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uOttawa researchers develop new radiotracer to detect a wider range of diseases in their early stages

The University of Ottawa sign on campus during the winter. (CTV News Ottawa) The University of Ottawa sign on campus during the winter. (CTV News Ottawa)

A wide variety of diseases including cancers, as well as inflammation of the heart and brain can now be detected earlier by a new radiotracer developed by researchers at the University of Ottawa.

The new radiotracer is called [18F]4-FDF.) The university says it can map how cells use fructose for energy, and then identify where it’s being used in the body, paving the way for an earlier detection of diseases.

“The vast majority of positron emission tomography (PET) imaging systems map out how the body uses a radioactive form of glucose for energy. Since many cancers use glucose as metabolic fuel, they light up on glucose PET scans. However, not all cancers use glucose as fuel, and some normal organs, like the brain and heart, use high amounts of glucose too, making it difficult to identify some diseases from this type of diagnostic scan,” uOttawa said in a media release on Tuesday.

“Fructose is a different type of metabolic fuel that is increasingly being recognized as a fuel for disease. Fructose, a monosaccharide known as 'fruit sugar', is a common dietary sugar found naturally in fruit, honey and processed foods. Unlike glucose, fructose is not normally used for fuel by the healthy brain and heart, appearing mostly in healthy liver and kidneys."

The radiotracer was tested and validated across different cell and animal models in the Molecular Medicine Lab at uOttawa under associate professor Adam Shuhendler from uOttawa’s Faculty of Science, who is also a scientist at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

“For the first time, we can see where fructose, a common dietary sugar, is used in the body. Outside of the kidneys and the liver, fructose metabolism in any other organs may point to a sinister problem including cancer and inflammation,” Shuhendler said.

The research -- “It’s a Trap! Aldolase-Prescribed C4 Deoxyradiofluorination Affords Intracellular Trapping and the Tracing of Fructose Metabolism by PET” -- was published in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine. Top Stories


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