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Int J Radiat Biol. 2011 Aug;87(8):802-23. doi: 10.3109/09553002.2011.556177. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

Radiation metabolomics and its potential in biodosimetry.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA.



Radiation exposure triggers a complex network of molecular and cellular responses that impacts metabolic processes and alters the levels of metabolites. Such metabolites have potential as biomarkers for radiation dosimetry. This review provides an overview of radiation signalling and metabolism, of metabolomic approaches used in the discovery phase, and of instrumentation with the potential to assess radiation injury in the field.


Recent developments in fast, high-resolution chromatography and mass spectrometry and new data analysis methods allow the quantitative assessment of thousands of metabolites based on biofluids obtained non-invasively. This complex analysis leads to the discovery-phase identification of groups of metabolites useful for screening and biodosimetry by targeted quantitative measurement. Instrumentation for target analysis can be simpler than that used for discovery, so we examine current technologies based on ion mobility.


Recent published results and ongoing studies examine the complex changes in the levels of many metabolites caused by radiation exposure, and identify groups of small-molecule biomarkers for radiation biodosimetry. Based on results showing separation orthogonal to mass, chemical noise suppression, and high sensitivity, differential mobility mass spectrometry (DMS-MS) ion mobility spectrometry appears highly promising for the development of deployable instrumentation.

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