A Dose-Dependent Hematological Evaluation of Whole-Body Gamma-Irradiation in the Göttingen Minipig

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There is a great deal of interest in the establishment of a standardized animal model for the acute radiation syndrome to allow development of diagnostic approaches and countermeasure treatments following radiological terrorist events. Due to physiological, anatomical, and biochemical similarities to humans, the minipig is an attractive large animal model for evaluating countermeasure efficacy. This study was conducted in order to aid in the establishment of the minipig, and the Göttingen minipig in particular, as an animal model for the hematopoietic acute radiation syndrome. Animals were exposed whole-body to 60Co at doses of 0 (sham control), 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1.0, and 2.0 Gy, and hematological parameters followed in time from pre-irradiation to post-irradiation Day 7. Following irradiation, a dose-dependent decrease in total white blood cells was observed, which was determined to be statistically different as compared to control animals at all dose levels above 0.25 Gy at 24 h post-irradiation. Similarly, a dose-dependent reduction in both absolute lymphocyte count and absolute neutrophil count occurred by the earliest time point measured for all exposed animals. A significant decrease in platelets was observed at post-irradiation Day 7 in animals exposed only at the highest (2.0 Gy) level. The platelet-to-lymphocyte ratio generated for exposures ranging from 0.25–2.0 Gy was able to differentiate response between high and low exposure levels even at 7 d post exposure. In conclusion, the present study supports the development of the Göttingen minipig as a suitable large animal model to study radiation-induced hematopoietic syndrome.

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