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B.C. scientists solve world medical isotope shortage

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Medical isotopes are the kind of thing you don't really notice, until they're gone -- or at least in short supply. This has been a recurring threat lately.

Medical isotopes have become an essential tool, used worldwide to diagnose heart conditions, breast, lung and prostate cancer.

Until recently, the only way to make medical isotopes was with a nuclear reactor, and over half the world's supply comes from the Chalk River nuclear reactor in Ontario. In 2009, when that reactor was taken offline because of a water leak, it created a worldwide shortage.

So the federal government challenged Canada's top scientists to find another way to make medical isotopes; without the use of a nuclear reactor, or weapons-grade uranium.

Now, a team of B.C. scientists says it's found the answer, and their solution is being called a "medical breakthrough."

To understand more, Daybreak host Chis Walker spoke with lead investigator and nuclear chemist Tom Ruth. He's a senior scientist with UBC's TRIUMF lab and the B.C. Cancer Agency.

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