A chemical agent that can remove uranium from the bones and kidneys in mice following exposure to the radioactive element is reported this week in Nature Communications. The results suggest that this compound could be a promising agent for use in humans who have been exposed to uranium; however, further tests will be required.
Uranium is a crucial resource for nuclear power, but it poses a risk to health owing to its radioactive and chemical toxicity. Following exposure, approximately two thirds of uranium is removed from the body via the kidneys, but the rest remains in the kidneys and bones, which can lead to renal damage and an increased risk of bone defects and cancer. The removal of uranium absorbed by the body may be achieved by using molecules called chelators, but existing formulations do not efficiently remove uranium from bones, and can be highly toxic.
Shuao Wang and colleagues modified existing hydroxypyridinone-based chelators to produce a chelator with an improved affinity for uranium complexes in bones. The authors demonstrate that it can efficiently remove uranium from kidneys and bones in mice, and that it has reduced toxicity compared to other chelators. Furthermore, they show that the compound maintains effectiveness when administered orally.