Brown, W. R., Thore, C. R., Moody, D. M., Robbins, M. E. and Wheeler, K. T. Vascular Damage after Fractionated Whole-Brain Irradiation in Rats. Radiat. Res. 164, 662–668 (2005).
Whole-brain irradiation of animals and humans has been reported to lead to late delayed structural (vascular damage, demyelination, white matter necrosis) and functional (cognitive impairment) alterations. However, most of the experimental data on late delayed radiation-induced brain injury have been generated with large single doses or short fractionation schemes that may provide a less accurate indication of the events that occur after clinical whole-brain radiotherapy. The pilot study reported here investigates cerebral vascular pathology in male Fischer 344 rats after whole-brain irradiation with a fractionated total dose of 137Cs γ rays that is expected to be biologically similar to that given to brain tumor patients. The brains of young adult rats (4 months old) were irradiated with a total dose of 40 Gy, given as eight 5-Gy fractions twice per week for 4 weeks. Brain capillary and arteriole pathology was studied using an alkaline phosphatase enzyme histochemistry method; vessel density and length were quantified using a stereology method with computerized image processing and analysis. Vessel density and length were unchanged 24 h after the last dose, but at 10 weeks postirradiation, both were substantially decreased. After 20 weeks, the rate of decline in the vessel density and length in irradiated rats was similar to that in unirradiated age-matched controls. No gross gliosis or demyelination was observed 12 months postirradiation using conventional histopathology techniques. We suggest that the early (10-week) and persistent vascular damage that occurs after a prolonged whole-brain irradiation fractionation scheme may play an important role in the development of late delayed radiation-induced brain injury.