Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Avi Thomas adjusts the bioAMS instrument
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory new bioAMS (biological accelerator mass spectrometer) is helping tackle biological science in a way that couldn't be done before. Over the past two years, Laboratory researchers have expedited accelerator mass spectrometer sample preparation and analysis time from days to minutes and moved a complex scientific process requiring accelerator physicists into routine laboratory usage.

Current work is focused on quantifying the individual steps in a metabolic pathway so we can measure indicators of disease processes and factors important to why people differ in responses to therapeutics, to diet and other factors.

Biological AMS is a technique in which carbon-14 is used as a tag to study with extreme precision and sensitivity complex biological processes, such as cancer, molecular damage, drug and toxin behavior, nutrition and other areas.

Among the biomedical studies that will be funded through a five-year, $7.8 million National Institutes of Health grant for biological AMS work is one to try to develop a test to predict how people will respond to chemotherapeutic drugs.

Another research project seeks to create an assay that is so sensitive that it can detect one cancer cell among one million healthy cells. If this work is successful, it could be possible to evaluate the metastasis potential of different primary human cancer cells.