Treatment reversing the effects of radiation is currently not possible. Anaesthetics and antiemetics are administered to counter the symptoms of exposure, as well as antibiotics for countering secondary infections caused by the resulting immune system deficiency.
There are also a number of substances used to mitigate the prolonged effects of radiation poisoning, by eliminating the remaining radioactive materials, post exposure.
Whole body vs. part of body exposure
In the case of a person who has had only part of their body irradiated then the treatment is easier, as the human body can tolerate very large exposures to the non-vital parts such as hands and feet, without having a global effect on the entire body. For instance, if the hands get a 100 Gy dose which results in the body receiving a dose (averaged over the entire body) of less than 1 Gy then the hands may be lost but radiation poisoning may not occur. The resulting injury would be described as localized radiation burn.
As described below, one of the primary dangers of whole-body exposure is immunodeficiency caused by the destruction of bone marrow and consequent shortage of white blood cells. It is treated by maintaining a sterile environment, bone marrow transplants (see hematopoietic stem cell transplantation), and blood transfusions.
Neumune, an androstenediol, was introduced as a radiation countermeasure by the US Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, and was under joint development with Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals until March, 2007. Neumune is in Investigational New Drug (IND) status and Phase I trials have been performed.
Some work has been published in which ''Cordyceps sinensis'', a Chinese herbal medicine, has been used to protect the bone marrow and digestive systems of mice from whole body irradation.
Recent lab studies conducted with bisphosphonate compounds have shown promise of mitigating radiation exposure effects.
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