WoodDr. Christopher M. Wood, Professor, Department of Biology, Canada Research Chair in Environment and Health (Environmental Biology).

Our research examines the transport of ions and metals such as copper (Cu) and sodium (Na) across the ionoregulatory and nutrient uptake surfaces of aquatic animals – for example the freshwater rainbow trout, the estuarine killifish, and the marine blue crab. Our work focuses on both organismal physiology and environmental toxicology. As well as being a toxic metal when present at high concentrations, Cu is also an essential nutrient. As a consequence, animal tissues generally contain reasonably elevated levels of background Cu prior to an exposure regimen. Use of 64Cu as a radiotracer enables us to track the movement of “new” (i.e. freshly absorbed) Cu in the internal tissues and differentiate it from Cu that was previously present (background) in the tissues. The short half-life of 64Cu is an added advantage, as it facilitates dual isotope exposures simultaneously when used with a long half-life radiotracer such as 22Na, 45Ca, or 36Cl. Similarly, in many experiments we can substitute short-lived 24Na for long-lived 22Na (which must be bought commercially at high cost) in experiments which examine the regulation of this physiologically important cation. Dual exposures are cost and time-effective as they reduce the number of animals exposed and experiments conducted. The capacity to produce 64Cu and 24Na at reasonable cost in the McMaster Nuclear Reactor is an invaluable asset to our research program.

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