Overview of the principles and practice of biodosimetry
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- Swartz, H.M., Williams, B.B. & Flood, A.B. Radiat Environ Biophys (2014) 53: 221. doi:10.1007/s00411-014-0522-0
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The principle of biodosimetry is to utilize changes induced in the individual by ionizing radiation to estimate the dose and, if possible, to predict or reflect the clinically relevant response, i.e., the biological consequences of the dose. Ideally, the changes should be specific for ionizing radiation, and the response should be unaffected by prior medical or physiological variations among subjects, including changes that might be caused by the stress and trauma from a radiation event. There are two basic types of biodosimetry with different and often complementary characteristics: those based on changes in biological parameters such as gene activation or chromosomal abnormalities and those based on physical changes in tissues (detected by techniques such as EPR). In this paper, we consider the applicability of the various techniques for different scenarios: small- and large-scale exposures to levels of radiation that could lead to the acute radiation syndrome and exposures with lower doses that do not need immediate care, but should be followed for evidence of long-term consequences. The development of biodosimetry has been especially stimulated by the needs after a large-scale event where it is essential to have a means to identify those individuals who would benefit from being brought into the medical care system. Analyses of the conventional methods officially recommended for responding to such events indicate that these methods are unlikely to achieve the results needed for timely triage of thousands of victims. Emerging biodosimetric methods can fill this critically important gap.