Molecular Might

Small Molecules in Blood May Gauge Radiation Effects After Exposure

Arnab Chakravarti 2OSUCCC – James researchers have identified molecules in the bloodstream that might accurately gauge the likelihood of radiation illness after exposure to ionizing radiation.

The animal study shows that X-rays or gamma rays alter the levels of certain molecules called microRNA in the blood in a predictable way. If verified in humans, the findings could lead to new methods for rapidly identifying people at risk for acute radiation syndrome after occupational exposures or accidents such as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor incident.

The microRNA markers might also help doctors plan radiation therapy for individual patients by taking into account how different people respond to radiation treatment, the researchers say.

“Our study reports the identification of a panel of microRNA markers in mice whose serum levels provide an estimate of radiation response and of the dose received after an exposure has occurred,” says senior author Arnab Chakravarti, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Ohio State, where he also is co-director of the Brain Tumor Program.

“Accurate dose evaluation is critical for making medical decisions and the timely administration of therapy to prevent or reduce acute and late effects,” Chakravarti says.

The findings might also one day allow doctors to evaluate radiation toxicity during the course of therapy based on an individual’s biology. “This would particularly benefit leukemia and lymphoma patients who receive total body irradiation in preparation for stem-cell transplantation,” Chakravarti says.

First author Naduparambil Jacob, PhD, a research assistant professor of Radiation Oncology, says the study could be an important step in the development of biological dosimetry, or biodosimetry, a technology for identifying people at risk for acute radiation illnesses that develop within weeks of radiation exposure, and for cancers and degenerative diseases that can occur months or years later.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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