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Medicine Science

Cure For Radiation Sickness Found? 385

Summit writes "A scientist has claimed to have discovered a radioprotectant that all but eliminates acute radiation sickness even in cases of lethal doses of radiation in tests on rats and monkeys, when injected up to 72 hours after exposure. They also claim the drug, a protein, has no observed negative effects in humans. They have not irradiated any people just yet, but if this turns out to be true, it could mean everything from curing cancer to making manned interplanetary space expeditions feasible... not to mention treatment for radiation exposures in nuclear/radiological accidents/attacks. If this drug works, it would mean a true breakthrough as past experiments with radioprotectants were not particularly promising in any respect." The only source for the story at this time is an exclusive in YNet News, a site with the subtitle "Israel At Your Fingertips." Such a radioprotectant would be huge news for Israel. Make of it what you will.
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Cure For Radiation Sickness Found?

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  • OMG! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Flea of Pain ( 1577213 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:40AM (#28728881)
    Finally I can get my hands on some sweet, sweet, Radaway!
  • by bishiraver ( 707931 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:40AM (#28728883) Homepage

    Actually, the BBC has a less slanted article: []

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:52AM (#28729065)

      Nice to see a second source.

      I was puzzled when I first read, "They also claim the drug, a protein, has no observed negative effects in humans. They have not irradiated any people just yet..." but now, it seems they make the claim of no negative effects without any radiation. While nice, that doesn't precisely predict no negative effects WITH radiation.

      I'm always a little skeptical when a medical announcement is made by a corporation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Goffee71 ( 628501 )
        Sorry for the off-topic but...
        the BBC story doesn't have that lovely lady in the advert for the Daily Maccabiah (hope y'all can see it). All radiation stories should be full of such bountifulness.
      • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @11:38AM (#28730603)

        They mean that the substance itself does not cause any observed harm. In the approval of any medicine, the first step is always to demonstrate that the substance is not itself poisonous. Only then do trials progress to determine if it is in fact effective.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

          My first thought is that it sounds like a start toward an "immortality" drug.

          Face it, we're living in a science fiction novel!!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by aldousd666 ( 640240 )
        I'm a little skeptical how a protein, made of molecules that are subject to the same destructive radiation particles as any other molecules are can protect someone from something smaller than a molecule, and somehow render random molecular damage 'benign.' It's like saying they can make a pill that will prevent knife damage. Seriously, radiation damage is PHYSICAL DAMAGE, not some chemical signal to block the receptors of. I call immediate bullshit.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:30AM (#28729581)

      Ynet is Israel's top news site, owned by the most popular newspaper, Yedioth Achronoth (don't you love it when Hebrew names sound like mythical monsters?).
      The story is on the front page of the paper today as well. I can vouch for the site and newspaper's credibility (I actually worked there many many years ago), but not for this story.

    • Understand the sociological background. Briefly, the situation is apparently this, in my opinion:

      In recent past years, there was extensive TV footage of Israeli-owned U.S.-made Blackhawk helicopters [] operated by Jews firing at Palestinians on the ground throwing rocks. I saw that numerous times on TV. The footage was apparently taken from Blackhawk gun cameras, apparently by people who disagreed with the violence. Now, however, apparently because of the negative reaction, such footage is no longer shown.
  • There's more information on Medical News today [] if anyone wants a more medical take on this and a less ... Israeli interpretation (I don't know about you but I'm not too hung up on what nationality the researchers are and am more so interested in the technical details). Their 2008 annual report [] sheds a lot of insight on this as well. Although this information has been public knowledge since the beginning of the year, it should be interesting to watch their stock fluctuate [] throughout today.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      From what I am reading, the company which discovered it has radiation protection as a specialty but this drug is only loosely related to this. This molecule is showing good result in tumor treatments (31 subjects with a prostate cancer took it, 50% of them stabilized or had their tumor decrease)
    • by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:26AM (#28729537)
      That Medical News Today article is about a different set of experimental drugs from the same company. The article is also from January. It is interesting though that Cleveland BioLabs is basically developing drugs that work on the process of apoptosis in opposite ways. The "Curaxins" described in the Medical News Today article are cancer drugs that promote apoptosis, while CBLB502, their experimental anti-radiation damge drug, seems to work to prevent it.
      • by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @11:51AM (#28730759)
        Here [] is a Medical News Today article about the drug, CBLB502, in question. I have to say I'm impressed- they used 6.5 gray (Gy) of ionizing radiation as their test dose. The Mayo Clinic considers an absorbed dose of 5.5 to 8 Gy as causing "very severe radiation sickness." (And goes on to mention, "Doses greater than 8 Gy are generally not treated successfully and usually result in death within two days to two or three weeks depending on the duration of the exposure.")

