Hey, great news! A group of researchers have discovered a medicine that can alleviate the damaging effects of radiation sickness… at least in mice and monkeys:
The first series of tests included experiments on more than 650 monkeys. Each test featured two groups of monkeys exposed to radiation, but only one group was given the medication. The radiation dosage was equal to the highest dosage sustained by humans as result of the Chernobyl mishap.
The experiment’s results were dramatic: 70% of the monkeys that did not receive the cure died, while the ones that survived suffered from the various maladies associated with lethal nuclear radiation. However, the group that did receive the anti-radiation shot saw almost all monkeys survive, most of them without any side-effects. The tests showed that injecting the medication between 24 hours before the exposure to 72 hours following the exposure achieves similar results.
Isn’t that brilliant news? Think of all the great things we could achieve if we could prevent radiation from damaging the human body! As its lead hook, Ynetnews gleefully trumpets about the geopolitical edge that this medicine will give to Israel in dealing with their ongoing paranoia about uppity Muslims with nuclear weapons, but follows with a more broadly humanitarian application:
Gudkov’s discovery may also have immense implications for cancer patients by enabling doctors to better protect patients against radiation. Should the new medication enable cancer patients to be treated with more powerful radiation, our ability to fight the disease could greatly improve.
Think also of clean-up operations in locations with similar problems to Chernobyl, or time spent in space beyond the Earth’s handy and life-saving magnetosphere. The list of places that people can’t go just got shorter. [via SlashDot; image by 7263255]
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Chalk one up for us Brits in the space tech column; boffins at the Rutherford Appleton Labs have developed a ‘mini-magnetosphere’ that could well protect astronauts in spacecraft from harmful solar radiation:
… their prototype offers almost total protection against high energy solar particles. By mimicking the natural protective environment of the Earth, the researchers have scaled the protective magnetic bubble down into an energy efficient, yet powerful deflector shield. This astounding achievement is a big step toward protecting sensitive electronics and the delicate human body against the radioactive effects of manned missions between the planets.
The best bit?
… they have devised a system no bigger than a large desk that uses the same energy as an electric kettle.
All of a sudden, space seems a lot more open to colonisation, and a pulp sf trope edges close to being a mundane sf reality. w00t! [via Paul McAuley]
After work by Stanford University found that carbon nanotubes don’t seem to have any detrimental effect inside the bodies of mice, researchers are looking for more ways of utilising the growing technology in medicine. DARPA has awarded a grant to Rice university to study whether a carbon nanotube based pill would be a good way of treating radiation sickness. Radiation in the body deforms cells and molecules, releasing terribly damaging free radicals which then cause more damage to the body.
“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,” said James Tour, Rice University’s Chao Professor of Chemistry and director of Rice’s Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory.
The Carbon pills would absorb large quanties of the radiation within the body, as well as the free radicals, which could dramatically cut down on the post-exposure spread of damaged cells. As DailyTech mention in their article about the discovery, video game Fallout had carbon-based anti-radiation pills way back in 1997. The third Fallout game is being released this year by the makers of Oblivion, Bethesda, for your post-apocalyptic gaming pleasure.
[story and Fallout 3 teaser poster via DailyTech]
Space is a dangerous place. All that vacuum that looks like nothing actually contains huge amounts of solar radiation. In an orbit around Earth or a short trip to the Moon, this is not usually a life-threatening problem – although the Apollo 16 astronauts just missed a solar storm that could have killed them. But in the eight months or so it would take an expedition to get to Mars, a few solar wind storms could easily kill any humans on board. The shield is a common solution in science fiction – from the near-magic forcefield of Star Trek/Wars to the realistic mirrored disk seen on the craft in last year’s Sunshine.
Scientists at Oxford University are aiming to create a similar shield. By creating a magnetic field similar to that of the Earth’s, which protects us from radiation, the scientists found they could successfully deflect intense beams of charged particles. The technology has been proven to work and now needs to be energy-efficient enough to be run by a spacecraft with limited resources – such a development could well provide technology useful in increasing the efficiency of more mundane technologies as well.
[via the Guardian, screenshot from ‘Sunshine’ via Moving Pictures ]