Radiotracers are chemical compounds that are used to diagnose or deliver therapy to specific organs and tissues. The radiotracer consists of a linking molecule, a binding molecule and a radioactive compound. Radiotracer is injected into the body and it binds to specific target cells in the body. The linking molecule binds the radioactive compound to the binding molecule, which then binds to specific cells in body.
The radiotracer decays by emitting ionizing radiation that damages nuclear DNA, thereby stopping division of cells (cancer as well as normal cells). Radiotracers are not something new. In fact, they have been around for 100 years !!
Types of Radiotracers
- Diagnostic – Emits gamma radiation. It has high energy and can be detected outside the body. It helps in imaging of tissues and their functioning.
- Therapeutic – Emits alpha or beta radiation. They travel only small distances in tissue and deliver radiation doses to kill cancer cells from inside the body.
Future of Radiotracers
There are still lot of tissues for which no radiotracers exists. Radiotracers are now being developed for different targets like proteins, receptors, enzymes, etc. There is high scope for improvement in the future. Future work focuses on how to reduce cost of radiotracer production and how to produce radiotracers more efficiently. The above said challenges are being tackled by researchers today so that the people can have a better tomorrow.