Isotope Biochemistry Laboratory

The Stable Isotope Biochemistry Laboratory (SIBL) exploits non-hazardous, stable isotope-based measurements of mainly small molecules labelled with 2H, 13C, 15N and 18O, in order to interpret biochemical and physiological processes in environmental and biomedical applications. The principal measurement instrument, continuous-flow isotope ratio mass spectrometry was developed within SIBL, which is now very well equipped in this area.  SIBL staff continue to develop novel analytical techniques, particularly in compound-specific isotope analysis. SIBL is pursuing a wide-ranging research programme to determine the processes that advance our understanding of living systems.  Key activities within SIBL are to provide accurate and timely data to collaborators from within the SUERC consortium universities and beyond and to train graduate students and visiting researchers.

Current biomedical research activity has a focus on environmental, as opposed to genetic, causes of chronic disease.  This encompasses diet and lifestyle factors and includes: carbohydrate, lipid and protein metabolism; nutritional assessment (body composition) and energy expenditure; biological and chemical synthesis of novel tracers; developing non-invasive 13C breath tests of body functions; functional activity of the gut microbiome; endogenous production of substances detrimental to health; functional metabolomics. Related research activities include: instrumental development (compound-specific isotope analysis); carbon and nitrogen biogeochemistry; provenance studies (food authentication, drugs of abuse and forensics).  We exploit enriched stable isotope tracers in most areas of this research. In order to differentiate these techniques from uses of potentially hazardous radio-isotopes and also from exploiting natural variations in stable isotope abundance, the community is increasing using the term metaprobe (metabolic probe).  An increasing number of highly-enriched simple metaprobes can be purchased commercially. When simple metaprobes are not available commercially, it may be feasible to use chemical means for their synthesis. Complex metaprobes, which are plant or animal-derived products, are produced by bio-synthesis.


Dr Douglas Morrison