Low levels of radiation can lead to the growth of cancer cells by redox stress in the body. A new study has found that low doses of radiation equal to those from three CT scans can lead to the growth of cancer capable cells. The journal “Cell Stem Cell” has published this study.
Cells with a p53 mutation indicate cancer progression
The researchers have found that low doses of radiation from CT scans thought to be safe, can progress to cancer. It can increase the number of cells with a p53 mutation.
The p53 also called as tumor protein or TP53, codes for a protein that works to suppress cancer. TP53 plays a role in growth arrest and apoptosis.
Redox stress from low levels of radiation can cause mutation in the p53 gene. With a mutation in the p53 gene, its role gets affected.
There is no more control of the cell cycle and apoptosis. As a result, abnormal cells continue to multiply, leading to cancer.
Later, the research team found that giving mice antioxidant before exposure to radiation can prevent cancer. Antioxidant boosts the growth of healthy and normal cells.
These healthy cells then compete with cells having a p53 mutation. And as a result, they replace the p53 mutant cells. As low levels of radiation can increase the number of cancer capable cells, one should keep this risk in mind, while checking radiation safety.
In our daily life, a person gets exposed to different sources of ionizing radiations. These may include natural radiations in rocks and soil, and that from CT scan, and X-rays.
In the case of medical imaging, the low levels of radiation can cause only a little damage to the cell DNA. Moreover, as these radiations have just a slight effect on long-term health, one can consider them to be safe.
Giving antioxidant before exposure to radiation reduces p53 mutant cells
Previous studies have shown that a person’s healthy tissues like skin are like a battleground for healthy and mutant cells.
Mutant cells are continuously in a fight with healthy cells for space. In every person, healthy tissues contain cancer capable mutant cells, including cells with a p53 mutation.
The number of these cancer capable cells increase with advancing age, yet only a few cells go on and form cancer. In this study, the research team gave 50 mGy of radiation to mice, that is equal to 3 – 4 CT scans.
The results have shown that cells with the p53 mutation can dominate healthy cells and lead to cancer. Later, the research team provided mice with an antioxidant – N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC).
They gave NAC to the mice before exposing them to 50 mGy of radiation. The results have implied that giving antioxidant helps healthy cells to fight and remove the p53 mutant cells.
The results have also shown that healthy cells can’t remove mutant cells with antioxidants alone. It still needs exposure to radiation.
However, the effect of this therapy on tissues other than esophagus still needs more research. Moreover, it requires further study, for understanding the impact of radiation on the people.
This study has focused on how low levels of radiations can lead to cancer by redox reactions. And it also suggests developing therapies that can prevent cancer, by boosting healthy cells.