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Isotope production

The use of targeted radionuclides for diagnostics and therapy has focused on a few specific radionuclides for decades, but massive improvements in cancer therapy are possible by selecting radionuclides with specific half-lives, emitted nuclides and gamma energies for different applications, moving towards personalized medicine. A recent trend finds global interest in other, potentially better, radionuclides steadily increasing. Where 99mTc was once practically the only diagnostic radionuclide in use, focus is shifting to including a large range of 'new' diagnostic and therapeutic isotopes. However, a current lack of supply in many medically relevant radionuclides limits the research and development into the use of these, and hence halting clinical trials. In addition, one of the main challenges in radiopharmaceutical development is presented by the highly variable specific activities of the used radionuclides which are generally far below the theoretical values. This is especially true for the large number of medical radionuclides which are predominantly or exclusively produced via (n,γ) reactions in nuclear reactors. To support the use of new radionuclides, it is important that they are abundantly available, and in sufficiently high specific activity. My research focusses on the (pre)clinical development of radionuclides which can be used to design new, patient-specific, radiotracers and therapeutics, using electrochemistry, liquid-liquid or solvent extraction, microfluidics, and ion exchange chromatography. Whenever possible we explore principles based on hot atom chemistry to achieve high specific activity of the produced radionuclides.

Tracers to study dietary supplements and mineral metabolism

Stable elements play a large role in our daily lives. A number of these metals are essential for the proper functioning of the human body, or even essential to our survival. However, there exists a delicate balance, with excesses or deficits often resulting in toxicity. For example, dietary supplements are becoming increasingly popular, both prescribed by the hospital as well as self-medicated. In fact, it is estimated that about 75% of all US adults take supplements. In many instances the underlying biochemical mechanisms and health effects are not well understood. My research focusses on the safety and effectiveness of these supplements, as well as interactions of the supplements and nanomaterials with the metabolism and their retention into the body. The use of radiotracers as well as enriched stable tracers allows for very precise study of the uptake and biodistribution of minerals such as calcium and iron. We use analytical methods like instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA),  mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and Mossbauer spectroscopy. Furthermore, we are designing new irradiation facilities to enable larger measurement accuracy and sensitivity, and closely collaborate with hospitals.

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