        In comparison, a full-body CT scan is about 0.01 Gy, anywhere from 12-100 Gy is typically used for antimicrobial irradiation, depending on the material and microorganisms of interest, and 5000 Gy is about the threshold where Deinococcus radiodurans starts to get bothered by ionizing radiation.
  • I doubt it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:42AM (#28728913)

    No publication in a real scientific or medical journal.

    Further, radiation sickness is difficult to fix. You've got alpha, beta & gamma particles bombarding cells, causing damage all over the place. Chemical bonds are broken, energy is added, and new chemical bonds form.

    I really doubt a magic bullet can exist for the many types of cellular damage that can occur in different body systems.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by v1 ( 525388 )

      and then there's also the DNA getting chopped up and shuffled around

    • I echo this sentiment. DNA mutations are difficult to repair because the repair machinery itself makes mistakes. I.e., it's better for the cell to have a mutation than to die due to a double-strand break.
    • Re:I doubt it... (Score:5, Informative)

      by nyctopterus ( 717502 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:22AM (#28729499) Homepage

      It's published in Science according to the BBC []. Jokes about tabloids aside, Science is a real scientific journal.

    • Re:I doubt it... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Felgerkarb ( 695336 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:33AM (#28729631)
      Here [] is a link to an article about a radioprotective protein by the professor listed in the TFA.
  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:43AM (#28728933)

    So this can patch you DNA back together after it's been ripped to shreds?

    Pardon me, but I'm a bit sceptical.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sockatume ( 732728 )

      Most DNA damage isn't primary and physical, it's secondary and chemical. After all, a single quantum or particle of ionising radiation can only ionise one target. The secondary electrons it creates, and the secondary chemical species those create, do the damage.

      • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:51AM (#28729043)
        After all, a single quantum or particle of ionising radiation can only ionise one target.

        Err .. no. It can ionize targets as long as it has sufficient energy to do so. Never seen a cloud chamber?

        The secondary electrons it creates, and the secondary chemical species those create, do the damage.

        I doubt that any of those molecules (H2O2, mostly) survive for more than a few minutes before doing damage to something that may or may no be important.

        • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:06AM (#28729277)

          Yeah, that was a stupid thing to say, given I know fine that it generates secondary species all along its path. My main gist is that there's an easy mental image of ionising radiation striking a DNA molecule and damaging it, which isn't the correct mechanism at all. The correct thing to say is that it can only ionise the DNA if it encouters it, whereas the secondary species effectively give it a larger cross-section. Secondary species are exteremely important to DNA damage. Their lifetimes aren't particularly large but they're monumental compared to the time the original radiation spends in the body.

    • by GargamelSpaceman ( 992546 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:15AM (#28729409) Homepage Journal
      No. According to TFA, your DNA is still ripped to shreds, but the drug supresses your cells' suicide mechanism that having 'corrupted data' in the DNA activated. The suicide mechanism helps keep damaged cells from becoming cancerous cells. Instead they become dead cells. In the case of lethal radiation poisoning, this happens to too many cells. Now, your cells already do have mechanisms to repair DNA damage. If something seems out of place, they can often make the right guess as to how to patch things back together. There are corrupt hard drive repair utilities that do this too. But sometimes they make the wrong guess or can't repair the DNA to original condition. That's why you have the suicide mechanism. A cell that has been so severely damaged that the suicide mechanism is activated has an unacceptably high likelihood of being sufficiently damage that it won't be able to be repaired back to 'manufacturers specifications'.

      Rather than take the chance that the repairs that get done will leave the cell cancerous, the cell is programmed to suicide. Another cell will take it's place. But in the case of fatal radiation poisoning, this happens to too many cells at once.

