The alkaline Comet assay as biomarker in assessment of DNA damage in medical personnel occupationally exposed to ionizing radiation

Mutagenesis. 2003 May;18(3):265-71. doi: 10.1093/mutage/18.3.265.


The alkaline Comet assay was selected as a biomarker of exposure to evaluate the ongoing exposure to ionizing radiation of 50 medical workers occupationally exposed to ionizing radiation and 50 corresponding unexposed control subjects. The primary DNA damage was evaluated by measuring the extent of DNA migration in peripheral blood leukocytes. The inter-individual differences in DNA damage between exposed subjects were compared with their dosimeter readings and occupation. It was found that medical workers who were occupationally exposed to ionizing radiation for different periods of time showed highly significant increases in levels of DNA damage compared with controls. However, influences of the different occupational settings and doses absorbed on the levels of DNA damage, assessed by use of the Comet assay, might be excluded in the majority of subjects. Differences in comet parameters measured due to smoking and gender were not statistically significant in either exposed or control subjects. The results obtained have confirmed the usefulness of the alkaline Comet assay as an additional complement to standard biodosimetric methods. By detection of momentary DNA damage and/or repair activity, it reflects the concurrent exposure and the actual levels of DNA damage present in peripheral blood leukocytes of the radiological workers at the moment of blood sampling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Comet Assay*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / radiation effects
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Radiation*
  • Radiation, Ionizing


  • Biomarkers