Analysis of complex-type chromosome exchanges in astronauts' lymphocytes after space flight as a biomarker of high-LET exposure

J Radiat Res. 2002 Dec;43 Suppl:S129-32. doi: 10.1269/jrr.43.s129.


High-LET radiation is more efficient in producing complex-type chromosome exchanges than sparsely ionizing radiation, and this can potentially be used as a biomarker of radiation quality. To investigate if complex chromosome exchanges are induced by the high-LET component of space radiation exposure, damage was assessed in astronauts' blood lymphocytes before and after long duration missions of 3-4 months. The frequency of simple translocations increased significantly for most of the crewmembers studied. However, there were few complex exchanges detected and only one crewmember had a significant increase after flight. It has been suggested that the yield of complex chromosome damage could be underestimated when analyzing metaphase cells collected at one time point after irradiation, and analysis of chemically-induced PCC may be more accurate since problems with complicated cell-cycle delays are avoided. However, in this case the yields of chromosome damage were similar for metaphase and PCC analysis of astronauts' lymphocytes. It appears that the use of complex-type exchanges as biomarker of radiation quality in vivo after low-dose chronic exposure in mixed radiation fields is hampered by statistical uncertainties.

MeSH terms

  • Astronauts*
  • Biomarkers
  • Chromosomes / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Linear Energy Transfer*
  • Lymphocytes / radiation effects*
  • Space Flight*


  • Biomarkers