A Review on Toxicodynamics of Depleted Uranium

Document Type : Review Paper


1 Department of Toxicology and Pharmacology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, Sari, Iran.

2 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Pharmacy, Guilan University of Medical Sciences, Rasht, Iran.

3 Department of Toxicology and Pharmacology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.


Depleted uranium (DU) is an important by product in uranium enrichment process. Due to
its applications in civilian and also military activity, DU emerged as environmental pollutant.
The exposure to DU can occur via external or internal pathways. In external exposure, mainly
beta radiation from the decay products contributes to DU toxicity. Internal exposure to DU
is more important and can occur through ingestion of DU-contaminated water and food and
inhalation of DU aerosols. There is limited information about health effects and mechanism of
DU after environmental exposure. Kidney is reported as the main target organ for the chemical
toxicity of this metal that was reported in Persian Gulf syndrome. Alterations in behavior,
some neurologic adverse effects, immunotoxicity, embryo-toxicity and hepatotoxicity were
observed in chronic exposure to DU. Also, the increased risk of cancer was revealed in
epidemiological and experimental studies. Several mechanisms were suggested for DU toxicity
such as oxidative stress, mitochondrial toxicity and inflammation. In fact, uranium like other
toxic heavy metals can induce oxidative damage and apoptosis via mitochondrial pathway and
inflammatory response. In this review, we have discussed the kinetic of DU including source
and exposure pathway. In addition, the health effects of DU and also its toxic mechanism have
been highlighted.


Main Subjects

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