Elements play an imperative role in the physiological and metabolic processes of the human body. When elemental levels deviate from physiologically accepted levels due to for example poor nutrition, the body’s intricate elemental and metabolic balance is disturbed. Over time, disease may develop as a result of elemental dyshomeostasis or alternatively, disease may trigger elemental dyshomeostasis as an adaptive metabolic response to an unhealthy environment. There is now a growing interest in screening human tissue to identify and quantify elemental changes as biomarkers of disease or alternatively, as outcomes of disease. The unique properties of human hair brand it the ideal substrate for the quantitative identification of elements in the body. Hair bioaccumulates elements, provides a historical overview of elemental status depending on length, and is easy and economical to sample and store. The fundamental outcome and application of hair elemental screening, however, are strongly influenced by a range of factors, including choice of analytical method. This chapter will provide a background summary of ion beam and synchrotron radiation techniques and its diverse applications for unraveling the elemental signature of hair in various fields.
Part of the book: Accelerator Physics