Early and high-throughput individual dose estimates are essential following large-scale radiation exposure events. In the context of the Running the European Network for Biodosimetry and Physical Dosimetry (RENEB) 2021 exercise, gene expression assays were conducted and their corresponding performance for dose-assessment is presented in this publication. Three blinded, coded whole blood samples from healthy donors were exposed to 0, 1.2 and 3.5 Gy X-ray doses (240 kVp, 1 Gy/min) using the X-ray source Yxlon. These exposures correspond to clinically relevant groups of unexposed, low dose (no severe acute health effects expected) and high dose exposed individuals (requiring early intensive medical health care). Samples were sent to eight teams for dose estimation and identification of clinically relevant groups. For quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and microarray analyses, samples were lysed, stored at 208C and shipped on wet ice. RNA isolations and assays were run in each laboratory according to locally established protocols. The time-to-result for both rough early and more precise later reports has been documented where possible. Accuracy of dose estimates was calculated as the difference between estimated and reference doses for all doses (summed absolute difference, SAD) and by determining the number of correctly reported dose estimates that were defined as ±0.5 Gy for reference doses <2.5 Gy and ±1.0 Gy for reference doses >3 Gy, as recommended for triage dosimetry. We also examined the allocation of dose estimates to clinically/diagnostically relevant exposure groups. Altogether, 105 dose estimates were reported by the eight teams, and the earliest report times on dose categories and estimates were 5 h and 9 h, respectively. The coefficient of variation for 85% of all 436 qRT-PCR measurements did not exceed 10%. One team reported dose estimates that systematically deviated several-fold from reported dose estimates, and these outliers were excluded from further analysis. Teams employing a combination of several genes generated about two-times lower median SADs (0.8 Gy) compared to dose estimates based on single genes only (1.7 Gy). When considering the uncertainty intervals for triage dosimetry, dose estimates of all teams together were correctly reported in 100% of the 0 Gy, 50% of the 1.2 Gy and 50% of the 3.5 Gy exposed samples. The order of dose estimates (from lowest to highest) corresponding to three dose categories (unexposed, low dose and highest exposure) were correctly reported by all teams and all chosen genes or gene combinations. Furthermore, if teams reported no exposure or an exposure >3.5 Gy, it was always correctly allocated to the unexposed and the highly exposed group, while low exposed (1.2 Gy) samples sometimes could not be discriminated from highly (3.5 Gy) exposed samples. All teams used FDXR and 78.1% of correct dose estimates used FDXR as one of the predictors. Still, the accuracy of reported dose estimates based on FDXR differed considerably among teams with one team’s SAD (0.5 Gy) being comparable to the dose accuracy employing a combination of genes. Using the workflow of this reference team, we performed additional experiments after the exercise on residual RNA and cDNA sent by six teams to the reference team. All samples were processed similarly with the intention to improve the accuracy of dose estimates when employing the same workflow. Re-evaluated dose estimates improved for half of the samples and worsened for the others. In conclusion, this inter-laboratory comparison exercise enabled (1) identification of technical problems and corrections in preparations for future events, (2) confirmed the early and high-throughput capabilities of gene expression, (3) emphasized different biodosimetry approaches using either only FDXR or a gene combination, (4) indicated some improvements in dose estimation with FDXR when employing a similar methodology, which requires further research for the final conclusion and (5) underlined the applicability of gene expression for identification of unexposed and highly exposed samples, supporting medical management in radiological or nuclear scenarios.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging