department of radiation sciences

Research column 2: Radiation and Risk

The second column of research focuses on understanding the long-term health
effects of radiation exposure. The key activities are defined by the DRS:

  • Mechanism of Action of Low Dose Exposures that Damage Health
  • Modelling of Pathogenesis and Analysis of Risks
  • Manipulation of Radiation Effects
  • Markers and Molecular Mechanisms of Radiocarcinogenesis

Examples of research topics in this field:


Cancer risk after radiation exposure

In order to assess the risk of cancer connected with doses of 10 mSv up to more than 100 mSv, stochastic models of carcinogenesis are developed. Multi-model inference from important radioepidemiological cohorts allows the derivation of risk coefficients that are relatively independent of the assumptions made in the single models.


Biophysical models

The biophysical Monte Carlo model PARTRAC has been developed and is being used for the in silico simulation of events occurring during and after the passage of ionising radiation through biological material. These investigations are primarily aimed at uncovering mechanisms leading to long-term radiation damage to cells, tissues and organisms.


Risk of circulatory diseases after radiation exposure

The biological process of atherosclerosis is modelled mathematically. This disease is one of the leading causes for heart attack and brain stroke. The models are adjusted to suitable epidemiological data sets (such as, for example, of the atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki). This approach allows to investigate the possible influence of ionising radiation on different stages in the formation of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.


Markers and molecular mechanisms of radiocarcinogenesis

Radiation-induced human cancers (papillary thyroid carcinomas, breast cancer) are characterised using molecular cytogenetic approaches in order to define radiation-associated chromosome rearrangements and genomic copy number alterations. Candidate genes from the altered regions are subsequently used for the investigation of the molecular mechanisms in radiocarcinogenesis.



Deregulated molecular networks

Experimental data from different molecular levels (genome, transcriptome, proteome and epigenome) are integrated and used to establish correlation networks. These are used to identify radiation-induced deregulation networks and subsequent identification of pathways and their key player in radiation tumourigenesis. The results and data from this analysis are used for modelling the risk for radiation-induced thyroid cancer (in collaboration with the Institute of Radiation Protection), the tumourigenesis of radiation-induced tumours, radiation sensitivity and systems modelling of radiation-associated cancers.


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