What Daily Exposure to Radiation Can Do

Using fish, scientists study effects of the levels humans are exposed to every day

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The effects of low-dose radiation -- the kind most people are exposed to every day -- are being investigated by scientists at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG).

Funded by a U.S. Department of Energy grant, the researchers are using developing zebrafish embryos to explore the effects of low-dose radiation during the earliest and most delicate stage of life.

The study is designed to determine whether low-level radiation causes problems and which genes and proteins in the body repair and prevent radiation-related damage.

"The reason to do this in fish is to look at mechanisms of injury and innate mechanisms for repair and protection," principal investigator Dr. William S. Dynan, a biochemist and chief of the Program in Gene Regulation at the MCG Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, says in a prepared statement.

"We want to know what goes wrong first. What is the most sensitive tissue? Is there a threshold for damage? We don't know the answer to either question. We might come up with some reassuring answers here. We could find there is a threshold. We could find that the damage is completely self-healing below a certain amount (of radiation)," Dynan says.

The zebrafish embryos, which grow outside the mother and develop functioning organs within three days, will be exposed to radiation levels that simulate routine human exposure to radiation from a variety of sources, including cosmic rays, foods and naturally abundant radiation isotopes in human bodies.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about radiation exposure.

SOURCE: Medical College of Georgia, news release, November 2003
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