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This means that the amino acid can have two different configurations, "D" or "L" which are mirror images of each other.
With a few important exceptions, living organisms keep all their amino acids in the "L" configuration.
Human cultural changes and their effects on local ecologies have been assessed using this technique.
It is useful to geologists and archaeologists who want to know when such an event occurred.
Verification of radiocarbon and other dating techniques by amino acid racemization and vice versa has occurred.
The 'filling in' of large probability ranges, such as with radiocarbon reservoir effects, has sometimes been possible.
Sample preparation entails the identification, raw extraction, and separation of proteins into their constituent amino acids, typically by grinding followed by acid hydrolysis.
The amino acid derivative hydrolysis product can be combined with a chiral specific fluorescent, separated by chromatography or electrophoresis, and the particular amino acid D: L ratio determined by fluorescence.