Safe radioprotectant to reduce side effects of radiation

Nanocrystal based radioprotectant can make radiation diagnosis and therapy comparatively safer.

Radiation therapy is widely used in cancer treatments. It uses a high dose of radiation to damage the cancerous cell’s DNA leading to cellular death. To ensure healthy cells and tissues are not affected by this procedure, the radiation beams are aimed at different angles to focus radiation directly at the cancerous cells. However, the radiation still causes damage to the healthy cells in the human body, and there are no preventive methods to protect them completely.

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The drug Amifostine is used to reduce the undesired side effects of chemotherapy agents and also as a radioprotectant to relieve dry mouth in radiation therapy for certain types of neck and head cancer. However, it requires repetitive administration, and at higher dosages can cause systemic toxicity.

Researchers at the Center for Nanoparticle Research, within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS, South Korea) in collaboration with their colleagues at Seoul National University, School of Dentistry and Dental Research Institute, have developed a highly effective and safe nanocrystal to combat the side effects from dangers doses of radiation.

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Effects of radiation

When our body is exposed to high levels of radiation as in radiation therapy, the water molecules in the cells decompose, and massive amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated within milliseconds. These ROS severely damages the cells leading to their death. The researchers’ nanocrystal acts as a powerful antioxidant to absorb these ROS and protect the cells from damage even at low dosage.

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a) H&E-stained femur sections three days after irradiation. b) H&E staining of longitudinally sectioned duodena five days after irradiation. c) Survival rates over 30 days after 13 Gy total body irradiations. | Image: IBS

Nanocrystals to the rescue

The research team analyzed the outstanding ROS scavenging abilities of cerium oxide (CeO2) and manganese dioxide (Mn3O4) nanoparticles. Though effective, they work at a high dosage and are very rare to obtain. The research team boosted these nanoparticles’ catalytic activity by growing Mn3O4 nanocrystals on top of the CeO2 nanocrystals. When nanoparticles of different lattice parameters are stacked, it creates surface strain and increases oxygen vacancies on the surface of the nanocrystals.

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Tests conducted on human intestinal tissue cultures resulted in more genes related to cell proliferation and maintenance and fewer cell-death genes proving the efficacy of the nanocrystals. Mouse models showed a 67% increase in survival rate just with a minimal dosage and decreased oxidative stress to the internal organs without significant toxicity.

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The key is to achieve high catalytic efficiency in lower doses for a safer and broader application.

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Source: IBS

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