Labeling the human skeleton with 41Ca to assess changes in bone calcium metabolism

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2006 Nov;386(6):1587-602. doi: 10.1007/s00216-006-0795-5. Epub 2006 Oct 11.


Bone research is limited by the methods available for detecting changes in bone metabolism. While dual X-ray absorptiometry is rather insensitive, biochemical markers are subject to significant intra-individual variation. In the study presented here, we evaluated the isotopic labeling of bone using 41Ca, a long-lived radiotracer, as an alternative approach. After successful labeling of the skeleton, changes in the systematics of urinary 41Ca excretion are expected to directly reflect changes in bone Ca metabolism. A minute amount of 41Ca (100 nCi) was administered orally to 22 postmenopausal women. Kinetics of tracer excretion were assessed by monitoring changes in urinary 41Ca/40Ca isotope ratios up to 700 days post-dosing using accelerator mass spectrometry and resonance ionization mass spectrometry. Isotopic labeling of the skeleton was evaluated by two different approaches: (i) urinary 41Ca data were fitted to an established function consisting of an exponential term and a power law term for each individual; (ii) 41Ca data were analyzed by population pharmacokinetic (NONMEM) analysis to identify a compartmental model that describes urinary 41Ca tracer kinetics. A linear three-compartment model with a central compartment and two sequential peripheral compartments was found to best fit the 41Ca data. Fits based on the use of the combined exponential/power law function describing urinary tracer excretion showed substantially higher deviations between predicted and measured values than fits based on the compartmental modeling approach. By establishing the urinary 41Ca excretion pattern using data points up to day 500 and extrapolating these curves up to day 700, it was found that the calculated 41Ca/40Ca isotope ratios in urine were significantly lower than the observed 41Ca/40Ca isotope ratios for both techniques. Compartmental analysis can overcome this limitation. By identifying relative changes in transfer rates between compartments in response to an intervention, inaccuracies in the underlying model cancel out. Changes in tracer distribution between compartments were modeled based on identified kinetic parameters. While changes in bone formation and resorption can, in principle, be assessed by monitoring urinary 41Ca excretion over the first few weeks post-dosing, assessment of an intervention effect is more reliable approximately 150 days post-dosing when excreted tracer originates mainly from bone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bone and Bones / chemistry
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • Calcium / analysis*
  • Calcium / chemistry
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Radioisotopes
  • Female
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological


  • Calcium Radioisotopes
  • Calcium