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Astronomers reach for the stars to discover new cancer therapy
Date:6/24/2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio Astronomers' research on celestial bodies may have an impact on the human body.

Ohio State University astronomers are working with medical physicists and radiation oncologists to develop a potential new radiation treatment one that is intended to be tougher on tumors, but gentler on healthy tissue.

In studying how chemical elements emit and absorb radiation inside stars and around black holes, the astronomers discovered that heavy metals such as iron emit low-energy electrons when exposed to X-rays at specific energies.

Their discovery raises the possibility that implants made from certain heavy elements could enable doctors to obliterate tumors with low-energy electrons, while exposing healthy tissue to much less radiation than is possible today. Similar implants could enhance medical diagnostic imaging.

Friday, June 24, at the International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy, Ohio State University senior research scientist Sultana Nahar will announce the team's computer simulations of the elements gold and platinum, and the design of a prototype device that generates X-rays at key frequencies.

Their simulations suggest that hitting a single gold or platinum atom with a small dose of X-rays at a narrow range of frequencies equal to roughly one tenth of the broad spectrum of X-ray radiation frequencies produces a flood of more than 20 low-energy electrons.

"As astronomers, we apply basic physics and chemistry to understand what's happening in stars. We're very excited to apply the same knowledge to potentially treat cancer," Nahar said.

"We believe that nanoparticles embedded in tumors can absorb X-rays efficiently at particular frequencies, resulting in electron ejections that can kill malignant cells," she continued. "From X-ray spectroscopy, we can predict those energies and which atoms or molecules are likely to be most effective."

Nahar and Anil Pradhan, professo
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Contact: Sultana Nahar
Nahar.1@osu.edu
614-292-1888
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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