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Lauriston S. Taylor Lecture on Radiation Protection and Measurements: What Makes Particle Radiation so Effective?

Blakely, Eleanor A.*

doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e31826a5b85

The scientific basis for the physical and biological effectiveness of particle radiations has emerged from many decades of meticulous basic research. A diverse array of biologically relevant consequences at the molecular, cellular, tissue, and organism level have been reported, but what are the key processes and mechanisms that make particle radiation so effective, and what competing processes define dose dependences? Recent studies have shown that individual genotypes control radiation-regulated genes and pathways in response to radiations of varying ionization density. The fact that densely ionizing radiations can affect different gene families than sparsely ionizing radiations, and that the effects are dose- and time-dependent, has opened up new areas of future research. The complex microenvironment of the stroma and the significant contributions of the immune response have added to our understanding of tissue-specific differences across the linear energy transfer (LET) spectrum. The importance of targeted versus nontargeted effects remains a thorny but elusive and important contributor to chronic low dose radiation effects of variable LET that still needs further research. The induction of cancer is also LET-dependent, suggesting different mechanisms of action across the gradient of ionization density. The focus of this 35th Lauriston S. Taylor Lecture is to chronicle the step-by-step acquisition of experimental clues that have refined our understanding of what makes particle radiation so effective, with emphasis on the example of radiation effects on the crystalline lens of the human eye.

*Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, One Cyclotron Road, MS 977, Berkeley, CA 94720.

The author declares no conflict of interest.

For correspondence contact the author at the above address, or email at

(Manuscript accepted 17 July 2012)

©2012Health Physics Society