Ionizing Radiation Damage on Cells

It's not easy being a kid or a parent these days, particularly when it comes to complex and scientific concepts. So much is being expected of teachers and their students that the homework can feel baffling-but not if you're prepared. Do a little proactive research about ionizing radiation damage on cells, and you'll have a leg up on everybody else in biology class.

What is ionizing radiation damage?

Any time the body or part of the body is subjected to radiation, there is probably risk of some ionizing radiation damage. This is due to the molecular reactions between the cells and the radiation's ionizing affects. According to Princeton University, injury to living tissue is the result of the transfer of energy to atoms and molecules in the cellular structure. The ionizing radiation causes these molecules and atoms to become energized and excited. This is also known as ionization.

What is ionizing radiation?

Ionization is the process by which electrons are removed from atoms in materials where radiation has passed through. Ionizing radiation refers to the excess energy emitted when an unstable element transforms or decays into a different state. Ionizing radiation is everywhere and comes in many forms, some more damaging than others. Ionizing radiation is not always profoundly damaging to cells, as in sunlight, or it can be incredibly damaging as in the radiation treatments for cancer. Additionally ionizing radiation can have a cumulative effect over time. For example, increasing sun exposure over time can lead to an increased risk of tissue damage, wrinkles, sunspots and even melanoma.

The process of ionizing radiation damage to cells

Ionizations from radiation can cause the breakdown of existing, healthy chemical bonds. The process can result in new chemical bonds or cross-linkage between macromolecules that did not exist previously. Ionizing radiation also can cause damage to vital molecules that regulate crucial cell processes such as proteins, DNA and RNA. Cells will try naturally to repair themselves from radiation damage, and can do so to a degree. The normal amount of background radiation humans receive every day is most often managed at this level, however in extensive exposure cellular repair cannot keep up, and this can lead to cell death and even cause tissues to die.

Effects of ionizing radiation

Cell damage due to ionizing radiation can result in several events. Tissue sensitivity is different depending upon the type of tissue exposed to ionizing radiation. The most sensitive are the blood forming organisms, reproductive organs, skin, muscle, teeth and bone. The nervous system is lower on the list of radiation sensitivity. To generalize, the sensitivity of a tissue depends upon how fast the cells in that tissue reproduce and the degree of cellular differentiation (or variation) within a tissue.

Specific side effects from ionizing radiation

There are prompt and delayed effects of radiation. The effects seen right away usually include radiation sickness and radiation burns. Over time different effects may show up. Cataracts and cancer, for example, can appear from months to years after ionizing radiation exposure.

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