For more information, contact:
Dwayne Brown, (NASA), 202/358-1726
Jeff Sherwood (DOE), 202/586-5806

October 3, 2002

Electronic newsroom



Low Dose Radiation Research Grants Awarded

The following news release is being issued by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) today. It describes new funding for six research projects on the effects of low dose radiation exposure, one of which will be conducted at the DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory by biologist Betsy Sutherland. Sutherland is studying induction and repair in cells that were exposed to ionizing radiation at doses likely to be experienced by workers in clean up environments, or by astronauts on the International Space Station or on a Mars Mission (a few rem). The average American, by comparison, receives a radiation dose of approximately 360 millirem per year from artificial sources such as medical/dental x-rays and natural sources such as radon gas, cosmic radiation, natural radioactivity in Earth's crust, and naturally-radioactive potassium forty. Sutherland is specifically studying "clusters" of DNA damage, where radiation causes damages to the genetic code close together on two opposing strands of DNA. Such double-strand insults are more difficult for the body's natural repair mechanisms to repair successfully and are therefore more likely to lead to long-term problems such as cancer than isolated lesions, which are more likely to be successfully repaired.

For more information about Brookhaven Lab's role in this research, contact:

Karen McNulty Walsh
Principal Media and Communications Specialist
Brookhaven National Laboratory
P.O. Box 5000, Bldg. 134
Upton, New York 11973-5000
phone: 631 344-8350 or 631 344-2345
fax: 631 344-3368

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have jointly funded six basic research projects intended to expand our understanding of the health effects of low doses of ionizing radiation. The six three-year projects will be funded for a total of $6.69 million.

The research teams will apply similar experimental techniques and research designs to study problems that are relevant to both the DOE Low Dose Radiation Research Program and the NASA Space Radiation Health Program. The goal of DOE’s program is to help determine human health risks from exposures to low levels of radiation encountered in work and cleanup environments. Similarly, the goal of NASA’s program is to pinpoint health risks from radiation exposure to astronauts working in the space environment. DOE’s research focuses on very low doses of x-rays and gamma rays, whereas NASA studies low levels of particulate ionizing radiation (alpha particles, protons and high energy heavy ions) that comprise the solar wind and cosmic rays. In both cases, this information is needed to determine adequate and appropriate protective measures for personnel.

The projects will be funded by the DOE Office of Science’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research and by NASA’s Space Radiation Health Program, Office of Biological and Physical Research.

A list of the joint DOE/NASA investigators, their institutions, research projects and level of funding follows. Additional information on the individual projects is available from the DOE/NASA press offices or on the World Wide Web at: , and

Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, N.Y.
Betsy M. Sutherland
“DNA Damage Clusters in Low Level Radiation Responses of Human Cells”

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.
Terumi Kohwi-Shigematsu
“SATB1 Deficiency Accounts for High Susceptibility to Low Dose Radiation”

Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, Calif.
Lora M. Green
“Low Dose Gamma Irradiation Potentiates Secondary Exposure to Gamma Rays or Protons in Thyroid Tissue Analogs”

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Wash.
Eric J. Ackerman
“Effects Of Low Doses of Radiation on DNA Repair”

Texas Engineering Experiment Station
The Texas A & M University System, College Station, Texas
John R. Ford
“Low Dose Response of Respiratory Cells in Intact Tissues and Reconstituted Tissue Constructs”

University of Texas, Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas
Michael N. Cornforth
“Cytogenetic Response of Low Doses of Ionizing Radiation”