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Protein Deemed Useful in Radiation Treatment

A project financed by the U.S. Defense Department has determined that a protein and an antibiotic are more useful in combating radiation sickness when applied together rather than individually, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said on Wednesday (see GSN, Jan. 31, 2007).

Incorporating "bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein" into an antibiotic treatment bolstered by close to 80 percent the frequency at which mouse test subjects lived after receiving a dangerous quantity of radiation, according to a press release. The combination was useful for a maximum of 24 hours following radiation transmission.

Physicians already rely on antibacterial agents in countering the effects of radiation.

There are various situations in which troops might face radiation contamination, according to the DARPA release.

“The fact that this treatment can be administered up to a day after radiation exposure is so important,” Millie Donlon, who heads the project for the Pentagon office, said in provided remarks.  “This is because most of the existing treatments we have require they be administered within hours of exposure to potentially lethal radiation -- something that might not always be possible in the confusion that would likely follow such an exposure event.”

Mice given the treatment also produced blood cells at a more rapid pace, a finding with potential applications in planning for blood donations and transfers following a radiation incident.

The countermeasure agent generated by the protein is more effective in humans than in mice, meaning a treatment incorporating the protein could ultimately prove more protective than seen in the animal trials. The Food and Drug Administration has already endorsed the materials for treating other ailments, and they retain potency for an extended period of time, allowing for potential long-term storage (U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency release, Jan. 4).

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