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Radiat Res. 2005 Oct;164(4 Pt 2):556-60.

High-LET radiation induces inflammation and persistent changes in markers of hippocampal neurogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


Exposure to heavy-ion radiation is considered a potential health risk in long-term space travel. It may result in the loss of critical cellular components in complex systems like the central nervous system (CNS), which could lead to performance decrements that ultimately could compromise mission goals and long-term quality of life. Specific hippocampal-dependent cognitive impairment occurs after whole-body 56Fe-particle irradiation, and while the pathogenesis of this effect is not yet clear, it may involve damage to neural precursor cells in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. We irradiated mice with 1-3 Gy of 12C or 56Fe ions and 9 months later quantified proliferating cells and immature neurons in the dentate subgranular zone (SGZ). Our results showed that reductions in these cells were dependent on the dose and LET. When compared with data for mice that were studied 3 months after 56Fe-particle irradiation, our current data suggest that these changes are not only persistent but may worsen with time. Loss of precursor cells was also associated with altered neurogenesis and a robust inflammatory response. These results indicate that high-LET radiation has a significant and long-lasting effect on the neurogenic population in the hippocampus that involves cell loss and changes in the microenvironment.

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