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J Radiat Res. 2011;52(6):685-93.

Analyses of the secondary particle radiation and the DNA damage it causes to human keratinocytes.

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  • 1Biology Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY 11973, USA.


High-energy protons, and high mass and energy ions, along with the secondary particles they produce, are the main contributors to the radiation hazard during space explorations. Skin, particularly the epidermis, consisting mainly of keratinocytes with potential for proliferation and malignant transformation, absorbs the majority of the radiation dose. Therefore, we used normal human keratinocytes to investigate and quantify the DNA damage caused by secondary radiation. Its manifestation depends on the presence of retinol in the serum-free media, and is regulated by phosphatidylinositol 3-kinases. We simulated the generation of secondary radiation after the impact of protons and iron ions on an aluminum shield. We also measured the intensity and the type of the resulting secondary particles at two sample locations; our findings agreed well with our predictions. We showed that secondary particles inflict DNA damage to different extents, depending on the type of primary radiation. Low-energy protons produce fewer secondary particles and cause less DNA damage than do high-energy protons. However, both generate fewer secondary particles and inflict less DNA damage than do high mass and energy ions. The majority of cells repaired the initial damage, as denoted by the presence of 53BPI foci, within the first 24 hours after exposure, but some cells maintained the 53BP1 foci longer.

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