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Retrospective cohort study and biobanking of patients treated for hemangioma in childhood – telomeres as biomarker of aging and radiation exposure

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posted on 26.06.2017 by Monika Frenzel, Michelle Ricoul, Mohamed Amine Benadjaoud, Marion Bellamy, Aude Lenain, Nadia Haddy, Ibrahima Diallo, Christine Mateus, Florent de Vathaire, Laure Sabatier

Purpose: Cohorts allowing joint epidemiological and biological analyses are essential for radiation risk assessment. The French Hemangioma Cohort (FHC), studied within the European project EpiRadBio, is one of the rare cohorts suitable for studying the effect of low dose radiation exposure (<100 mGy at organs), with a long-term follow-up. This highly homogeneous cohort consists of healthy individuals belonging to a normal population, except for the presence of skin hemangioma (age at exposure: between 6 months and 3 years of age). Published epidemiological studies have demonstrated that the risk of developing cancer is three times higher in the exposed individuals than in the general population. Here, we present the biobanking of samples (nucleated blood cells, cytogenetic slides of T and B lymphocytes) from the FHC and a primary feasibility study of biomarker analysis focusing on mean telomere length (MTL). Telomeres act as an internal clock, regulating the lifetime of the cell by their shortening during cell division. MTL is thus a biomarker of age. Many in vitro studies have linked MTL and radiosensitivity. The FHC will make it possible to discriminate between the effects of aging and radiation on this biomarker.

Conclusion: The establishment of a biobank of essentially healthy individuals (369 in total), exposed 40–70 years before, during their early childhood, is a logistical challenge. Even among those who previously participated to a self-questionnaire based study, the response rate was only 30%. The first biomarker to be studied was the MTL to discriminate age effects from those of radiation exposure. MTL showed significant variation within age groups (4–11 kb) in both the exposed and non-exposed groups. MTL within the limited age window (i.e. 40–73 year) examined, showed age-dependent changes of 46 bp/year, consistent with the age-dependent decline of 41 bp/year previously reported. We observed no significant changes in MTL according to the average active bone marrow dose. However, we were able to demonstrate that exposure to radiation causes the loss of cells with, on average, shorter telomeres, by applying a model in which both the heterogeneity of the individual dose received at the bone marrow and the heterogeneity of the intercellular distribution of MTL were taken into account.


This work was partially supported by a grant from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Program (EURATOM) contract Fission-269553 (EpiRadBio). The FHC is supported by the Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer (Programme Equipes Labélisées).