Path B: Research Collaboration and Funding

→ Atomic Energy Commission
: The AEC provided earl support for Hahn (Contract: At- (40-1)-269). The major early support for Hahn’s work came from Biochemstry Department funded Rockefeller and the PET Nutrition Foundation funds,. Meneely had several small grants from Companies. Meneely had strong support from the Veterans Administration beginning in 1948. The major and clearly the most important support from 1958 to 1979 came from the AEC for Whole Body Counting; with the title later expanded to include Activation Analysis. The contract, AEC At- (40-1)-2401 was initiated in 1958 and managed by the Oak Ridge Operations Office (ORO) by Herman Roth and C.S. Shoup. The contract lasted through 1979 and provided invaluable umbrella support for the nuclear medicine research activities described in the contract, as well as the funding base from which additional projects and grants emerged. The contract provided dosimetry support for the Hahn Fe-59 epidemiology study, and for the broad range of nuclear medicine dosimetry and clinical studies.

→ National Institutes of Health: In 1963 Heyssel got a grant for platelet labeling studies. A second NIH grant was obtained to follow-up the children whose mothers received Fe-59 during pregnancy. In 1967, Gene Johnston got a grant from the Veterans Administration (VA) for dosimetry studies. With it, Ron Price was added to the staff. Support also came from ORNL, LASL, and NASA in a series of technology transfer collaborations. Charles Zukowski, head of Exp. Surgery in the late 60s, expressed interest in an extracorporeal blood irradiator (ECIB) to suppress immunological function in patients prior to kidney transplantation. The ORNL Isotopes group under Neal Case and John Gillette agreed to design and build an irradiator for this purpose. It contained a 100 Ci Sr-90 annular-shielded source for ECIB, which we calibrated. Unfortunately, it was never used in patients. Zukowski subsequently learned that ECIB irradiated rabbits experienced an increased incidence of lymphomas and he decided not to use it in patients. It is now generally agreed that regardless of how you suppress immune function prior to organ transplantation one expects to see tumors increase due to decreased immune surveillance. The irradiator calibration was Marvin. Hartz’ Engineering School PhD topic working with us, and Mike Bender, an expert radiation biologist and cytogeneticist on Vanderbilt faculty from ORNL for 4 years in the late 1960s.

→ National Science Foundation (NSF): In the early 1970s, the NSF issued a call for Research Applied to National Needs (RANN). Arthur Shulert in the Biochemistry Department and Randy applied and were funded as co-Investigators to evaluate potential correlations between environmental contamination with Pb, Cd, and Hg and abnormal birth outcome. Bob Baglan and Kent Larsen did much of the work on this grant, aided by Lottie Strupp. The study established the validity of the method but the sample size was too small to detect significant differences

The project involved the collection and analysis of placentae from all births in Nashville hospitals for 2 years. About 2,000 were collected and weighed. Samples were taken, weighed, lyophilized and stored in capped plastic vials. Samples were analyzed with atomic absorption (AA) for lead, cadmium, and mercury, and duplicate samples were processed and analyzed using following neutron irradiation at Georgia Tech. Neutron activation analysis (NAA) was performed on the returned samples to quantitate the amounts of other elements. Results of the study were correlated with birth weight, and malformation rates in an attempt to determine whether cause effect correlations could be established [27]. There were a few instances where increased lead levels were present but these were found to be in women who worked at industrial lead sites. No positive correlations emerged from the study, which had too low a statistical power to establish an effect, if present. We had hoped to extend the study to different populations, including using the placenta as an environmental monitor of radioactive releases from nuclear power plants. We proposed to the TVA that baseline samples be obtained from pregnancies in people living in the region surrounding the proposed Hartsville TVA Nuclear Plants. Subsequent samples (placentas) collected from persons living in the region would be analyzed for radioactivity that be an early warning of releases from the plant. This was proposed as a means of reassuring people in the area that any increased body levels if found, would provide early evidence that corrective need was being surveyed and corrected, if noted. When the plant was cancelled, so was the proposed activity, but we had little encouragement as they were concerned that we would be calling attention to a “non problem”, that could cause more harm than good. The other possibility we considered was as an add on to ongoing WHO studies in Latin America of congenital anomalies but this was not fully explored.

→ National Aero Space Agency (NASA): NASA support came from their Technology Transfer Program. We acquired equipment they no longer needed, along with technical support. This included a 600 track digital videodisk along with its associated neutron sensitive image intensifier system, an AMPEX VR1000 professional grade video tape recorder, a PDP 11/34, and an AB Dick graphic plotter and special collimators they made for us. We used the videodisk, and AMPEX tape as our cardiology data buffer. Our NASA contact was through Wendell Holladay, Physics Prof. and later VU Provost and his brother, “Doc” Holladay, a senior scientist at NASA Huntsville. Doc Holladay recruited Karl Huggins, a video engineering specialist, and Richard Hoover, an optical scientist to advise us on the design and use of advanced imaging devices which was a valuable asset.

