News & Comment

Toxicology: AMS Adds Realism to Chemical Risk Assessment

Science  19 Jan 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5247, pp. 286-287
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5247.286


To judge the biological risk of trace compounds, researchers traditionally give huge doses to a rat—a procedure of questionable relevance to human beings exposed to normal doses. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), a technique borrowed from archaeology that can detect trace amounts of an isotope, is opening a view of the biological activity of smaller doses. The idea is to tag the suspect compound with carbon-14, feed a “normal” dose to a rat, and use AMS to track down the telltale isotope in the rat's tissues.