Quantifying Carbon-14 for Biology Using Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy

A cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) instrument was developed using mature, robust hardware for the measurement of carbon-14 in biological studies. The system was characterized using carbon-14 elevated glucose samples and returned a linear response up to 387 times contemporary carbon-14 concentrations. Carbon-14 free and contemporary carbon-14 samples with varying carbon-13 concentrations were used to assess the method detection limit of approximately one-third contemporary carbon-14 levels. Sources of inaccuracies are presented and discussed, and the capability to measure carbon-14 in biological samples is demonstrated by comparing pharmacokinetics from carbon-14 dosed guinea pigs analyzed by both CRDS and accelerator mass spectrometry. The CRDS approach presented affords easy access to powerful carbon-14 tracer techniques that can characterize complex biochemical systems.