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Biotech Medicine Science

Injected Proteins Protect Mice From Lethal Radiation Dose 59

ananyo writes "Two anti-clotting compounds already approved for use in humans may have a surprising role in treating radiation sickness. Last year's nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan renewed anxiety over the lack of treatments for radiation poisoning. It was long thought that the effects of exposure to high doses of radiation were instantaneous and irreversible, leading to destruction of the gut and loss of bone marrow cells, which damages blood-cell production and the immune system. The two compounds are thrombomodulin (Solulin/Recomodulin), currently approved in Japan to prevent thrombosis, and activated protein C (Xigris). Treating mice with either drug post-exposure led to an eightfold increase in key bone marrow cells needed for the production of white blood cells, and improved the survival rates of mice receiving lethal radiation doses by 40–80% (abstract). And yes, the lead author's name really is Geiger."
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Injected Proteins Protect Mice From Lethal Radiation Dose

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  • Radiation and life are not mutually exclusive. Heck, there are fungi and bacteria that THRIVE on radiation:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiotrophic_fungus [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deinococcus_radiodurans [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermococcus_gammatolerans [wikipedia.org]

    This treatment mentioned here has another key use besides radiation accidents on Earth: long term space travel.

    If we are going to Mars, we are going to have to harden the human body to radiation exposure.

    Through some combination of genetic treatments gleaned from researching radiation extremophiles, and research like this excellent find on these proteins, the human body should be able to be hardened to long term high levels of radiation. That's excellent news for space travel.

    • It sounds far fethed, but gravity, and Van Allen belts are going to have to be made more portable.
      • hardening the human body to radiation is far fetched, you are correct

        but portable gravity is orders of magnitude more far fetched

        • by TheLink (130905)
          Portable acceleration is a good substitute. tether+counterweight+spin = good enough gravity.

          NASA has been wasting resources on a lot of useless stuff instead of working on practical space stations which humans can actually live in rather than merely survive or decay faster on.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @02:26PM (#40456573) Homepage

      Well, we've known for a while that a lot of cases of acute radiation poisoning in humans don't actually directly damage tissues as badly as you'd think, and the problem comes from our cells' natural suicide response to damage. Normally a really good thing for preventing cancer, but not a good thing when, say, a significant number of liver cells are simultaneously slightly damaged and they each decide to kill themselves "for the good of the whole". Oops. So disabling this response allows people to survive radiation doses that previously would have killed them.

      And of course radiation and life are not exclusive... without background radiation, evolution would occur on a vastly slower rate.

      • Actually, radiation doesn't provide that much of the mutations. The studies on animals show a small mutation rate--ratioing down from the experimental exposures to a background exposure--compared to the natural rate of mutations. In humans, the effect has not been seen at all. To the third generation of decendents of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima survivors, there is no increased rate of birth defects. See the Bilogical Effects of Ionization Radiation reports (BEIR I - BEIR VI) for more.
    • by zrbyte (1666979)

      I guess thriving means that everything else gets killed and they have the whole irradiated habitat for themselves.

  • by barlevg (2111272) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @02:12PM (#40456417)
    I think I remember Ronald D. Moore saying in the Battlestar Galactica first season commentary that he felt slightly guilty about making up a magic "anti radiation" drug.
  • We shall call it... Hyronalin.

  • Cancer? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mack428 (802800) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @02:16PM (#40456469)
    I wonder if this could help people being treated for cancer with radiation?
    • The one thing I keep going back to is the part were the Thyroid Gland kind of "dissloves" after exposure to radiation. Do mice have Thyroid glands that act like Human Thyroid glands?
      • Re:Cancer? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @02:58PM (#40457057)

        Synthroid is cheap and readily available. If that's the cost for not dying of radiation exposure, that's a pretty cheap price.

