MURR Becomes First Reactor Facility to Join DOE’s Isotope Program

DOE and MURR partner to ensure scientists have access to essential research isotopes.

The MURR® Reactor

The Science

A new partnership between the DOE Isotope Program and the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR®) will help ensure that essential radioisotopes are available for the research community. The first isotope available through the partnership is selenium-75. Selenium is a trace nutrient that plays a big role in the human immune system.

The Impact

Under this milestone partnership with the DOE Isotope Program, MURR® will become the first reactor to join the DOE’s University Production Network. The partnership ensures that selenium-75 and other isotopes will be available to researchers on a reliable schedule. It further ensures the isotopes will be in the right forms for sophisticated experiments.


The trace element selenium is part of the 21st naturally occurring amino acid in the genetic code and a micronutrient of interest in the life sciences. Selenium supports various important cellular functions including protection against oxidative damage, while selenium deficiency contributes to several pathophysiological conditions including heart disease, cancer, and inflammation. Selenium also plays a key role in immune function. It has been implicated in delaying the progression of AIDS in HIV-positive patients. 

Using radioactive selenium-75 provided through the partnership, researchers can “trace” the biological chemistry of the trace nutrient selenium in living systems at ultra-low concentrations. The radiotracer is such a powerful tool that it also allows scientists to probe what happens in a living system when the selenium concentration is lowered to produce a deficient selenium status. Much of what we know about the selenoproteome (the entire complement of selenoproteins that can be expressed by a cell, tissue, or organism) and its role in human nutrition and health comes from studies that have used the radiotracer selenium-75.

The partnership between the University of Missouri Research Reactor and the DOE Isotope Program ensures that critical isotopes will be available on a reliable schedule to support research such as that currently being conducted into the role of selenoproteins.


J. David Robertson
University of Missouri Research Reactor Center


The partnership between the university and the DOE Isotope Program ensures that critical isotopes will be available on a reliable schedule for vital research, such as the role of selenoproteins (see the groundbreaking 1976 study below that used the radiotracer).


J.E. Cone, R.M. Del Rio, J.N. Davis, and T.C. Stadtman, “Chemical characterization of the selenoprotein component of clostridial glycine reductase: Identification of selenocysteine as the organoselenium moiety.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 73(8), 2659 (1976).

Related Links

MURR® Reactor: University of Missouri Research Reactor Center

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