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Int J Radiat Biol. 2011 Apr;87(4):360-71. doi: 10.3109/09553002.2010.537432. Epub 2010 Dec 15.

The production and composition of rat sebum is unaffected by 3 Gy gamma radiation.

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  • 1Institute of Clinical Pharmacology and Visceral Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.



The aim of this work was to use metabolomics to evaluate sebum as a source of biomarkers for gamma-radiation exposure in the rat, and potentially in man. Proof of concept of radiation metabolomics was previously demonstrated in both mouse and rat urine, from the radiation dose- and time-dependent excretion of a set of urinary biomarkers.


Rats were gamma-irradiated (3 Gy) or sham irradiated and groups of rats were euthanised at 1 h or 24 h post-irradiation. Sebum was collected by multiple washings of the carcasses with acetone. Nonpolar lipids were extracted, methylated, separated and quantitated using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS). Metabolomic analysis of the GCMS data was performed using both orthogonal projection to latent structures-discriminant analysis and random forests machine learning algorithm.


Irradiation did not alter sebum production. A total of 35 lipids were identified in rat sebum, 29 fatty acids, five fatty aldehydes, and cholesterol. Metabolomics showed that three fatty acids, palmitic, 2-hydroxypalmitic, and stearic acids were potential biomarkers. Sebaceous palmitic acid was marginally statistically significantly elevated (7.5-8.4%) at 24 h post-irradiation.


Rat sebaceous gland appears refractory to 3 Gy gamma-irradiation. Unfortunately, collection of sebum shortly after gamma-irradiation is unlikely to form the basis of high-throughput non-invasive radiation biodosimetry in man.

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