      • Re:Cancer? (Score:5, Informative)

        by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @03:26PM (#40457483) Homepage Journal

        We already know how to mostly prevent thyroid damage from radiation exposure. The thyroid is unique in that it uses large amounts of iodine in producing certain hormones. Unfortunately, many radioactive elements naturally break down into radioactive iodine (Iodine-131), and when the radioactive form is floating around your bloodstream, the thyroid dutifully absorbs it just as it would the non-radioactive version. That bioaccumulation of Iodine-131 in the thyroid is what causes such a high rate of thyroid cancer after radiation exposure. That's why the standard treatment for radiation exposure includes massive doses of normal iodine. By ensuring that most of the iodine that reaches the thyroid is not radioactive, the damage to the thyroid is dramatically reduced.

        • That bioaccumulation of Iodine-131 in the thyroid is what causes such a high rate of thyroid cancer after radiation exposure.

          I am confused now. Are you talking about radiation exposure or are you talking about radioisotope exposure?

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        You can live without a thyroid; my grandmother had hers removed at age 40 and lived another 60 years afterward.

    • Most radiation treatment for cancer is localized so it isn't as big of a risk to the bone marrow..

      If they are going to give some one total body irradiation, they will have to give you a stem cell transplant in order for you to survive.

      • Re:Cancer? (Score:4, Funny)

        by chadenright (1344231) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @02:52PM (#40456965) Journal

        If they are going to give some one total body irradiation, they will have to give you a stem cell transplant in order for you to survive.

        Or else say they're looking for terrorists and are irradiating you for your own good.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If they are going to give some one total body irradiation, they will have to give you a stem cell transplant in order for you to survive.

        Indeed, the very reason for giving someone total body irradiation (TBI) deliberately is so that you can give someone a stem cell transplant (I type as I sit in my daughter's hospital room, watching her recover from a stem cell transplant).

  • To Mars, and beyond!!!

  • What about neutron radiation poisoning (as occurs from nuclear fission IIRC)? I thought as the escaping neutrons traveled through tissue and organs the cellular damage was pretty much irreversible and not just limited to bone marrow.

    Don't get me wrong, this is great news and all just not sure if it's time to shout hurray and go running through Red Forest [wikipedia.org]

    • by Russ1642 (1087959)
      The neutrons do indirect damage. They are captured by the nuclei of non-radioactive isotopes, turning them into radioactive isotopes. After exposure you're radioactive and there's not a thing you can do about it other than wait out the storm and see if you survive after the shorter half-life isotopes have decayed.
  • by Papa Legba (192550) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @02:45PM (#40456829)

    Great! Just Great! Now how are we going to defeat the coming mouse revolution now that scientists have taken nuclear weapons off the table!

    Don't they think before they hand out things like radiation immunity to something that wants our cheese?

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Now now, no need to panic. We simply need to augment our cat forces, perhaps arm them with some sort of "laser" device...

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Don't they think before they hand out things like radiation immunity to something that wants our cheese?

      Of course they think! Specifically, they thought the mouse overlords might pay them better than they are now if they got in on the ground floor of the mouse revolution.

  • This is undoubtedly a precursor to Hyronaline.®

  • And yes, the lead author's name really is Geiger.

    that's nothing. the guy who originally invented the sandwich was actually named Sandwich.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, he was from Sandwich.

  • All I have to do is tell her that she might have had radiation exposure and that I have a "protein injection" to help her out.

  • Now I know what those people one the one way trip to Mars [slashdot.org] will be full of.

  • And yes, the lead author's name really is Geiger.

    It is part of the conspiracy by thi guy to help mice out-compete cats and infest our world.

  • Great article. I called my wife and told her that when she got home, I'd give her a protein injection to protect her from potential radiation hazards. She's thrilled.

  • Folk wisdom may be wrong: http://www.clinicaladvances.com/article_pdfs/ho-article-200904-matthews.pdf [clinicaladvances.com] points to the damage of the combination of chronic ethanol use and irradiation. A beer or six may be helpful, but I can find no proof of any benefit. I would take with a grain of salt the Australian claim that de-alcoholized wire can help: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16083915 [nih.gov] as the resveratol crowd has suffered some reverses recently. The study from Oz could be good work, I'd just want to replicat
  • the doctor's name is Geiger?

After Goliath's defeat, giants ceased to command respect. - Freeman Dyson