Irradiation induced modest changes in murine cardiac function despite progressive structural damage to the myocardium and microvasculature

Ingar Seemann*, Karen Gabriels, Nils L. Visser, Saske Hoving, Johannes A. te Poele, Jeffrey F. Pol, Marion J. Gijbels, Ben J. Janssen, Fijs W. Van Leeuwen, Mat J. Daemen, Sylvia Heeneman, Fiona A. Stewart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

97 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: Radiotherapy of thoracic and chest wall tumors increases the long-term risk of cardiotoxicity, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. Methods: Single doses of 2, 8, or 16 Gy were delivered to the hearts of mice and damage was evaluated at 20, 40, and 60 weeks, relative to age matched controls. Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT/CT) and ultrasound were used to measure cardiac geometry and function, which was related to histo-morphology and microvascular damage. Results: Gated SPECT/CT and ultrasound demonstrated decreases in end diastolic and systolic volumes, while the ejection fraction was increased at 20 and 40 weeks after 2, 8, and 16 Gy. Cardiac blood volume was decreased at 20 and 60 weeks after irradiation. Histological examination revealed inflammatory changes at 20 and 40 weeks after 8 and 16 Gy. Microvascular density in the left ventricle was decreased at 40 and 60 weeks after 8 and 16 Gy, with functional damage to remaining microvasculature manifest as decreased alkaline phosphatase (2, 8, and 16 Gy), increased von Willebrand Factor and albumin leakage from vessels (8 and 16 Gy), and amyloidosis (16 Gy). 16 Gy lead to sudden death between 30 and 40 weeks in 38% of mice. Conclusions: Irradiation with 2 and 8 Gy induced modest changes in murine cardiac function within 20 weeks but this did not deteriorate further, despite progressive structural and microvascular damage. This indicates that heart function can compensate for significant structural damage, although higher doses, eventually lead to sudden death.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-150
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


  • Irradiation
  • Cardiac damage
  • Microvascular damage

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