1. Dr. Andrei Gudkov has developed >medication that suppresses the “suicide mechanism” of cells hit by radiation, while enabling them to recover from the radiation-induced damages that prompted them to activate the suicide mechanism in the first place.
The first series of tests included experiments on more than 650 monkeys. Each test featured two groups of monkeys exposed to radiation, but only one group was given the medication. The radiation dosage was equal to the highest dosage sustained by humans as result of the Chernobyl mishap.
The experiment’s results were dramatic: 70% of the monkeys that did not receive the cure died, while the ones that survived suffered from the various maladies associated with lethal nuclear radiation. However, the group that did receive the anti-radiation shot saw almost all monkeys survive, most of them without any side-effects. The tests showed that injecting the medication between 24 hours before the exposure to 72 hours following the exposure achieves similar results.
Another test on humans, who were given the drug without being exposed to radiation, showed that the medication does not have side-effects and is safe. Prof. Gudkov’s company now needs to expand the safety tests, a process expected to be completed by mid-2010 via a shortened test track approved for bio-defense drugs. Should experiments continue at the current rate, the medication is estimated to be approved for use by the FDA within a year or two.
The drug CBLB502 switches on teh genes TLR5 and NF-kB but it did not cause an excessive response from the immune system. It was also far less toxic than raw flagellin and mice could tolerate double the dose. The drug activated a parade of protective proteins that greatly reduced the levels of apoptosis in the vulnerable intestines of irradiated mice, and protected the stem cells in both their guts and their bloodstreams.
A single shot of CBLB502 at less than 1% of the maximum dose, 87% of mice managed to survive an otherwise lethal 13 Gray of radiation. The drug completely outclassed all known protective chemicals. Even the maximum possible dose of the second-best chemical – amifostine – only saved 54% of the irradiated mice.
The drug could be given to cancer patients who are being treated with radiation, to protect healthy cells from dying off. She treated tumour-bearing mice with three daily radiation doses of 4 Gray to mimic the regular treatments that cancer patients often go through. When mice were injected with simple saline solution, the accumulated damage killed them all but when the doses were pre-empted by injections of CBLB502, every one of the mice survived.
The celebrations would be short-lived however, if the drug defended tumour cells in a similar way. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case and the tumours in protected mice succumbed to the radiotherapy as per usual. If anything, the addition of CBLB502 killed slightly more cancer cells than usual, which may be due to small immune boosts triggered by the compound’s resemblance to flagellin.
Burdelya also saw to a final worry. Apoptosis exists for a reason, and there is a risk that protected cells could survive the effects of radiation but live with damage that will lead to cancer in the long run. With this in mind, Burdelya tested the drug on a strain of cancer-prone mice and found that after a burst of radiation, they did not develop tumours any quicker or more frequently than they normally would.
The drug CBLB502 seems to be far ahead of the next two treatments in terms of proven effectiveness and in terms of deployment. However, the next two work on different mechanisms and appear to be complimentary to the drug CBLB502. (You might take both. One to reduce free radicals that cause damage and the CBLB502 to switch genes prevent cell death.)
2. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and collaborators have discovered and analyzed several new compounds, collectively called the ”EUK-400 series,” which could someday be used to prevent radiation-induced injuries to kidneys, lungs, skin, intestinal tract and brains of radiological terrorism victims. The findings, which appear in the June issue of the Journal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry, describe new agents which can be given orally in pill form, which would more expedient in an emergency situation.
3. There are still no online results for Rice University’s DARPA funded work on Nanovector Trojan Horses (NTH). These carbon nanotube based drugs scavenge free radicals and mitigate the biological affects that are induced through the initial ionizing radiation.
The drug is based on single-walled carbon nanotubes, hollow cylinders of pure carbon that are about as wide as a strand of DNA. To form NTH, Rice scientists coat nanotubes with two common food preservatives — the antioxidant compounds butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) — and derivatives of those compounds.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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