Isotopically labeled formaldehyde (*C.sup..sctn.H.sub.2O) is prepared from labeled methyl iodide (*C.sup..sctn.H.sub.3I) by reaction with an oxygen nucleophile having a pendant leaving group. The mild and efficient reaction conditions result in good yields of *C.sup..sctn.H.sub.2O with little or no *C isotopic dilution. The simple, efficient production of .sup.11CH.sub.2O is described. The use of the .sup.11CH.sub.2O for the formation of positron emission tomography tracer compounds is described. The reaction can be incorporated into automated equipment available to radiochemistry laboratories. The isotopically labeled formaldehyde can be used in a variety of reactions to provide radiotracer compounds for imaging studies as well as for scintillation counting and autoradiography.
This invention was made with Government support under contract number DE-AC02-98CH10886, awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy and sponsored by the National Institutes of Health under grant number 1F32EB008320-01. The Government has certain rights in the invention.