1930s radiobiology

Tissue culture

There was a considerable interest in the use of tissue culture. SF Fox from Strangeways Research Laboratory in Cambridge wrote in March 1931 (Fox BJR 1931; 4(39): 111-119) on the applications of tissue culture to radiological research and considered the time and intensity of dosage. FG Spear, again from Strangeways Research Laboratory wrote in April 1931 on the effects of radium on tissue culture (Spear BJR 1931; 4(40): 146-165) and again in December 1931 (BJR 1931; 4(48): 680).

Effects of radium 

Image source: Spear BJR 1931; 4(40): 146-165

Sidney Russ and GM Scott reported their work on tumour responses to lethal and sub-lethal doses of X-rays in August 1933 (Russ and Scott BJR 1933; 6(68): 451-460). They found that it was difficult to predict the response of tumours to radiation however they did show that the interval between doses of radiation was of major importance. There were innumerable ways of varying the time interval and experiments up to that time were limited. Sidney Russ and GM Scott then reported in August 1937 on their work on the biological effects of continuous gamma radiation (Russ and Scott BJR 1937; 10(116): 619-629) and of interest was their conclusion that the effects of gamma rays were cumulative and gave the cells little chance to repair.

Effects of gamma radiation

Image source: Russ and Scott BJR 1937; 10(116): 619-629

In July 1938 Douglas E Lea from Cambridge described a theory for the action of biological material that was capable of recovery (Lea BJR 1938; 11(127): 489-497). The biological effect of radiation depended on the intensity of radiation and how the total dose was fractionated. The second part of the paper appeared in August 1938 (Lea BJR 1938; 11(128): 554-566) when he considered the delay in cellular division.

Delay in cellular division after radiation

Image source: Lea BJR 1938; 11(128): 554-566

Two papers by FG Spear and A Glücksmann from Cambridge were printed in 1938 (Spear and Glücksmann BJR 1938; 11(128): 533-554) and 1939 (Spear and Glücksmann BJR 1938; 12(140): 486-498) showing that  exposure to radiation was followed by a reduction in cell division, a change in the ratio of the phases of mitosis and the appearance of degenerative cells.  In February 1941 (BJR 1941; 14(158): 65-76) a subsequent study investigated the effects of gamma radiation on living cells.

 Mitotic and degenerate cells after gamma radiation

Image source: BJR 1941; 14(158): 65-76

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