Vegetable compound protects against lethal radiation
A compound derived from cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli has been found to offer protection from lethal doses of gamma ray radiation. The experiments were conducted with rodents, but the Georgetown University researchers who made the discovery say the compound is safe for use in humans.
Their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, notes that the compound, 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM), has previously been found to have cancer preventive properties.
"DIM has been studied as a cancer prevention agent for years, but this is the first indication that DIM can also act as a radiation protector," says one of the study's authors, Eliot Rosen.
In the study, rats were irradiated with lethal doses of gamma ray radiation. The rodents were then treated with a daily injection of DIM for two weeks, starting 10 minutes after the radiation exposure.
The results, according to Rosen, were stunning. "All of the untreated rats died, but well over half of the DIM-treated animals remained alive 30 days after the radiation exposure."
The study notes that DIM provided protection regardless of whether the first injection was administered 24 hours before, or 24 hours after, the exposure. In addition, irradiated mice treated with DIM had less reduction in red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets - side effects often seen in patients undergoing radiation treatment for cancer.
Rosen believes the findings point to two potential uses of the compound. "DIM could protect normal tissues in patients receiving radiation therapy for cancer, but could also protect individuals from the lethal consequences of a nuclear disaster," he suggests.