In vivo measurement of bone aluminium: Recent developments
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A biomarker of aluminium accumulation in the human body can play a valuable role in determining health effects of chronic aluminium exposure, complementing other human and environmental monitoring data. In vivo neutron activation provides such a non-invasive biomarker. To date, the best in vivo neutron activation system used thermalised neutrons from a nuclear reactor at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which suffered only slightly from interference from other elements, primarily phosphorus, and from the disadvantage of restricted accessibility. At McMaster, we use a nuclear reaction on an accelerator to select neutron energy, which eliminates the interferences. Spectral decomposition analysis improved sensitivity. A new 4pi detection system also enhanced sensitivity. Together these improvements yield a minimum detection limit of 0.24 mgAl in a hand, slightly better than at Brookhaven and equivalent to "normal" levels. Further improvements should result from a new irradiation cavity and from using a higher proton current on the accelerator to shorten irradiation times. The system is now ready for pilot human studies.
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