Little is known about the effects of space radiation on the human body. There are a number of potential chronic and acute effects, and one major target for noncarcinogenic effects is the human vasculature. Cellular stress, inflammatory response, and other radiation effects on endothelial cells may affect vascular function. This study was aimed at understanding the effects of space ionizing radiation on the formation and maintenance of capillary-like blood vessels. We used a 3D human vessel model created with human endothelial cells in a gel matrix to assess the effects of low-LET protons and high-LET iron ions. Iron ions were more damaging and caused significant reduction in the length of intact vessels in both developing and mature vessels at a dose of 80 cGy. Protons had no effect on mature vessels up to a dose of 3.2 Gy but did inhibit vessel formation at 80 cGy. Comparison with γ radiation showed that photons had even less effect, although, as with protons, developing vessels were more sensitive. Apoptosis assays showed that inhibition of vessel development or deterioration of mature vessels was not due to cell death by apoptosis even in the case of iron ions. These are the first data to show the effects of radiation with varying linear energy transfer on a human vessel model.
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Vol. 175 • No. 1