Recombinant human interleukin-1α (rHIL-1α or IL-1) protected the intestinal crypt cells of mice against X-ray-induced damage. The survival of crypt cells measured in terms of their ability to form colonies of regenerating duodenal epithelium in situ was increased when IL-1 was given either before or after irradiation. The maximum degree of radioprotection was seen when the drug was given between 13 and 25 h before irradiation. The IL-1 dose producing maximum protection was about 6.3 μg/kg. This is the first report indicating that the cytokine IL-1 has a radioprotective effect in the intestine. The finding suggests that IL-1 may be of potential value in preventing radiation injury to the gut in the clinic.

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