the medical capabilities of CT scans and think they may have found a solution thanks to bismuth-carrying nanotubes and cell-tracking technology.
The nanotubes form a cage into which bismuth is trapped. The structure then tags stem cells enabling them to be tracked with an X-ray. The team, headed by Lonn Wilson, focused on using a contrast agent to enhance the effects of computed tomography (CT) scans.
Bismuth is most well-known for its appearance in popular stomach-settling medication Pepto-Bismol. It is the perfect chemical for this treatment as it is heavy and highly diffractive. The nanotube capsules are 20-80nm long and around 1.4nm in diameter. Once administered into the patient they are small enough to diffuse into the cell. As the capsules are lipophilic (oil-loving) they aggregate together once inside the cell and form a mass of around 300nm that is then able to be detected on an X-ray.
CT scans are cheaper, faster, more convenient and more widespread than MRI scans so finding a way of improving them would lead to quicker waiting times for the patients and important cost benefits. It is thought that this treatment enhancement may also be useful in positron emission tomography (PET) scans and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) scans.
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Image of a bismuth-crystal is provided courtesy of http://todayandtomorrow.net