New biodosimetry approaches to be vetted by Los Alamos

New program identifies biomarkers of radiation exposure

January 6, 2022

Thermo Fisher Orbitrap
Los Alamos National Laboratory equipment will be key to helping determine the effectiveness of varied tools to detect radiation exposure. This equipment shows a biomarker method in development for metabolomics and proteomics using a Thermo Fisher Orbitrap.

Los Alamos scientists will play a key role as evaluators of a novel technology in a new program to assess new methods to detect radiation exposure. The Targeted Evaluation of Ionizing Radiation Exposure (TEI-REX) program is a research and development effort from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to develop innovative biodosimetry approaches, particularly for low-dose radiation exposures.

“Even though direct detection of radionuclides is largely a solved problem, the biological effects of low-dose radiation can be difficult to detect,” said Los Alamos chemist Laura Lilley.

In a promising direction, however, research suggests that biomarkers associated with ionizing radiation exposure can be detected in proteins, peptides, metabolites and lipids. Los Alamos scientists, in partnership with colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, will together draw on decades of experience in such fields to aid IARPA in assessing the approaches pursued by TEI-REX program participants.

“Los Alamos scientists will support the IARPA program by leveraging Los Alamos’ rare combination of expertise in the fields of radiation exposure, organs-on-a-chip, mass spectrometry and integrated multiomics,” said Trevor Glaros, the principal investigator for the Los Alamos portion of TEI-REX. (Multiomics is a new biological tool where the data from different omic groups such as the genome, proteome and microbiome are combined during analysis.)

Phillip Mach, a Los Alamos expert in mass spectrometry, noted that “although the value in integrating the various omics is not new, it has not yet been applied to biomarker discovery efforts geared at low-dose radiation from non-invasive samples.”

The TEI-REX program challenges research teams to develop novel approaches to detect these biomarkers at very low-exposure dosages without invasive sampling. Participants will be encouraged to detect radiation-induced changes in samples of skin, hair, nails, sweat, natural surface oils, saliva, dermal interstitial fluid and/or mucosal cells from the mouth.

“Identifying signatures that result from low levels of radiation is a key component to understanding the complex mechanisms that result from exposure,” said Jennifer Harris, who is leading the development of a tissue culture model for the project.

LAUR 22-20106