The cytotoxic effect of acute X irradiation was studied by a colony formation assay in 114 human skin fibroblast cell strains from 31 apparently normal individuals and 83 patients with a variety of genetic disorders possibly associated with in vitro hypersensitivity to ionizing radiation. The effect of protracted exposure to β radiation from tritiated water (HTO) was examined in parallel experiments in 65 of these strains. The disorders included neurological diseases and syndromes characterized by an increased susceptibility to spontaneous and radiation-induced cancer. Homozygous ataxia telangiectasia and Nijmegen break syndrome cells were highly sensitive to both types of radiation. However, the response of cells from the other genetic disorders fell within the broad range characteristic of normal cell strains. While HTO may be useful as a quantitative method for determining the cytotoxic response of human diploid cells to ionizing radiation, the present results indicate that it does not offer a more sensitive assay than acute X irradiation for detecting minor degrees of hypersensitivity.

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