Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)


Medical Physics


Carmel. E. Mothersill


Colin Seymour



Committee Member

Douglas Boreham


Ionizing radiation is without a doubt an invaluable tool in diagnostic imaging as well as radiation therapy. With the growing number of medical and occupational exposures, together with challenges against the LNT model, low dose exposures and non-targeted effects have been subject to intensive research. Additionally, with the advances in the field of radiation therapy and longer life expectancy after the treatment, the risks associated with second malignancies following radiation therapy for various cancers has received a tremendous amount of attention. On the other hand, nicotine, as the addictive component of tobacco has been known for its adverse health effects and its relation to various types of cancers, accounting for one in 10 adult deaths worldwide. Both nicotine and low doses of radiation are amongst the stressors that widely affect the public. Surprisingly, the interactions between low-dose effects and nicotine exposure have not received the proper scientific attention. Our group has been involved in investigation of the non-targeted effects of radiation with a variety of endpoints. Different natural compounds and signalling molecules have also been studied in our lab for their possible role or contribution to bystander signalling. This research involves the study of the impact of nicotine on radiation-induced bystander effects and also radioadaptive responses. Different concentrations of nicotine were used to study the kinetics of the drug as well as any detrimental or modifying effects when used together with radiation. It was shown that nicotine has a protective effect on survival of the cells in certain concentrations that follows a biphasic model. Similar bimodal behaviour was observed with bystander effect. No adaptation to a challenge dose of radiation occurred as a result of incubation with varying concentrations of nicotine, nor was such an effect shown with a priming dose of radiation. The results of the present study suggest that nicotine has a complicated effect on the cells which can vary significantly depending on the concentrations used and also the duration of exposure. nAChRs may have an important role in the response of the bystander cells when nicotine is involved as the results showed a shift in the response of the receptors to nicotine. This thesis is aimed to shed light on the impact of nicotine and initiate more detailed investigations on pathways through which these effects are mediated.

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