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How do we limit bone loss in space? Does your hair hold a record of where you've been? What do breath analyses say about your metabolism? The Anbarlab is at the forefront of the expanding field of isotopic biomedical and forensic studies. 

Research here and at other labs has revealed that high-precision measurements of isotopes can track many biological processes, and may even provide early warning of disease progression. Our research shows calcium (Ca) isotope abundances in blood and urine of participants in NASA bed rest studies vary in concert with changes in bone mineral balance, providing a robust, near-real-time record of changes to the skeleton. Ca isotope measurements from astronauts on the ISS show differences in skeletal response to various bone-loss countermeasures, indicating both the importance of implementing the optimal countermeasure, and of having a clear, quantitative means of monitoring astronaut bone loss.


We're currently working on translating Ca isotope ratios into a clinically useful biomarker. Research led by Dr. Gordon suggests that Ca isotope ratios may predict the progression of multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that affects the bones. In collaboration with partners at the Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, we are exploring the use of Ca isotope data to track the progress of bone involvement in this disease. 


We're also researching the use of C and N isotopes to record dietary patterns independent of self-reporting, and their value in monitoring the impact of exercise on metabolism by comparing indirect calorimetry using mobile smartphone technology and analysis of carbon in breath and carbon and nitrogen in hair.

Dr. Gordon is using isotope geochemistry to answer diverse forensic questions, including how water and soil conditions impact the isotopic signatures in hair, and using the preservation of H, C, N, O, Sr and Pb in human tissues to predict the geographic origin of unknown decedents.