Longevity Briefs: Could Low-Dose Radiation Combat Diseases of Ageing?

Posted on 20 January 2021

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: We all know that high levels of radiation can be dangerous. What may be surprising to many, however, is that low doses of radiation could actually have beneficial health effects. Much like calorie restriction and extremes of temperature, radiation puts cells under stress, activating cellular maintenance and repair pathways and leading to improved cell and tissue function. This has been demonstrated in multiple animal models. Conversely, suppressing natural background radiation has been found to have detrimental effects.

What did the researchers do: In this article published in Biogerontology, the authors discuss the possibility of using low dose ionising radiation (LDIR), comparable to that used in X-ray imaging, to treat or prevent age related disorders in the elderly.

A: Molecular and cellular mechanisms operating at low and high-dose radiation exposures. 
B: Time schedule of pathways involved in the adaptive response to radiation.
Low-dose ionizing radiation as a hormetin: experimental observations and therapeutic perspective for age-related disorders

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Increasing evidence suggests that DNA damage caused by LDIR is negligible when compared to that caused by everyday cellular metabolism, and is easily reversed by the cell’s DNA repair mechanisms. On the other hand, LDIR has the potential to reduce cell damage from oxidative stress, improve the removal of damaged cells and cell components, stimulate the immune system, and activate cellular repair – all of which should theoretically impede the development of age-related diseases.

The authors argue that the potential short-term benefits of LDIR outweigh the hypothetical long-term dangers (such as cancer), particularly in fatal and incurable diseases like Alzheimer’s. Emerging evidence suggests that low dose radiation is not necessarily harmful due to adaptive changes within cells. It is therefore suggested that the treatment of age related disorders with LDIR should be (cautiously) explored in clinical trials.

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Low-dose ionizing radiation as a hormetin: experimental observations and therapeutic perspective for age-related disorders: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10522-020-09908-5

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