An Overview of Antioxidants and Radiation Injury


Carol J. Iddins MD


Ionizing radiation induces free radicals and the formation of reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress. It would be intuitive that substances that reduce reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress would result in radioprotectants, mitigators, and therapeutics for radiation injuries. In the field of radiation oncology radioprotectants have been of primary importance. For development of "radiation medical countermeasures", both civilian and military are seeking substances that may mitigate the effect of a radiation exposure or contamination before symptoms occur (mitigators) or are effective therapeutically. Ideally, these should be substances that can be given to large numbers of people, have a long shelf-life, have minimal side effects, may be given without supervision of a physician and are economically feasible to produce to be effective in a mass casualty incident (MCI) involving radiation and or nuclear materials. Many antioxidants are naturally occurring, as they are part of cellular metabolism and maintenance. There has been much research with these. Other areas of research include synthetic antioxidants, superoxide dismutase (SOD)/catalase (CAT) mimetics, protease inhibitors, existing medications, and other treatment modalities. Those research pioneers have opened doors into many areas that will benefit not only those undergoing radiation therapy or therapy for radiation injuries but into all other facets of medicine, as well. This is an overview of various natural and synthetic antioxidants as well as other methods, medications, and treatment modalities that have been or are currently being researched.