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Mar 31, 2017 01:17 PM EDT

The University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Medicine and the University of Notre Dame's research teams were able to create a new method that allows scientists to radiolabel three forms of chemicals. The method also allows them to track these substances as they enter the body.

The hazardous chemicals are perfluorinated and polyfluorinated alkyl substances also known as PFASs. Last month, these were found to be used extensively in fast food wrappers at popular chain restaurants, Phys.org reported.

The new method replaced one of the fluorine atoms on the PFAS molecule with a radioactive form of fluorine. This is the same radioisotope fluorine-18 which is used for medical positron emission tomography scans in hospitals all over the world.

The study was published in the "Journal of Environmental Science and Technology." Suzanne Lapi, Ph.D., is the senior author of the paper. She is also an associate professor in UAB's Department of Radiology and Chemistry, and director of UAB's Cyclotron Facility.

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She said that this is the first time that a PFAS tracer or chemical has been tagged to see where it goes in the bodies of mice. Each of the tracers was able to exhibit some degree of uptake in all of the organs and tissues of interest that were tested, even the brain - with the liver, stomach, femur and lungs having the highest uptake were observed.

Science Daily noted that PFASs are typically used in stain-resistant products, firefighting materials as well as nonstick cookware and are not meant for ingestion. These hazardous chemicals can migrate and contaminate the food. Moreover, it can accumulate in the body when consumed.

Now, it has been found that any PFASs that can be synthesized and isolated can also be radiolabeled and used to directly measure and biodistribution kinetics in biological systems. This brings to light the possibility of directly measuring uptake in human subject volunteers.

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