Radon Research Series

Alpha particle radiation from radon gas has the ability to ionize (steal electrons from) DNA in a manner that produces complex, highly clustered damage to our DNA that our cells are not able to repair quickly or accurately. Dose-for-dose alpha particle radiation is a lot more mutation and cancer-causing relative to other types of radiation such as X-rays.

A critical molecular question is: why?

To study the genetic origins of alpha-particle radiation (radon)-induced lung cancer, our team has developed high throughput technologies to study repetitive alpha-particle radiation effects using human cell systems. By doing this, we can reproduce in a laboratory what happens all the time to people who return each day to a home containing high radon levels.

Using this technology, we are discovering the specific genetic mutation pattern (a ‘signature’) that arises in cells that become cancer following long-term, repetitive exposure to radon.

Once we have this in hand, it will be possible to confidently assign the origin of lung cancer to radon exposure, much as can be done already for tobacco smoking.

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