Student Research Spotlight: Mitchell Klenner

Rhenium is the key to new radiotracers for disease imaging

Former AINSE Postgraduate Research Award (PGRA) Scholar Dr. Mitch Klenner, alongside a team of international collaborators including researchers from ANSTO, Curtin University and Monash University, has found a new way to synthesise large quantities of nuclear medicine to assist in the diagnosis of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Their research, published in RSC Advances, describes the synthesis of three different fluorine-18 compounds made possible by the addition of rhenium metal to their reactions. These metal atoms act as mediators between the fluorine-18 and the target molecule, allowing Dr. Klenner and his collaborators to create a new suite of radio-labelled molecules for potential use in nuclear medicine techniques.

Dr. Mitch Klenner’s AINSE-supported research opens a new avenue for the production of fluorine-based radiopharmaceuticals

Radio-labelled molecules enable the detection of diseased tissue in nuclear medicine techniques, such as PET scans. Flourine-18 is commonly used as a radio-labelling isotope, but fluorine compounds are notoriously hard to synthesise and thus have only been produced in small quantities until now. The new methods created by Dr. Klenner and his team will enable significantly higher yields of compound to be synthesised.

Working with short-lived isotopes presented a unique set of challenges, as Dr. Klenner noted:

“I think performing all the radiosyntheses was perhaps the hardest part, though also the most rewarding. There were a lot of long work days where time was critical. The fluorine-18 radioisotope has a half-life of 109.7 minutes, so every moment counted.”

Dr. Klenner presented his work at the 22nd International Symposium for Radiopharmaceutical Sciences in Germany, where he was awarded the prestigious JLCR Award for Young Scientists (“Wiley Award”). He was also awarded best oral presentation at the 2019 Australian Society for Molecular Imaging (ASMI) Symposium in Adelaide.

Dr. Klenner noted that publishing this research as an open-access resource will greatly assist future researchers around the world in carrying on this work.

“If our candidate radiotracers happen to fail the requisites for clinical trials, then it is still highly likely that another researcher in the world will use our methods to make their own successful diagnostic agents. This is a fundamental premise which open-access scientific research operates on.”

For more details about Dr. Klenner’s AINSE supported research, please see page 28 of the 2018 AINSE Annual Report.

Previous Student Research Spotlight: Leonie Peti (What sediments can tell us about climate change)