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Ciba Found Symp. 1997;203:188-99; discussion 199-204, 232-4.

Health impacts of large releases of radionuclides. Cytogenetic effects as quantitative indicators of radiation exposure.

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  • 1Institut für Strahlenbiologie, GSF-Forschungszentrum für Umwelt und Gesundheit, Oberschleissheim, Germany.


Scoring of dicentrics in metaphase preparations of human T lymphocytes is the method of choice for estimating individual whole-body doses of radiation exposure. A quantification of partial-body exposures or non-uniform distribution of the dose is more complicated but it can be achieved by using specific mathematical approaches. For retrospective biodosimetry, conventional scoring of dicentrics is less precise because these unstable aberrations are eliminated with time post-exposure. Symmetrical translocations are not selected against during mitotic division in the haematopoietic cell reproductive centres, so the frequencies of these stable aberrations are generally assumed to remain constant even for decades. They can now be analysed precisely by fluorescence in situ hybridization using whole chromosome-specific DNA probes (chromosome painting) with an alpha-satellite DNA probe for centromere detection. Based on in vitro calibration curves established with single or multicolour paints covering 4-22% of the total human genomic DNA content, scoring of translocations has been applied for dose reconstruction in smaller groups of atomic bomb survivors and victims of the Chernobyl and Goiania radiation accidents. However, prior to routine use, the method requires further validation. Such work includes the precise evaluation of the unexpectedly high frequency of complex exchanges (> or = 3 breaks in > or = 2 chromosomes) found both at > 2 Gy doses of low linear energy transfer (LET) radiation and generally for high LET alpha-particles. Data on the long-term stability of translocations and the appearance of clonal abberrations, as well as improved measurements of the linear coefficient of standard calibration curves, are also required.

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