Detection and early phase assessment of radiation-induced lung injury in mice using micro-CT

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45960. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045960. Epub 2012 Sep 24.


Radiation therapy is an important therapeutic modality for thoracic malignancies. However, radiation-induced pulmonary injuries such as radiation pneumonitis and fibrosis are major dose-limiting factors. Previous research shows that micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) can detect radiation-induced lung injuries a few months following irradiation, but studies to assess the early response of lung tissue are lacking. The aim of this study was to determine if micro-CT could be used to detect and assess early-phase radiation-induced lung injury in mice. Twenty-one animals were divided into three groups: normal (n = 7), one day after x-ray exposure (n = 7), and at four days after x-ray exposure (n = 7). The x-ray-exposed groups received a single dose of 20 Gy, to the whole lung. Histology showed enlargements of the air space (Lm: mean chord length) following irradiation. 40.5 ± 3.8 µm and 60.0 ± 6.9 µm were observed after one and four days, respectively, compared to 26.5 ± 3.1 µm in normal mice. Three-dimensional micro-CT images were constructed and histograms of radiodensity - Hounsfield Units (HU) - were used to assess changes in mouse lungs. Radiation-induced lung injury was observed in irradiated mice, by the use of two parameters which were defined as shifts in peak HU between -200 to -800 HU (Peak(HU)) and increase in the number of pixels at -1000 HU (Number(-1000)). These parameters were correlated with histological changes. The results demonstrate that micro-CT can be used for the early detection and assessment of structural and histopathological changes resulting from radiation-induced lung injury in mice. Micro-CT has the advantage, over traditional histological techniques, of allowing longitudinal studies of lung disease progression and assessment of the entire lung, while reducing the number of animals required for such studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / radiation effects*
  • Lung Injury / diagnosis*
  • Lung Injury / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Injury / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Radiation Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Radiation Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiation Injuries / pathology
  • X-Ray Microtomography / methods*
  • X-Rays

Grant support

This work was supported by Grants-in-Aid (No. 24791299) for Scientific Research (Kakenhi) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.