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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid