Bomb Pulse Biology

Nucl Instrum Methods Phys Res B. 2013 Jan 1;294:666-670. doi: 10.1016/j.nimb.2012.08.045. Epub 2012 Sep 15.


The past decade has seen an explosion in use of the (14)C bomb-pulse to do fundamental cell biology. Studies in the 1960's used decay counting to measure tissue turnover when the atmospheric (14)C/C concentration was changing rapidly. Today bulk tissue measurements are of marginal interest since most of the carbon in the tissue resides in proteins, lipids and carbohydrates that turn over rapidly. Specific cell types with specialized functions are the focus of cell turnover investigations. Tissue samples need to be fresh or frozen. Fixed or preserved samples contain petroleum-derived carbon that has not been successfully removed. Cell or nuclear surface markers are used to sort specific cell types, typically by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). Specific biomolecules need to be isolated with high purity and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) measurements must accommodate samples that generally contain less than 40 micrograms of carbon. Furthermore, all separations must not add carbon to the sample. Independent means such as UV absorbance must be used to confirm molecule purity. Approaches for separating specific proteins and DNA and combating contamination of undesired molecules are described.