Medical isotope studies have played an important role in our understanding of how organs work and are affected by substances we take in. By studying these isotopes, doctors can determine whether other treatments are working or not and help find new ways to treat disease.

Radioactive materials with specific half-lives (the time it takes for one half of all the atoms to decay) are used in some medical procedures. For example, people who suffer from certain blood diseases may be given radioactive iron so that their bone marrow can absorb the iron and keep up healthy red blood cell production.

This article will discuss several uses of radioactivity in medicine. Starting with the most common use, I will then move onto more advanced applications such as using radionuclides to diagnose and treat cancer. If you’d like to read more about radiotherapy, my article titled “Is Gamma Radiation A Dangerous Form Of Exposure?” is a good starting point.

Research isotopes

how are radioisotopes used in scientific research and medicine

Isotopic analysis is an important tool for understanding how our environment works. It’s a way to study elements that make up living things. By studying different versions of these same element, we are able to learn more about what they can do.

Isotopes were mentioned back in chapter two when we talked about chemical formulas. An isotope variant has one slightly different number or type of atoms within it.

For example, there is only one carbon atom in ordinary hydrogen, but deuterium (D) has one additional neutron attached to it. There is also one extra proton in tritium (T). Both of those atoms have three electrons which all collide with each other at high speeds constantly changing their energy levels. This effect was described in detail in the last chapter!

When scientists use isotopes in research, they often refer to them as “tracers.” A trace means very little compared to normal amounts. For instance, some people are born with higher than average iron content due to genetics. As children grow, their bodies absorb enough iron from food to balance out this genetic inheritance.

But if you look at individuals who eat the same foods, then measure the amount of iron in their blood or tissue, you will find that some people have much higher levels than others – even though both may have the same number of calories. This is because some people inherit lots of iron, while others don’t.

Tracer isotopes

how are radioisotopes used in scientific research and medicine

A tracer element is an atom that does not occur naturally with the main component of an object. However, you can make artificial versions of it by altering its number or type. For example, if we want to know how quickly your body absorbs iron, then we could put some into the test solution and measure how much it takes to be completely absorbed.

In radioactive studies, certain atoms are used as tracers because they become integrated part of the structure of another molecule. These integral parts remain in the organism for very long periods after exposure has ended.

For instance, when studying bone growth, calcium is often used as a marker since it is easily measured. By measuring how much calcium is present in different bones, doctors can determine whether normal bone development is happening and what potential problems may exist.

Radioactive tracers have several uses in scientific research and medicine. Unfortunately, many are too dangerous for direct human use. But researchers develop ways to study things about our health and disease by using indirect exposures to radioactivity.

Radioactive isotopes used for treatment

how are radioisotopes used in scientific research and medicine

Isotope treatments are not new, but they have become increasingly popular in recent years. These treatments use radioactive materials to target and treat certain conditions or areas of your body. For example, people may undergo radiation therapy to cure cancer by using ionizing rays (or gamma rays) to destroy malignant cells.

Other uses of radioactivity include internal scanning with radionuclide imaging agents such as fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) scans and bone scans that look for changes in density due to osteoblastic activity or blood flow related to active bone remodeling.

Radioactive substances can also be administered directly into tissues or organs to either kill off abnormal tissue or promote healing. This is often done to administer radiopharmaceuticals to children who suffer from thyroid disorders or to patients whose bones no longer efficiently absorb calcium.

Radioactive isotopes used in diagnosis

how are radioisotopes used in scientific research and medicine

Medical imaging using radioactively-labeled substances is an important tool for diagnosing and treating disease. X rays use photons to determine how much of an element you have, while nuclear medicine scans use radioactive tracers that are ingested or injected into you.

These scans can show us whether your organs are working properly and if they’re healthy. They also help find problems by looking at what parts of the body don’t work well. For instance, doctors may use bone scan images to look for signs of cancer when bones are involved.

By detecting abnormal levels of certain elements, we’re able to make some pretty big diagnoses. And since most radioisotopes decay over time, patients never exposure to radiation as long as weeks or months.

However, there are risks associated with every type of radionuclide. The amount of energy absorbed per unit mass depends not only on the specific atom but also its abundance in nature and how it was labeled. Therefore, ensuring proper safety precautions is crucial.

Gamma rays

how are radioisotopes used in scientific research and medicine

Another common way to use radioactivity is in studies of gamma radiation. As we know, radium emits alpha particles as well as gamma rays, but it takes longer for its alpha particles to decay. Because radioactivity can be measured over time, using radium makes studying this element more practical.

Gamma rays are less massive than either alpha or particle beams, which means they can pass through much thicker material (like human skin) before being absorbed. This allows researchers to study how different materials interact with radioactive matter easier, since they do not have to worry about protecting the test subject from overexposure!

There are many ways to measure gamma radiations, including exposure meters that show you the intensity of each ray directly. Many research labs also contain large detectors that calculate the amount of energy that comes off of the sample completely automatically.

CT scans

how are radioisotopes used in scientific research and medicine

A particularly powerful type of x-ray used in radiology is called computed tomography (CT). This technology was first developed for use with nuclear medicine to evaluate heart function, but it has since been adapted to look at other parts of your body as well.

In fact, most modern diagnostic radiologic procedures rely heavily upon computerized tomographic imaging. By using advanced mathematics to reconstruct an image from projections of the area being scanned, very fine detail can be seen which would otherwise not be detectable.

This includes images made using positron emission tomography (PET) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies. These types of scans are more expensive than conventional X-rays, but they provide much higher resolution information due to their special technology.

Radiation exposure during a PET scan is about one tenth that of a CT scan, while radiation exposure during an MRI is typically less than half that of a CT scan. However, just like any other form of radiation, there are health risks involved. The amount of risk depends on many things, including the level of exposure and length of time exposed, so make sure you understand what levels pose no risk before going into a scanning situation.

Also important to note is that even if you don’t get exposed to enough radiation to cause long term problems, repeated exposures may still have negative effects on your health.

PET scans

how are radioisotopes used in scientific research and medicine

More advanced uses of radioactivity include positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, also known as nuclear medicine imaging. In this technique, patients are injected with radioactive glucose or other substances that give off energy in the form of gamma rays. These gamma rays then interact with surrounding tissue, including blood flow and fluid levels in organs. By measuring how much time it takes for the gamma ray to decay and lose its energy, researchers can determine what parts of your body are using glucose, have excess glucose, or do not receive enough glucose due to complications from diabetes.

This information is used to diagnose diseases such as cancer and hypoglycemia. For example, if you had just eaten a meal containing sugar, a PET scan would tell doctors whether your liver was storing too much glucose for use.

You may be asked to remove metals like jewelry before the test so they don’t interfere with the uptake and accumulation of radionuclides in the body.

The future of isotopes

how are radioisotopes used in scientific research and medicine

In your daily life, you use radioactivity every day to understand how things work. For example, when an apple spoils or chocolate bar melts, the inner components are eaten away by electrons that collide with other atoms. This process is called electron-atom scattering, and it causes those elements to break down into other molecules with free electrons.

When these free electrons are given enough energy, they become radiated particles (or radiations). These include alpha, beta, gamma rays, and neutron radiation. Each type has its own unique characteristic wave length, which means they have their own range of frequencies.

Neutrons can be used in many types of research, but they are unfortunately short lived – only 9 minutes! That’s why engineers use them for technology like mobile phones and computers.

Radioactive materials also decay over time, breaking down into different forms. Different ions from the original material remain, and we can study these individually to determine the properties and effects of each element.