Cataracts characteristic of those arising from radiation exposure have been reported among the astronaut and cosmonaut corps. This being the case it is critical to appreciate how radiogenic cataracts relate to those arising from other exogenous causes such as therapeutics, which may, one day, have to be administered on an extended mission. Because they produce precisely the same clinical picture, corticosteroids are examples of a class of drugs that potentially can exacerbate damage to the lens from radiation. On the other hand, Vitamin E, a free radical scavenger, has been shown to ameliorate oxidative damage as caused by ionizing radiation and evidence is accumulating that it may constitute protection from radiogenic damage. An experimental study was conducted to understand if corticosteroids with, and in the absence of Vitamin E deficiency modulate the onset of cataract induced by ionizing radiation. The right eyes of seventy-two 28-day-old Brown-Norway rats were irradiated with 6 Gy of 240 kV X-rays, the shielded left eyes served as controls. Half of the animals were maintained on a Vitamin E free diet after irradiation, the others were kept on standard chow. Fifty per cent of the animals in each nutritional group received dexamethasone. The initial daily dose of 10 mg/kg body weight injected subcutaneously was reduced to 0.5 mg/kg over the course of six months. Cataract onset and development were followed by weekly slit-lamp exam. After six month the lenses were harvested for microscopic analyses. Irradiated eyes in all treatment subgroups showed early cataract onset [5 wks vs. 11 wks in controls (p < 0.0001)]. Corticosteroids accounted for accelerated cataract development in both irradiated (p < 0.0005) and non-irradiated eyes (p < 0.0001) relative to respective control eyes. Vitamin E deficiency did not affect cataract incidence in combination with radiation or steroids alone. Unexpectedly, when compared to irradiated controls, cataract development was inhibited in the group that received radiation, dexamethasone and the Vitamin E free diet (p < 0.0005). Radiation, at the applied dose, was the predominant risk factor for early cataract onset. However, corticosteroids accelerate cataract formation. The surprising protective influence of Vitamin E deficiency may be the result of a stathmokinetic effect on mitosis - a possibility that is supported by lens epithelial histopathology in the regions of cell mitosis and differentiation.
- Posterior subcapsular cataract
- Vitamin E
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Space and Planetary Science
- Astronomy and Astrophysics