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Microbeam radiation therapy (MRT) using high doses of synchrotron X-rays can destroy tumours in animal models whilst causing little damage to normal tissues. Determining the spatial distribution of radiation doses delivered during MRT at a microscopic scale is a major challenge. Film and semiconductor dosimetry as well as Monte Carlo methods struggle to provide accurate estimates of dose profiles and peak-to-valley dose ratios at the position of the targeted and traversed tissues whose biological responses determine treatment outcome. The purpose of this study was to utilise γ-H2AX immunostaining as a biodosimetric tool that enables in situ biological dose mapping within an irradiated tissue to provide direct biological evidence for the scale of the radiation burden to 'spared' tissue regions between MRT tracks. Γ-H2AX analysis allowed microbeams to be traced and DNA damage foci to be quantified in valleys between beams following MRT treatment of fibroblast cultures and murine skin where foci yields per unit dose were approximately five-fold lower than in fibroblast cultures. Foci levels in cells located in valleys were compared with calibration curves using known broadbeam synchrotron X-ray doses to generate spatial dose profiles and calculate peak-to-valley dose ratios of 30-40 for cell cultures and approximately 60 for murine skin, consistent with the range obtained with conventional dosimetry methods. This biological dose mapping approach could find several applications both in optimising MRT or other radiotherapeutic treatments and in estimating localised doses following accidental radiation exposure using skin punch biopsies.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Animals, Cells, Cultured, Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation, Female, Fibroblasts, Humans, Mice, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Organs at Risk, Radiation Oncology, Radiometry, Radiotherapy, Radiotherapy Dosage, Skin, Synchrotrons, X-Rays