With the current volatile geopolitical climate, the threat of nuclear assault is high. Exposure to ionizing radiation from either nuclear incidents or radiological accidents often lead to major harmful consequences to human health. Depending on the absorbed dose, the symptoms of the acute radiation syndrome and delayed effects of acute radiation exposure (DEARE) can appear within hours, weeks to months. The lung is a relatively radiosensitive organ with manifestation of radiation pneumonitis as an acute effect, followed by apparent fibrosis in weeks or even months. A recently developed, first-of-its-kind murine model for partial-body irradiation (PBI) injury, which can be used to test potential countermeasures against multi-organ damage such as gastrointestinal (GI) tract and lungs was used for irradiation, with 2.5% bone marrow spared (BM2.5–PBI) from radiation exposure. Long-term damage to lungs from radiation was evaluated using µ-CT scans, pulmonary function testing, histopathological parameters and molecular biomarkers. Pulmonary fibrosis was detected by ground glass opacity observed in µ-CT scans of male and female C57BL/6J mice 6–7 months after BM2.5–PBI. Lung mechanics assessments pertaining to peripheral airways suggested fibrotic lungs with stiffer parenchymal lung tissue and reduced inspiratory capacity in irradiated animals 6-7 months after BM2.5–PBI. Histopathological evaluation of the irradiated lungs revealed presence of focal and diffuse pleural, and parenchymal inflammatory and fibrotic lesions. Fibrosis was confirmed by elevated levels of collagen when compared to lungs of age-matched naïve mice. These findings were validated by findings of elevated levels of pro-fibrotic biomarkers and reduction in anti-inflammatory proteins. In conclusion, a long-term model for radiation-induced pulmonary fibrosis was established, and countermeasures could be screened in this model for survival and protection/mitigation or recovery from radiation-induced pulmonary damage.

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