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The influence of dose rate on radiation cataractogenesis has yet to be extensively studied. One recent epidemiological investigation suggested that protracted radiation exposure increases radiation-induced cataract risk: cumulative doses of radiation mostly <100 mGy received by US radiologic technologists over 5 years were associated with an increased excess hazard ratio for cataract development. However, there are few mechanistic studies to support and explain such observations. Low-dose radiation-induced DNA damage in the epithelial cells of the eye lens (LECs) has been proposed as a possible contributor to cataract formation and thus visual impairment. Here, 53BP1 foci was used as a marker of DNA damage. Unexpectedly, the number of 53BP1 foci that persisted in the mouse lens samples after γ-radiation exposure increased with decreasing dose-rate at 4 and 24 h. The C57BL/6 mice were exposed to 0.5, 1 and 2 Gy ƴ-radiation at 0.063 and 0.3 Gy/min and also 0.5 Gy at 0.014 Gy/min. This contrasts the data we obtained for peripheral blood lymphocytes collected from the same animal groups, which showed the expected reduction of residual 53BP1 foci with reducing dose-rate. These findings highlight the likely importance of dose-rate in low-dose cataract formation and, furthermore, represent the first evidence that LECs process radiation damage differently to blood lymphocytes.


Stephen G R Barnard, Roisin McCarron, Jayne Moquet, Roy Quinlan, Elizabeth Ainsbury. Inverse dose-rate effect of ionising radiation on residual 53BP1 foci in the eye lens. Scientific reports. 2019 Jul 18;9(1):10418

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PMID: 31320710

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