Quantification of manganese in human hand bones: a feasibility study
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Manganese is both an essential element to human health and also toxic when humans are exposed to excessive levels, particularly by means of inhalation. Biological monitoring of manganese exposure is problematic. It is subject to homeostasis; levels in blood (or serum/plasma) reflect only the most recent exposure and rapidly return to within normal ranges, even when there has been a temporary excursion in response to exposure. In this context, we have been developing a non-invasive technique for measurement of manganese stored in bone, using in vivo neutron activation analysis. Following preliminary feasibility studies, the technique has been enhanced by two significant infrastructure advances. A specially designed irradiation facility serves to maximize the activation of manganese with respect to the dose of ionizing radiation. Secondly, an array of eight NaI(Tl) crystals provides a detection system with very close to 4 pi geometry. This feasibility study, using neutron activation analysis to measure manganese in the bones of the hand, takes two features into account. Firstly, there is considerable magnesium present in the bone and this produces a spectral interference with the manganese. The 26 Mg(n,gamma)27 Mg reaction produces gamma -rays of 0.843 MeV from the decay of 27 Mg, which interfere with the 0.847 MeV gamma -rays from the decay of 56 Mn,produced by the 55 Mn(n,gamma)56 Mn reaction. Secondly, this work provides estimates of the levels of manganese to be expected in referent subjects. A revised estimate has been made from the most recent literature to explore the potential of the technique as a suitable means of screening patients and people exposed to excessive amounts of Mn who could develop many-fold increased levels of Mn in bones as demonstrated through various animal studies. This report presents the enhancements to the neutron activation system, by which manganese can be measured, which resulted in a detection limit in the hand of human subjects of 1.6 microg/g Ca. It also provides a revised estimate of expected referent levels of manganese in bone, now estimated to be 0.63 microg/g Ca and highlights the extent to which technical improvements will be required to further extend the application of the technique for in vivo measurements in non-exposed human subjects.