Deep underground laboratories (DULs) were originally created to host particle, astroparticle or nuclear physics experiments requiring a low-background environment with vastly reduced levels of cosmic-ray particle interference. More recently, the range of science projects requiring an underground experiment site has greatly expanded, thus leading to the recognition of DULs as truly multidisciplinary science sites that host important studies in several fields, including geology, geophysics, climate and environmental sciences, technology/instrumentation development and biology. So far, underground biology experiments are ongoing or planned in a few of the currently operating DULs. Among these DULs is the Gran Sasso National Laboratory (LNGS), where the majority of radiobiological data have been collected. Here we provide a summary of the current scenario of DULs around the world, as well as the specific features of the LNGS and a summary of the results we obtained so far, together with other findings collected in different underground laboratories. In particular, we focus on the recent results from our studies of Drosophila melanogaster, which provide the first evidence of the influence of the radiation environment on life span, fertility and response to genotoxic stress at the organism level. Given the increasing interest in this field and the establishment of new projects, it is possible that in the near future more DULs will serve as sites of radiobiology experiments, thus providing further relevant biological information at extremely low-dose-rate radiation. Underground experiments can be nicely complemented with above-ground studies at increasing dose rate. A systematic study performed in different exposure scenarios provides a potential opportunity to address important radiation protection questions, such as the dose/dose-rate relationship for cancer and non-cancer risk, the possible existence of dose/dose-rate threshold(s) for different biological systems and/or end points and the possible role of radiation quality in triggering the biological response.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging