The release of nuclear material at the Fukushima nuclear reactor after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake raised concerns regarding U.S. preparedness to treat large-scale exposure of citizens and military personnel to ionizing radiation. The immediate destructive potential of nuclear and radiological weapons, as well as their long-term public health and economic impacts, continue to be of concern to the Department of Defense. In light of the diverse, persistent, and substantial threat posed by ionizing radiation from nuclear and/or radiological weapons, DARPA is requesting information on novel therapies, methods, devices, protocols, compounds, and/or systems to mitigate the dangers that ionizing radiation poses to human health. As part of this investigation, a better understanding of the effects of chronic, acute, environmental, and internal ionizing radiation exposure on mutagenesis, cellular life-cycle, immunology, and metabolism is expected to be fruitful and lead to new areas of research…
DSO [DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office] is seeking innovative ideas that may be used to help inform a potential new program focused on demonstrating novel methods for mitigating the susceptibility of victims exposed to large doses of ionizing radiation over a range of temporal scales.
Topic Area One: Acute Interventions
DARPA is interested in novel approaches to mitigating the immediate, toxic effects associated with exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation. Concepts of interest under this Topic Area include, but are not limited to, the following:
—Prophylactic interventions that can be delivered prior to ionizing radiation exposure that protect against the immediate toxic effects of ionizing radiation to ensure survivability even at high irradiation doses.
—Post-exposure interventions that can be delivered as late as possible following irradiation while still ensuring survivability against the acute effects of ionizing radiation exposure.
Topic Area Two: Long Term Survival
DARPA is interested in novel intervention technologies for ensuring/enhancing survival against the long-term effects of ionizing radiation including cancers attributed to cellular damage and mutagenesis…
With the possibility of new therapies that enable survival in individuals who may have been exposed to doses of ionizing radiation that would normally be considered lethal, it now becomes even more important to understand the mechanisms of injury, including the effects of ionization within cells, mutagenesis and free radical formation that can lead to mortality from stochastic radiation effects.
Technical approaches of interest may address the need to improve our understanding of the contributions of immune system, cellular, and DNA damage to the deleterious effects of ionizing radiation on health, as well as propose novel therapeutic approaches for mitigating these effects. For example, some antioxidants (e.g., superoxide dismutase (SOD), SOD-mimetics, selenomethionine, Hirsutella sinensis, and others) have been shown to produce in vivo activity that can suppress lethality while other antioxidants (e.g., WR-2721, beta-carotene, caffeine and others) can mitigate mutagenesis and/or chromosomal aberrations.3,4,5 Some antioxidants, such as tocopherol-monoglucoside (TMG), produce in vivo activity that may mitigate both the acute lethal effects and longer term mutagenesis and chromosomal aberration effects of exposure to ionizing radiation. Understanding how these compounds act to reduce morbidity and mortality may pave the way to new, more effective therapies and protocols.
Excerpts from Source: Reducing Ionizing Radiation Risk, Solicitation Number: DARPA-SN-13-24, Feb. 20, 2013