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Study Offers Insight into Conjoined Radiation Injury from Potential Nuclear Disaster

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A nuclear bomb or nuclear reactor accident can generate a fatal combination of radiation exposure and injuries such as burns and trauma. Therefore, in a study that is the first of its kind in half a century is offering new insights into this occurrence called combined radiation injury (CRI).

Researchers from the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine have demonstrated how CRI causes the intestines to leak bacteria into surrounding tissue. The study also demonstrated that radiation and burns have a propensity to join together which makes them far more fatal when they act in combination with one another.

The study has since been published in the October 2013 issue of the journal Shock.

“Findings could lead to new treatments for victims, as well as pretreatments for first responders,” said senior author Elizabeth Kovacs, PhD.

"The use of nuclear technology and the potential for its implementation in warfare and terrorism highlight the importance of this study. Insight into the effects of combined radiation injury on the gut will help direct management of survivors of nuclear disaster,” the researchers determined.nuclear

Usually cells that line the lumen of the intestine thwart bacteria and bacterial agents from leaking out. The cells are wound together by "tight junctions." Radiation can harm and eradicate these cells and a burn injury can offset an inflammatory response that breaks down tight junctions. This opens up the protective lining, enabling bacteria agents to leak out of the intestine, leading to death cased by sepsis.

Over the course of the study, the researchers discovered that combined radiation and thermal injury offset 100 times greater leakage of bacteria throughout the intestinal lining than the leakage observed in control groups only exposed to radiation, or burn alone, or no injury at all.

"To our knowledge, we are the first to present gastrointestinal findings of this nature in any CRI model, with the exception of early studies on CRI in the 1960s," the researchers wrote.

"We hope we never will have to respond to a nuclear disaster. But if such a disaster were to occur, our findings could be part of our preparedness,” Kovacs added.

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