Ugelstad spheres pioneered medicine and technology

Professor John Ugelstad was the first to manage to create microscopic spheres of identical size, so-called monodisperse spheres. These beads have gained great importance in medical diagnostics and treatment.

Frimerke med matematiske formler, sort-hvitt portrett av eldre mann og  tegnede kuler i klustere
Illustratør: Enzo Finger

John Ugelstad (1921-1997) was a professor of chemistry at NTNU, and his scientific efforts made him famous in scientific circles all over the world.

The beads are produced in different sizes, but usually they range from about 0.001–0.1 mm in diameter. They can be modified in different ways, among which they can be made superparamagnetic by the addition of magnetic material.

Great importance for medical care

The beads are used in various forms of cancer treatment and are important in the work with AIDS, bacteriology and DNA technology.

As early as 1983, the beads could be used on bone marrow cancer. The method involves removing some of the sick patient's bone marrow and adding the magnetic beads that attract the cancer cells. Then the healthy bone marrow is returned to the patient.

To the surface of the magnetic beads can be connected substances that recognize, for example, specific cells and bacteria. The beads with the connected substances are used, among other things, when there is a need to extract certain cell types, for example from a blood sample. In transplantation, they are an important tool in tissue classification.

Provides crisp LCD displays

Today, beads are used in two varieties, magnetic and non-magnetic. The non-magnetic beads are used in laboratory equipment and processes and are used, among other things, to ensure that medicines are 100 percent pure. They are also used in flat panel displays. The fact that the spheres are the same size makes the images sharp.

The Ugelstad beads have become the gold standard in biomagnetic separation, under the name Dynabeads, and they are produced at Lillestrøm. A research laboratory bearing Ugelstad's name was established at NTNU in Trondheim in 2002. Thermo Fisher Scientific develops and sells products based on Ugelstad beads and its customers are biotech companies all over the world.

Sources:
Norwegian Biographical Encyclopedia
Large Medical Encyclopedia
Forskning.no
Aftenposten

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