According tomedia New Atlas, it is usually ideal to protect the body from damaging radiation by shielding material or clothing before it reaches us. But now researchers in South Korea have developed a new drug that can prevent some tissue damage caused by radiation, a drug that has shown promise in tests of cultured human organs and mice.
There are several ways of radiation damage to tissues. The first is that DNA is directly hit by radiation, and energy causes mutations. The second is more indirect, when radiation hits the body’s water, producing free radical molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS). These free radicals can cause extensive damage to cells and tissues. The new treatment is designed for the latter condition. Researchers at the Korea Institute of Basic Sciences (IBS) have turned to antioxidant nanomaterials that can help fight ROS.
“Excessive reactive oxygen species have been found in a number of major diseases, including sepsis, cancer, cardiovascular disease and Parkinson’s disease,” said new study author Taeghwan Hyeon.
Two nanocrystals stand out as antioxidants: zirconium oxide and manganese oxide. These materials have been shown in the past to be effective in removing ROS, but they usually require high doses. Therefore, the team of the new study combined the two materials into one treatment. The researchers superimposed the two and found that the combination worked better than any other. This effect appears to increase the oxygen space on the surface of the zirconium oxide, allowing it to bind to more reactive oxygen species.
The team conducted a series of tests to ensure the effectiveness and safety of nanocrystal processing. The first experiments were carried out on an organism — tiny living replicas of organs grown from human cells. In this case, they modeled the human gut, and the treatment seemed to work well.
“The organisms pretreated with CeO2/Mn3O4 nanocrystals expressed more genes associated with the proliferation and maintenance of intestinal stem cells and fewer cell death genes than those in the unpre-processed group,” said Sang-Lee woo, one of the study’s lead authors.
The researchers then conducted a mouse study, delivered in small doses. Sure enough, the drugs worked well — 67 percent of animals survived 30 days and recorded less oxidative stress in visceral, circulatory and bone marrow cells. Importantly, this is much smaller than the current dose of radiation-resistant drugs. Amiforstin is often used to help protect patients receiving cancer radiotherapy, while the new nanocrystal dose is only 1/360 of the usual amifostin dose.
“To ensure clinical safety and widespread use of a radiation protector, the key is to maintain high catalytic efficacy at low doses,” said kyungpyo Park, the study’s author. “This CeO2/Mn3O4 nanocrystal demonstrates its powerful antioxidant properties and effectively protects our entire body in small doses.”
Of course, the treatment is still some way from human use, but researchers hope that the results of animal and organ-like tests will continue.
The study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.