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E. An Innovative Way to Test for Malabsorption in Vitamin B-12

Narrator: This is Science Today. An innovative test for conditions related to the poor absorption of vitamin B12 has been developed by a team of scientists at the University of California , Davis and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Bruce Buchholz, a nuclear physicist at the Lab, says they used micro-doses of carbon 14-labled vitamin B12 produced by a modified strain of Salmonella bacteria to measure the vitamin levels.

Buchholz: Carbon-14 dating is based on a decrease in the amount of carbon-14 after an organism dies. What we're doing is adding a very small amount of carbon-14, an amount actually less than what you already have in your body in a small dose of vitamin and looking for it in the blood seven to 12 hours after taking it orally.

Narrator: Current techniques for looking for vitamin B12 absorption problems use quite a bit of radioactivity.

Buchholz: The real power of the technique is that you have a very, very distinct, clear signal with the carbon-14 above what's naturally there and because it's not very radioactive, there's essentially no radiation dose from this material.

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