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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2006 Sep;101(3):789-93. Epub 2006 Jun 1.

A murine model for bone loss from therapeutic and space-relevant sources of radiation.

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  • 1Dept. of Bioengineering, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634, USA.


Cancer patients receiving radiation therapy are exposed to photon (gamma/X-ray), electron, and less commonly proton radiation. Similarly, astronauts on exploratory missions will be exposed to extended periods of lower-dose radiation from multiple sources and of multiple types, including heavy ions. Therapeutic doses of radiation have been shown to have deleterious consequences on bone health, occasionally causing osteoradionecrosis and spontaneous fractures. However, no animal model exists to study the cause of radiation-induced osteoporosis. Additionally, the effect of lower doses of ionizing radiation, including heavy ions, on general bone quality has not been investigated. This study presents data developing a murine model for radiation-induced bone loss. Female C57BL/6 mice were exposed to gamma, proton, carbon, or iron radiation at 2-Gray doses, representing both a clinical treatment fraction and spaceflight exposure for an exploratory mission. Mice were euthanized 110 days after irradiation. The proximal tibiae and femur diaphyses were analyzed using microcomputed tomography. Results demonstrate profound changes in trabecular architecture. Significant losses in trabecular bone volume fraction were observed for all radiation species: gamma, (-29%), proton (-35%), carbon (-39%), and iron (-34%). Trabecular connectivity density, thickness, spacing, and number were also affected. These data have clear implications for clinical radiotherapy in that bone loss in an animal model has been demonstrated at low doses. Additionally, these data suggest that space radiation has the potential to exacerbate the bone loss caused by microgravity, although lower doses and dose rates need to be studied.

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