Observation of radiation-specific damage in human cells exposed to depleted uranium: dicentric frequency and neoplastic transformation as endpoints.
Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2002;99(1-4):275-8. PMID: 12194305
Applied Cellular Radiobiology Department, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, Bethesda, MD 20889-5603, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Depleted uranium (DU) is a dense heavy metal used primarily in military applications. Published data from our laboratory have demonstrated that DU exposure in vitro to immortalised human osteoblast cells (HOS) is both neoplastically transforming and genotoxic. DU possesses both a radiological (alpha-particle) and chemical (metal) component. Since DU has a low specific activity in comparison to natural uranium, it is not considered to be a significant radiological hazard. The potential contribution of radiation to DU-induced biological effects is unknown and the involvement of radiation in DU-induced biological effects could have significant implications for current risk estimates for internalised DU exposure. Two approaches were used to address this question. The frequency of dicentrics was measured in HOS cells following DU exposure in vitro. Data demonstrated that DU exposure (50 microM, 24 h) induced a significant elevation in dicentric frequency in vitro in contrast to incubation with the heavy metals, nickel and tungsten which did not increase dicentric frequency above background levels. Using the same concentration (50 microM) of three uranyl nitrate compounds that have different uranium isotopic concentrations and therefore, different specific activities, the effect on neoplastic transformation in vitro was examined. HOS cells were exposed to one of three-uranyl nitrate compounds (238U-uranyl nitrate, specific activity 0.33 microCi.g-1; DU-uranyl nitrate, specific activity 0.44 microCi.g-1; and 235U-uranyl nitrate, specific activity 2.2 microCi.g-1) delivered at a concentration of 50 microM for 24 h. Results showed, at equal uranium concentration, there was a specific activity dependent increase in neoplastic transformation frequency. Taken together these data suggest that radiation can play a role in DU-induced biological effects in vitro.