What Nuclear Bombs Tell Us About Our Tendons

700_79202d994877843c8c140985a836e563You really don’t want to mess with your Achilles tendons. Trust us, injury to these tendons can take months to heal, and even then recovery is often not complete.

A big reason the Achilles is such a foot-dragger at getting better is that the tendon tissue we have as adults is basically the same as we had when we were teenagers.

That finding was published earlier this week in The FASEB Journal. But how the researchers figured that out is every bit as interesting as the result. The scientists used fallout from nuclear bomb tests as biological tracers.

Recall that during the Cold War, above-ground nuclear bomb tests carried out by the United States and the old Soviet Union resulted in a dramatic increase in atmospheric levels of radioactive carbon-14.

According to study co-author Jan Heinemeier, director of the AMS 14C Dating Centre at Denmark’s Aarhus University, this “bomb pulse” led to a doubling of carbon-14 in the atmosphere from 1955 to 1963.

Heinemeier says other scientists have taken advantage of the pulse to carbon date all sorts of things. “The method is by no means entirely new,” he says, but it hasn’t been used much for studying human tissue renewal.

Plants take up carbon-14 from the air, animals eat those plants, and we, in turn, eat those plants and animals. In this way, carbon-14 can end up in all of the tissues of our bodies.

( via npr.org )