Wu, H., Hada, M., Meador, J., Hu, X., Rusek, A. and Cucinotta, F. A. Induction of Micronuclei in Human Fibroblasts across the Bragg Curve of Energetic Heavy Ions. Radiat. Res. 166, 583–589 (2006).
The space environment consists of a varying field of radiation particles including high-energy ions, with spacecraft shielding material providing the major protection to astronauts from harmful exposure. Unlike low-LΕΤ γ or X rays, the presence of shielding does not always reduce the radiation risks for energetic charged-particle exposure. The dose delivered by the charged particle increases sharply as the particle approaches the end of its range, a position known as the Bragg peak. However, the Bragg curve does not necessarily represent the biological damage along the particle path since biological effects are influenced by the track structures of both primary and secondary particles. Therefore, the “biological Bragg curve” is dependent on the energy and the type of the primary particle and may vary for different biological end points. Here we report measurements of the biological response across the Bragg curve in human fibroblasts exposed to energetic silicon and iron ions in vitro at two different energies, 300 MeV/nucleon and 1 GeV/nucleon. A quantitative biological response curve generated for micronuclei per binucleated cell across the Bragg curve did not reveal an increased yield of micronuclei at the location of the Bragg peak. However, the ratio of mono- to binucleated cells, which indicates inhibition of cell progression, increased at the Bragg peak location. These results confirm the hypothesis that severely damaged cells at the Bragg peak are more likely to go through reproductive death and not be evaluated for micronuclei.