Los Alamos National Lab (LANL). We shared interests in computer image capture, and analysis systems, and in the use of coded apertures [(random pin-holes (Dickey patent) and redundant arrays of random pin-holes (Patent developed by Mike Cannon/LANL)]. We tested a NASA-etched stack of thin tungsten plates each with the same computer generated random pinhole array pattern. The tests were conducted with Mike Cannon, a LANL imaging scientist who had an IR 100 award for a pseudo redundant random coded array. Unfortunately, we were not able to place the array stack closer than 1.5″ from the face of the Anger camera detector, and we did not get useful images from the device. We were given powerful image processing programs, i.e. the Los Alamos Digital Image Enhancement Systems (LADIES) along with ideas for joint projects, such as a CAMAC collaboration, that unfortunately did not get funded.

→ Intertechnique: Computing systems
: They provided the commercial clinical nuclear instrumentation that we tested at Vanderbilt. Intertechnique is the French Company from which we purchased a 4096 multichannel analyzer for use in whole body counting and later for gamma camera and scan data acquisition. Randy was Chair of the SNM Computer Committee (for 10 years) which activities gave them a platform for USA demonstrations, while giving us the opportunity to test a series of prototype devices requiring only our objective evaluation for real clinical tasks. We presented papers  demonstrating their excellent,  user friendly  performance  in the performance of typical clinical studies. The system went through several iterations, while Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) got the lion’s share of the business.  Intertechnique  then incorporated  the computer into a Micral system  marketed to French banks.

→ ORTEC: Oak Ridge Detector and Electronics Company: Our X-ray fluorescence work was in collaboration with ORTEC that provided us with state of the art (Ge (Li), and Si (Li detectors and electronics and we supplied them a medical testing platform. An extension of the work led to the development and testing of the 3 x 3 HPGe array built by Fred Goulding and the detector group at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab (LBL) built the 9-detector device.

→ Hamamatsu Corporation: Electro-Optical Devices: Hamamatsu provided major support for our cardiovascular x-ray imaging research. Their help gave us the ability to combine imaging and sensor data from bi plane angiography systems in the cardiac catheterization lab. Randy saw a Hamamatsu ad, and asked their US Sales Rep (Ralph Eno) for a loan of the device for a test. The device allowed multiplexing of up to 8 tracks of analog data onto image buffers, such as the NASA videodisk. To our surprise, they not only donated the device, but the President of the Company, Mr. Hiruma, asked if we would accept an engineer, Hitoshi Iida to come and work with us for a year, with the proviso that we would provide him with access to library, and cafeteria facilities. He said that it is not often that one has a chance to make a contribution to mankind, and it is in that spirit he made the offer. (I might add that Hamamatsu made us a series of humanitarian gifts over the years. Hitoshi came, and was a delightful and highly effective addition to the group. In order to buffer more data than the 600 tracks (~20 seconds of data) on the videodisk, we acquired a VR1100 Ampex Professional grade tape drive from NASA. This was the configuration used by Earl Wood and the Mayo clinic group whose system we emulated. The VR1100 was a mixed blessing, as Hitoshi spent more time fixing and adjusting the fragile drive than was a proper use of his great talents.

Vanderbilt was acquiring nearby property in order to expand, and we were permitted to use one of the houses on Dudley St. for several years before it was torn down for an offsite parking area. We furnished the house, and used it for lodging visiting scientists. Hitoshi and Dan Lindstrom were the first guests. Hitoshi went on to be come the lead person in Device Development for Hamamatsu, spending a number of years in the USA as their prime scientific/engineering representative.

→ Cyclotron Support: In 1970 UCLA and Vanderbilt applied to the AEC for a Cyclotron that was to be used for isotope production, neutron therapy, and target development (student projects). The PI on the project was Bill Caldwell (VU Head of Radiation Therapy, with a background in neutron therapy); Co-Investigators included Joe Hamilton (focus on nuclear structure studies of locally produced short-lived nuclides), with Randy and Ron (nuclear medicine applications). The project received high marks according to Mike Ter-Pogosian, the site visit chair, but the money went to support a new UCLA medical cyclotron. Bill tried unsuccessfully to get Vanderbilt approval to contact former patients and local donors, and failing this, he left and went to U. Wisconsin as Head of their Radiation Oncology program. Hamilton was successful in obtaining money for a new-shared cyclotron facility at Oak Ridge, which provided him and others at various Universities the capability to do what we had sought locally. In 1977, Randy was on the NIH task group that awarded contracts to 12 places for PET/Cyclotron facilities. The best site he visited was at BNL, and a year after returning from a sabbatical year in London in 1978, he moved in 1979 to BNL to pursue PET work there. With departure of the PI, the AEC contract ended and was a severe loss to the VU research program. In 1984, the Vanderbilt Hospital purchased a cyclotron, a PET imager, and a staffed radioisotope laboratory for clinical (and associated research) applications. Bob Kessler came with PET experience from the NIH to direct the project and the new staff.

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