For the first time in history, chemistry scientists traced one isotope transforming into another at the level of separate atoms

ScienceJune 30, 2015

The scientists from Tufts University, working together with the scientists from the university in London, traced real time processes of transformation from one chemical element atoms into other element atoms. And the results of these studies, some of which appeared surprising to the scientists, can become a basis of a new radiotheraphy method perfect for the fight against a cancer and other oncological diseases.

In the course of experiments, the scientists used a radioactive isotope iodine-125 which has been applied against cancer for a long time. By using a tunnel microscope which is capable to reproduce the image of separate atoms, they observed the disintegration process which affected separate atoms of iodine-125 that turned into tellurium-125, not radioactive isotope of tellurium.

Tracking the transformation of one element into another began with the only droplet of the purest water into which a small amount ioda-125 was added. This droplet was applied on the surface covered with a thin layer of gold. When the water evaporated completely, there was a layer of radioactive iodine on the gold, and the sample was placed into the working microscope area.

The half-life period of iodine-125 is equal to 59 days. It means that as a result of atoms disintegration where the quantity energy is allocated, in 59 days, there will be about a half of not broken atoms in a sample. As it is impossible to predict when the iodine atom breaks up, it was necessary to be on duty in shifts near the microscope round the clock within several weeks. And it allowed them not to miss the cases of atoms disintegration.

Eventually, the scientists received a series of pictures from a tunnel microscope where the set of atom-sized dark stains were visible. Then pictures were subjected to difficult mathematical processing that allowed them to separate iodine atoms from the formed tellurium atoms.

To make sure of the authenticity of the received results, the scientists studied one of the samples by means of a photoelectronic x-ray spectrometer which yielded exact results about the chemical composition of a substance on the surface of a gold substrate. “By taking control measurements for one week, we received confirmations on the transformation of atoms of one element into atoms of another”.

In addition to tracking of atoms transformations, the scientists traced the low-energy electrons radiated by a gold substrate where its source was the energy of radioactive decay. It appeared that the number of the radiated electrons was six times higher than a theoretical calculated value which had been received as a result of disintegration modeling of the iodine-125 which is on a gold surface. And these low-energy electrons became an object of interest to scientists because they influence only nearby fabrics and do not make the destroying impact on healthy fabrics DNA of the bodies which are located near to the cancer tumor.

On the basis of this opening we developed a new cancer fighting technique”. The scientists suggested to create gold nano-particles where an iodine-125 quantity will be concluded. These nano-particles, covered with special proteins, are independently attached to a surface of the antibodies intended for a fight against malignant tumors and in the form of an injection this is all injected into the patient. Antibodies are directed to the tumors and low-energy electrons which are let out by gold destroying DNA these cages. Gold nano-particles are removed from the body in a natural way, and the body of the patient does not accumulate iodine-125 in a thyroid gland as it occurs when using this isotope in a free look.

Now the scientists submitted application for a new method of cancer fighting. And if the clinical tests of a new technology take place successfully, the doctors will receive a new and highly effective method of fighting against this disease.

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