Does Radiation Influence the Development of Alzheimer’s Disease?

“The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is increasing dramatically throughout the world – by 2040 it is estimated that up to 80 million people will be affected by the disease,” said Dr. Soile Tapio of the Institute of Radiation Biology at Helmholtz Zentrum München. “That is why it is crucial to elucidate potential contributing factors and their role in the etiology of AD,” she added. In the present study, the scientists show that even low doses of ionizing radiation can lead to molecular changes in the brain that are similar to the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease and can cause cognitive dysfunction.

“In our investigations, we found that in the model organism low doses of ionizing radiation given over a long period of time induced molecular changes in the hippocampus,” said Dr. Stefan Kempf, first author of the study and postdoc at the Syddanks Universitet in Denmark. “The hippocampus is an important brain region for learning and memory, and it is known that this region is affected by Alzheimer’s disease.” Although the dose rate of radiation in the experiment was much lower than that of a CT scan, the duration of radiation was significantly longer (300 days).

Large numbers of people of all ages are increasingly exposed to irradiation. The use of diagnostic radiology, medical therapies and increased air travel play an important role. Currently, approximately 62 million CT scans are carried out in the U.S. per year. “All these scans are low-dose radiation,” said Tapio. “As long as an individual is exposed only rarely to irradiation, the effect is not significant. What worries us is that people today are exposed to multiple low radiation doses in the course of their lives, and we cannot say anything about the impact of this cumulative radiation exposure. “

Further information

Kempf S.J. et al. Chronic low-dose-rate ionising radiation affects the hippocampal phosphoproteome in the ApoE-/- Alzheimer’s mouse model. Oncotarget, DOI:10.18632/oncotarget.12376
Link to original publication

As German Research Center for Environmental Health  Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The head office of the center is located in Neuherberg to the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München has approximately 2300 staff members and is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a German research organization comprised of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with around 37,000 employees.

Reaearch at the Institut für Strahlenbiologie (ISB) focuses on the analysis of the effects of radiation exposure in the low dose range and on studies to increase the effectiveness and specificity of radiotherapy for tumors. The research groups investigate radiation biologic effects in the tissue, also against the background of genetic predisposition and individual factors in order to optimize the medical use of radiation. The ISB is part of the Department of Radiation Sciences (DRS).

Scientific Contact:

Dr. Soile Tapio
[email protected]
+49 89 3187-3445

Helmholtz Zentrum München Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt (GmbH)