Positronium in medicine and biology

In positron emission tomography, as much as 40% of positron annihilation occurs through the production of positronium atoms inside the patient’s body. The decay of these positronium atoms is sensitive to metabolism and could provide information about disease progression. New research is needed to take full advantage of what positronium decays reveal.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Possible decays of positronium atoms trapped in the intramolecular voids in haemoglobin.


  1. 1.

    Moskal, P. et al. Feasibility study of the positronium imaging with the J-PET tomograph. Phys. Med. Biol. 64, 055017 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Jasinska, B. et al. Human tissues investigation using PALS technique. Acta Phys. Pol. B 48, 1737 (2017).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Kilburn, D. et al. Organization and mobility of water in amorphous and crystalline trehalose. Nat. Mater. 5, 632–635 (2006).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Badawi, R. D. et al. First human imaging studies with the EXPLORER total-body PET scanner. J. Nucl. Med. 60, 299–303 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Axpe, E. et al. Detection of atomic scale changes in the free volume void size of three-dimensional colorectal cancer cell culture using positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy. PLOS ONE 9, e83838 (2014).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Cassidy, D. B. Experimental progress in positronium laser physics. Eur. Phys. D 72, 53 (2018).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Bass, S. D. QED and fundamental symmetries in positronium decays. Preprint in arXiv https://arxiv.org/abs/1902.01355 (2019).

Download references


We thank Agnieszka Kaminska and Ewelina Kubicz for help with the figure. This research is supported by the Foundation for Polish Science through the TEAM/2017-4/39 programme, the National Science Centre of Poland through grant no. 2016/21/B/ ST2/01222 and the Polish Ministry for Science and Higher Education through grant no. 7150/E-338/SPUB/2017/1.

Author information



Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Paweł Moskal or Bożena Jasińska or Ewa Ł. Stępień or Steven D. Bass.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Moskal, P., Jasińska, B., Stępień, E.Ł. et al. Positronium in medicine and biology. Nat Rev Phys 1, 527–529 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42254-019-0078-7

Download citation

Further reading


Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing