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Homeland security, cancer research projects benefit from Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project’s new round of nuclear seed grants

A new round of seed funding from the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project (MMPP) will allow exploration of two projects aimed at improving cancer treatment and one to test improvement to wearable radiation monitoring.

Phoenix Project seed grants are an outgrowth of the MMPP’s original mission, established in 1948, that: “…the University of Michigan create a War Memorial Center to explore the ways and means by which the potentialities of atomic energy may become a beneficent influence in the life of man.” Seed grants allow researchers exploring peaceful nuclear projects to better define projects that appear promising for funding by an outside source.

Proposed by Physics professor Roy Clarke, his funded project, “Semiconductor Neutron Detector,” will explore the creation of a wearable, solid-state radiation detector, providing real-time exposure data for the wearer. The design addresses two shortcomings of the current technology: insufficient compactness/ portability and manufacturing supply problems. Existing monitors use liquid helium in their manufacturing process- an increasingly cumbersome requirement as the availability of helium-3 shrinks. The seed grant will allow for testing of Clarke’s new design, with test results contributing to a later federal grant application. Read the full proposal here.

Another funded proposal will use a common treatment for thyroid cancer, Iodine-131, to explore broader applications in treating other types of soft tumors. A group led by Morand Piert, an Associate Professor of Radiology, will utilize their seed grant to explore delivering the treatment to other areas of the body via a targeted, ultrasound-based approach. Such an approach could attack tumors more efficiently and with less damage to patients’ surrounding tissues. Experimental results will be used toward a larger grant application to the National Institute of Health. Read the full proposal here.

A group led by Xia Shao and Xueding Wang of the Department of Radiology will use their grant to explore the promise of gold nanoparticles to contribute to better imaging and treatment of cancer. Nuclear imaging uses small amounts of radioactive substances attached to compounds that are in turn attracted to tumors. Gold nanostructures, due to their small sizes and associated unique chemical, physical and biological properties, have been widely used in drug delivery, cellular imaging, and biomedical diagnostics and therapeutics. MMPP seed funding will allow the group to explore using the gold nanoparticles to deliver radiation and thermotherapy concurrently. Read the full proposal here.

About the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project

The University of Michigan Energy Institute extends a rich tradition of energy research at U-M. Established in 2006, it builds on the legacy of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project. The Phoenix Project was launched in 1948 to engage in research and other activities that support the peaceful uses of atomic energy as a “living memorial” for the members of the University of Michigan community who gave their lives in World War II. MMPP seed grants are awarded twice a year.