The biological effects of ionizing radiation at the cellular level are frequently studied using the well-known formalism of microdosimetry, which provides a quantitative description of the stochastic aspects of energy deposition in irradiated media. Energy deposition can be simulated using Monte Carlo codes, some adopting a computationally efficient condensed-history approach, while others follow a more detailed track-structure approach. In this work, we present the simulation of microdosimetry spectra and related quantities (frequency-mean and dose-mean lineal energies) for incident monoenergetic electrons (50 eV-10 keV) in spheres of liquid water with dimensions comparable to the size of biological targets: base pairs (2 nm diameter), nucleosomes (10 nm), chromatin fibres (30 nm) and chromosomes (300 nm). Simulations are performed using the condensed-history low-energy physics models ("Livermore" and "Penelope") and the track-structure Geant4-DNA physics models, available in the Geant4 Monte Carlo simulation toolkit. The spectra are compared and the influence of simulation parameters and different physics models, with emphasis on recent developments, is discussed, underlining the suitability of Geant4-DNA models for microdosimetry simulations. It is further shown that with an appropriate choice of simulation parameters, condensed-history transport may yield reasonable results for sphere sizes as small as a few tens of a nanometer.
Available for download on Saturday, July 14, 2018