#98-38
Contact: Diane Greenberg, or Mona S. Rowe

Mailed 4/16/98

BNL SPOTLIGHTS

 

NOTE TO EDITORS: "BNL Spotlights" is issued periodically to bring you up to date on some of the latest newsworthy developments at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory. To perform their research, scientists from three of these projects used Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source, one of the large scientific facilities on the Brookhaven site that DOE supports as a resource for scientists throughout the world. For more information on any of these items, call Diane Greenberg or Mona S. Rowe at BNL's Public Affairs Office at (516)344-2345.

 

AN EXPERIMENTAL METHOD FOR TREATING BRAIN TUMORS IN CHILDREN

Brain cancer afflicts about 1,500 children in the U.S. each year, and nearly half the cases are incurable. But research on an experimental treatment called microbeam radiation therapy (MRT) at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source may offer new hope for young children with brain tumors. Researchers from Brookhaven, the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Switzerland's Cantonal Hospital and the University of Bern discovered that parallel arrays of microscopically thin slices of x-ray beams have two remarkable effects that make them beneficial for radiation therapy. First, they do not damage normal tissue, even at very high doses.Second, they damage gliosarcoma, a certain type of tumor, in rats, without the need to irradiate the tumor from different angles.

Conventional radiation therapy is risky in preschool children because maturing brain tissues are particularly sensitive to radiation, but BNL's animal studies so far indicate that MRT is well tolerated. The researchers theorize this is so because, in normal tissue, the endothelial cells - cells that line the capillary blood vessels - that escape direct microbeam x-rays survive, and later migrate, divide and replace the dead cells directly hit by the beams. In the tumor tissue, this cell regeneration is not as effective, and, therefore, the blood supply to the tumor is cut off.

In a recent experiment, 18 rats with gliosarcoma tumors induced underneath the skin and just above the cerebellum were given MRT with long, vertical microbeams that reached deep into the cerebellum. All the tumors disappeared within 45 days after treatment. Five months later, the tumors have not regrown and the rats behave normally, with no apparent side effects. Another advantage of MRT is that the entire treatment consists of a single radiation session, rather than about 30 sessions required for conventional radiation treatment. The method needs several years of development to determine if it is a viable treatment for humans.

 

A NEW METHOD FOR REMOVING
LEAD FROM SOIL

Researchers from Brookhaven Lab, along with industrial partner Forrester Environmental Services, Inc., of Stratham, New Hampshire, are using an innovative method developed at Brookhaven to remove lead paint residue from soil surrounding some of the Long Island Lighting Company's (LILCO) substations and gas tank holders located on Long Island, New York. Now known to be toxic, lead paint was routinely used until the 1970s.

The process is more economical for LILCO than carting away the soil to a suitable disposal site and safer than leaving it in place with the lead in a stable form. Previously, Brookhaven and Forrester had demonstrated that the process is effective in removing lead from incinerator ash.

Brookhaven's patented process uses biodegradable citric acid and naturally occurring bacteria. In addition to removing lead, the process can recover other toxic metals and radioactive materials from soil, sediment, sludge and ash. No additional wastes are created and recovered metals and radionuclides may be recycled.

 

A NEW TECHNIQUE FOR CHEMICALLY
PROBING BONES

A detailed look at chemical changes in aging bone may provide insight that may eventually lead to a cure for osteoarthritis, a disease that affects about 40 million Americans and is the leading cause of disability among people over 65.

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York; the Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Brookhaven Lab are examining the chemical composition of bone using a new technique called synchrotron infrared microspectroscopy. By sending infrared light through a microscope at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source - the world's brightest source of infrared light - the researchers view minute changes in the chemical composition of monkey subchondral bone, the bone underlying the surface of joint cartilage. Although osteoarthritis is often considered a disease of the cartilage, a large study of monkeys using traditional methods has shown that subchondral bone thickening precedes breakdown of joint cartilage. Thus, an examination of the chemical structure of the subchondral bone may provide insight into the nature of joint cartilage breakdown.

 

DESIGNING SULFUR-RESISTANT CATALYSTS

Metal and oxide catalysts play an important role in oil refining and reducing harmful emissions in motor vehicles. But these catalysts are deactivated by minute quantities of sulfur that are impurities in petroleum-derived feedstocks and fuels.

Brookhaven researchers are using x-rays and ultraviolet light at the Laboratory's National Synchrotron Light Source to examine the effects of sulfur on the structural, electronic and chemical properties of metal and oxide catalysts. Using the fundamental knowledge gained in these experiments, researchers may eventually be able to design catalysts that are sulfur-resistant and/or remove sulfur from crude oil. Preventing the so-called sulfur poisoning by either of these methods would save the chemical industry millions of dollars annually. It would also be a boon for the environment, as sulfur oxide pollutants produced during the burning of fuel would be reduced or eliminated.

 

Brookhaven National Laboratory carries out basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. Brookhaven is operated by Brookhaven Science Associates, a nonprofit research management organization, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.

-30-