George, K., Durante, M., Wu, H., Willingham, V., Badhwar, G. and Cucinotta, F. A. Chromosome Aberrations in the Blood Lymphocytes of Astronauts after Space Flight. Radiat. Res. 156, 731–738 (2001).
Cytogenetic analysis of the lymphocytes of astronauts provides a direct measurement of space radiation damage in vivo, which takes into account individual radiosensitivity and considers the influence of microgravity and other stress conditions. Chromosome exchanges were measured in the blood lymphocytes of eight crew members after their respective space missions, using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with chromosome painting probes. Significant increases in aberrations were observed after the long-duration missions. The in vivo dose was derived from the frequencies of translocations and total exchanges using calibration curves determined before flight, and the RBE was estimated by comparison with individually measured physical absorbed doses. The values for average RBE were compared to the average quality factor (Q) from direct measurements of the lineal energy spectra using a tissue-equivalent proportional counter (TEPC) and radiation transport codes. The ratio of aberrations identified as complex was slightly higher after flight, which is thought to be an indication of exposure to high-LET radiation. To determine whether the frequency of complex aberrations measured in metaphase spreads after exposure to high-LET radiation was influenced by a cell cycle delay, chromosome damage was analyzed in prematurely condensed chromosome samples collected from two crew members before and after a short-duration mission. The frequency of complex exchanges after flight was higher in prematurely condensed chromosomes than in metaphase cells for one crew member.