Clinical Application of Radioactive Tracers


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PET, an acronym for positron-emission tomography, detects locations of intense chemical activity in the body. The bright yellow spot marks an area with an elevated level of radioactively labeled glucose, which in turn indicates high metabolic activity, a hallmark of cancerous tissue. Source: Urry, Lisa A.. Campbell Biology (p. 32). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.

Clinical Application of Radioactive Tracers (Campbell Biology)

Radioactive isotopes are often used as diagnostic tools in medicine. Cells can use radioactive atoms just as they would use nonradioactive isotopes of the same element. The radioactive isotopes are incorporated into biologically active molecules, which are then used as tracers to track atoms during metabolism, the chemical processes of an organism. For example, certain kidney disorders are diagnosed by injecting small doses of radioactively labeled substances into the blood and then analyzing the tracer molecules excreted in the urine. Radioactive tracers are also used in combination with sophisticated imaging instruments, such as PET scanners that can monitor growth and metabolism of cancers in the body. Although radioactive isotopes are very useful in biological research and medicine, radiation from decaying isotopes also poses a hazard to life by damaging cellular molecules. The severity of this damage depends on the type and amount of radiation an organism absorbs. One of the most serious environmental threats is radioactive fallout from nuclear accidents. The doses of most isotopes used in medical diagnosis, however, are relatively safe.

– What do you call an atom that has excess nuclear energy, making it unstable?

– What do you call a chemical compound in which one or more atoms have been replaced by a radioactive isotopes so that its radioactive decay can be used to trace and explore the mechanism of chemical reactions?


Urry, Lisa A.. Campbell Biology. Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.


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