Radiation is nothing to be tampered with. But until recently, scientists had very few medicinal therapies to offer victims as consolation.
Now, astudy recently published in the journal Laboratory Investigation shows that a new drug commonly used to repair body tissue might play a double role—it could mitigate radiation damage a person’s intestines if ingested up to 24 hours after exposure.
The prevailing radiation remedy, as of today, is called Prussian Blue ; it absorbs some of the radiation lurking in a person’s body, but it ignores one of the main causes for concern: the intestinal barrier, a protective layer of cells that coats our intestines. Concentrated levels of radiation erode the intestinal barrier, limiting the gut’s ability to make use of nutrients and regulate bacteria—so victims of severe radiation exposure often experience dehydration, nausea, and vomiting. And sometimes, they die.
The new drug, though, targets the ailing intestinal barrier. Here’s Alexandra Ossola, writing for Popular Science:
The new drug, called TP508, was originally designed to help patients regenerate cells by increasing blood flow and decreasing inflammation, according to the press release —it’s been used to ensure that diabetic patients don’t lose a foot, or to help patients with wrist fractures heal more quickly. In this study, the researchers exposed mice to acute levels of radiation, then gave them an injection of TP508 after 24 hours. Not only did the drug prevent the destruction of the intestinal barrier cells, it boosted biomarkers characteristic of cell repair.
If the drug trials hold up in humans, it’ll be great news. We could someday have a much-needed emergency vial on hand when disaster strike.