Mice were irradiated repetitively at 6 wk intervals. The proliferative capacity of the hematopoietic stem cell compartment was studied after each irradiation and compared to that of age-matched controls which had been irradiated only once. Hematopoietic proliferation capacity was measured by determining the number of spleen colonies, splenic iron uptake, spleen weight, and volume of packed red cells 10 days after irradiation.
6 wk after the first irradiation, the hematopoietic compartment was apparently supranormal in size for, when such mice were again irradiated, their postirradiation hematopoiesis was in excess of that of the controls. Thereafter, there was a steady decline in regenerative capacity with each sequential irradiation. After the sixth irradiation, the number of spleen colonies and iron uptake were reduced to one-fifth of that of singly irradiated controls. A decline in body weight and an increase in irradiation mortality accompanied the decline in postirradiation hematopoiesis.
The degree of measured decline in hematopoietic proliferative ability was less than that observed by other investigators who studied the effect of serial transplantation of cells upon their ability to proliferate. Furthermore, even after the sixth irradiation, a marked stimulation of postirradiation hematopoiesis was induced by bleeding the animals before irradiation.