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The Pseudo-Pelger HuËt Cell—A New Permanent Radiation Biomarker

Goans, Ronald E.; Iddins, Carol J.; Ossetrova, Natalia I.; Ney, Patrick H.; Dainiak, Nicholas

doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000000618

Using archival peripheral blood slides obtained from patients in the 1958 Y‐12 criticality accident, the authors have recently described the pseudo-Pelger Huët anomaly (PHA) in neutrophils as a new radiation-induced biomarker. The current work provides additional evidence that PHA is also a permanent biomarker, potentially useful in retrospective dosimetry. In the Y‐12 cohort, the high dose group (n = 5, 2.98–4.61 Gy-Eq) exhibited 13.0 ± 0.85 % Pelger Huët cells (mean ± SEM) in the neutrophil population compared to 6.8 ± 1.6 % in the low dose group (n = 3, 0.29–0.86 Gy-Eq; p = 0.008). An age and gender-matched control group (n = 8) exhibited 3.6 ± 0.9 % PH cells. Results of a one-way ANOVA show that the high dose group is statistically different from both the low dose group and the control group (p = 0.002). In the Y‐12 cohort, PHA appears <12 h post-accident and is permanent for more than 16 y. Similar long-term persistence of the PHA mutation has been obtained from examination of peripheral blood slides from the 1971 60Co accident at the Variable Dose Rate Irradiation Facility (VDRIF) in Oak Ridge, TN. In order to investigate the pseudo-PH cell as a biomarker in animal studies under well controlled dosimetry, peripheral blood slides were obtained from animals in a nonhuman primate (NHP) (Macaca mulatta) total-body irradiation (TBI) model (60Co γ rays at 0.6 Gy min−1; dose range 1–8.5 Gy, LD50/60 6.44 Gy). In the NHP studies, the first measurement of PHA is taken at 5 h post-irradiation, then daily for days 1–5 and every 5–10 d thereafter. In the TBI model, the PH cell appears quickly (<5 h) post-irradiation, and the dose-dependent PH percentage is constant from 1 d over the 60‐d monitoring period of the experiments. Using the average of data from 1–60 d, a linear dose response (PHA % slope = 0.49 ± 0.07 % Gy−1, r2 = 0.92) is obtained over the dose range 0–8.5 Gy. The authors conclude that ionizing radiation induces dose-dependent internuclear bridges in circulating neutrophils, and this morphological change can be used both as an acute phase biomarker and as a tool for retrospective dosimetry.

*MJW Corporation, Amherst, NY; †Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site (REAC/TS), Oak Ridge, TN; ‡Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI), Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), Bethesda, MD; §Department of Therapeutic Radiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

For correspondence contact: Ronald E. Goans, 1422 Eagle Bend Drive, Clinton, TN 37716, or email at

(Manuscript accepted 22 September 2016)

© 2017 by the Health Physics Society