A Role for the Internet in Radiation Biodosimetry

Gordon K. Livingston PhD
REAC/TS Cytogenetic Biodosimetry Laboratory
Oak Ridge, TN


The dicentric chromosome aberration assay is considered the gold standard to estimate radiation dose. While it is considered a diagnostic test for radiation exposure, it is time-consuming and any one, or group of laboratories, could be quickly overwhelmed in a mass casualty event involving hundreds or thousands of persons. Several approaches have been evaluated to reduce the labor-intensive nature of this assay and strengthen surge capacity by increasing sample throughput. These include automation in sample processing, decreasing the number of cells scored to detect a minimum dose (0.5 Gy) and use of the Internet to share image files among multiple scorers. Inter-laboratory studies have shown that analysis of electronic images viewed on the computer monitor produces scoring accuracy equivalent to viewing live images in the microscope. This functional equivalence was demonstrated in a 2007 AFRRI-sponsored comparative study involving five laboratories constructing Co60 gamma ray calibration curves. It was further confirmed when the results of four blind dose estimates submitted by each laboratory were compared. It has been further validated in two World Health Organization BioDoseNet trial exercises where 20 metaphase images were shared by e-mail and 50 images were shared on a test website created for this purpose. Altogether, these studies suggest that web-based chromosome scoring would strengthen surge capacity and leverage human and equipment resources throughout the world. We conclude that a global IT/network infrastructure will be required to serve the needs of an expanding radiation biodosimetry community of nearly 60 laboratories world-wide.