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Rare Earth Elements: therapeutic and diagnostic applications in modern medicine

EC Giese

Center for Mineral Technology, CETEM, Av Pedro Calmon 900, CEP 21941 908, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

E-mail : aa

DOI: 10.15761/CMR.1000139

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The rare earth elements (REE) are a group of metals comprised of fourteen lanthanide elements [lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy), holmium (Ho), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), lutetium (Lu)] , yttrium (Y) and scandium (Sc) [1]. Their unique physical and chemical properties have rendered them indispensable for a growing number of high-tech technologies as high-performance permanent magnets, magnetic resonance image scanning systems, superconductors and laser technology [2,3].

Lanthanides are also used in many health and medical applications, such as in anti-tumor agent, kidney dialysis medicine and surgical equipment. Due to their optical properties, REE has been used in many imaging techniques such as computed tomography scans, magnetic resonance image (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and X-rays [4,5]. The medical applications of REE are summarized in (Table 1).

Gadolinium is the most used REE in medical diagnosis in the MRI. Gd (III) ions enhance MRI images and have also been used in intravenous radio-contrast agents to improve the sensitivity and specificity of diagnostic images. In this technique, it is possible to visualize the morphology of the body with a very high resolution once Gd (III) ions are the best paramagnetic compounds of the periodic table. The contrast of the images is dependent on magnetic relaxation of the nuclei, and this relaxation can be enhanced by Gd (III) ions, which improves the contrast in magnetic resonance imaging scans with very low toxicity [6,7].

Besides, a considerable variety of luminescent bioassays and sensors also have been developed based on lanthanides that preserve a relatively long-lived emission. Living tissue researchers rely on the Europium for the sensitive luminescence in molecular genetics to mark specific strands of DNA when attached as a tag to complex biochemicals [8]. Nowadays, rare earth elements have also been considered on the anti-cancer treatment because of their therapeutic radioisotopes, especially as agents in radioimmunotherapy and photodynamic therapy [9]

The use of REE into health and medical applications is now well established. However, much of the future of diagnostic imaging analysis could depend on these paramagnetic elements. Demand for REE is expected to exceed its supply soon. It also considers the possibility of reclaiming the used or worn out REE and reutilizing them; highlighting some companies that have started to recycle the elements, those derived from medical use as well, reducing the demand for newly mined elements. The recycle of REE will be imperative to continue the advancement of RMI and radioisotopes technologies. The future holds many new innovative ideas.


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Publication history

Received: December 03, 2018
Accepted: December 12, 2018
Published: December 14, 2018


©2018 EC Giese. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


EC Giese (2018) Rare earth elements: Therapeutic and diagnostic applications in modern medicine 2: DOI: 10.15761/CMR.1000139

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EC Giese

Center for Mineral Technology,CETEM,Brazil

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