A helping of vegetables might help protect cells from radiation.
Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center used a compound derived from cruciferous vegetables - including cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli - to protect rodents from lethal doses of radiation.
The compound, known as DIM, has been shown to be helpful in lowering the risk of cancer. The Georgetown study - published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - suggests it may also be beneficial in preventing sickness caused by the radiation therapy often used to treat cancer.
After giving rats lethal doses of radiation, the researchers gave one group a daily injection of DIM for two weeks. All of the untreated rats died, but more than half of the animals treated with the compound remained alive one month later. Also, they showed less reduction in red and white blood cells and platelets, a frequent side-effect of radiation therapy.
Oncology professor Eliot Rosen, one of the study's authors, says the results show two potential uses for DIM: protecting normal tissues in cancer patients receiving radiation therapy, and protecting individuals from the lethal consequences of a nuclear disaster.