Egor Alakshin, a young physicist at Kazan Privolzhsky Federal University (KPFU) in Tatarstan, in the mid-Volga area, has discovered a new way of diagnosing lung cancer, the Tatarstan university announced.
A junior research fellow at the quantum electronics and radio spectroscopy laboratory of KPFU’s Institute of Physics, Mr. Alakshin is suggesting that the current X-raying of a patient—a traditional method that can only detect cancer when a tumor grows big enough to render any therapy barely effective—be replaced with his new approach that he claims can help identify a neoplasm at very early stages. At the heart of the new method is unorthodox lung tomography.
“The idea is to get a patient to inhale gas during tomographic scanning. This could be, for example, polarized helium-3. My research was specifically focused on creating a substance that could help polarize helium-3. In this technique, a tomographic scanner will be able to ‘see’ gas in the lungs, thus enabling a physician to tell the healthy organs from the damaged ones,” the researcher explained.
The invention appears to have a noticeable disadvantage. Helium is a very expensive gas; helium-3 sells at about $930 per liter. Therefore, for the broad use of the method, recirculation is required to make it possible to collect the exhaled gas, decontaminate it with liquid nitrogen, and reuse it.
However, the young scientist is already addressing the deficiency. He’s developing a new version of his system that would use xenon as a much cheaper gas in lung examination.