Students make neutrons dance beneath Berkeley campus

In an underground vault enclosed by six-foot concrete walls and accessed by a rolling, 25-ton concrete-and-steel door, University of California, Berkeley, students are making neutrons dance to a new tune: one better suited to producing isotopes required for geological dating, police forensics, hospital diagnosis and treatment.

Dating and forensics rely on a spray of neutrons to convert atoms to radioactive isotopes, which betray the chemical composition of a substance, helping to trace a gun or reveal the age of a rock, for example. Hospitals use isotopes produced by neutron irradiation to kill tumors or pinpoint diseases like cancer in the body.

For these applications, however, only nuclear reactors can produce a strong enough spray of neutrons, and there are only two such reactors west of the Mississippi.

As an alternative, a team including UC Berkeley students has built a tabletop neutron source that would be relatively inexpensive to reproduce and eventually portable and also able to produce a narrower range of neutron energies, minimizing the production of unwanted radioactive byproducts. Read more.

How prostate cancer cells mimic bone when they metastasize

Understanding this process could lead to innovative and improved therapies

Prostate cancer often becomes lethal as it spreads to the bones, and the process behind this deadly feature could potentially be turned against it as a target for bone-targeting radiation and potential new therapies. Read more.

Monumental meeting points in Neolithic Britain

Previous isotopic analysis of animal remains from Durrington Walls, a large henge enclosure 3km northeast of Stonehenge, demonstrated that both cattle and pigs were brought to the complex from across Britain (see CA 334). Now, a further study looking at pig bones from three other nearby Neolithic sites, as well as examining the Durrington Wall pigs more thoroughly, has found that this was not an anomaly – it seems that all these complexes served as meeting points for people from across the British Isles. Read more.

Radioisotope couple for tumor diagnosis and therapy

Researchers at Kanazawa University report a promising combination of radioisotope-carrying molecules for use in radiotheranostics — a diagnosis and treatment approach based on the combination of medical imaging and internal radiation therapy with radioactive elements. Read more.

Study Shows How Prostate Cancer Cells Mimic Osteoblasts

As prostate cancer expands to reach the bones, it often becomes fatal. The process at the back of this fatal element might possibly be used against this cancer type as an objective in bone-targeting radiation and possible novel therapies. In a new study, researchers from the Duke Cancer Institute described how prostate cancer cells develop their ability to imitate bone-forming cells named osteoblasts. This quality enables the cancer-causing cells to grow in the bone microenvironment. Read more.