New Micro Irradiator Improves Ability to Determine Radiation Effects on Cells

The Science

Our ability to understand the biological effects of low doses of radiation has been improved by the development of a device to deliver small doses of radiation to specific, small areas in living cells. DOE-funded scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Medical College of Georgia have developed a microirradiation system for the safe, targeted delivery of ionizing radiation to individual cells without the need for specialized facilities. The system consists of a 25-micron-diameter electroplated nickel-63 electrode, enveloped in a glass capillary and mounted on a microscope using a micromanipulator. Because of the low energy of the beta radiation and the minute amount of isotope present on the tip, the device can be safely handled with minimum precautions. The scientists were able to track individual sites of repair in real time in live human osteosarcoma cells. They found that a subset of foci appeared and disappeared in only 30 minutes, results that would not have been evident without this new, real-time observation capability. Development of a microirradiation system compatible with a standard biomedical laboratory expands the potential for real-time investigation in tissues of the biological effects of ionizing radiation.

BER Program Manager

Resham Kulkarni

U.S. Department of Energy, Biological and Environmental Research (SC-33)
Biological Systems Science Division
[email protected]


Cao, Z., W.W. Kuhne, J. Steeb, M.A. Merkley, Y. Zhou, J. Janata, W.S. Dynan. 2010. “Use of a Microscope Stage-Mounted Nickel-63 Microirradiator for Real-Time Observation of the DNA Double-Strand Break Response,” Nucleic Acids Research 38(14), e144. DOI:10.1093/nar/gkq409.