      'Unacceptable risk' that a cell might turn cancerous might be a very low risk indeed, since cancer is fatal 'in the wild'. Most radiation damaged cells might very well be able to repair themselves perfectly if only they didn't suicide. Deactivating the suicide mechanism temporarily gives them time to repair themselves. Once repaired, they no longer want to suicide. However in the case where many cells were radiation damaged, this likely means some cells were repaired incorrectly and will now cause cancer. Maybe this is not as likely as it may seem at first? How well does radiation cause cancer? How exactly does it happen? I've heard that a speck of plutonium inhaled has a 100% chance of causing lung cancer. But that speck is emmitting radiation 24x7 killing and damaging neighboring cells all the time. Is it the nuclear damage to the cells that causes the cancer, or is it the constant healing? Doesn't the body send stem cells to repair damaged areas? Aren't stem cells more cancer prone?

      Maybe in the case of radiation poisoning, the cells are damaged, and if prevented from suiciding, they will be fine. This isn't chronic radiation damage caused by contamination, but rather acute radiation poisoning caused by having rads of radiation shined through you.

      Maybe not. Excessive X-Ray photographs cause cancer don't they? Maybe the irradiated mice and monkeys will be teeming with tumors in short order. Maybe some of them will touch their keepers and pick up some genetic material. Then they will mutate to be more humanlike, including having intelligence, and natural talent at karate. They will go live in the sewers and protect us from evil ninja gangs with their elite Kung Fu skillz.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wvmarle ( 1070040 )

        To continue on your argument: cells get damaged by radiation, want to suicide, drug prevents that, cells repair, but not all repair correctly and may cause cancer.

        This cancer risk might actually be quite low. This drug will work for a certain amount of time before it is removed from your body naturally, as happens to all medicine. When this drug is gone, the incorrectly repaired cells will suicide after all. Now if I'm interpreting this correctly we would hope that say 95% of the cells with radiation damag

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PitaBred ( 632671 )
        Or maybe, as you wean off the drug, the cells will just die and be replaced at a manageable rate, instead of all at once. Which would mean that you as a whole would survive acute radiation poisoning, and the damaged cells still wouldn't. It's not all gloom and doom.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheLink ( 130905 )
      Probably not.

      More likely it just stops the damaged cells from committing suicide.

      Any increase in cancer rates shouldn't be a big problem for mice, since most mice have a max lifespan of 2-3 years anyway.

      That said, not all damaged cells would end up as cancer, or even nonmalignant tumours. They could just be different from normal in a nonlethal or "big problem" way.
  • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:44AM (#28728945) Homepage
    Why bother with miracle drugs when all you need to protect yourself from radiation is to duck underneath a flimsy wooden desk and cover your head with your hands?
  • Oh good, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChinggisK ( 1133009 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:44AM (#28728949)
    Now nuclear war won't be so bad.
  • This would be great in that it keeps you alive in the immediate future, but there's no way it could fix all the subtle DNA damage that could give you cancer later. Also, women have all the eggs they'll ever have, and any damage to them would be permanent.
  • Suicidal cells (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Antidamage ( 1506489 ) * on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:47AM (#28728997) Homepage

    "The medication works by suppressing the "suicide mechanism" of cells hit by radiation, while enabling them to recover from the radiation-induced damages that prompted them to activate the suicide mechanism in the first place."

    So it turns the cell into a cry for attention?

    Seriously though, saving cells damaged by radiation sounds like a shortcut to cancer. Is the claim of 'enabling cells to recover' realistic?

    • Re:Suicidal cells (Score:5, Interesting)

      by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:53AM (#28729937) Journal
      Apoptosis, programmed cell death, is very easy to turn on, and very hard to turn off, because the body's usual mode of operation is to just make another cell. They're cheap. So you want them to die off if there's any doubt at all whether they're healthy. So if a cell suffers almost any damage, it just kills itself rather than risk cancer.

      In the case of radiation poisoning, the problem is that so many cells die, that you die. If you can prevent them all dying, you can maybe handle the cancer issues from cells that were damaged such that they've become precancerous, later.

      The other thing that's interesting about this, to me, is that there are indications that people who have had heart attacks or hypothermia don't die from those, but from a massive wave of programmed cell death as a result of, essentially, misinterpreting the results of the heart attack/hypothermia: big fluctuations in oxygen levels and ion concentrations [], that make the cells all think they're individually damaged and cause them to die en masse. If this could be used to stop that process, it could save millions of lives every year, not just the very few people who have radiation poisoning.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by T Murphy ( 1054674 )
      They claim they didn't find cancer in the test animals afterwords, so I guess it is realistic. Considering the point is to make radiation treatment safer, a small chance of causing cancer is worth a better chance of curing the current cancer.
  • BG? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cpt_Kirks ( 37296 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:50AM (#28729037)

    Is that the stuff Helo kept shooting up while he was stranded on Caprica?

