We are a working group that examines various issues of radiopharmaceutical chemistry (RPC). Thus, we are engaged in both organic synthesis and evaluation of medically interesting biomolecules, as well as nuclear chemical aspects, such as the production and purification of radionuclides and new labeling methods. As radionuclides we mainly use positron emitters (such as 18F-fluorine or 68Ga-gallium) with which we label suitable biomolecules.
Why do we label with positron emitters? In the diagnostically nuclear medicine PET (positron emission tomography) has been established as a functional imaging modality. In PET radioactively labeled molecules are applied, which then can be tracked in the body using a PET camera (a device similar to the CT scanner). While images of computed tomography (CT) are giving information about the appearance and the morphology of the tissue, PET images can be used to examine its biochemical functions. Thus, it is possible to diagnose diseases in tissues or organs (eg the brain) very quickly and in vivo, so without a surgical procedure. Depending on the properties of the radiolabeled substance various biochemical processes can be visualized.
The possibility to examine neurological processes is of particular interest, since this allows obtaining new insights into the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases and potential therapies. Neurotransmitter receptor interactions are of particular interest, as they are responsible for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, depression or schizophrenia, but they also interesting for addiction and pain research.
Hence, it is the aim of a radiopharmaceutical chemist to label new biologically relevant compounds without losing their biological activity, so that they could be monitored in the body using PET. In the further course of a study, these new molecules are usually evaluated and characterized in several studies (cell studies, assays, etc.) concerning their biological properties. Therefore, we have close cooperations with pharmaceutical, biological and medical research groups.
Depending on the research area different chemical skills are required. While inorganic and analytical skills are required for the production and purification of radionuclides, for the synthesis of biomolecules and labeling reactions with 18F-fluorine knowledge in preparative organic syntheses is essential. However, research with metallic radionuclides requires both, some skills in the coordination chemistry and organic-preparative skills. Although the crucial skills needed depend greatly on the research area, you should be aware that most of our research is to a large part organic chemistry, and hence you should be interested in it.