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A novel method for rapid in vitro radiobioassay




Crawford, Evan Bogert, author
Zimbrick, John, advisor
Hulpke, Alexander, committee member
LaRosa, Jerome, committee member
Ramsdell, Howard, committee member
Steinhauser, Georg, committee member

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Rapid and accurate analysis of internal human exposure to radionuclides is essential to the effective triage and treatment of citizens who have possibly been exposed to radioactive materials in the environment. The two most likely scenarios in which a large number of citizens would be exposed are the detonation of a radiation dispersal device (RDD, "dirty bomb") or the accidental release of an isotope from an industrial source such as a radioisotopic thermal generator (RTG). In the event of the release and dispersion of radioactive materials into the environment in a large city, the entire population of the city - including all commuting workers and tourists - would have to be rapidly tested, both to satisfy the psychological needs of the citizens who were exposed to the mental trauma of a possible radiation dose, and to satisfy the immediate medical needs of those who received the highest doses and greatest levels of internal contamination - those who would best benefit from rapid, intensive medical care. In this research a prototype rapid screening method to screen urine samples for the presence of up to five isotopes, both individually and in a mixture, has been developed. The isotopes used to develop this method are Co-60, Sr-90, Cs-137, Pu-238, and Am-241. This method avoids time-intensive chemical separations via the preparation and counting of a single sample on multiple detectors, and analyzing the spectra for isotope-specific markers. A rapid liquid-liquid separation using an organic extractive scintillator can be used to help quantify the activity of the alpha-emitting isotopes. The method provides quantifiable results in less than five minutes for the activity of beta/gamma-emitting isotopes when present in the sample at the intervention level as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and quantifiable results for the activity levels of alpha-emitting isotopes present at their respective intervention levels in approximately 30 minutes of sample preparation and counting time. Radiation detector spectra - e.g. those from high-purity germanium (HPGe) gamma detectors and liquid scintillation detectors - which contain decay signals from multiple isotopes often have overlapping signals: the counts from one isotope's decay can appear in energy channels associated with another isotope's decay, complicating the calculation of each isotope's activity. The uncertainties associated with analyzing these spectra have been traced in order to determine the effects of one isotope's count rate on the sensitivity and uncertainty associated with each other isotope. The method that was developed takes advantage of activated carbon filtration to eliminate quenching effects and to make the liquid scintillation spectra from different urine samples comparable. The method uses pulse-shape analysis to reduce the interference from beta emitters in the liquid scintillation spectrum and improve the minimum detectable activity (MDA) and minimum quantifiable activity (MQA) for alpha emitters. The method uses an HPGe detector to quantify the activity of gamma emitters, and subtract their isotopes' contributions to the liquid scintillation spectra via a calibration factor, such that the pure beta and pure alpha emitters can be identified and quantified from the resulting liquid scintillation spectra. Finally, the method optionally uses extractive scintillators to rapidly separate the alpha emitters from the beta emitters when the activity from the beta emitters is too great to detect or quantify the activity from the alpha emitters without such a separation. The method is able to detect and quantify all five isotopes, with uncertainties and biases usually in the 10-40% range, depending upon the isotopic mixtures and the activity ratios between each of the isotopes.


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