Dose and dose rate dependence of the tissue sparing effect at ultra-high dose rate studied for proton and electron beams using the zebrafish embryo model

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Purpose: A better characterization of the dependence of the tissue sparing effect at ultra-high dose rate (UHDR) on physical beam parameters (dose, dose rate, radiation quality) would be helpful towards a mechanistic understanding of the FLASH effect and for its broader clinical translation. To address this, a comprehensive study on the normal tissue sparing at UHDR using the zebrafish embryo (ZFE) model was conducted. Methods: One-day-old ZFE were irradiated over a wide dose range (15–95 Gy) in three different beams (proton entrance channel, proton spread out Bragg peak and 30 MeV electrons) at UHDR and reference dose rate. After irradiation the ZFE were incubated for 4 days and then analyzed for four different biological endpoints (pericardial edema, curved spine, embryo length and eye diameter). Results: Dose-effect curves were obtained and a sparing effect at UHDR was observed for all three beams. It was demonstrated that proton relative biological effectiveness and UHDR sparing are both relevant to predict the resulting dose response. Dose dependent FLASH modifying factors (FMF) for ZFE were found to be compatible with rodent data from the literature. It was found that the UHDR sparing effect saturates at doses above ∼ 50 Gy with an FMF of ∼ 0.7–0.8. A strong dose rate dependence of the tissue sparing effect in ZFE was observed. The magnitude of the maximum sparing effect was comparable for all studied biological endpoints. Conclusion: The ZFE model was shown to be a suitable pre-clinical high-throughput model for radiobiological studies on FLASH radiotherapy, providing results comparable to rodent models. This underlines the relevance of ZFE studies for FLASH radiotherapy research.


Original languageEnglish
Article number110197
JournalRadiotherapy and oncology
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

External IDs

PubMed 38447870
ORCID /0000-0003-1899-603X/work/156812001
ORCID /0000-0002-7017-3738/work/156813794
ORCID /0000-0003-0283-0211/work/156814169



  • Electrons, Flash effect, NTCP curves, Protons, Ultra-high dose rate (UHDR), Zebrafish embryo (ZFE), Radiotherapy Dosage, Proton Therapy/methods, Embryo, Nonmammalian/radiation effects, Electrons/therapeutic use, Animals, Relative Biological Effectiveness, Zebrafish/embryology, Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation