The radiation protective agent glutathione

Japan releases radioactive water

Glutathione (GSH) is the most abundant intracellular non-protein mercaptan, which is involved in many cellular functions, including REDOX homeostasis buffering.

Cellular radiosensitivity has been shown to be inversely correlated with endogenous glutathione levels. Many experiments have investigated the potential role of GSH as a protective agent against cell damage caused by radiation or foreign chemicals, and as an antioxidant, GSH is also considered a radiation protective agent.

What are the dangers of Japan's nuclear water discharge?

01 What are the dangers of Japan’s nuclear water discharge?

On August 24, 2023, Japan officially discharged the Fukushima First nuclear power plant nuclear sewage into the sea, the nuclear contaminated water contains up to 64 kinds of nuclear radioactive elements, and more than 70% are exceeded, and it is difficult to completely dispose of the multi-nuclide equipment.

According to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States, the nuclear sewage contains iodine-129, strontium-90, ruthenium-106, carbon-14 and other radioactive elements.

The levels of radioactive material in the Fukushima contaminated water are dangerously high and potentially damaging to human DNA. Among them, iodine-129 can cause thyroid cancer, and strontium-90 is included in the list of a class of carcinogens by the World Health Organization, which is prone to leukemia.

“Human beings are at the top of the food chain pyramid,” Liu Entao, from the School of Oceanology at China University of Geosciences, said. “Radioactive elements enriched by organisms such as seafood will affect human beings through the food chain.”

According to the analysis, humans ingest various radioactive isotopes in seawater indirectly through eating seafood. Experiments have shown that long-term, large-scale consumption of radioactive contaminated seafood may cause the accumulation of radioactive substances in the body to exceed the allowable amount, causing chronic radiation disease and other diseases, resulting in blood organs, endocrine system, nervous system and other damage.

The discharge of nuclear sewage will affect the waters along Japan’s Pacific coast, especially the local waters around Fukushima Prefecture, and then pollute the East China Sea. Japan’s neighbors will inevitably be affected.

A German Marine research institute said it would take 57 days from the date of release for the radioactive material to spread across most of the Pacific Ocean, and three years later the United States and Canada would be affected.

Taking radioactive cesium as an example, the Japanese Atomic Energy Research and Development Agency has carried out a computer simulation of the diffusion of radioactive cesium with a half-life of about 30 years, and found that it will reach North America in 5 years along the ocean current. The ocean currents will return to eastern Asia in the next decade; In 30 years, it will have spread almost across the Pacific.

Radiation preservative

02 Radiation preservative

Nuclear radiation refers to different energy particles and electromagnetic radiation released in the nuclear reaction process of atoms, such as fission and decay, whose action on substances can cause ionization and excitation, resulting in biological effects, so it belongs to ionizing radiation, radioactive material is one of the sources of nuclear radiation.

Ionizing radiation has direct, measurable harmful effects on cells, including an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the production of single-stranded DNA breaks (SSB) and double-stranded DNA breaks (DSB).

Ionizing radiation has direct, measurable harmful effects on cells

Since it recognized that ionizing radiation may cause damage to biomolecules, developments in the field of radiation protection are indeed closely related to the use of ionizing radiation.

For a reagent to act as a radiation protection agent, it must be present at the time of radiation to compete with free radicals produced by free radical scavenging mechanisms.

It well known that radiation protection agents can exert general antioxidant activity in addition to their ability to scour free radicals.

Radiation protectants may reduce carcinogenesis and teratogenesis through their effects on DNA damage, lipid peroxidation, protein damage, and cell cycle regulation.

Radiation-induced DNA damage and repair is regulated by cellular GSH levels
Radiation-induced DNA damage and repair regulated by cellular GSH levels

Cell exposure to ionizing radiation leads to the production of reactive oxygen species,

which leads to the depletion of the cell’s antioxidant reserves, the most significant of which is GSH.

Multiple roles of glutathione GSH in cells

1 Antioxidant function

The antioxidant function of GSH expressed through direct interaction with reactive oxygen species or by providing electrons to other REDOX systems, such as glutathione peroxidase (GPX) and gludoxin (GRX).

2 Detoxification function

In addition to antioxidant and electron supply, GSH required to maintain homeostasis in animals,

such as detoxification by forming conjugations with poisons and inhibiting apoptosis.

3 DNA repair function

DNA double-strand breaks caused by ionizing radiation are serious damage that,

if unrepaired or repaired incorrectly, can lead to chromosomal aberrations, cell death, and mutations and cell transformations. It has shown that GSH may an important determinant of cells’ ability to repair DNA damage and resist cell death.

4 Radiation protection function

Traditionally, GSH in the nucleus has considered a protective agent for DNA and DNA-binding proteins from oxidative stress and radiation-induced damage,

and studies have shown that exogenous addition of GSH can effectively reduce radiation-induced micronucleus and chromosome aberrations in different systems.

GSH plays an important role in preventing DNA damage caused by oxidants and ionizing radiation,

as well as preserving nuclear proteins in a reductive environment for gene transcription during cell cycle progression.

Published reports have shown that DNA repair in cells is dependent on GSH. As a single drug, GSH has found to affect DNA damage and repair, REDOX regulation, and multiple cell signaling pathways.

Glutathione studies prove

Several studies have demonstrated that GSH can not only act as a radiation protection agent to prevent DNA damage,

but also as a regulator of DNA repair activity.

Increased GSH saves cells from ionizing radiation-mediated damage
Increased GSH saves cells from ionizing radiation-mediated damage
Glutathione prevents DNA damage caused by X-rays through glutathione
Glutathione prevents DNA damage caused by X-rays through glutathione
GSH can be used to protect DNA damage induced by gamma radiation
GSH can used to protect DNA damage induced by gamma radiation

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  • The content of this article is provided as information only, does not represent the position and recommendations of the Department, and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis and recommendations.


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