Objective: To determine the radioprotective effects of Silymarin in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats irradiated with γ-rays. 

Methods: The present experimental study was performed in Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran from December 2009 to March 2010. The study was performed on 40 rats, which were randomly and equally divided into four groups: 1) control group: neither received Silymarin nor irradiated with γ-rays; 2) γ-irradiation group: testis region exposed to 2Gy of γ-rays; 3) Silymarin & γ-irradiation: rats received 100 mg/kg of Silymarin 24hrs before exposure to 2Gy of γ-rays; 4) Silymarin & γ-irradiation: rats received 200 mg/kg of Silymarin 24hrs before exposure to 2Gy of γ-rays. After animal experiments and preparing the tissue sections, different histological and histomorphological parameters of seminiferous tubules and the biological characteristics of Leydig cells were evaluated applying quantitative assessment, Johnson scoring, and Leydig cell apoptosis assay by TUNEL method. The data were analyzed applying ANOVA and Tukey's post hoc test, using SPSS software (V.19).

Results: Irradiation of 2 Gy γ-rays to the testis of the rats significantly affected the frequency of spermatogonia, primary spermatocyte, round spermatid, spermatozoa, seminiferous tube and lumen diameters, thickness of the epithelium, Leydig cell nuclear diameter and volume, epithelium height , and apoptotic cells (p<0.05). However, administration of Silymarin improved the mentioned parameters specifically in 200 mg/kg of dosage. 

Conclusion: Silymarin could act as a potent radioprotector and it can be used in modulation as well as improvement to radiation therapy to prevent male reproductive function, specifically seminiferous tubules in an animal model; however, its molecular mechanism is still not clear and needs more molecular researches.


Keywords: Spermatogenesis, Radiotherapy, Silymarin, Radioprotector, Antioxidant
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