A protein that keeps gut cells alive could be key to surviving acute radiation syndrome. Tests in mice of a therapy that shores up levels of the protein in cells indicate that it limits the intestinal damage caused by exposure to radiation — such as could occur during a ‘dirty bomb’ attack. The drug could also prove useful for counteracting the side-effects of cancer radiation therapy.
Drugs are already available to treat the bone-marrow damage that occurs in acute radiation syndrome. But no good drugs are available to counter the fatal gastrointestinal damage that often accompanies it, which is marked by dehydration, malnutrition and infection.
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