Scanning Electron Microscopy


The lung appears to be the major dose-limiting organ in radiation of the thorax. Early responses (<1 week) involve the type II pneumocyte and increased surfactant biosynthesis and secretion. Later changes, which appear to be related to the surfactant response, lead to classical radiation pneumonitis, which is often fatal. Animals which survive radiation pneumonitis develop progressive fibrosis, a late-appearing response, which reduces compliance and available air space, and is usually fatal. This study centers on the fine structural changes in the lungs of LAF1 mice, 63 weeks following various radiation exposures (5-13 Gy). Doses which are subthreshold in evoking surfactant and pneumonitic responses precipitate fibrosis and atelectasis by 63 weeks, and involve type II pneumocyte sloughing and degeneration. Of the two major deterrents to lung irradiation (pneumonitis and fibrosis), these results suggest that fibrosis always follows pneumonitis, but pneumonitis is not a necessary preliminary step to fibrosis. Bleomycin elicits several morphological alterations characteristic of radiation, and, when combined with the latter, appears to exacerbate radiation effects.

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