The mechanism for the primary biological effects of ionizing radiation

Russian Federation State Scientific Center A.I. Alikhanov Institute ofTheoretical and Experimental Physics, ul. Bolshaya Cheremushkinskaya 25, Moscow, 117259, Russian Federation

The primary biological response of living organisms to the passage of fast charged particles is traditionally believed to be dominated by the chemical reactions of the radical products from the radiolysis of cellular water (, , aq-, 02-, 22) and by the bioradicals that they produce (and which can also result from the direct electronic activation of biomolecules). This understanding has provided insight into how ionizing radiations affect biological systems and, most importantly, what radioprotection and radiosensibilizing effects are produced by chemical compounds introduced into an organism. However, a number of key radiobiological facts remain unexplained by the current theory, stimulating a search for other biologically active factors that may be triggered by radiation. This review examines a fact that is usually ignored in discussing the biological impact of ionizing radiation: the local increase in acidity in the water solution along the track of a charged particle. The acidity in the track is very different from its value for cellular water in a living organism. Biological processes are well-known to be highly sensitive to changes in the environmental acidity. It seems that the biological impact of ionizing radiations is dominated not by the water radiolysis products (mostly radicals) listed above but particles of a different nature, hydroxonium ions 3+, where the term hydroxonium refer to protonated water molecules. This modification of the mechanism of primary radiobiological effects is in good agreement with experimental data. In particular, the extremal dependence of the relative biological efficiency (RBE) of radiations on their ionizing energy losses is accounted for in quantitative terms, as is the increase in the RBE in the relativistic energy range.

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PACS: 82.39.−k, 87.50.−a, 87.50.Gi, 87.54.Br (all)
DOI: 10.1070/PU2006v049n05ABEH005783
Citation: Byakov V M, Stepanov S V "The mechanism for the primary biological effects of ionizing radiation" Phys. Usp. 49 469–487 (2006)
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:   ,    «  » 176 487–506 (2006); DOI: 10.3367/UFNr.0176.200605b.0487

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