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China Medicine Science

First Images of a Heart Injected With Liquid Metal 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the that's-pretty-metal dept.
KentuckyFC writes "The early symptoms of many diseases show up first in the smallest blood vessels, but imaging the fine structure of these vessels is a tricky problem for medics. The most common way is to inject them with a contrast agent and use x-ray tomography to create a 3D image of their structure. This shows problems in the large vessels but not smaller ones. The problem is the lack of contrast. Conventional contrast agents are based on iodine, which has a high electron density and so better absorbs x-rays than other atoms. But a better solution would be to use a higher density fluid, such as a liquid metal. The obvious fears associated with toxicity and so forth mean this has never been tried. Until now. A team of Chinese biomedical engineers have created the world's first images of a pig's heart injected with gallium. This has a melting point of 29 degrees C, so it's a liquid at body temperature. And the results show the detailed structure of the tiniest blood vessels, revealing capillaries just 0.07 mm in diameter. That's significantly more detailed than is possible with iodine-based contrast agents. An important question is whether this technique will ever be possible in humans. The Chinese team seems optimistic. They say gallium is chemically inert, non-toxic to humans and can be injected and sucked out without leaving a residue. 'It suggests the possibility for localized in vivo vascular-enhanced radiological imaging in the near future.'"
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First Images of a Heart Injected With Liquid Metal

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  • Gallium Metal (Score:5, Informative)

    by Artagel (114272) on Friday December 06, 2013 @01:29PM (#45619955) Homepage

    Having worked with gallium, it is not the easiest metal to work with. It forms oxides easily on its surface, and when these oxides combine with the metal, the metal can stick to metals and glass quite easily. Gallium has been used to back mirrors for that reason.

    For those wondering, just because it melts easily, does not mean it has any vapors. Unlike mercury, it has a very high boiling points and has essentially zero vapor pressure at temperatures that can be tolerated by people. As for non-toxic, as far as I know it is not poisonous in reasonable quantities, but neither is it generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Six-nines gallium is probably what to use (99.9999%), as Five-nines gallium (99.999%) usually has signifcant mercury levels in the remaining portion.

    It supercools very nicely in plastic containers, and once melted will stay liquid at room temperature for quite a while. It expands upon freezing, like water, and often develops a distinctive cracking pattern when solidifying.

    It will eat aluminum instantly. Certain stainless steels are fine for a while, but iron (not plain steel), berylium, tungsten and the like are other metals you can use with it and not have problems with dissolving part of it.

    It is a blast, and you can buy small quantities of it from Amazon.

  • Re:But what if (Score:5, Informative)

    by H0p313ss (811249) on Friday December 06, 2013 @01:32PM (#45619997)

    Sure enough []

    Trust the Canadian government to have a web page devoted to how not to freeze to death.

  • Re:Gallium = Sticky (Score:4, Informative)

    by ridgecritter (934252) on Friday December 06, 2013 @02:55PM (#45620771)

    It is that. I've seen it stick to Teflon and graphite components. It coats glass and silicon wafers with a nice mirror surface.

    Lowest melting nontoxic liquid metal I've heard of is Galinstan, a eutectic alloy of gallium, indium, and tin, melts around -19C. []

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.