Summary of advantages and disadvantages of
existing and developing techniques for assessment of radiation exposure levels

Existing techniques Advantages Disadvantages
Dicentric assay
  • Low background "noise"
  • Well calibrated
  • Well researched
  • >40 years experience of deployment
  • Tested in triage mode
  • Limited application to internal contamination
  • Saturates at very high doses
  • Technically demanding
Micronucleus assay
  • Well calibrated
  • Technically easier and faster throughput than the dicentric assay
  • Limited persistence of the signal
  • Background precludes low dose discrimination
  • Saturates at high doses
FISH method
  • Well calibrated
  • Persistent signal
  • Expensive reagents
  • Technically demanding
PCC method
(Premature Chromosome Condensation)
  • Avoids differential cell losses in partial body exposure
  • Results can be obtained quickly
  • Can detect exposure to high doses
  • Rarely used
  • Requires further calibration
Developing methods Advantages Disadvantages
γH2AX analysis
  • Potentially highly useful
  • Can detect radiosensitive individuals
  • Could provide insight into the quality of radiation
  • Probably requires analysis 1-2 days post-irradiation
  • Time consuming although applicable for automation
Analysis of stable biomarkers
  • Could be used for analysis of long times post-irradiation
  • Could provide insight into radiation quality
  • Time consuming
  • Limited capacity for automation
Candidate protein biological dosimeters
  • Potentially suitable candidate proteins exist
  • Probably requires analysis 1-2 days post-irradiation
Genomic profiling
  • Potentially highly sensitive
  • Potentially high throughput
  • Requires considerable further development
  • Currently expensive technology
Proteomic profiling
  • Developing technology
  • Currently insufficiently sensitive, time consuming, and expensive

Source: adapted from
High dose radiation effects and tissue injury, Report of the Independent Advisory Group on Ionising Radiation, Table 4.4, page 41 (Public Health England [PHE], formerly Health Protection Agency [HPA], UK, March 2009) (PDF - 865 KB)