Converting Energy to Medical Progress

Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York

Located in Upton (Long Island) New York, Brookhaven scientists have conducted BER research since 1950,when Brookhaven opened the first nuclear medicine hospital. Today, Brookhaven is one of the world's leading laboratories for the design, synthesis, and application of radiopharmaceuticals. As scientists discover more information about the relationship between genes and disease and behavior, they can identify new molecular targets for imaging the biologic activity of disease.

Nuclear medicine scientists at Brookhaven actively pursue new ideas for the two essential building blocks of novel radiopharmaceuticals:

  • Improved methods of using atomic particle accelerators to create a variety of radionuclides, including positron emitters for PET.
  • innovative synthetic chemistry for linking radionuclides to biologically important carrier molecules.

Like several other BER research sites, Brookhaven has the facilities and expertise to translate the fruits of this basic research into medical imaging tools.

BER Scientists from BNL

BER Scientists from Brookhaven National Laboratory enjoying a weekend get-together.

With PET and SPECT imaging, scientists here make vital contributions to medical science's understanding of the molecular mechanisms of disease and the search for new treatments. Their current priorities for medical research focus on drug addiction and substance abuse, aging and degenerative diseases, and the biology of tumors that may lead to more effective cancer therapies.

Cocaine abuse Alcoholism Obesity Tobacco
Cocaine Abuse Alcoholism Obesity Tobacco
non-addict non-addict non-addict non-addict

PET brain scans reveal chemical differences in the brain between addicts and nonaddicts. The normal images in the bottom row come from non-addicts; the abnormal images in the top row come from patients with addiction disorders. The PET scans from the cocaine abuser, the alcoholic, and the obese patient with food addiction show reduced levels of dopamine receptors (molecules that transmit pleasure signals in the brain). Low levels of dopamine receptors suggest an understimulated biochemical "reward system" in the brain. The PET scan from the cigarette smoker with nicotine addiction shows lower levels of monoamine oxidase (MAO), a brain enzyme that regulates dopamine levels. BER researchers are investigating pharmaceutical therapies for curbing or curing addictive behaviors.

Next: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California


Table of Contents * About BER * Many Patients * How Does It Work? * BER Medical * Future Healthcare * BNL * LBNL * ORNL * Sloan-Kettering * UCLA * Washington Univ. * Univ. of Michigan * 50-Years * Credits

Published April 2001

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