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The Hematopoietic Syndrome of the Acute Radiation Syndrome in Rhesus Macaques: A Systematic Review of the Lethal Dose Response Relationship

MacVittie, Thomas J.*; Farese, Ann M.*; Jackson, William III

doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000000352

Well characterized animal models that mimic the human response to potentially lethal doses of radiation are required to assess the efficacy of medical countermeasures under the criteria of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “animal rule.” Development of a model requires the determination of the radiation dose response relationship and time course of mortality and morbidity across the hematopoietic acute radiation syndrome. The nonhuman primate, rhesus macaque, is a relevant animal model that may be used to determine the efficacy of medical countermeasures to mitigate major signs of morbidity and mortality at selected lethal doses of total body irradiation. A systematic review of relevant studies that determined the dose response relationship for the hematopoietic acute radiation syndrome in the rhesus macaque relative to radiation quality, dose rate, and exposure uniformity has never been performed. The selection of data cohorts was made from the following sources: Ovid Medline (1957-present), PubMed (1954-present), AGRICOLA (1976-present), Web of Science (1954-present), and U.S. HHS REPORT (2002 to present). The following terms were used: Rhesus, total body-irradiation, total body x irradiation, TBI, irradiation, gamma radiation, hematopoiesis, LD50/60, Macaca mulatta, whole-body irradiation, nonhuman primate, NHP, monkey, primates, hematopoietic radiation syndrome, mortality, and nuclear radiation. The reference lists of all studies, published and unpublished, were reviewed for additional studies. The total number of hits across all search sites was 3,001. There were a number of referenced, unpublished, non-peer reviewed government reports that were unavailable for review. Fifteen studies, 11 primary (n = 863) and four secondary (n = 153) studies [n = 1,016 total nonhuman primates (NHP), rhesus Macaca mulatta] were evaluated to provide an informative and consistent review. The dose response relationships (DRRs) were determined for uniform or non-uniform total body irradiation (TBI) with 250 kVp or 2 MeV x radiation, 60Co gamma radiation and reactor- and nuclear weapon-derived mixed gamma: neutron-radiation, delivered at various dose rates from a total body, bilateral, rotational, or unilateral exposure aspect. The DRRs established by a probit analysis vs. linear dose relationship were characterized by two main parameters or dependent variables: a slope and LD50/30. Respective LD50/30 values for studies that used 250 kVp x radiation (five primary studies combined, n = 338), 2 MeV x radiation, 60Co gamma radiation, and steady-state reactor-derived mixed gamma:neutron radiation for total body uniform exposures were 521 rad [498, 542], 671 rad [632, 715], 644 rad [613, 678], and 385 rad [357, 413]. The respective slopes were steep and ranged from 0.738 to 1.316. The DRR, LD50/30 values and slopes were also determined for total body, non-uniform, unilateral, pulse-rate exposures of mixed gamma:neutron radiation derived at reactor and nuclear weapon detonations. The LD50/30 values were, respectively, 395 rad [337, 432] and 412 rad [359, 460]. Secondary data sets of limited studies that did not describe a DRR were used to support the mid-to-high lethal dose range for the H-ARS and the threshold dose range for the concurrent acute GI ARS. The available evidence provided a reliable and extensive database that characterized the DRR for the H-ARS in young rhesus macaques exposed to 250 kVp uniform total body x radiation without the benefit of medical management. A less substantial but consistent database demonstrated the DRR for total body exposure of differing radiation quality, dose rate and non-uniform exposure. The DRR for the H-ARS is characterized by steep slopes and relative LD50/30 values that reflect the radiation quality, exposure aspect, and dose rate over a range in time from 1954–2012.

*University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; †Statistician, Rockville, MD.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

For correspondence contact: Thomas J MacVittie, University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Department of Radiation Oncology, 10 South Pine Street, MSTF 6‐34E, Baltimore, MD 21201, or email at

(Manuscript accepted 9 July 2015)

© 2015 by the Health Physics Society