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Drug mitigates toxic effects of radiation in mice
Date:6/23/2010

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- While radiation has therapeutic uses, too much radiation is damaging to cells. The most important acute side effect of radiation poisoning is damage to the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces all the normal blood cells, and therefore a high dose of radiation can lead to low blood counts of red cells, platelets and white blood cells. Humans that receive a lethal dose of radiation as in the setting of an accidental exposure die of bone marrow failure. While there are a few drugs that will decrease toxicity when given before exposure to radiation ("radioprotectants"); currently, no effective therapy exists to mitigate bone marrow toxicity of radiation when given after radiation exposure ("radiomitigants"). The identification of successful human radiomitigants is a top research priority of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and National Institutes of Health.

In a study published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a team led by UNC Lineberger Associate Director for Translational Research, Norman Sharpless, MD, provides a first example of successful radiomitigation in mammals. The investigators found that oral treatment of mice with a drug that inhibits enzymes involved in cell division caused certain groups of bone marrow cells to temporarily stop dividing (which they termed 'pharmacological quiescence' or PQ). Several decades of work have shown that cells which are not dividing are resistant to agents that damage DNA, like radiation. Workers in the Sharpless lab were then able to show that the induction of PQ immediately before or up to 20 hours after radiation exposure were able to protect mice from a lethal dose of radiation. PQ protected all the normal cells of blood, including platelets, red cells and white cells.

"We believe this study is really exciting. We have identified a simple, non-toxic pill that decreases radiation toxicity even when given after radiation exposure. We believe this ap
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Contact: Ellen de Graffenreid
919-962-3405
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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