Physical and biological studies with protons and HZE particles in a NASA supported research center in radiation health

Phys Med. 2001:17 Suppl 1:59-66.


NASA has established and supports a specialized center for research and training (NSCORT) to specifically address the potential deleterious effects of HZE particles on human health. The NSCORT in radiation health is a joint effort between Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and Colorado State University (CSU). The overall scope of research encompasses a broad range of subjects from microdosimetric studies to cellular and tissue responses to initial damage produced by highly energetic protons and heavy charged particles of the type found in galactic cosmic rays (GCR) spectrum. The objectives of the microdosimetry studies are to determine the response of Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter (TEPC) to cosmic rays using ground based accelerators. This includes evaluation of energy loss due to the escape of high-energy delta rays and increased energy deposition due to the enhanced delta ray production in the wall of the detector. In this report major results are presented for 56Fe at 1000, 740, 600 and 400 MeV/nucleon. An assessment of DNA repair and early development of related chromosomal changes is extremely important to our overall understanding of enhanced biological effectiveness of high LET particle radiation. Results are presented with respect to the fidelity of the rejoining of double strand breaks and the implications of misrejoining. The relationship between molecular and cytogenetic measurements is presented by studying damage processing in highly heterochromatic supernumerary (correction of sypernumerary) X chromosomes and the active X-chromosome. One of the important consequences of cell's inability to handle DNA damage can be evaluated through mutation studies. Part of our goal is the assessment of potential radioprotectors to reduce the mutation yield following HZE exposures, and some promising results are presented on one compound. A second goal is the integration of DNA repair and mutation studies. Results are presented on a direct comparison of initial double strand breaks induction, the time course and fidelity of double strand break rejoining, cell killing and mutation induction in the same human model system. In order to understand the carcinogenic potential of protons and HZE particles, the role of damaged microenvironment in this process must be understood. In this project it has been postulated that radiation affects the microenvironment, which then modifies cell interactions in a manner conducive to neoplastic progression. Both TGF-beta and FGF-2 are important components of microenvironment. A recent result on the assessment of the role of FGF-2 and its cross-talk with TGF-beta as a function of radiation quality is presented. Theoretical modeling has so far played a central role in analyzing and integrating experimental data on repair and mutation studies and predicting new phenomena. The integrated NSCORT program also provides a broad training experience for students and postdoctoral fellows in space radiation health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Chromosome Aberrations*
  • Cosmic Radiation*
  • Cricetinae
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Repair
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interphase / radiation effects
  • Iron
  • Linear Energy Transfer
  • Mice
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Mutagenesis
  • Mutation*
  • Particle Accelerators
  • Protons*
  • Relative Biological Effectiveness
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism


  • Protons
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2
  • Iron