Long term or residual damage post-irradiation has been described for many tissues. In hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), this is only revealed when the HSC are stressed and required to regenerate and repopulate a myeloablated host. Such an assay cannot be used to assess the recovery potential of previously irradiated intestinal stem cells (ISC) due to their incompatibility with transplantation. The best approximation to the HSC assay is the crypt microcolony assay, also based on clonogen survival. In the current study, the regenerative capacity of intestinal clonogenic cells in mice that had survived 13 Gy irradiation (with 5% bone marrow shielding to allow survival through the hematopoietic syndrome) and were then aged for 200 d was compared to previously unirradiated age-matched controls. Interestingly, at 200 d following 13 Gy, there remained a statistically significant reduction in crypts present in the various small intestinal regions (illustrating that the gastrointestinal epithelium had not fully recovered despite the 200‐d interval). However, upon re-irradiation on day 196, those mice previously irradiated had improved crypt survival and regeneration compared to the age-matched controls. This was evident in all regions of the small intestine following 11–13 Gy re-exposure. Thus, there were either more clonogens per crypt within those previously irradiated and/or those that were present were more radioresistant (possibly because a subpopulation was more quiescent). This is contrary to the popular belief that previously irradiated animals may have an impaired/delayed regenerative response and be more radiosensitive.
*Epistem Ltd, Manchester, UK; †Indiana University, School of Medicine, Department of Biostatistics, Indianapolis, IN; ‡University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Department of Radiation Oncology, Baltimore, MD.
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
For correspondence contact: Catherine Booth, Epistem Ltd, Manchester, UK, M13 9XX, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Manuscript accepted 10 July 2015)