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Letter from Joshua Lederberg to Bert M. Tolbert, United States Atomic Energy Commission

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  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine
  • Pharmacology


June 20, 1968 Dr. Bert M. Tolbert Biophysicist, Biology Branch Division of Bfology and Medicine U. S. Atomic Energy Commission Washington, D. C. 2OS45 Daar Dr. Tolbert: I nota your letter of June 5 concerning the possible availebility of C-13 with the deepest interest and enthusiasm. I fsresee a very large market for this isotope, probably exceeding that for deuterlum, at least in it8 tracer uses. X do not know how to translate this into numerical terms on the scale of the world market. Nevertheless, the utility should be very large indeed. The area of most Immediate interest to I--- u8 In this department would be in density labeling of macromolecules for research on nucleic acids. I have no doubt at all, however, that this will cb come to have Lraportant diagnostic and pharmaceutical implications within the next ten year8. Among the critical issues are, for example, the verification of vaccine viruees a8 chemically pure samples of the biologic81 entity they are supposed to represent. We are already deeply involved in the kind of instrumentation, especially mass spectrometry, which would be needed to explo%t the availability of the C-13 isotope. I enclose a reprint that illustrates the use of a mass-label a8 a tracer for a specific functional group. Accses to quantitative analysis for C-13 may be the key to very large scale use of the isotope for tracer purposes in medicinrt. Your effort8 towards the ready availability of the isotope should be acc&rqanied by development work on method8 of assay that would be accearrible on a large scale. Very close attention should also be paid to the possibility that C-13 substi- tutlon may have unexpectedly large chemical. effect8 on rigld or tightly caged cyclic molecules. This may also heve its biological implications if the’ bfological activity of steroid8 and similar hormone8, exqufsitely eensftive to the ehape of the molecule, would be influenced by the substitution. Par from being a source of alarm a

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