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Radiat Res. 2013 Oct;180(4):398-406. doi: 10.1667/RR3363.1. Epub 2013 Sep 23.

Thermal injury lowers the threshold for radiation-induced neuroinflammation and cognitive dysfunction.

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  • 1a Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York 14642.


The consequences of radiation exposure alone are relatively well understood, but in the wake of events such as the World War II nuclear detonations and accidents such as Chernobyl, other critical factors have emerged that can substantially affect patient outcome. For example, ~70% of radiation victims from Hiroshima and Nagasaki received some sort of additional traumatic injury, the most common being thermal burn. Animal data has shown that the addition of thermal insult to radiation results in increased morbidity and mortality. To explore possible synergism between thermal injury and radiation on brain, C57BL/6J female mice were exposed to either 0 or 5 Gy whole-body gamma irradiation. Irradiation was immediately followed by a 10% total-body surface area full thickness thermal burn. Mice were sacrificed 6 h, 1 week or 6 month post-injury and brains and plasma were harvested for histology, mRNA analysis and cytokine ELISA. Plasma analysis revealed that combined injury synergistically upregulates IL-6 at acute time points. Additionally, at 6 h, combined injury resulted in a greater upregulation of the vascular marker, ICAM-1 and TNF-α mRNA. Enhanced activation of glial cells was also observed by CD68 and Iba1 immunohistochemistry at all time points. Additionally, doublecortin staining at 6 months showed reduced neurogenesis in all injury conditions. Finally, using a novel object recognition test, we observed that only mice with combined injury had significant learning and memory deficits. These results demonstrate that thermal injury lowers the threshold for radiation-induced neuroinflammation and long-term cognitive dysfunction.

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