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J Radiat Res. 2010;51(2):145-56. Epub 2009 Dec 4.

Pretreatment with ascorbic acid prevents lethal gastrointestinal syndrome in mice receiving a massive amount of radiation.

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  • 1Department of Immunology and Microbiology, National Defense Medical College, Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan.


While bone marrow or stem cell transplantation can rescue bone marrow aplasia in patients accidentally exposed to a lethal radiation dose, radiation-induced irreversible gastrointestinal damage (GI syndrome) is fatal. We investigated the effects of ascorbic acid on radiation-induced GI syndrome in mice. Ascorbic acid (150 mg/kg/day) was orally administered to mice for 3 days, and then the mice underwent whole body irradiation (WBI). Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) 24 h after irradiation rescued mice receiving a WBI dose of less than 12 Gy. No mice receiving 14 Gy-WBI survived, because of radiation-induced GI syndrome, even if they received BMT. However, pretreatment with ascorbic acid significantly suppressed radiation-induced DNA damage in the crypt cells and prevented denudation of intestinal mucosa; therefore, ascorbic acid in combination with BMT rescued mice after 14 Gy-WBI. DNA microarray analysis demonstrated that irradiation up-regulated expressions of apoptosis-related genes in the small intestine, including those related to the caspase-9-mediated intrinsic pathway as well as the caspase-8-mediated extrinsic pathway, and down-regulated expressions of these genes in ascorbic acid-pretreated mice. Thus, pretreatment with ascorbic acid may effectively prevent radiation-induced GI syndrome.

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