Purpose: Exposure to heavy-ion radiation is considered a critical health risk on long-term space missions. The developing central nervous system (CNS) is a highly radiosensitive tissue; however, the biological effects of heavy-ion radiation, which are greater than those of low-linear energy transfer (LET) radiation, are not well studied, especially in vivo in intact organisms. Here, we examined the effects of iron-ions on the developing CNS using vertebrate organism, fish embryos of medaka (Oryzias latipes).
Materials and methods: Medaka embryos at developmental stage 28 were irradiated with iron-ions at various doses of 0-1.5 Gy. At 24 h after irradiation, radiation-induced apoptosis was examined using an acridine orange (AO) assay and histo-logically. To estimate the relative biological effectiveness (RBE), we quantified only characteristic AO-stained rosette-shaped apoptosis in the developing optic tectum (OT). At the time of hatching, morphological abnormalities in the irradiated brain were examined histologically.
Results: The dose-response curve utilizing an apoptotic index for the iron-ion irradiated embryos was much steeper than that for X-ray irradiated embryos, with RBE values of 3.7-4.2. Histological examinations of irradiated medaka brain at 24 h after irradiation showed AO-positive rosette-shaped clusters as aggregates of condensed nuclei, exhibiting a circular hole, mainly in the marginal area of the OT and in the retina. However, all of the irradiated embryos hatched normally without apparent histological abnormalities in their brains.
Conclusion: Our present study indicates that the medaka embryo is a useful model for evaluating neurocytotoxic effects on the developing CNS induced by exposure to heavy iron-ions relevant to the aerospace radiation environment.