Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Berkeley Lab Scientists Developing Quick Way to ID People Exposed to Ionizing Radiation

There’s a reason emergency personnel train for the aftermath of a dirty bomb or an explosion at a nuclear power plant. They’ll be faced with a deluge of urgent tasks, such as identifying who’s been irradiated, who has an injury-induced infection, and who’s suffering from both.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick way to screen for people exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. There also isn’t a quick way to distinguish between people suffering from radiation exposure versus an infection due to an injury or chemical exposure.

The most common way to measure exposure is a blood assay that tracks chromosomal changes. Another approach is to watch for the onset of physical symptoms. But these methods can take several days to provide results, which is far too late to identify people who’d benefit from immediate treatment.

A much faster way could be coming. Research conducted by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) could lead to a blood test that detects if a person has been exposed to radiation, measures their dose, and separates people suffering from inflammation injuries—all in a matter of hours.
The Berkeley Lab team that's closing in on a faster way to identify people exposed to ionizing radiation. From left: Helen Budworth, Brandon Mannion, Andy Wyrobek, Antoine Snijders, Sandhya Bhatnagar, and Noah Schwartz.

The scientists identified eight DNA-repair genes in human blood whose expression responses change more than twofold soon after blood is exposed to radiation. They also learned how these genes respond when blood is exposed to inflammation stress, which can occur because of an injury or infection. Inflammation can mimic the effects of radiation and lead to false diagnoses.

The result is a panel of biochemical markers that can discriminate between blood samples exposed to radiation, inflammation, or both. The scientists believe these markers could be incorporated into a blood test that quickly triages people involved in radiation-related incidents.

They report their research in a paper recently published online in the journal PLOS ONE.
“In an emergency involving radiation exposure, it’s likely that only a small fraction of all possibly exposed people will be exposed to high doses that require immediate medical attention,” says Andy Wyrobek of Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division. “The goal is to quickly screen for these people so they can get treatment, and avoid overwhelming medical facilities with the larger number of people exposed to low levels of radiation with no immediate medical needs. Our research could lead to a blood test that enables this.”

Wyrobek conducted the research with fellow Berkeley Lab scientists Helen Budworth and Antoine Snijders, as well as several other scientists from Berkeley Lab and other institutions.

Because DNA is one of the major targets of radiation, the Berkeley Lab scientists began their research by focusing on 40 genes that regulate the expression of proteins that carry out DNA-repair tasks. They studied these genes in blood samples taken from healthy people before and after exposing the samples to 2 Gray of X-rays per year, which is about the radiation dose received by radiotherapy patients. They found twelve genes that underwent more than a twofold change in response after exposure. From these, they isolated eight genes that had no overlap between unirradiated and irradiated samples.

The scientists also treated the blood samples with a compound that mimics inflammatory stress. This enabled them to account for gene-expression responses that could be mistaken for signs of radiation exposure, but which are actually caused by injury or infection. In addition, they irradiated a portion of these samples to learn how the genes respond to both inflammation and radiation.

To validate their findings, the scientists analyzed a separate dataset of blood samples that had also been irradiated. They found a close match between their own data and the independent dataset in how the eight genes respond after radiation exposure.

They also compared their findings to a large group of bone marrow transplant patients who received total-body radiation. Again, they found a close match between their data and the gene-expression responses of the patients after they received treatment.

More work is needed, but Wyrobek envisions a blood test using their biochemical markers could be administered via a handheld device similar to what diabetes patients use to check their blood sugar. The test could help emergency personnel quickly identify people exposed to high radiation doses who need immediate care, and people exposed to lower doses who only need long-term monitoring.

The research was funded largely by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit

Dan Krotz | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Inflammation Triggers Unsustainable Immune Response to Chronic Viral Infection
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

First-time reconstruction of infectious bat influenza viruses

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Novel method to benchmark and improve the performance of protein measumeasurement techniques

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Amazon rain helps make more rain

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>