Officials at the University of Saskatchewan's Canadian Light Source say they've developed a new way to make medical isotopes, an advancement that could help answer the need for a reliable supply in Canadian hospitals. 

Isotopes are used in PET and CT scans, which can effectively identify many types of cancer.

Right now, isotopes are created by using a nuclear reactor. But the Canadian Light Source (CLS), the national centre for synchrotron research, said it has invented a non-nuclear-based method of production to create isotopes.

Canadian Light Source

Mark de Jong, Canadian Light Source Director of Accelerators and Medical Isotope Project leader, holds a cartridge filled with molybdenum disks capable of producing enough isotope material for 1,000 medical scans. (Canadian Light Source)

According to the CLS, the Medical Isotope Project facility is the first of its kind in the world. It uses powerful X-rays to produce the isotopes, that can be shipped to medical centres across the country.

Officials said they could be used in medical testing within about six months to a year.

“We are excited to be producing medical isotopes at this critical time in history,” CLS CEO Rob Lamb said in a news release. “To be part of a project that will meet the health needs of so many Canadians, that is the most gratifying element.”

Provincial and federal ministers joined leaders of the project and Canadian Light Source executives today as they made the announcement. 

In a news release, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar MP Kelly Block said that, "today's achievement is welcome news for Canadian families and our community."

"Our investments in new technologies are supporting new milestones contributing to reliable global supplies of medical isotopes."