An animal study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh researchers reports that intravenous administration of gene therapy could be an effective agent to protect vital organs and tissues from the effects of ionizing radiation in the event of large-scale exposure from a radiological or nuclear bomb. These findings were presented at the 49th annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) in Los Angeles.
"Ionizing radiation can be extremely damaging to cells, tissues, organs and organ systems," said Joel S. Greenberger, M.D., professor and chairman, department of radiation oncology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "In previous studies, we demonstrated that gene therapy can be both swallowed in liquid form and inhaled through a nebulizer prior to radiation exposure to protect healthy tissues from damage. In this study, we found that the same therapy administered intravenously also offers protection during exposure to whole-body irradiation." Dr. Greenberger added that intravenous administration could potentially offer wide-reaching protection to the public in the event of a terrorist attack since experts believe a significant number of the population would die within 30 days of receiving a large dose of radiation to the entire body.
"Intravenous administration of gene therapy appears to prevent the damaging effects of radiation, suggesting it is a viable delivery method," said Dr. Greenberger. "Future clinical studies will tell us whether this therapy can protect people from the deadly effects of radiation."