Nuclear techniques, a range of applications in Health › Culture › Granma

Nuclear techniques, a range of applications in Health › Culture › Granma
Nuclear techniques, a range of applications in Health › Culture › Granma

Just 11 years after the first x-ray in history was taken worldwide, in May 1907 X-ray emitting tubes were used for the first time in Cuba, an event that marked the appearance of nuclear techniques in the country.

But according to historical documentation, it was not until the 40s of the last century when, at the initiative of the created National Commission for Applications of Atomic Energy to Civil Uses, the first X-ray therapy equipment and the first sources of Radium-226, for the treatment of cancer.

In 1950, radioisotopes began to be used in the therapy of that disease itself, in a specialized service created in the old Reina Mercedes Hospital – today the Coppelia ice cream parlor is located in that space –, while eight years later it was put into operation, in the so-called Institute of Radium Juan Bruno Sayas, the first cobalt bomb in Cuba and the Caribbean, intended to treat certain neoplasms with radiation.

With the triumph of the Revolution, the conditions of infrastructure and human capital formation were created for the large-scale application of nuclear sciences and technologies.

Proof of this is the emergence, in 1969, of the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, later becoming the National Institute of Nuclear Research, and the creation, in 1980, of the Atomic Energy Commission of Cuba and the Secretariat. Executive for Nuclear Affairs.


The Master of Science Manuel Fernández Rondón, director of Science, Innovation and International Collaboration of the Agency for Nuclear Energy and Advanced Technologies (Aenta), told Granma that the growing peaceful use of nuclear technology in the country required the development of research basic and applied.

A fundamental step, he asserted, was the inauguration of the Center for Studies Applied to Nuclear Development (Ceaden), on October 28, 1987, with the presence of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz and Hans Blix, then director of the International Energy Agency. Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The institution undertakes the execution of applied research in the sphere of nuclear physics, radiobiology, biomedicine, radiation chemistry, laser optics, environmental monitoring, nanomaterials, nuclear electronics, water resources and agriculture.

It is worth highlighting that, in the decades of the 80s and 90s, the country created the legal and regulatory bases focused on achieving a culture of nuclear safety, detailed Fernández Rondón.

In 1985, the Hygiene and Radiation Protection Center emerged, in charge of coordinating radiological surveillance in the national territory.

“Six years later, the National Center for Nuclear Safety was founded, a regulatory authority, whose performance represented a milestone for the use of nuclear energy in Cuba,” he said.

It is impossible to ignore the birth, in 1994, of the Nuclear Energy Agency, later called the Agency for Nuclear Energy and Advanced Technologies, attached to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, together with the completion, in 1995, of the headquarters definitive of the Isotope Center (Centis), the most complex radioactive facility in the country, he pointed out.


In the particular case of Cuba, although radiotherapy against cancer continues to lead the list of applications of nuclear techniques in Health, in recent years there has been a growing use of these for diagnostic purposes, based on the analysis of blood samples, such as radioimmunoanalysis, and in the radiosterilization of biological and medical products, which include, for example, tissues for implants and raw materials for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, in addition to surgical instruments.

With this procedure, with the use of cobalt 60 gamma rays, the disinfection or sterilization of all the clothing required in the operating rooms, scalpels, surgical forceps, scissors, syringes and speculas is achieved.

One of the key products linked to Nuclear Medicine are radiopharmaceuticals, a group of medications that contain radioactive forms of chemical elements, called radioisotopes, which are used as contrast compounds, mainly in diagnosis and research.

These are injected intravenously to the patient who will undergo a PET positron emission tomography diagnostic study. Once the test has started, the tomograph detects the radiation emitted by radioactive atoms, and allows high-resolution images of the inside of the body to be observed, locating the location of the tumor or lesion that is intended to be found in a non-invasive way.

According to Fernández Rondón, the Isotope Center managed to cover the national demand for the ten main radiopharmaceuticals used in Cuba, but in recent years, given the difficult economic situation, they limited production.

Beyond the prominence of nuclear techniques in the development of advanced imaging equipment worldwide (Computerized Axial Tomography, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Single Photon Computed Tomography), in our country the innovative management of Ceaden professionals made it possible to extend to several provinces the analysis systems to determine the concentration of hormones, enzymes, proteins and tumor markers, extremely useful in the investigation of endocrine and oncological diseases, he stressed.

“They have also been applied in human nutrition studies undertaken in the Greater Antilles, particularly in the child population and in obtaining Hydrogel dressings for the treatment of burns, wounds and skin ulcers.”

Although this last drug is far from being widespread, the initial results show its effectiveness in shortening the duration of the treatment and the healing period, favoring the non-appearance of infections and the faster recovery of the patient, said Fernández Rondón.

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