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Title: Low-Dose Radiation Cataract and Genetic Determinants of Radiosensitivity

The lens of the eye is one of the most radiosensitive tissues in the body. Ocular ionizing radiation exposure results in characteristic, dose related, progressive lens changes leading to cataract formation. While initial, early stages of lens opacification may not cause visual disability, the severity of such changes progressively increases with dose until vision is impaired and cataract extraction surgery may be required. Because of the transparency of the eye, radiation induced lens changes can easily be followed non-invasively over time. Thus, the lens provides a unique model system in which to study the effects of low dose ionizing radiation exposure in a complex, highly organized tissue. Despite this observation, considerable uncertainties remain surrounding the relationship between dose and risk of developing radiation cataract. For example, a growing number of human epidemiological findings suggest significant risk among various groups of occupationally and accidentally exposed individuals and confidence intervals that include zero dose. Nevertheless, questions remain concerning the relationship between lens opacities, visual disability, clinical cataract, threshold dose and/or the role of genetics in determining radiosensitivity. Experimentally, the response of the rodent eye to radiation is quite similar to that in humans and thus animal studies are well suited to examinemore » the relationship between radiation exposure, genetic determinants of radiosensitivity and cataractogenesis. The current work has expanded our knowledge of the low-dose effects of X-irradiation or high-LET heavy ion exposure on timing and progression of radiation cataract and has provided new information on the genetic, molecular, biochemical and cell biological features which contribute to this pathology. Furthermore, findings have indicated that single and/or multiple haploinsufficiency for various genes involved in DNA repair and cell cycle checkpoint control, such as Atm, Brca1 or Rad9, influence cataract development and thus radiosensitivity. These observations have direct applicability to various human populations including accidentally exposed individuals, interventional medical workers, astronauts and nuclear plant workers.« less
  1. Columbia University
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Columbia University
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE; USDOE Office of Health, Safety and Security (HSS)
Country of Publication:
United States
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Radiation cataract, eye lens, x-ray, genetics