Enlarging the arsenal of treatments for radiation sickness

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Following exposure to radiation (such as after a nuclear power plant disaster or the detonation of a nuclear bomb), multi-cellular organisms, such as humans, experience serious biological repercussions, ranging from nausea and vomiting to dizziness. With exposure to large enough doses, these effects can be irreversible and fatal. In particular, cells that have an extremely high turnover rate, for example those of the blood/bone marrow, the skin and the gut, are at high risk of damage and decimation. There is currently only one main frontline treatment that is effective at minimising these adverse effects: granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), a hormone that is designed to replace the cells that have been killed off. Blood transfusion, stem cell transfusion and antibiotic treatments are usually co-administered along with G-CSF as supportive therapies to prevent infections following the loss of vital immune system components.

Now, researcher’s have identified that administration of a purified anti-coagulant protein, thrombomodulin, which is already FDA-approved for use in the treatment of patients with blood clotting disorders, is effective at reducing radiation toxicity and improving survival. Thrombomodulin activates protein C, which helps to stimulate the recovery of blood cells following radiation sickness.

Here is a good article to read for more information.

Geiger H, Pawar SA, Kerschen EJ, Nattamai KJ, Hernandez I, Liang HP, Fernández JÁ, Cancelas JA, Ryan MA, Kustikova O, Schambach A, Fu Q, Wang J, Fink LM, Petersen KU, Zhou D, Griffin JH, Baum C, Weiler H, & Hauer-Jensen M (2012). Pharmacological targeting of the thrombomodulin-activated protein C pathway mitigates radiation toxicity. Nature medicine, 18 (7), 1123-9 PMID: 22729286

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