The detonation of a nuclear weapon and the occurrence of a nuclear accident represent possible mass-casualty events with significant exposure to mixed neutron and gamma radiation fields in the first few minutes after the event with the ensuing fallout, extending for miles from the epicenter, that would result primarily in photon (gamma- and/or x-ray) exposure. Circulating biomarkers represent a crucial source of information in a mass-casualty radiation exposure triage scenario. We evaluated multiple blood biodosimetry and organ-specific biomarkers for early-response assessment of radiation exposure using a mouse (B6D2F1, males and females) total-body irradiation model exposed to 60Co gamma rays over a broad dose range (3–12 Gy) and dose rates of either 0.6 or 1.9 Gy min−1 and compared the results with those obtained after exposure of mice to a mixed field (neutrons and gamma rays) using the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute 60Co gamma-ray source and TRIGA Mark F nuclear research reactor. The mixed-field studies were performed previously over a broad dose range (1.5–6 Gy), with dose rates of either 0.6 or 1.9 Gy min−1, and using different proportions of neutrons and gammas: either (67% neutrons + 33% gammas) or (30% neutrons + 70% gammas). Blood was collected 1, 2, 4, and 7 d after total-body irradiation. Results from 60Co gamma-ray studies demonstrate: (1) significant dose- and time-dependent reductions in circulating mature hematopoietic cells; (2) dose- and time-dependent changes in fms-related tyrosine kinase 3 ligand, interleukins IL‐5, IL‐10, IL‐12, and IL‐18, granulocyte colony-stimulating factors, thrombopoietin, erythropoietin, acute-phase proteins (serum amyloid A and lipopolysaccharide binding protein), surface plasma neutrophil (CD45) and lymphocyte (CD27) markers, ratio of CD45 to CD27, procalcitonin but not in intestinal fatty acid binding protein; (3) no significant differences were observed between dose-rate groups in hematological and protein profiles (fms-related tyrosine kinase 3 ligand, IL‐5, IL‐12, IL‐18, erythropoietin, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, CD27, CD45, and ratio of CD45 to CD27) for any radiation dose at any time after exposure (p > 0.148); (4) no significant differences were observed between sex groups in hematological and protein profiles (fms-related tyrosine kinase 3 ligand, IL‐18, erythropoietin, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, serum amyloid A, CD45) for any radiation dose at any time after exposure (p > 0.114); and (5) PCT level significantly increased (p < 0.008) in mice irradiated with 12 Gy on day 7 post-total-body irradiation without significant differences between groups irradiated at dose rates of either 0.6 or 1.9 Gy min−1 (p > 0.287). Radiation-quality comparison results demonstrate that: (1) equivalent doses of pure gamma rays and mixed-field radiation do not produce equivalent biological effects, and hematopoietic syndrome occurs at lower doses of mixed-field radiation; (2) ratios of hematological and protein biomarker means in the 60Co study compared to mixed-field studies using 2× 60Co doses vs. 1× TRIGA radiation doses (i.e., 3 Gy 60Co vs. 1.5 Gy TRIGA) ranged from roughly 0.2 to as high as 26.5 but 57% of all ratios fell within 0.7 and 1.3; and (3) in general, biomarker results are in agreement with the relative biological effectiveness = 1.95 (Dn/Dt = 0.67) reported earlier by Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute scientists in mouse survival countermeasure studies.
1Uniformed Services University, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, Scientific Research Department, 4555 South Palmer Road Bethesda, MD 20889‐5648.
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
For correspondence contact: Natalia I. Ossetrova at the above address, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Manuscript accepted 15 June 2018)
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