Mechanisms of radiation-induced endothelium damage: Emerging models and technologies

Harshani Wijerathne, Jordan C. Langston, Qingliang Yang, Shuang Sun, Curtis Miyamoto, Laurie E. Kilpatrick, Mohammad F. Kiani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Radiation-induced endothelial/vascular injury is a major complicating factor in radiotherapy and a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in nuclear or radiological catastrophes. Exposure of tissue to ionizing radiation (IR) leads to the release of oxygen radicals and proteases that result in loss of endothelial barrier function and leukocyte dysfunction leading to tissue injury and organ damage. Microvascular endothelial cells are particularly sensitive to IR and radiation-induced alterations in endothelial cell function are thought to be a critical factor in organ damage through endothelial cell activation, enhanced leukocyte-endothelial cell interactions, increased barrier permeability and initiation of apoptotic pathways. These radiation-induced inflammatory responses are important in early and late radiation pathologies in various organs. A better understanding of mechanisms of radiation-induced endothelium dysfunction is therefore vital, as radiobiological response of endothelium is of major importance for medical management and therapeutic development for radiation injuries. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge of cellular and molecular mechanisms of radiation-induced endothelium damage and their impact on early and late radiation injury. Furthermore, we review established and emerging in vivo and in vitro models that have been developed to study the mechanisms of radiation-induced endothelium damage and to design, develop and rapidly screen therapeutics for treatment of radiation-induced vascular damage. Currently there are no specific therapeutics available to protect against radiation-induced loss of endothelial barrier function, leukocyte dysfunction and resulting organ damage. Developing therapeutics to prevent endothelium dysfunction and normal tissue damage during radiotherapy can serve as the urgently needed medical countermeasures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-32
Number of pages12
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Endothelial Cells
  • Endothelium
  • Endothelium, Vascular
  • Humans
  • Radiation Injuries/etiology
  • Radiation, Ionizing
  • Reactive Oxygen Species


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