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The Radiological Research Accelerator Facility: from Microbeams to A-bombs

Kolloquium der Abteilung 6

The Radiological Research Accelerator Facility (RARAF) at Columbia University is a National Biomedical Technology Resource Center dedicated to understanding the radiobiological mechanisms by which different types of radiation affect living cells and tissues. Originally incepted at Brookhaven in 1967 to provide neutron beams for radiobiology studies, RARAF is currently the only biology-dedicated accelerator facility in the United States, providing well defined ion beams and neutron fields for studies in basic science, preclinical radiotherapy and biodosimetry.

Built around a 5.5. MV Singletron accelerator, RARAF is a world leader in the development and use of charged particle single cell microbeams.  We have designed and operated systems to irradiate live single cells with a single particle with a targeting resolution of 0.5 µm.  For comparative studies, we have the capability to irradiate whole cell culture dishes with a broad beam of particles giving distributed average dosing to all the cells. These are used for biological studies of radiation-induced injury and response at the cellular and sub-cellular level, and also for more broadly motivated studies of intra- and inter-cellular damage signal transduction.

In the context of response to a mass radiological event, RARAF is an irradiation core for the NIAID Centers for Medical Countermeasures against Radiation, providing neutron fields mimicking an improvised nuclear device for testing biodosimetry assays and importantly, testing novel drugs for mitigating the effects of acute radiation exposure.

Going forward, RARAF is anticipating facility upgrades to allow higher energies and heavy ions, enabling irradiation of in-vitro and in-situ tumor models as a pre-clinical heavy ion radiotherapy research center.