Radiation-Induced Lens Opacity and Cataractogenesis: A Lifetime Study Using Mice of Varying Genetic Backgrounds


Recent epidemiological findings and reanalysis of historical data suggest lens opacities resulting from ionizing radiation exposures are likely induced at lower doses than previously thought. These observations have led to ICRP recommendations for a reduction in the occupational dose limits for the eye lens, as well as subsequent implementation in EU member states. The EU CONCERT LDLensRad project was initiated to further understand the effects of ionizing radiation on the lens and identify the mechanism(s) involved in radiation-induced cataract, as well as the impact of dose and dose-rate. Here, we present the results of a long-term study of changes to lens opacity in male and female adult mice from a variety of different genetic (radiosensitive or radioresistant) backgrounds, including mutant strains Ercc2 and Ptch1, which were assumed to be susceptible to radiation-induced lens opacities. Mice received 0.5, 1 and 2 Gy 60Co gamma-ray irradiation at dose rates of 0.063 and 0.3 Gy min-1. Scheimpflug imaging was used to quantify lens opacification as an early indicator of cataract, with monthly observations taken postirradiation for an 18-month period in all strains apart from 129S2, which were observed for 12 months. Opacification of the lens was found to increase with time postirradiation (with age) for most mouse models, with ionizing radiation exposure increasing opacities further. Sex, dose, dose rate and genetic background were all found to be significant contributors to opacification; however, significant interactions were identified, which meant that the impact of these factors was strain dependent. Mean lens density increased with higher dose and dose rate in the presence of Ercc2 and Ptch1 mutations. This project was the first to focus on low (<1 Gy) dose, multiple dose rate, sex and strain effects in lens opacification, and clearly demonstrates the importance of these experimental factors in radiobiological investigations on the lens. The results provide insight into the effects of ionizing radiation on the lens as well as the need for further work in this area to underpin appropriate radiation protection legislation and guidance.

Authors: R A McCarron, S G R Barnard, G Babini, C Dalke, J Graw, S Leonardi, M Mancuso, J E Moquet, D Pawliczek, S Pazzaglia, I De Stefano, E A Ainsbury
; Full Source: Radiation research 2021 May 13. doi: 10.1667/RADE-20-00266.1.