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Radioisotopes

  • Date Submitted: 11/14/2013 06:19 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 32.3 
  • Words: 570
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A radioactive isotope or radioisotope is isotope in which the nucleus decays spontaneously, giving off particles and energy. Radiation from decaying isotopes can damage cellular molecules and thus can pose serious risks to living organisms. But radioactive isotopes can be helpful, as in their use in dating fossils, or in use of biological research and medicine. Some examples for radioactive isotopes are carbon-14, iodine-131, and cobalt-60.
Biologists often use radioactive tracers like carbon-14 to follow molecules as they undergo chemical changes in an organism. Scientific researchers have used carbon dioxide in which including the radioisotope 14C to study photosynthesis. Using sunlight to power the conversion, plants take in CO2 from the air and use it to make sugar molecules. Radioactively labeled CO2 had enables researchers to trace the sequence of molecules made by plants in the chemicals route from CO2 to sugar.
Trace elements like radioactive iodine-131 are often used for treatment. Iodine is an essential ingredient of a hormone produced by the thyroid gland, which is located in the neck. The body uses iodine to make a thyroid hormone. An iodine deficiency in the diet causes the thyroid gland to grow to abnormal size, a condition called goiter. Iodine deficiency is also linked to mental retardation. You only need to ingest a tiny amount of iodine each day, about 0.15 milligram. But this tiny amount of iodine every day has reduced the incidence of iodine deficiency in many countries by adding iodine to table salt. Because iodine accumulates in the thyroid, it can be used to kill cancer cells there. Unfortunately, iodized salt is not available everywhere, and an estimated two billion people worldwide have insufficient iodine intake. Although most common in developing nations, iodine deficiencies may also result from excessive consumption of highly processed foods and low-slat diets intended to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
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