Non-traditional stable isotope variations: applications for biomedicine

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Applications of non-traditional stable isotope variations are moving beyond geosciences to biomedicine, made possible by advances in multiple collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS) technology. Mass-dependent isotope variation can

Applications of non-traditional stable isotope variations are moving beyond geosciences to biomedicine, made possible by advances in multiple collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS) technology. Mass-dependent isotope variation can provide information about the sources of elements and the chemical reactions that they undergo. Iron and calcium isotope systematics in biomedicine are relatively unexplored but have great potential scientific interest due to their essential nature in metabolism. Iron, a crucial element in biology, fractionates during biochemically relevant reactions. To test the extent of this fractionation in an important reaction process, equilibrium iron isotope fractionation during organic ligand exchange was determined. The results show that iron fractionates during organic ligand exchange, and that isotope enrichment increases as a function of the difference in binding constants between ligands. Additionally, to create a mass balance model for iron in a whole organism, iron isotope compositions in a whole mouse and in individual mouse organs were measured. The results indicate that fractionation occurs during transfer between individual organs, and that the whole organism was isotopically light compared with food. These two experiments advance our ability to interpret stable iron isotopes in biomedicine. Previous research demonstrated that calcium isotope variations in urine can be used as an indicator of changes in net bone mineral balance. In order to measure calcium isotopes by MC-ICP-MS, a chemical purification method was developed to quantitatively separate calcium from other elements in a biological matrix. Subsequently, this method was used to evaluate if calcium isotopes respond when organisms are subjected to conditions known to induce bone loss: 1) Rhesus monkeys were given an estrogen-suppressing drug; 2) Human patients underwent extended bed rest. In both studies, there were rapid, detectable changes in calcium isotope compositions from baseline - verifying that calcium isotopes can be used to rapidly detect changes in bone mineral balance. By characterizing iron isotope fractionation in biologically relevant processes and by demonstrating that calcium isotopes vary rapidly in response to bone loss, this thesis represents an important step in utilizing these isotope systems as a diagnostic and mechanistic tool to study the metabolism of these elements in vivo.