Selective Shielding of Bone Marrow: An Approach to Protecting Humans from External Gamma Radiation
The current feasibility of protecting emergency responders through bone marrow selective shielding is highlighted in the recent OECD/NEA report on severe accident management. Until recently, there was no effective personal protection from externally penetrating gamma radiation. In Chernobyl, first-responders wore makeshift lead sheeting, whereas in Fukushima protective equipment from gamma radiation was not available. Older protective solutions that use thin layers of shielding over large body surfaces are ineffective for energetic gamma radiation. Acute exposures may result in Acute Radiation Syndrome where the survival-limiting factor up to 10 Gy uniform, homogeneous exposure is irreversible bone marrow damage. Protracted, lower exposures may result in malignancies of which bone marrow is especially susceptible, being compounded by leukemia’s short latency time. This highlights the importance of shielding bone marrow for preventing both deterministic and stochastic effects. Due to the extraordinary regenerative potential of hematopoietic stem cells, to effectively prevent the deterministic effects of bone marrow exposure, it is sufficient to protect only a small fraction of this tissue. This biological principle allows for a new class of equipment providing unprecedented attenuation of radiation to select marrow-rich regions, deferring the hematopoietic sub-syndrome of Acute Radiation Syndrome to much higher doses. As approximately half of the body’s active bone marrow resides within the pelvis region, shielding this area holds great promise for preventing the deterministic effects of bone marrow exposure and concomitantly reducing stochastic effects. The efficacy of a device that selectively shields this region and other radiosensitive organs in the abdominal area is shown here.