News / USA

US Developing Radiation Sickness Drug

Ex-Rad could be used before or after exposure

Evacuees are screened for radiation contamination at a testing center Tuesday, March 15, 2011, in Koriyama city, Fukushima Prefecture, northern Japan, four days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the country's north east coast.
Evacuees are screened for radiation contamination at a testing center Tuesday, March 15, 2011, in Koriyama city, Fukushima Prefecture, northern Japan, four days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the country's north east coast.

Multimedia

Vidushi Sinha

The serious radiation leaks at Japan's damaged Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant have reawakened public fears about radiation sickness. But what if there were a drug that could not only protect people from dangerous levels of radiation exposure but also heal those actually exposed to damaging nuclear radiation?

Researchers say they are developing such a drug - one that can both prevent and repair human cell damage from all types of radiation exposure.

Such a healing medication has the potential to lessen panic and fear generated by catastrophic reactor accidents. Plant workers trying to make repairs near a crippled reactor's radioactive core might be less fearful if they could take a pill to repair their own radiation-damaged cells.

Ramesh Kumar, the CEO of a U.S. drug research firm called Onconova, says his company has just such a wonder drug in the works.

The company has been collaborating on the drug, called Ex-Rad, with scientists at a U.S. Defense Department research laboratory. Kumar says early animal trials have been promising.

“Ex-Rad is a drug which is effective in saving a cell damaged by radiation," he says, "and we have found that it can be given in advance of exposure to radiation up to a day ahead or it can be given up to a day after the exposure to radiation.”

There are existing antidotes for radiation exposure which have been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Potassium iodide, also known as the radiation pill, prevents the body's absorption of the radioactive iodine present in reactor emissions. For a person poisoned by radioactive isotopes such as plutonium and cesium - types of radiation being released from the Fukushima reactors - FDA-approved drugs such as Prussian Blue capsules can quickly flush radioactive elements from the body. However, right now there are no drugs specifically for treating radiation sickness itself.

The Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute has been leading the Pentagon's quest for a more effective antidote to radiation sickness, which has a wide range of symptoms.

“The symptoms of acute radiation sickness will be just exactly like a terrible flu," says Col. Andrew Huff, a spokesman for the research institute. "The person would have headache. They would feel very tired. They would have little bit of fever. They might have some vomiting at higher doses all of this and more but at survivable doses it would come on within 24 to 36 hours."

According to Huff, the body loses its platelet and neutrophil supply and people can eventually die of bleeding. He says the Pentagon's search for radiation sickness treatments is intensifying.

“The other more vexing problem, the one that we really have to worry about for larger numbers of people - if there were nuclear terrorism - is how much external ionizing penetrating radiation a person would get after a nuclear detonation."

To combat such a crisis - or to treat people exposed to radiation from a damaged nuclear reactor - the Department of Defense and Onconova have collaborated on the development of Ex-Rad.

“FDA has devised a development path for drugs like Ex-Rad which involves clinical trials, animal studies, and additional controls for manufacturing and we are in the process of completing these studies," says Kumar, whose company is developing Ex-Rad. "We started this process in 2008 under and FDA's Investigational New Drug Exemption. We have carried out clinical studies in human subjects for safety and we are in the process of continuing to do animal efficacy studies so once all of these studies are completed we can get an approval for specific indication. It could be prophylactic use before - or after - exposure.  It could be injectable or oral.”

Kumar says Ex-Rad won't be available for at least another two or three years. In the meantime, government officials warn the public to be cautious about the growing number of claims being made on the Internet for anti-radiation drugs that purport to be miracle cures.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid