Wine-based antioxidant could shield against radiation exposure

October 1, 2008

An antioxidant contained in red table wine could one day prove effective as protection against radiation from a nuclear attack, according to a study by University of Pittsburgh researchers.

An antioxidant contained in red table wine could one day prove effective as protection against radiation from a nuclear attack, according to a study by University of Pittsburgh researchers.

The University of Pittsburgh's Center for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation is dedicated to discovering and developing drugs that can be used as quick "antidotes" to mitigate or protect against the effects of radiation exposure in case of a large-scale radiological or nuclear emergency.

These new, small molecules with radioprotective capacity will be required for treatment in case of radiation spills or even as countermeasures against radiological terrorism, said lead investigator Dr. Joel Greenberger, chair of radiation oncology at Pitt's School of Medicine.

Greenberg and colleagues have been investigating the protective properties of resveratrol, a natural antioxidant commonly found in red wine and many plants. The investigators found that resveratrol, when altered with acetyl, proved to shield mouse cells to the effects of radiation. Their results were presented Sept. 23 at the 2008 American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology meeting in Boston.

"Small molecules that can be easily stored, transported, and administered are optimal for this, and so far acetylated resveratrol fits these requirements well," Greenberger said.

Greenberger's team is conducting further studies to determine if acetylated resveratrol can be used clinically as a radioprotective agent. His group had already made news in 2004 when they discovered the agent JP4-039, which can be delivered directly to mitochondria to resist radiation-induced cell death.

"Currently, there are no drugs on the market that protect against or counteract radiation exposure," Greenberg said. "Our goal is to develop treatments for the general population that are effective and nontoxic."

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