About this Research Topic
Isotopes are an essential part of modern medicine. During the 20th century, close collaboration between medical and isotope scientists led to several powerful diagnostic tools based on stable and radioactive isotopes. These applications have one common feature: all involve the administration of an artificially prepared isotopic tracer.
Tracer techniques, however, only scratch the surface of what is possible with isotopes. In the earth and ecological sciences, the most powerful applications of isotopes involve high precision measurements of variations in the relative abundance of stable (or nearly stable) isotopes naturally present in a system, variations that arise from system processes acting on differences in the physicochemical properties of isotopes of the same element. As these properties are identical in living and nonliving systems, isotopic measurements are expected to be equally informative—and transformative-- in both. Current research on medical applications of stable isotopes vindicates this assumption.
Research on medical applications of tracerless stable isotope analysis is radically interdisciplinary, encompassing as it does isotope geochemistry and several branches of medical science. Combining such far-flung fields increases the potential for truly innovative research, but also increases the danger of the entire project collapsing from inadequate communication between disciplines. Because medical science is a vast and self-sufficient enterprise, the burden of successful communication falls on the much smaller community of isotope geochemists. The goal of this project is threefold: to create a single stand-alone volume that will communicate basic principles of isotope geochemistry to a medical audience, explain the state of the art as it currently stands, and suggest the most promising area for future research. These goals will have been met if the volume leads to new collaborations between isotope geochemists and medical scientists, and to greater representation of isotopic research in medical conferences and journals. Original research is welcome so long as it is presented in clear, jargon-free prose.
Three types of papers are needed: background papers providing medically relevant background information on isotope analysis; Papers explaining main areas of current research, and finally promising areas of future research on both the near and long term.
Keywords: stable isotopes, natural isotopes, metallomics, biomarker, IRMS (isotope ratio mass spectrometry).
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