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The Yin and Yang of Low-dose Irradiation on Hematopoiesis

Researchers at the François-Jacob Institute and their partners have shown that exposure to low doses of irradiation leads to function loss in hematopoietic stem cells.

Published on 29 September 2017


What are the consequences of exposure to low-dose ionizing radiation, such as that experienced during medical examinations using X-rays? Previous epidemiological studies have associated exposures to low-dose irradiation (<0.1 Gy) with an increase in the frequency of onset of hematological diseases. Until recently, a biological link had been identified between exposure to low-dose irradiation and hematopoietic cell abnormalities. Now the results obtained by researchers from the François-Jacob Institute at CEA, INSERM, Universities Paris Sud and Paris Diderot show that low-dose radiation of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs)—responsible for the formation of all blood cells—leads to a decrease in the number of HSCs and in their functionality.

This seemingly harmful property can actually prove useful in a medical context: low-dose irradiations are two-faceted—they have their own Yin and Yang. The researchers took advantage of this property to test a new protocol allowing a bone marrow transplant without myeloablation. The protocol currently used in autologous bone marrow transplant consists in the drug-induced destruction of the patient's bone marrow before transplant (myeloablation)—a process which unfortunately comes with numerous undesirable side effects. Scientists have shown that low-dose irradiation (a dose used in medical imaging) preceded by a currently used clinical treatment causes the release of CSH from the bone marrow, which would allow a bone marrow transplant without myeloablation.

This result was the subject of a press release.

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