Brain accumulation of depleted uranium in rats following 3- or 6-month treatment with implanted depleted uranium pellets

Vanessa A. Fitsanakis, Keith M. Erikson, Stephanie J. Garcia, Lars Evje, Tore Syversen, Michael Aschner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Depleted uranium (DU) is used to reinforce armor shielding and increase penetrability of military munitions. Although the data are conflicting, DU has been invoked as a potential etiological factor in Gulf War syndrome. We examined regional brain DU accumulation following surgical implantation of metal pellets in male Sprague-Dawley rats for 3 or 6 mo. Prior to surgery, rats were randomly divided into five groups: Nonsurgical control (NS Control); 0 DU pellets/20 tantalum (Ta) pellets (Sham); 4 DU pellets/16 Ta pellets (Low); 10 DU pellets/10 Ta pellets (Medium); 20 DU pellets/0 Ta pellets (High). Rats were weighed weekly as a measure of general health, with no statistically significant differences observed among groups in either cohort. At the conclusion of the respective studies, animals were perfused with phosphate-buffered saline, pH 7.4, to prevent contamination of brain tissue with DU from blood. Brains were removed and dissected into six regions: cerebellum, brainstem (pons and medulla), midbrain, hippocampus, striatum, and cortex. The uranium content was measured in digested samples as its 238U isotope by high-resolution inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. After 3 mo postimplantation, DU significantly accumulated in all brain regions except the hippocampus in animals receiving the highest dose of DU (p < 0.05). By 6 mo, however, significant accumulation was measured only in the cortex, midbrain, and cerebellum (p < 0.01). Our data suggest that DU implanted in peripheral tissues can preferentially accumulate in specific brain regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-197
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Trace Element Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Sep 19 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood-brain barrier transport
  • Depleted uranium
  • Gulf War syndrome
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • ICP-MS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical

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