DARPA Announces Nanotube Anti-radiation Pill
January 29, 2008 12:00 PM
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The carbon-sink anti-radiation pill was proposed in Tim Cain's 1997 computer game Fallout. The third official title in the series will debut later this year.
Radiation sickness drug in the form of carbon nanotubes gets DARPA's attention
"More than half of those who suffer acute radiation injury die within 30 days, not from the initial radioactive particles themselves but from the devastation they cause in the immune system, the gastrointestinal tract and other parts of the body. Ideally, we'd like to develop a drug that can be administered within 12 hours of exposure and prevent deaths from what are currently fatal exposure doses of ionizing radiation," explains James Tour, Rice University's Chao Professor of Chemistry and director of Rice's Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory.
Tour and his colleagues have been awarded a $540,000 grant by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to do further research on a carbon nanotube (CNT) based drug for the treatment of radiation sickness.
Radiation sickness is so deadly because the ionizing affect of radiation alters the balance between protons and electrons in molecules. The process often creates free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules and in the case of radiation poisoning, cause disruption in living cells. The disruption often triggers a domino effect, propagating widespread damage throughout the organism's physiology.
Rensselaer Polytechnic's CNT-based cancer, disease and toxin treatment
, which creates reactive oxygen to disable target proteins, Tour's group's Nanovector Trojan Horses (NTH) soaks up the harmful free radicals created by radiation poisoning. To make the simple drug, single walled CNTs are coated with two common food preservatives, butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene. Tour explains that the same properties that make the compounds good preservatives, their ability to soak up free radicals, also makes them ideal for the treatment of radiation exposure and sickness.
In the lab, the NTH treatment has been tested on mice and was shown to enhance protection when the mice were exposed to lethal doses of ionizing radiation when given the drug prior to exposure. Though the tests were not done as a treatment for exposure, DARPA took an interest in the technique and awarded the group with the grant, which specifies a very short nine-month study. "They are very interested in finding out whether this will work in a post-exposure delivery, and they don't want to waste any time," said Tour.
NTH shows great promise, preliminary testing showing the drug to be more than 5,000 times more effective at mitigating the effects of radiation injury than most available drugs. Tour's group is also looking into the possibility of NTH being useful in preventing the harmful side effects of radiation therapy for cancer patients.
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Will this work
1/30/2008 1:40:25 AM
As a means for just reducing your chances of cancer period? we all get told to eat antioxidants to reduce our free radical count. Well if this is so much better, then surely a healthy person could take it to reduce cancer risk?
What about cosmetic companies? a lot of aging is caused by free radicals in the skin. Why not have a cream with this stuff in that will greatly prevent this? Do they realise how much money they could make off that!
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