New Capability to Radiolabel Formaldehyde Will Enable New Imaging and Environmental Studies


SC-supported scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) have devised a simple, fast method for adding a radioactive tag to formaldehyde, a common organic chemical. Testing a variety of approaches, the Brookhaven team came up with a synthesis method using commercially available, inexpensive trimethylamine-N-oxide, that they found to be highly effective at converting carbon-11-labeled methyl iodide to carbon-11-labeled formaldehyde under mild conditions. Furthermore, the reactions require no special equipment and produce high yields of carbon-11-labeled formaldehyde after only a few minutes. The labeled formaldehyde has two major applications: (1) as a precursor to synthesize a whole new class of radiotracers, compounds that can be tracked by positron emission tomography (PET) scanners to monitor the movement and interactions of a wide range of chemicals in biological systems, and (2) to study and track formaldehyde as an environmental contaminant. The study was led by Dr. Jacob Hooker with graduate students, Matthias Schonberger and Hanno Schieferstein of the University of Mainz. The study appeared in the July 4, 2008, issue of Angewandte Chemie International Edition. The BNL scientists have also been contacted by Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) for a possible chemistry news story.

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