MRC Elsie Widdowson Laboratory

International Atomic Energy Authority collaboration

Members of the Physiological Modelling Group have enjoyed a long association with the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) in Vienna.

One of the earliest associations was a meeting held in Cambridge which resulted in the publication of the definitive handbook for workers using doubly labelled water (DLW) for the measurement of total energy expenditure in humans. Since then, Dr Andy Coward and, later, Dr Les Bluck have continued to work with the Nutrition and Health-Related Environmental Studies (NAHRES) section of the Division of Human Health at the IAEA to provide capacity building and training initiatives for workers in third world countries.

These have taken the form of closed meetings (usually held in Vienna), periods of training for students at HNR, and more recently the production of field handbooks and distance learning modules to be supplied by the IAEA free of charge to interested workers.

To date the methodologies for body composition and breast milk intake have received the greatest amount of attention. Both of these use deuterium oxide as a tracer, and a major contribution to improving the availability of these methods has been the demonstration that Fourier Transform Infra-Red (FTIR) instrumentation can be used as an alternative to isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) for the measurement of this isotope in body water.

During 2005 and 2006 three week-long training workshops were held at HNR with IAEA funding. Delegates attending represented groups in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, Panama, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.

The most recent initiative saw published in 2008 four important handbooks, two concerned with body composition, one with breast milk intake measurement and one with total energy expenditure, all with substantial contributions from HNR scientists. Furthermore the a trial launch of the Internet-based distance learning in late 2008 utilised important contributions from members of the Physiological Modelling Group.