Japan Turns To Israel For Radiation Disease Treatment
This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.
Four years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, the country is still not out of the woods, with the risk of mass radiation poisoning a continued risk. That is why the Fukushima Medical University’s Global Medical Science Center has signed a deal with Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics to further develop the company’s PLX-R18 cells to treat acute radiation syndrome (ARS).
Under the deal, PLX-R18 cells will be studied primarily as a potential treatment for radiation-induced damage to the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. The parties intend to develop pre-clinical models of radiation damage in these tissues, and then use them in trials; Pluristem will contribute PLX-R18 cells and scientific knowledge, while Fukushima Medical University will conduct the studies and provide the required resources.
Although out of the news, the Fukushima plant continues to pose major health risks. Four and a half years after the explosion and subsequent meltdown at the plant damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan in March 2011, radiation continues to spread, both in Japan and abroad.
Just last week, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution issued a report saying that more sites off the coast of the western US were showing signs of radiation contamination. And in Japan itself, as many as a million people could die in the coming years from radiation-induced cancer, according to a report last month by Fairewinds Energy Education.
So far there have been just a few documented cases of cancer directly linked to the disaster, but no one in Japan is taking anything for granted. While officials are doing what they can to clean up the site, they realize that they must also act to prevent a potential health emergency.
Enter Pluristem, a Haifa-based company that is developing a cure for acute radiation syndrome (ARS), also known as radiation disease, the mass destruction of tissues and cells caused by exposure to extremely high levels of radiation, such as a nuclear catastrophe.
ARS can cause lethal damage to the gastrointestinal tract, lung, skin and bone marrow, as well as other systems. But tests have shown that the stem-cell technology developed by Pluristem can prevent damage to cells affected by ARS. In tests conducted in Israel and the US, animals (mostly mice) that were subjected to total body irradiation and injected with human cytokines, showed significantly increased survival rates when treated with Pluristem’s PLX-RAD cells. The treatment essentially reversed the effects of radiation disease – which is especially hard on bone marrow – to a great extent.
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Photos: Juha Uitto, Pluristem