Daniel Hayes, Ph.D., of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has found that calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, may provide protection against background radiation and could be used as a safe protective agent before or after a low-level nuclear incident.
Calcitriol is the form of vitamin D that activates the body's Vitamin D Receptor (VDR), which allows gene transcription to take place and the activation of the innate immune response.
Scientists have long been looking for an effective agent that could be given by mouth and would protect us against a suspected or impending nuclear event, whether an accident, terrorist attack, or other incident.
The ideal agent would act by blocking DNA damage or by halting the progression of damaged cells that might eventually grow into cancers.
Hayes said that vitamin D, and in particular its biologically active form, could be the key ingredient in radiological protection.
"Our general understanding and appreciation of the multifaceted protective actions of vitamin D have recently entered a new era," said Hayes.
"It is now becoming recognized that its most active molecular form, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, may offer protection against a variety of radiation- and otherwise-induced damages.
"Vitamin D by its preventive/ameliorating actions should be given serious consideration as a protective agent against sublethal radiation injury, and in particular that induced by low-level radiation," Hayes added.