Dr. Ruth Edge from The University of Manchester, together with her colleagues Professor George Truscott from Keele University and Professors Fritz Boehm & Christian Witt from Berlin, undertook a study of lycopene (one of the carotenoids – plant pigments found in many fruits and vegetables) and its effectiveness at protecting against radiation at the University of Manchester’s Dalton Cumbrian Facility, part of the Dalton Nuclear Institute.
“We have shown that lycopene can protect human cells efficiently against gamma radiation at low, but not high oxygen concentrations, and we hope that this effect may allow for improvements in radiation cancer therapy if the oxygen concentration can be increased in solid tumours compared to the healthy surrounding tissue”, said Dr. Ruth Edge, Experimental Officer and Laboratory Manager, Dalton Cumbrian Facility.
Radiation therapy is used to treat a wide range of tumors, but until now, its side effects have constrained its effectiveness. Recently, there has been interest in the possible role of dietary carotenoids in limiting these effects. In addition, interest has grown in identifying dietary counter-measures against nuclear accidents.
The results of the study, published in FEBS Letters, have shown that lycopene is an effective carotenoid at offering protection from the damaging effects of gamma radiation, and that dietary intervention could be useful in efforts to defend people from these effects. A major finding of the study is that such protective effects are reduced as the oxygen concentration is increased.