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A biomedical future for accelerator mass spectrometry

Narrator:    This is Science Today. Accelerator mass spectrometry, or AMS, is a very sensitive technique that was developed for measuring the number of isotopes in a sample and it was originally used for dating things.

Turtletaub:    AMS historically has been an instrument that's been operated by physics departments and nuclear chemistry departments and it's been used by geochemists and things like that.

Narrator:     Ken Turtletaub, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, says their Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry was one of the first to apply AMS techniques to biomedicine, but the size of the complicated instrument limited its widespread use.

Turtletaub:    We and others are working to reduce the size of these instruments and the complexity so they can be operated by anyone. I think the fact that three companies have formed to actually offer AMS to the pharmaceutical industry is a sign that that's working. Some pharmaceutical companies have acquired their own instruments and are operating them also is a sign that we're moving beyond the complexity of the instrumentation.

Narrator:    For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.