Research highlight

Irradiation protection

Nature Communications

October 12, 2011

Radiomitigating compounds that can protect mice from lethal doses of irradiation are reported in Nature Communications this week. With further development, the work could potentially lead to new measures to counter radiation terrorism, or to protect normal tissues from ionizing irradiation during clinical radiotherapy.

Ionizing radiation induces cell death and is currently used positively in medical applications, such as bone marrow transplantation, where some protective measures are employed against unwanted damage to cells. However, in uncontrolled situations of exposure to radiation, such as during terrorist attacks or exposure of flight crews during extended space missions, the development of protective measures is lagging behind.

Valerian Kagan and co-workers designed and produced oleic and stearic acid derivatives that target mitochondria and inhibit pro-apoptotic oxidative events which lead to cell death. By administering these derivatives to mice they observe that radioprotective effects can be seen in mice treated 1 hour before to 24 hours after irradiation.

The authors suggest that the new ‘pro-oxidant’ enzymatic activity of certain protein complexes shown in this work represents a potential target for anti-apoptotic radioprotective drugs.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms1499

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