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Durham University

Durham Geochemistry Centre

Biomedical research and biological tracing

Current research interests include:

Biomedical research.

The principle focus of our biomedical research is using plasma spectroscopy to study the effects of Pt-bearing anti-cancer drugs. Currently we are working on cell-lines and clinical patients treated with a variety of drugs including Cis-platin, oxaliplatin, HCT116 and BBR3464. The DNA bound Pt is typically extracted via Qiagen DNA extraction kits or in specific studies investigating DNA-bound Pt adduncts are extracted from cultured and clinical samples using HPLC based separation techniques. Depending on the level of analyte, Pt is measured by either quadrupole ICP-MS, Magnetic Sector ICP-MS or MC-ICP-MS. Instrumental detection limits for MC-ICP-MS are in the femto gramme per mL range (1 fg = 1 x 10-15 g), i.e., 1 x 10-18 moles per mL. This work is has been undertaken in collaboration with Cancer Research Group at the Northern Institute of Cancer Research (NICR), and the CRC Cancer Research Unit, Newcastle University Medical School. School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, University of Western Sydney and Cancer Biomarkers & Prevention Group, University of Leicester, Leicester Royal Infirm.

In addition, we are a participant in the Biomedical Engineering artificial joint design programme run by Durham's School of Engineering, by analysing material wear products.

Biological tracing.

A variety of biological tracing projects are being undertaken using radiogenic isotopes as tracers of migration habits. This work relies on the uptake of Sr and Pb into organisms. The isotopic composition of these elements reflects that of their habitat/ nutrient source. If physiological elements are selected such as otoliths (fish earbones) and teeth, that grow in increments over time, then a time-resolved record of the migratory habits of the animal can be constrained. This approach can be extended to other organisms such as corals, to monitor temporal changes in water chemistry at particular sites.

Work with the Geological Survey of Canada has been undertaken, investigating the migratory habits of Arctic walrus populations using the Pb isotopic composition of their teeth, determined by laser-ablation MC-ICP-MS. This is the only possible means of constraining migratory habits over timescales of 10's of years. While with Biological Sciences at Durham we are using Sr isotopes in otoliths to trace the breeding and migratory behaviour of fresh water and ocean-dwelling fish. This data is also obtained using laser ablation MC-ICP-MS.

We are interested in pursuing other collaborative studies using these techniques.