Back to Journals » International Journal of General Medicine » Volume 5

Acute radiation syndrome (ARS) – treatment of the reduced host defense

Authors Heslet L, Bay, Nepper-Christensen S

Received 2 May 2011

Accepted for publication 2 August 2011

Published 31 January 2012 Volume 2012:5 Pages 105—115


Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Lars Heslet1, Christiane Bay2, Steen Nepper-Christensen3

1Serendex ApS, Gentofte; 2University of Copenhagen, Medical Faculty, Copenhagen; 3Department of Head and Neck Surgery, Otorhinolaryngology, Køge University Hospital, Køge, Denmark

Background: The current radiation threat from the Fukushima power plant accident has prompted rethinking of the contingency plan for prophylaxis and treatment of the acute radiation syndrome (ARS). The well-documented effect of the growth factors (granulocyte colony-stimulating factor [G-CSF] and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor [GM-CSF]) in acute radiation injury has become standard treatment for ARS in the United States, based on the fact that growth factors increase number and functions of both macrophages and granulocytes.
Methods: Review of the current literature.
Results: The lungs have their own host defense system, based on alveolar macrophages. After radiation exposure to the lungs, resting macrophages can no longer be transformed, not even during systemic administration of growth factors because G-CSF/GM-CSF does not penetrate the alveoli. Under normal circumstances, locally-produced GM-CSF receptors transform resting macrophages into fully immunocompetent dendritic cells in the sealed-off pulmonary compartment. However, GM-CSF is not expressed in radiation injured tissue due to defervescence of the macrophages. In order to maintain the macrophage’s important role in host defense after radiation exposure, it is hypothesized that it is necessary to administer the drug exogenously in order to uphold the barrier against exogenous and endogenous infections and possibly prevent the potentially lethal systemic infection, which is the main cause of death in ARS.
Recommendation: Preemptive treatment should be initiated after suspected exposure of a radiation dose of at least ~2 Gy by prompt dosing of 250–400 µg GM-CSF/m2 or 5 µg/kg G-CSF administered systemically and concomitant inhalation of GM-CSF ~ 300 mcg per day for at least 14–21 days.
Conclusion: The present United States standard for prevention and treatment of ARS standard intervention should consequently be modified into the combined systemic administration of growth factors and inhaled GM-CSF to ensure the sustained systemic and pulmonary host defense and thus prevent pulmonary dysfunction.

Keywords: inhaled and systemically administered GM-CSF, ARS, host defense, orchestration of pulmonary host response

Creative Commons License © 2012 The Author(s). This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.