October 1999


Tests promising for ORNL-developed radio-agent

IQNP brain scan images.
A new radiolabeled diagnostic agent developed by Dan McPherson, Huimin Luo and Russ Knapp, members of the Life Sciences Division’s Nuclear Medicine group, is showing promising results in initial clinical tests. The iodine-123-labeled agent, called IQNP, attaches to one of many types of receptors in the brain that are affected by the aging process and certain diseases. By binding to those receptors, the gamma-emitting iodine can enable diagnostic devices to map these regions of the brain and potentially allow a better and earlier diagnosis of various diseases.

The IQNP agent was designed to offer a diagnostic tool for a host of brain-function maladies, including conditions related to aging, memory loss and alcoholism, in addition to dementias such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. This new diagnostic agent was successfully tested on laboratory animals in a collaborative effort between the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and ORNL before being approved for human trials.

Results of initial studies in Finland and Sweden on healthy volunteers indicate that the IQNP agent is doing what it was designed to do—bind to select areas of the brain. “Through knowing where these receptors are located in the brain, this agent will allow a better understanding and an earlier diagnosis for various diseases such as Alzheimer’s by determining how well this agent binds to the affected receptors,” McPherson says.

Similar clinical studies in volunteers are also expected to begin soon in Dresden, Germany. The next goal of these studies will be to determine if significant differences can be detailed between healthy volunteers and patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Y2K dress rehearsal ‘to the nines’

ORNL folk participated in a four-hour, DOE-wide dress rehearsal for Y2K beginning at 11 p.m. on September 8. The occasion actually was the approach of the next day’s date, designated as an ominous 9-9-99.

The 9-9-99 date had concerned some Y2K experts with fears it could trigger stop-program commands in utility systems. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson was among those who stood watch at utility companies—in his case at DOE’s Bonneville Power Administration facility in Vancouver, Wash. When the date rolled around, electrical power flowed uninterrupted throughout the nation’s grids.

ORNL’s part of it continued until 3 a.m. John Glowienka, who spearheads ORNL’s Y2K prep efforts, says things went smoothly for the team of functional experts on hand, with no glitches.

“From a Y2K point of view it was a little underwhelming,” he says. “But it was a valuable learning experience in that we were able to assemble a very diverse group of people and establish lines of communication that could deal with issues.” Everybody have a Happy New Year.

Swans hold on: four new ones

We held off writing about this so far, but now we think it’s safe to say that ORNL has had a successful crop of baby swans. Of five cygnets hatched last spring at the Swan Pond, four have survived into robust adolescence.

Seven swans a swimming, including the four born last spring on the right.
The reason for the reluctance to write about them too soon is that the swans have procreated during most spring seasons, but for some reason the cygnets would vanish. Their postulated fates have ranged from being eaten by turtles to falling into muskrat burrows, says Alicia Compere, one of many volunteers who look after the big birds.

Having a larger population of swans in the pond in the coming years could become interesting. Surplus male swans often have a rough go of it from other males. Compere says, however, that agricultural officials tell her a pond that size can accomodate multiple families of swans.

The swans enjoy care from a host of volunteers who care for and feed them, including Compere, Bill and Katherine Eldridge and Bonnie Moore, who documented the progress of this year’s arrivals on film and presented a scrapbook of photos to Compere. We’ve included one of her photos.

Keep a lid on critters

ORNL’s resident population of furry creatures often provides topics for discussion and occasional advisories, such as the one issued by Industrial Waste Coordinator Doug Raymer: “Fall is the time of year for wild animals to visit ORNL dumpsters. . . . If you leave the tops and side doors open on your dumpsters, it is an open invitation for a garbage picnic.”

Leaving a 1998 dumpster dive.
We know that from last fall, when a congregation of 21 raccoons had a ring-tailed tooter of a party in a dumpster just after Halloween. Lab employees extricated them by various means—nets and walkboards. Raymer, of the Office of Environmental Protection, gives us sage advice for encounters with any wild animal—don’t mess with ’em.

“These cute little animals are wild and can be dangerous from the standpoint that they can and will bite and may carry diseases,” says Raymer. “Please avoid all physical contact with these animals. Do not attempt to pet, feed, or remove wild animals.”

More advice: “If you approach a dumpster first thing in the morning, make a little noise so the animal(s) inside the dumpster knows you are present and can hide or not be alarmed when you place something in the dumpster. If you surprise them, they may see you as attempting to harm one of their young and bite you.”

Reported by Bill Cabage