A History of In Vivo Neutron Activation Analysis in Measurement of Aluminum in Human Subjects
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Aluminum, as an abundant metal, has gained widespread use in human life, entering the body predominantly as an additive to various foods and drinking water. Other major sources of exposure to aluminum include medical, cosmetic, and occupational routes. As a common environmental toxin, with well-known roles in several medical conditions such as dialysis encephalopathy, aluminum is considered a potential candidate in the causality of Alzheimer's disease. Aluminum mostly accumulates in the bone, which makes bone an indicator of the body burden of aluminum and an ideal organ as a proxy for the brain. Most of the techniques developed for measuring aluminum include bone biopsy, which requires invasive measures, causing inconvenience for the patients. There has been a considerable effort in developing non-invasive approaches, which allow for monitoring aluminum levels for medical and occupational purposes in larger populations. In vivo neutron activation analysis, a method based on nuclear activation of isotopes of elements in the body and their subsequent detection, has proven to be an invaluable tool for this purpose. There are definite challenges in developing in vivo non-invasive techniques capable of detecting low levels of aluminum in healthy individuals and aluminum-exposed populations. The following review examines the method of in vivo neutron activation analysis in the context of aluminum measurement in humans focusing on different neutron sources, interference from other activation products, and the improvements made in minimum detectable limits and patient dose over the past few decades.
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