Structural and Functional Alterations in the Rat Lung Following Whole Thoracic Irradiation with Moderate Doses: Injury and Recovery

Rong Zhang, Harbin Medical University
Swarajit N. Ghosh, Medical College of Wisconsin
Dailing Zhu, Harbin Medical University
Paula E. North, Medical College of Wisconsin
Brian L. Fish, Medical College of Wisconsin
Natalya V. Morrow, Medical College of Wisconsin
Timothy Lowry, Medical College of Wisconsin
Rahul Nanchal, Medical College of Wisconsin
Elizabeth R. Jacobs, Medical College of Wisconsin
John E. Moulder, Medical College of Wisconsin
Meetha Medhora, Medical College of Wisconsin

International Journal of Radiation Oncology - Biology - Physics, Vol. 84, No. 6 (June 2008): 487-497. DOI.


Purpose: To characterize structural and functional injuries following a single dose of whole-thorax irradiation that might be survivable after a nuclear attack/accident.

Methods: Rats were exposed to 5 or 10 Gy of X-rays to the whole thorax with other organs shielded. Non-invasive measurements of breathing rate and arterial oxygen saturation, and invasive evaluations of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, (for total protein, Clara cell secretory protein), vascular reactivity and histology were conducted for at least 6 time points up to 52 weeks after irradiation.

Results: Irradiation with 10 Gy resulted in increased breathing rate, a reduction in oxygen saturation, an increase in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid protein and attenuation of vascular reactivity between 4–12 weeks after irradiation. These changes were not observed with the lower dose of 5 Gy. Histological examination revealed perivascular edema at 4–8 weeks after exposure to both doses, and mild fibrosis beyond 20 weeks after 10 Gy.

Conclusions: Single-dose exposure of rat thorax to 10 but not 5 Gy X-irradiation resulted in a decrease in oxygen uptake and vasoreactivity and an increase in respiratory rate, which paralleled early pulmonary vascular pathology. Vascular edema resolved and was replaced by mild fibrosis beyond 20 weeks after exposure, while lung function recovered.