In the experiment, a single injection of the investigative peptide drug TP508 given 24 hours after a potentially-lethal exposure to radiation significantly increased survival and delayed mortality in mice by counteracting damage to the gastrointestinal system.
"The peptide may be an effective emergency nuclear countermeasure after exposure to increase survival," said lead author Carla Kantara from The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in the US.
The drug was originally developed for use in stimulating repair of skin, bone and muscle tissues. In clinical trials, the drug has been reported to increase healing of diabetic foot ulcers and wrist fractures with no drug-related adverse events.
The threat of a nuclear incident has raised global awareness about the need for medical countermeasures that can prevent radiation-induced damage, even if given a day or more after contact with nuclear radiation.
"Because radiation-induced damage to the intestines plays a key role in how well a person recovers from radiation exposure, it is crucial to develop novel medications capable of preventing GI damage," said Darrell Carney, adjunct professor in biochemistry and molecular biology at UTMB.
The study appeared in the journal Laboratory Investigation