Renal dysfunction induced by long-term exposure to depleted uranium in rats

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Abstract

Depleted uranium (DU) is a kind of radioactive heavy metal which can enter into the body via inhalation (aerosols), ingestion (drinking and eating) and wounds (embedded), and causes chemical and/or radiation-induced toxicities. In this study, male Sprague Dawley rats were surgically implanted in gastrocnemius muscle with DU fragments at three dose levels (low-dose, medium-dose and high-dose), with biologically inert tantalum (Ta) fragments served as controls. At 1 day, 7 days, and 3, 6, and 12 months after implantation, the rats were euthanized and tissue samples were collected, and uranium levels were measured in a variety of tissues by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to analyze the dynamic changes and distribution of uranium in rats. Thereafter, at 3, 6 and 12 months after implantation, the rats were euthanized after the collection of 24 h urine, blood and kidney samples were collected for analysis of DU-induced renal histopathologic changes and renal dysfunction. It was observed that DU concentrations in all the DU implanted groups were higher than that in Ta control group, and DU concentrations in the kidney increased with the implanted times, peaked at the 90 days after implantation, with a high correlation to the implanted DU doses, and then began to decrease gradually and slowly, and the DU concentrations in kidney still maintained at a relatively high level even at the 360 days after implantation. Otherwise, chronic DU contamination could induce the pathological changes of renal glomeruli, tubules and mesenchyme, such as interstitial fibrosis, enlarged interstice of renal tubular epithelial cells, tumefactions and necrosis of epithelial cells, shrinkage and disappearance of cavity of Bowman's capsule. By TEM, it was shown that the basement membrane of glomerulus was incrassated, mitochondrial of kidney proximal tubule had visible tumefaction and became bigger, and the mitochondrial cristae became shorter and disorderly in alignment. Compared to the control group, it was found that there was significant increase in the DU implantation group in terms of their blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and serum creatinine, urinary β2-microglobulin (β2-MG) and albumin, with a high correlation to the implanted DU dosage and periods. It was concluded that DU could accumulate in kidneys for a long period, and causes kidney injury by the toxic chemical/radioactive action such as renal dysfunction and structural damage.

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