UAMS Researchers Receive $2.9 Million Grant to Study Possible Treatment for Radiation Injury

By Ben Boulden

Marjan Boerma, Ph.D., one of the team’s three principal investigators, is an associate professor in the Division of Radiation Health in the College of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

This project is one of the next steps in research performed for many years by Martin Hauer-Jensen, M.D., Ph.D., and other investigators in the Division of Radiation Health.

“Between the strong team in the division and the substantial expertise of the other investigators, I’m confident we will build on that legacy to find some answers to questions we all have about treating the delayed effects of radiation injury,” Boerma said.

Hauer-Jensen is a co-investigator on the research team and the director of the Division of Radiation Health.

An accidental exposure to a high-level of radiation may injure a person in an industrial setting, for example. Even when that patient recovers from the immediate, negative health effects of the radiation injury, often delayed health effects can show up months or even years later, Boerma said. A drug — activated protein C — has been shown in earlier research by Hauer-Jensen to be effective in treating the immediate effects of radiation injury. The research team will examine whether it also can be effective against those long-term effects.

“We’ve seen some real health benefits from this drug in research before,” said Hauer-Jensen. “Because of improvements in the treatment of radiation injury over the years, patients have a higher chance of survival initially and in the short term, so now we need to see if we can use it to protect them from the delayed effects of radiation injury, too.”

The study will focus primarily on how activated protein C might improve the health of the vascular system in the heart and brain of a person affected by radiation injury.

In addition to Boerma, the other principal investigators are: Hartmut Weiler, Ph.D., senior investigator, Blood Research Institute, BloodCenter of Wisconsin; and John Griffin, Ph.D., professor of molecular medicine, Scripps Research Institute.

In addition to Hauer-Jensen, co-investigators are: Antiño Allen, Ph.D., assistant professor, UAMS College of Pharmacy, Division of Radiation Health; Reid Landes, Ph.D., associate professor, UAMS College of Medicine, Department of Biostatistics; and Amrita Cheema, Ph.D., co-director of the Proteomics and Metabolomics Shared Resource, Georgetown University.