Abstract

Brooks, A. L. Paradigm Shifts in Radiation Biology: Their Impact on Intervention for Radiation-Induced Disease. Radiat. Res. 164, 454–461 (2005).

New mechanistic cell and molecular studies on the effects of very low doses of radiation have resulted in three major paradigm shifts. First, the observation of bystander effects demonstrated that non-hit cells may respond as well as cells in which energy is deposited. Second, it was thought that gene mutations and chromosome aberrations were the most important early changes that represented the initiation phase of radiation-induced cancer. Now genomic instability that leads to the loss of genetic control appears to play a major role in the development of cancer. Finally, recent studies have demonstrated that radiation-induced changes in gene expression can be demonstrated at very low radiation doses. These changes can result in alterations in response pathways, many of which appear to be involved in protective or adaptive responses. The demonstration that unique genes are up- and down-regulated depending on the radiation type, dose and dose rate suggests that different molecular mechanisms are involved in responses to high and low radiation doses. The ability to alter radiation response by physical and chemical treatments suggests that it may be possible to intervene in the progression of radiation-induced diseases. Such intervention may decrease the cancer risk from radiation exposure. This new research also demonstrates that many nonlinear biological processes have an impact on the induction of cancer and the shape of dose–response functions. Thus, for low-LET radiation delivered at low dose rates, the linear, no-threshold hypothesis is not well supported, but it is adequately conservative in protecting against low-dose radiation risks.

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