Navigate Up
UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Gene Therapy Given Intravenously Protects Normal Tissue of Mice During Whole-Body Radiation Exposure

PHILADELHIA, November 7, 2006 — Gene therapy administered intravenously could be used as an agent to protect vital organs and tissues from the effects of ionizing radiation in the event of large-scale exposure from a radiological or nuclear bomb, according to an animal study presented today by University of Pittsburgh researchers at the 48th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) in Philadelphia.

“Ionizing radiation can be extremely damaging to cells, tissues, organs and organ systems,” said Joel S. Greenberger, M.D., professor and chairman department of radiation oncology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “In previous studies, we demonstrated that gene therapy can be both swallowed in pill form and inhaled through a nebulizer prior to radiation exposure to protect healthy tissues from damage. In this study, we found that the same therapy administered intravenously also offers protection during exposure to whole-body irradiation.” Dr. Greenberger added that intravenous administration could potentially offer wide-reaching protection to the public in the event of a terrorist attack since experts believe a significant number of the population would die within 30 days of receiving a large dose of radiation to the entire body.

In the study, mice were used to test the protective effects of manganese superoxide dismutase plasmid liposome (MnSOD-PL) gene therapy on the bone marrow during whole-body irradiation. The researchers found that in a control group of mice that received an initial 9 Gy dose of radiation there was 80 percent survival at 30 days compared to 93.3 percent survival during the same length of time for an experimental group of mice that were injected with MnSOD-PL prior to irradiation. As the level of radiation exposure was increased, survival rates in the mice injected with MnSOD-PL prior to exposure increased significantly. For example, at 9.5 Gy, mice in the control group had a survival rate of 53 percent, while mice in the experimental group had a survival rate of 87 percent. Following irradiation to 9.75 Gy, only 12.5 percent of the mice in the control group survived, while 75 percent of the MnSOD-PL group survived. 

“Intravenous administration of gene therapy appears to prevent the damaging effects of radiation, suggesting it is a viable delivery method,” said Dr. Greenberger. “Future clinical studies will tell us whether this therapy can protect people from the deadly effects of radiation.”

The study’s co-authors include Michael W. Epperly, Ph.D., and Yunyun Niu, Ph.D., both with the department of radiation oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The study was funded by a $10 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2005 to create a Center for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation.

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com