In the coming decades human space exploration is expected to move beyond low-Earth orbit. This transition involves increasing mission time and therefore an increased risk of radiation exposure from solar particle event (SPE) radiation. Acute radiation effects after exposure to SPE radiation are of prime importance due to potential mission-threatening consequences. The major objective of this study was to characterize the dose–response relationship for proton and γ radiation delivered at doses up to 2 Gy at high (0.5 Gy/min) and low (0.5 Gy/h) dose rates using white blood cell (WBC) counts as a biological end point. The results demonstrate a dose-dependent decrease in WBC counts in mice exposed to high- and low-dose-rate proton and γ radiation, suggesting that astronauts exposed to SPE-like radiation may experience a significant decrease in circulating leukocytes.

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