Intestinal radioprotection by vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)

Ann Surg. 1995 Oct;222(4):504-8; discussion 508-10. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199522240-00008.


Objectives: The major objective of this study was to test vitamin E as a potential radioprotectant for the small bowel of the rat.

Summary background data: Vitamin E has previously been shown to provide radioprotection in animal models: increased survival after whole-body irradiation, diminished absorptive malfunction, and modest diminution in postirradiation hemolysis. The lumenal route for intestinal radioprotection has not been tested.

Methods: Rat mid-small bowel was surgically exteriorized and segmented by ties into compartments, each of which was filled with a test solution 30 minutes before 1100 cGy of x-irradiation was administered. After the rats were killed 5 days later, the various segments were evaluated for surviving crypts, mucosal height, and goblet cell preservation. Lumenal agents included alpha-tocopherol phosphate and alpha-tocopherol acetate. In a separate study, dietary supplements of alpha-tocopherol were given for 10 days before irradiation, and the same irradiation sequence was carried out.

Results: Small bowel crypt cell numbers, mucosal height, and goblet cell numbers were significantly protected from radiation effects by dietary alpha tocopherol pretreatment and by lumenal application of the vitamin.

Conclusions: These studies indicate that vitamin E can serve as a partial protectant against acute irradiation enteritis, whether given as chronic oral systemic pretreatment or as a brief topical application.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Intestine, Small / pathology
  • Intestine, Small / radiation effects*
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / pathology
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / prevention & control*
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sodium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Soybean Oil / administration & dosage
  • Tocopherols
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin E / analogs & derivatives
  • alpha-Tocopherol* / analogs & derivatives*


  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Vitamin E
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Soybean Oil
  • alpha-Tocopherol
  • Tocopherols