By George Wolf (Auth.)
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Extra info for Isotopes in Biology
In the days when isotopic compounds were not available, metabolic studies were sometimes done by overdosing an animal with the compound under study, and then looking for unusual excretion products in the urine. Today it is possible to investigate metabolic pathways, with infinitely greater precision and in enormous detail, with a physiological dose of the compound in isotopic form. The daily intake by the rat of the amino acid histidine, for instance, is about 80 mg. In any study of the metabolism of histidine in the normal animal, it would obviously be very undesirable to feed more than that per day.
Therefore, personal cleanliness and neatness are essential, manipulation in a wellventilated hood is imperative, and eating or smoking in an isotope laboratory is not recommended. "Hard" ^-emitters ( P ) , on the other hand, require some 1 4 3 3 2 42 ΠΙ. HEALTH HAZARDS AND ISOTOPE LABORATORY DESIGN protection by shielding of the glass vessels in which they are contained, because the glass with which the ^-radiation interacts, emits a kind of X-ray ("bremsstrahlung"), which can be harmful. Open, uncovered vessels are also a source of emission that one has to guard against.
34 Π. UNITS OF RADIOACTIVITY AND OF STABLE ISOTOPES appear in glutamic acid? In other words, does the metabolic breakdown of histidine follow pathway A or B ? This question can be clearly answered by a chemical transformation ("degradation") of the glutamic acid, isolated from the animal, to succinic acid and then to carbon dioxide, as shown in Fig. 1. From Table I I it is clear that, on a molar COOH COOH F I G . 1. ) basis, the specific activities of glutamic and succinic acids are the same, indicating that only nonradioactive carbon was lost in step I of the degradation, and that, mole per mole, all the radioactivity was maintained in the succinic acid from the glutamic acid.