  • it stops apoptosis (Score:5, Informative)

    by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @09:53AM (#28729081)
    QUOTE : Researchers developed the drug after looking at how some resistant cancer cells are able to withstand radiotherapy.
    It works by inhibiting the protein that initiates the cell suicide programme

    In other word it does not repair radiation damage (cue the rad away joke), it just stops all the cells where this protein is present to die. Whether there was a good reason for them to die or not. It might be wonderful for radiation treatment, though. The researcher seems conscient of the risk (like new cancer developping).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Developing mutations that enable tumour cells to evade apoptosis is one of the crucial methods by which they achieve malignacy. If we introduce a drug that prevents a cell from committing suicide after irrevocable genetic damage, we significantly increase the odds of cancer. That drug is, effectively, a carcinogen. However, if the alternative is death from the stochastic effects of radiation exposure, maybe the drastic increasing in cancer probability is an acceptable downside.
      • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @12:04PM (#28730979)

        The researchers theorize an increased cancer risk as a possibility as well.

        Since they've been unable to observe such increased risk in testing so far, I think your claim of a "significant" increase in risk is premature, and your labeling of the substance as a carcinogen is FUD.

  • Chemo is a SOB. But what is not clear is if it helps against sustained radiation exposure. If a 'bomb' did go off, and you were far enough from the gamma radiation effects, the long term radiation that is left over continually emits, how will this med work against that? Furthermore, if you take the med, does it mean you can live in an area where radiation continually emits or that you can survive brief exposures? Apart from the DNA breaking side-effects of radiation, what would this mean for those who ar
  • by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:05AM (#28729273)

    Perhaps that was just speculation on the part of the submitter.

    Curing cancer entails the difficult process of getting all the people who have cancer today to not have it later (short of dying). A radioprotectant will not make cancer go away. It also won't prevent new cancers, since radiation is not the only cause.

  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:09AM (#28729321)
    With Rad-Away ready for store shelves, Stimpacks, BuffOut and Jet are on the way to phase 3 trials.
  • awesome! (Score:3, Funny)

    by hesaigo999ca ( 786966 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:12AM (#28729351) Homepage Journal

    Now i'll be able to get bitten by as many radioactive spiders with no worries!

  • They have a homepage with a bio of Dr. Gudkov (look under "Board of Directors" [] and they obviously have been working on this for some time and are now in clinical trials: 2007: []
  • So this potion will allow me to survive long enough to gain super powers?

  • 650 + monkeys ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PrinceAshitaka ( 562972 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:14AM (#28729379) Homepage
    I would doubt it. This would be far beyond what would be nessesary for statistically significant data and monkeys are expensive. If teh report got one detail wrong, what else is wrong with what was reported. I doubt they would even do 600+ mice or rats. That is just too high a number. I have my doubts about this report.
    • ... and further more, 1-2 years to go from, what seem to be, phase 1 trials to the market in America; yea right!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cnettel ( 836611 )

      600+ mice would not be out of the ordinary at all. Remember that, whatever species they use, there are subgroups. The article states "experiments" on 650+ monkeys. Note the plural. They also note that they obviously tested different times of administration, from -24 to +72 hours. To do that, and to maintain significance within each group, you might end up in a number like this, especially if the Chernobyl-like dose was a maximum rather than the only dose tested. You might even vary the dose of the compound.

  • Anyone remember the disgraced "scientist" that claimed cloned babies, etc?
    Maybe this only smells fishy because there's carp all over the damn place..
  • Hyronalin (Score:3, Informative)

    by jameskojiro ( 705701 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:29AM (#28729561) Journal

    Looks like they may have discovered Hyronalin
    . []
    Wake me up when they have discovered Warp Drive.

  • Fallout (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @10:31AM (#28729599)
    Oh, *please* call it RadAway.
  • Imaginary Reportage (Score:3, Informative)

    by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @11:35AM (#28730559) Journal

    Not the BioLabs stuff, the wild speculation and false statements spouted here being imaginary. Not a one here so far has attempted to find out if there actually were peer reviewed publications by Andrei Gudkov on the subject of radiation treatment and/or radioprotectants.

