Radiocarbon tracers in toxicology and medicine: Recent advances in technology and science

Michael A. Malfatti, Bruce A. Buchholz, Heather A. Enright, Benjamin J. Stewart, Ted J. Ognibene, A. Daniel McCartt, Gabriela G. Loots, Maike Zimmermann, Tiffany M. Scharadin, George D. Cimino, Brian A. Jonas, Chong Xian Pan, Graham Bench, Paul T. Henderson, Kenneth W. Turteltaub

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This review summarizes recent developments in radiocarbon tracer technology and applications. Technologies covered include accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), including conversion of samples to graphite, and rapid combustion to carbon dioxide to enable direct liquid sample analysis, coupling to HPLC for real-time AMS analysis, and combined molecular mass spectrometry and AMS for analyte identification and quantitation. Laser-based alternatives, such as cavity ring down spectrometry, are emerging to enable lower cost, higher throughput measurements of biological samples. Applications covered include radiocarbon dating, use of environmental atomic bomb pulse radiocarbon content for cell and protein age determination and turnover studies, and carbon source identification. Low dose toxicology applications reviewed include studies of naphthalene-DNA adduct formation, benzo[a]pyrene pharmacokinetics in humans, and triclocarban exposure and risk assessment. Cancer-related studies covered include the use of radiocarbon-labeled cells for better defining mechanisms of metastasis and the use of drug-DNA adducts as predictive biomarkers of response to chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number27
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Accelerator mass spectrometry
  • Benzo[a]pyrene
  • Biomarkers
  • Cavity ring down spectrophotometry
  • Cell turnover
  • DNA adducts
  • Metastasis
  • Naphthalene
  • Radiocarbon
  • Triclocarban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Chemical Health and Safety


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