Electron paramagnetic resonance in human fingernails: the sponge model implication
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The most significant problem of electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) fingernail dosimetry is the presence of two signals of non-radiation origin that overlap the radiation-induced signal (RIS), making it almost impossible to perform dose measurements below 5 Gy. Historically, these two non-radiation components were named mechanically induced signal (MIS) and background signal (BKS). In order to investigate them in detail, three different methods of MIS and BKS mutual isolation have been developed and implemented. After applying these methods, it is shown here that fingernail tissue, after cut, can be modeled as a deformed sponge, where the MIS and BKS are associated with the stress from elastic and plastic deformations, respectively. A sponge has a unique mechanism of mechanical stress absorption, which is necessary for fingernails in order to perform its everyday function of protecting the fingertips from hits and trauma. Like a sponge, fingernails are also known to be an effective water absorber. When a sponge is saturated with water, it tends to restore to its original shape, and when it loses water, it becomes deformed again. The same happens to fingernail tissue. It is proposed that the MIS and BKS signals of mechanical origin be named MIS1 and MIS2 for MISs 1 and 2, respectively. Our suggested interpretation of the mechanical deformation in fingernails gives also a way to distinguish between the MIS and RIS. The results obtained show that the MIS in irradiated fingernails can be almost completely eliminated without a significant change to the RIS by soaking the sample for 10 min in water. The proposed method to measure porosity (the fraction of void space in spongy material) of the fingernails gave values of 0.46–0.48 for three of the studied samples. Existing results of fingernail dosimetry have been obtained on mechanically stressed samples and are not related to the “real” in vivo dosimetric properties of fingernails. A preliminary study of these properties of pre-soaked (unstressed) fingernails has demonstrated their significant difference from fingernails stressed by cut. They show a higher stability signal, a less intensive non-radiation component, and a nonlinear dose dependence. The findings in this study set the stage for understanding fingernail EPR dosimetry and doing in vivo measurements in the future.
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