Nuclear Medicine and Imaging: Supporting life where it matters most.
by Anjali Nair
Today, over 20 million nuclear medicine and imaging procedures are carried out in the U.S. alone every year [1]. That’s because nuclear medicine and associated technology has improved the health outcomes and quality of life of patients having a myriad of disorders and ailments – not just here, but around the world [11].
Though the origins of today’s procedures can be traced back to the discovery of radioactivity, it was with the invention of the cyclotron (Ernest Lawrence, 1935) that the true possibilities of medical applications of nuclear technology were first explored. In 1936, John Lawrence and Joseph Hamilton treated a leukemia patient with radio sodium, marking the beginning of nuclear medicine. By 1937, Hamilton used the tracers for studying circulatory physiology and identified that tracers with shorter lifetimes prevent medical side effects. This lead to the creation of Iodine 131 (half-life 8 days) by Seaborg and Livingwood [3, 4].
In the 50’s, Benedict Cassen and his associates developed the rectilinear scanner [5], permitting scanning for distribution of radioactive iodine in the thyroid gland. Gamma cameras (better known as scintillators) were invented by Anger in 1953. Precursors of the modern PET (Positron Emission Tomography) were developed in the 1960’s and by 1971, the American Medical Association officially recognized nuclear medicine as a specialty. From then on, standing on the shoulder of advancements in physics, mathematics and computer sciences, nuclear imaging techniques has further radically evolved.
Application: Disease Detection and Treatment Response
The most common and versatile imaging tools in nuclear medicine are Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT). PET differs from SPECT primarily in the type of radiation they detect and the half-life of the tracers used [6].
SPECT has primary application in diagnosis and following the progression of cardiovascular

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