Radiation combined injury (RCI, radiation exposure coupled with other forms of injury, such as burn, wound, hemorrhage, blast, trauma and/or sepsis) comprises approximately 65% of injuries from a nuclear explosion, and greatly increases the risk of morbidity and mortality when compared to that of radiation injury alone. To date, no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved countermeasures are available for RCI. Currently, three leukocyte growth factors (Neupogen®, Neulasta® and Leukine®) have been approved by the FDA for mitigating the hematopoietic acute radiation syndrome. However these granulocyte-colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) products have failed to increase 30-day survival of mice after RCI, suggesting a more complicated biological mechanism is in play for RCI than for radiation injury. In the current study, the mitigative efficacy of combination therapy using pegylated (PEG)-G-CSF (Neulasta) and -citrulline was evaluated in an RCI mouse model. L-citrulline is a neutral alpha-amino acid shown to improve vascular endothelial function in cardiovascular diseases. Three doses of PEG-G-CSF at 1 mg/kg, subcutaneously administered on days 1, 8 and 15 postirradiation, were supplemented with oral -citrulline (1 g/kg), once daily from day 1 to day 21 postirradiation. The combination treatment significantly improved the 30-day survival of mice after RCI from 15% (vehicle-treated) to 42%, and extended the median survival time by 4 days, as compared to vehicle controls. In addition, the combination therapy significantly increased body weight and bone marrow stem and progenitor cell clonogenicity in RCI mice, and accelerated recovery from RCI-induced intestinal injury, compared to animals treated with vehicle. Treatment with -citrulline alone also accelerated skin wound healing after RCI. In conclusion, these data indicate that the PEG-G-CSF and -citrulline combination therapy is a potentially effective countermeasure for mitigating RCI, likely by enhancing survival of the hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells and accelerating recovery from the RCI-induced intestinal injury and skin wounds.

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