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Journal of Nucleic Acids
Volume 2010 (2010), Article ID 350608, 8 pages
Research Article

From DNA Radiation Damage to Cell Death: Theoretical Approaches

Department of Nuclear and Theoretical Physics, INFN-Pavia Section, University of Pavia, via Bassi 6, I-27100 Pavia, Italy

Received 11 May 2010; Accepted 7 September 2010

Academic Editor: Ashis Basu

Copyright © 2010 Francesca Ballarini. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Some representative models of radiation-induced cell death, which is a crucial endpoint in radiobiology, were reviewed. The basic assumptions were identified, their consequences on predicted cell survival were analyzed, and the advantages and drawbacks of each approach were outlined. In addition to “historical” approaches such as the Target Theory, the Linear-Quadratic model, the Theory of Dual Radiation Action and Katz' model, the more recent Local Effect Model was discussed, focusing on its application in Carbon-ion hadrontherapy. Furthermore, a mechanistic model developed at the University of Pavia and based on the relationship between cell inactivation and chromosome aberrations was presented, together with recent results; the good agreement between model predictions and literature experimental data on different radiation types (photons, protons, alpha particles, and Carbon ions) supported the idea that asymmetric chromosome aberrations like dicentrics and rings play a fundamental role for cell death. Basing on these results, a reinterpretation of the TDRA was also proposed, identifying the TDRA “sublesions” and “lesions” as clustered DNA double-strand breaks and (lethal) chromosome aberrations, respectively.