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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e22988. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022988. Epub 2011 Aug 17.

Plasma miRNA as biomarkers for assessment of total-body radiation exposure dosimetry.

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Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America.


The risk of radiation exposure, due to accidental or malicious release of ionizing radiation, is a major public health concern. Biomarkers that can rapidly identify severely-irradiated individuals requiring prompt medical treatment in mass-casualty incidents are urgently needed. Stable blood or plasma-based biomarkers are attractive because of the ease for sample collection. We tested the hypothesis that plasma miRNA expression profiles can accurately reflect prior radiation exposure. We demonstrated using a murine model that plasma miRNA expression signatures could distinguish mice that received total body irradiation doses of 0.5 Gy, 2 Gy, and 10 Gy (at 6 h or 24 h post radiation) with accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity of above 90%. Taken together, these data demonstrate that plasma miRNA profiles can be highly predictive of different levels of radiation exposure. Thus, plasma-based biomarkers can be used to assess radiation exposure after mass-casualty incidents, and it may provide a valuable tool in developing and implementing effective countermeasures.

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