Thursday, March 01, 2007

Protecting The People Who Serve And Protect

Really Smart People just keep pushing the knowledge envelope, and making more and more progress on the medical front. Today's breakthrough announcement comes from New Scientist, which reports that there's a new drug in the works, at Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals of San Diego, California, to help prevent the effects of "acute radiation syndrome" in people exposed to radioactive material. The drug is 5-androstenediol, or AED, which is "an adrenal gland hormone." How it works involves stimulating the production of bone marrow, to replace that which gets killed off during radiation exposure, which in turn replaces the blood cells lost to that radiation, such as those which cause the blood to clot and fight infection. According to New Scientist, the loss of such blood cells is often the cause of death weeks after radiation exposure. This is a pretty big deal in real world application since it means, 'Emergency workers attending the scene of a "dirty" bomb or nuclear blast could soon have a drug to help protect them.'

Wow, they're basically talking about a radiation vaccine, in practical terms, anyway. That's such great news. Wouldn't it be wonderful if this drug could be perfected to the point where emergency workers responding to a situation involving nuclear materials could be assured of their own protection from radiation? They could simply do their best work rescuing people, and not have to take so many precautions for their own safety that they have to help fewer victims. Maybe they could even get rid of those bulky and hindering protective suits so they can work more efficiently--although, since I'm not a Really Smart Person, I don't know all the possible reasons for the protective gear. I'm sure heat is probably a big factor in the need to suit up as well. Maybe they can come up with a new treatment to make folks super-resistant to high temperatures, too. Anything seems to be possible these days. We're getting closer to Star Trek all the time. Anyway, one of the encouraging things about this new preventative drug is that it "...may even protect victims of a blast if administered quickly enough after exposure." So, they can protect the workers going in, and treat the victims coming out. I love Really Smart People.