Measurement of the enriched stable isotope 58 Fe in iron related disorders- comparison of INAA and MC-ICP-MS

Tayser Yagob, Albert van de Wiel, Peter Bode, Ayse Demir, Bas van der Wagt, Petra Krystek, Bert Wolterbeek

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As a safer alternative for the use of radioactive tracers, the enriched stable 58Fe isotope has been introduced in studies of iron metabolism. In this study this isotope is measured with instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) in blood samples of patients with iron related disorders and controls after oral ingestion of a 58Fe containing pharmaceutical. Results were compared with those derived from MC-ICP-MS, applied on the same samples, and analytical and practical aspects of the two techniques were compared. Both techniques showed an increased absorption and incorporation in red blood cells of the 58Fe isotope in iron deficient patients in contrast to the controls. In all individuals results of INAA measurements were in good agreement with those of MC-ICP-MS (|zeta| < 2). Uncertainties in INAA are substantially higher than those achievable by MC-ICP-MS but the INAA technique offers a high specificity and selectivity for iron close to 100%. In contrast to INAA, sample preparation before measurement is very critical in MC-ICP-MS and interferences with 58Ni and 54Cr may hamper the measurement of 58Fe and 54Fe respectively. Since it takes at least five days after irradiation to reduce the activity of interfering radionuclides (mainly 24Na), INAA is a more time consuming procedure; the need of a nuclear reactor facility makes it also less accessible than MC-ICP-MS. Costs are comparable. Both INAA and MC-ICP-MS are able to adequately measure changes in iron isotope composition in blood when an enriched stable iron isotope is applied in clinical research. Although MC-ICP-MS is more sensitive, is faster and has easier access, in INAA preparative steps before measurement are simpler and there are hardly demands on the kind and size of the samples. This may be relevant working with biomaterials in a clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-83
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of trace elements in medicine and biology : organ of the Society for Minerals and Trace Elements (GMS)
Early online date10 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • INAA
  • Iron related disorders
  • Iron stable isotopes


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