Low-dose ionising radiation may increase cardiovascular disease risk: study

Study data published in the International Journal of Radiation Biology suggest that even moderate doses of ionising radiation, such as X-rays, could significantly raise the risk of cardiovascular damage, potentially up to decades following exposure. The authors said molecular changes induced by doses of about 0.5 Gy, the equivalent of repeated computerised tomography scans, "are indicative of long-term premature endothelial dysfunction."

In the study, human coronary artery endothelial cells were irradiated at 0.5 Gy, with radiation-induced changes in the proteome investigated after one day, seven days and 14 days. Researchers noted that as these cells do not divide rapidly in the body, the observed time intervals in cell culture correspond to several years in the living organism.

Results showed that the irradiated cells produced lower amounts of nitric oxide, an essential molecule in vascular contraction, and produced more reactive oxygen species, which can damage DNA and proteins. Moreover, the endothelial cells had a reduced capacity to degrade oxidised proteins and also aged prematurely.

The authors concluded that "several radiation-induced long-term alterations [observed in the study] have the potential to adversely influence essential endothelial functions." They added that the findings also support "data from [existing] population studies suggesting an increased risk for cardiovascular disease after exposure to 0.5 Gy."

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