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Stable isotope research resource

Structural biology research depends on supply of labeled building blocks

Within the last 30 years, the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Stable Isotope Research Program has evolved into a "multifaceted" program that serves biomedical researchers around the world. Researchers have created more efficient routes for synthesizing stable isotope labeled compounds, which are distributed to accredited researchers. Many scientific studies make use of such isotopes as carbon-13 and nitrogen-15, benefiting the biochemical, chemical, clinical and pharmacological realms. Molecules are tagged with stable isotopes so they can be traced spectroscopically using various methods that include Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Electron Spin Resonance, vibrational and mass spectroscopy, said SIR Director Clifford Unkefer. Such techniques have potential for studying the structure and function of DNA, RNA and proteins. Spectrometry is the measurement of energy spectrums emitted or absorbed by a substance.

The Laboratory's SIR program is supported by the National Institutes of Health, the world's foremost medical research center and the federal focal point for medical research in the United States. SIR develops methods for site-specific labeling of amino acids and nucleotides, the components of large molecules such as proteins and DNA. In addition, the organization develops methods for producing labeled proteins and nucleic acids for structural studies. Such medical treatments to arise from collaborative research between Los Alamos and other labs include a breath test used to diagnose ulcers.

Scientists also have figured out how a natural product, such as penicillin, is synthesized by nature.



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