A new drug may protect healthy tissue during exposure to radiation. Molecular geneticist Andrei Gudkov and colleagues report in Science this week that they protected mice from the cell-damaging effects of radiation by injecting them with a compound that helps cells resist apoptosis, or self-destruction. Known as CBLB502, this compound switches on a biological mechanism that helps healthy cells survive blasts of radiation.
Studies in animals suggest CBLB502 protects healthy cells in the bone marrow and digestive tract against radiation but does not seem to protect tumour cells which remain vulnerable to treatment.
Mice and monkeys injected with the drug between 45 minutes and 24 hours before being subjected to normally lethal radiation were more likely to survive or live longer than untreated animals, the researchers found.
The researchers found that the drug only worked if injected within an hour prior to exposure to high levels of radiation. It also showed some protective effects if injected after exposure to lower levels.
That means the drug, also known as Protectan, could be used, to protect patients undergoing bone marrow transplants or cancer treatments involving radiation. It could also be given in the event of a nuclear explosion or meltdown. But, before further use on human, it needs more research.