    Go to []

    Put 'Gudkov, Andrei' in as the search term

    You'll get 52 results with his name given as 'Gudkov AV'; the abstracts make it clear it's him by giving his associations.

    Repeat the search with 'Gudkov, Andrei radiation' as the search term.

    You'll get 10 results, all of which pertain to radiation treatment, radioprotectants and specifically the role of p53.

    Two of those entries are reviews. Those would be the most instructive to any who actually want to find out if there's actually research on the subject and what it's about. Here's the two abstracts:

    (1) Nat Rev Cancer. 2003 Feb;3(2):117-29.

    The role of p53 in determining sensitivity to radiotherapy.

    Gudkov AV, Komarova EA.

    Department of Molecular Biology, NC20, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.

    Ionizing radiation (IR) has proven to be a powerful medical treatment in the fight against cancer. Rational and effective use of its killing power depends on understanding IR-mediated responses at the molecular, cellular and tissue levels. Tumour cells frequently acquire defects in the molecular regulatory mechanisms of the response to IR, which sensitizes them to radiation therapy. One of the key molecules involved in a cell's response to IR is p53. Understanding these mechanisms indicates new rational approaches to improving cancer treatment by IR.

    Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Jun 10;331(3):726-36.

    Prospective therapeutic applications of p53 inhibitors.

    Gudkov AV, Komarova EA.

    Department of Molecular Genetics, Lerner Research Institute, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.

    p53, in addition to being a key cancer preventive factor, is also a determinant of cancer treatment side effects causing excessive apoptotic death in several normal tissues during cancer therapy. p53 inhibitory strategy has been suggested to protect normal tissues from chemo- and radiotherapy, and to treat other pathologies associated with stress-mediated activation of p53. This strategy was validated by isolation and testing of small molecule p53 inhibitor pifithrin-alpha that demonstrated broad tissue protecting capacity. However, in some normal tissues and tumors p53 plays protective role by inducing growth arrest and preventing cells from premature entrance into mitosis and death from mitotic catastrophe. Inhibition of this function of p53 can sensitize tumor cells to chemo- and radiotherapy, thus opening new potential application of p53 inhibitors and justifying the need in pharmacological agents targeting specifically either pro-apoptotic or growth arrest functions of p53.


    Note: 'Apoptosis' is the tendency for cells to die off based on signals from other nearby cells that are dying off -- a 'suicide signal'. This happens in many situations, radiation exposure being one of them.

    As for emphasis on ethnicity, sure, they do mention it. The source noted is an Israeli newspaper. They have right to be proud since one of their citizens is accomplishing something notable to the world. Nobody seems to find it a problem when US newspapers note that a scientist is from the US. That's so common that it's not even noticed, unless you're not from the US. 90% of scientific publications are from the US. In those from other countries it's common for such emphasis to be included so the w

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @12:31PM (#28731333) Homepage

    First, this isn't new; the company issued a press release on PR Newswire in January 2007.

    It has nothing to do with Israel; the work is being done at Cleveland BioLabs in Cleveland, Ohio. [] The researcher behind this, Andrei Gudkov [], is Russian. He was at the National Cancer Research Center in Moscow until 1990, then came to the US and became a professor at the University of Illinois.

    This seems to be legitimate; they're in FDA Phase I human testing (safety only, not effectiveness.). That doesn't mean it will work; if it makes it through Phase II, it's real.

  • Woohoo! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tgd ( 2822 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:14PM (#28731949)

    Can I get it in a spray mister so I can just spray it into my basement and not worry about all that pesky radon?

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @01:37PM (#28732273)
    Cells first developed radiation damage mechanism to repair UV damage. When photsynthesis evolved, cells wanted to get closer to the sun, yet avoid the effects of UV radiation in an Earth lacking an ozone layer. Ozone depends on free oxygen in the atmosphere which was scarce in the first half of Earth history.

    The second inducement was the incorporation of mitochrondria into eucharyote cells. This gave cells ten times the energy they had before to eventually power animal locomotion. However, mitochrondria spew out all kinds of nasty poisons like free oxygen, protons, and high electric fields. Cells had to develop mechanisms to neutralize these.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court