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Application of Radioisotopes in Biology

Radioactive isotopes have a variety of applications as they are useful as the radioactivity of these isotopes can be detected or the energy released by them can be used.  Radioisotopes are effective traces as their radioactivity is easy to detect. Tracers can be used to detect leaks in underground water pipes; also they can be used to follow steps of a complex chemical reaction.

A good example of uses of radioisotopes in biology is using the carbon-14 isotopes in determining the steps in the process of photosynthesis in plants. Other use of radioisotope is for establishing age of various objects.

Radiations that are emitted by some radioactive substances can be used to kill microorganisms in foodstuffs which enable to prolong the shelf life of these products. Agricultural produce like tomatoes sprouts, mushrooms and berries are irradiated with emissions from radioisotopes like cobalt-60 or cesium-137. The process of irradiation kills a lot of bacteria that can cause spoilage of food. Radioactive isotopes are used in various medical applications. They are used in diagnosing and treating illness and diseases.

Radioisotopes in biology have numerous applications. Radioisotopes have extensive application in molecular biology. Radioisotopes can be incorporated into DNA, RNA and protein molecules both in vivo and in vitro conditions. The molecules of interest or the metabolic pathway can be traced or investigated.

Applications of Radioisotopes in Biology
Isotopes in biology are used in the following manner: 
  • Used in Urea breath test, it performed to detect the presence of Helicobacter pylori in the stomach. The isotope used here is carbon-14, and is also used in determination of hormone concentration in the plasma and in radioimmunoassay techniques.
  • Calcium-47 isotopes are important to biomedical research. It aids in studying the cellular functions of formation of bone sin mammals.
  • Carbon-14 is a major research tool. It helps to the testing the potentiality of new drugs whether it is metabolized without formation of harmful byproducts. It is also used in biological research, pollution control, agriculture and archeology.
  • Cesium-137 is a radioisotope used in the treatment of cancerous tumors. Also it is used to measure the correct dosages of radioactive pharmaceuticals given to patients. It also used to maintain the right level for food, drugs packaging.
  • Chromium-51 is used in the studies of red blood cell survival.
  • Cobalt-57 is used a tracer; it is used to diagnose pernicious anemia.
  • Cobalt-60 is used in sterilization of surgical instruments. It is also used in treatment of cancer, irradiation of food products.
  • Copper-67 helps to destroy the cancer tumor when it is injected with monoclonal antibodies.
  • Gallium-67 is used in medical diagnosis.
  • Idonie-123 is widely used in the diagnosis of thyroid disorder and diagnosis of disorders of metabolism including functions of brain.
  • Iodine-129 is used in in-vitro diagnostic laboratories.
  • Iodine-131 isotope is used in treatment of thyroid disorders like Grave's disease.
  • An isotope of iron - iron-55 is used in metabolism research.
  • Phosphorus-32 is used in the research concerning molecular biology and genetics.
  • Selenium-75 is used in studies of proteins in life sciences research.
  • Strontium-85 is used in the study of formation of bone and metabolism.
  • Sulphur-35 is used in the studies of genetics and molecular biology.
  • Technetium-99m is used in blood flow studies and also different chemical forms of this isotope are used for kidney, liver, spleen, bone and brain imaging.
  • Xenon-133 is used in nuclear medicinal studies for lung ventilation and blood flow studies.