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New compound aids imaging machines.

Unique chemical compounds called perfluorocarbons (PFCs) show an impressive assortment of potential life-saving applications. They are carving niches as contrast fluids for diagnosing disease with computerized imaging machines, perfusing the heart with oxygen following a heart attack, preserving kidneys and other organs donated for transplantation, surgery on the retina of the eye, and cancer chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

PFCs are highly stable compounds of fluorine and carbon, chemical cousins of the Teflon on nonstick cookware. They have a combination of characteristics--including inertness, relative lack of toxicity, and an ability to dissolve oxygen--that makes them well-suited for medical applications. Their ability to carry oxygen, somewhat like hemoglobin in blood, renders them attractive as blood substitutes that avoid the risk of transmitting AIDS and other serious blood-borne diseases.

Jean Riess, director of the Laboratory for Molecular Chemistry at France's University of Nice, reports that American and European clinical trials of PFCs for use in diagnostic imaging are proceeding well. The most advanced involves an orally administered PFC contrast agent for diagnosis of gastrointestinal-tract cancer during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Patients drink the PFC fluid, which outlines their intestines in black on the MRI scans, revealing tumors and other obstructions.

Because the droplets in some PFC emulsions reflect sound differently from body tissues, the compounds also have applications in ultrasound diagnosis, Riess points out. PFCs can be made radiopaque by adding atoms of bromine or other halogens. The compounds thus become visible in diagnostic tests done with conventional X-rays and computerized tomography (CT) scans.

Clinical trials are under way combining an injectable PFC contrast agent and CT for the early detection of cancer in lymph nodes. Also in clinical trials is a similar PFC that is administered intravenously to detect cancer of the liver and spleen. PFCs remain in the blood longer than conventional contrast agents, which are eliminated from the blood quickly, before they can highlight the smallest and most easily treatable tumors.
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Title Annotation:perfluorocarbons
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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