A technology borne out of archeologists' desire to obtain a faster method for dating ancient artifacts has also spawned exciting applications in biomedical science. Carbon dating techniques refined at LLNLs Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (CAMS) are being used to address research questions as diverse as "how old is the DNA in our brains?" to "how long do chemicals remain in our bodies?" This lecture will highlight the principles of carbon dating and how AMS technology is being used to provide insights into challenging problems in biomedicine.

Today you will learn

  • What is an isotope?
  • What is AMS and how is it used?
  • How is C-14 produced in the atmosphere?
  • List two human tissues that do not "turn over."
  • What caused the bomb pulse?
  • How do we know that certain chemicals/foods are harmful our bodies?
  • What are mutations?


Goal: Students will learn how scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are using Accelerator Mass Spectrometry as a biological and biomedical measuring tool.

Student Lecture Notes

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Speaker Bios

Ken Tutereltaub

Research Scientist
Molecular Toxicology Group
Biology and Biotechnology Research Program
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Ken's research is concerned with understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in development of cancer. His main interest is the toxicology of carcinogens at very low dose. His group uses techniques such as mass spectrometry, liquid chromatography, electrophoresis, uv/vis and fluorescence spectroscopy, radiotracer methods and accelerator mass spectrometry. These methods are being applied to determine the bioavailability or carcinogens; which carcinogens bind to DNA and protein; what types of metabolism are involved; how the exposure dose affects these endpoints and how different species process the carcinogens.

Ken's goal is to understand how to use laboratory data developed in model systems to more accurately estimate human disease risk. He is also very interested in understanding how specific molecular modifications caused by exposure to carcinogens can lead to cancer.

Bret States

Biology Teacher
Tracy High School

Bret States has been teaching middle school and high school science for 10 years. He has been a staff developer for K-12 Alliance as well as the science coordinator for a science and technology magnet school. He has a BS in Secondary Education from the University of Nebraska. Bret enjoys hunting, fishing, running, and is currently an assistant track coach at Tracy High School.