What Can Isotopes Labeling Do?

Before going furtherly in the answer for this question, we should be clear with the innovation of Isotope and isotope labeling. What is Isotope? To be directly, isotopes are the variants of a given element. And the only difference relies in the neutron numbers. The isotopes of an element have less or more neutrons than the element itself. Take hydrogen for example. There are three natural occurring isotopes for it and they are Protium, Deuterium, and tritium. The neutron numbers for the three isotopes respectively are 0, 1 and 2. Protium is the hydrogen we commonly think.

And then what is isotope labeling? Isotope labeling is a technique employing the detectable characters of isotopes to track the activities of the isotopes and the compound they are in by replacing a target element with its isotopes that can be followed in one of three ways-mass, radioactive decay, and vibrational mode as markers to track.

According to the stability of the isotopes, isotope labeling is claasified into two categories stable isotope labeling for the isotopes that decay extremely slowly and the radiation can be ignored; the other is radioactive isotope labeling, taking use of the radiation of isotopes to monitor their movement.

Stable Isotope Labeling

As stable isotope labeling carries little and even no side effect to bodies, it’s often applied in food industry, proteomics and some biology researches like cell culture. Water labeling would be a typical example in food industry for stable isotope labeling. Often the isotopes of oxygen are applied to study the water distribution and other characters. Another common usage of this tech in food industry is for food adulteration. In some cases, the packages of some food would also employ labeling.

In proteomics, stable isotopes labeling of building blocks like amino acids is taken advantaged of to track the proteins formation and distribution. With the same mechanism, stable isotope labeling in cell culture is used to count the number of proteins.

In addition, medical imaging also makes use of stable isotope labeling. A common practice that many people may go through regarding this is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The isotopes are there to render visible metabolic changes.

Radioactive Isotope Labeling

Radioacitve isotope labeling is more often applied in biochemistry researches to tracking chemistry reactions, and reactions in natural systems of living organisms for the learning of a chemical working mechanism and drug reacting route.

There are other practical occasions that involve the two types of isotope labeling, like oceanography, and circulations studies for some natural substances. And it seems that this tech is closer to our daily lives. Thus we should know some basics in case that there is side effects caused by such applications.

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