– Under the streets of Vancouver, at the University of British Columbia, there are pneumatic tubes2½ kilometers long that use air pressure to transportslightly radioactive stuff underground from a particle acceleratorto a hospital. The tubes are called the Rabbit Line and the only sign ofthem from the surface is a few manholes, and somelittle studs in the ground to mark the path.
Most of the students and staffhere at UBC have no idea that a few times every day,underneath their feet, capsules with radioactive stuff speed byat up to 100 kilometers an hour. So, we're going to start atthe particle accelerator here and explain how: how thestuff's made and how it's sent. And then, at the receiving end,at the hospital, we're going to explain why. – This is the GMP Lab at TRIUMF,and here, we use medical isotopesand make tracers.
For imaging and therapy. So, in accelerators,we have cyclotrons. So cyclotron: we inject H-, sonegative charges of hydrogen, and they spin around and getreally, really fast. Carry a lot of energy. And then we extractthat H- to proton. And then we use a proton beamto hit a target. Once they hit a target, it willproduce radioactive isotopes. And once we have the isotopes,.
They will be transferred here. And here, our chemistswill do their magic. So they combine with someinjectable liquid, mostly saline. The ones processed in thislab are short-lived isotopes, two in particular, one is carbon-11. And the carbon-11 onlyhas 20 minutes half-life. Our chemists doing a very, very fast job, and then they send thisthrough the Rabbit Line to UBC Hospital and inject patients.
For the long-lived isotopes, we produce probably nanogram range. The short-lived one is evensmaller than that amount. That's all you need. – So, particle acceleratorupstairs makes the isotopes. Chemists in the clean roomturn them into a liquid. The team in this room putthat vial inside a rabbit, a capsule, and into that tube. There's one already loaded.
Close it up, push the right buttons, and 100 psi of air pressure accelerates it to a top speed of 100 kilometers an hour. Now, I am not allowed tosend a camera down the line. It's really carefully calibrated. You don't take risks likethat with medical treatments. Plus, it's pitch black. I'd also have to send a light as well. But I did ask if I could push the button.
It's just the big onemarked send, right? Okay. [machine beeping][air whooshing] That is surprisingly loud. – Because we are sendingit over underground, soil under the road will serveas a very good shielding, also because the amount wesend is very, very little, we're sending a dose that's actually safe to inject in a human inside a body. So for the public, there's no hazard.
If we drive up the street, it would take about 10, 15 minutes. But if we shoot through the Rabbit Line, it only takes a littlebit over two minutes. And it's more reliable. And we don't need to stop at stop signs! – About 2½ minutes later, the capsule arrives hereat the University Hospital. But that does raise the question,.
When the capsule is going that fast, how does it stop in theright place every time? – When it's close to the end, about 10 meters to the end,there is a vent. So you will lose the pressurefrom the compressed air. And also, the front,the air is compressed, so it serve as a buffer toslow down the rabbit as well. And that which allows the rabbitto drop safely at hospital. [capsule thumping].
– That isn't the same capsule. It's a 10-minute drive away. The Rabbit Line is incredibly fast. Which leaves the big question, why? Well, what's being sentare radiopharmaceuticals, slightly radioactive stuffthat here is meant for research in medicine. Obviously, I'm not filmingany research subjects here, but the staff let me knowwhat sort of thing.
This can be used for. – When this radioactive substance decays, it emits gamma rays, which we detect. In doing that, we can thenreconstruct the image. You can actually see how the brain works without really getting into the brain. A very, very important picturethat you couldn't get otherwise. By definition, they cannot have any pharmacological effect on the body. If we were to inject anythingthat changes the system,.
We're not looking at the system. We're looking at the system as modified. In Parkinson's disease, by the time you have clinical symptoms, the brain is already very, very damaged. That's why we observe populations at risk. And then, of course,we've done some studies in psychiatry, mood disorders,in dementia, addiction. The discovery that there is aneurochemical placebo effect,.
A neurotransmitter releasewhen people were expecting some benefit of a drug, even when a drug was not given. – It turns out, around the world, quite a few hospitals havetheir own particle accelerators, maybe for diagnosis, maybe for treatment, maybe like here, for research. Although they do normally usea slightly less dramatic way of transporting the results.
Which left me with two questions. No one could answer the first, which is why it's called the Rabbit Line. Apparently, no one here knows. But the second one was, how do they get therabbits back to the start? – Drive it, we pick itup or they send it over. Old-school! [laughing]