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Plutonium uptake in cells


Iron tablets in emergancy kits? Probably not.

Researchers discover how human cells take in nuke-crisis contaminated plutonium
A United States research has discovered how the toxic radioactive element plutonium -- detected in and around the grounds of the crisis-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant -- is taken up by human cells.

The research team led by Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) in Illinois has been working on ways to stop the uptake of the synthetic element -- a byproduct of nuclear fission and also the fissile material in many nuclear warheads. However, the team has at the same time emphasized the extreme difficulty of expelling plutonium once taken up, and the necessity of preventing nuclear accidents that could introduce the element into the environment.

The researchers used special x-rays among other techniques to analyze plutonium uptake in the body. They found that the element -- which has a half-life of some 24,000 years -- was being brought into cells by binding to a protein responsible for iron uptake. There are two binding sites for iron uptake and at least one of them must still bind to iron for the other to bring in plutonium. The process also has a preference for iron ions even in the presence of plutonium -- a preference that could lead to new plutonium poisoning treatments.

The team also said, however, that complete prevention of plutonium uptake was not realistic.


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