With the current state of things, it's nearly impossible to turn on the news without hearing some passing reference to chemical or nuclear warfare. And while we usually have at least some countermeasure ready to minimise damages from the former, it's the nuclear part that leaves us biologically defenceless.
But all that could soon change — in just a few days, the US Food and Drug Administration will consider giving their authoritative blessing to a medical remedy against nuclear attacks for the very first time.
The drugs in question, known as leukocyte growth factors, are currently used primarily by cancer patients for their white-blood-cell-boosting properties. Since chemotherapy severely lowers your infection-fighting white blood cell count, the leukocyte growth factors help stimulate bone marrow to replace what's been lost.
Using these same drugs (which can be found under brand names such as Neulasta, Neupogen, and Leukine) in their st udy, the National Institutes of Health treated monkeys that had been exposed to radiation to promising results. After 60 days, the 79 per cent of the 24 Neupogen-treated monkeys survived, as opposed to a mere 41 per cent of 22 untreated monkeys. And that difference was apparently significant enough to end the study right there.
According to an FDA report:
The FDA-approval of a product for use in a radiological/nuclear setting will facilitate access to this product in the event of such an emergency.
We won't know until sometime after May 3, when the FDA is set to meet, if any of this will produce actual, usable, life-saving results, and obviously this won't grant us invincibility against, well, getting blown up. But with the direction we're headed, a radiation remedy could very well become vital. [Bloomberg]