SOP Joins International Group to Advance Treatments for Radiation Injuries

The Mass Spectrometry facility at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy will lead investigation to identify and characterize new biomarkers of radiation damage.

By Malissa Carroll
January 31, 2013

The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy has joined the Medical Countermeasures Against Radiological and Nuclear Threats (MCART) Consortium. The consortium is a large, federally-funded, multi-institutional program established to develop medical countermeasures against the lethal exposure to ionizing radiation, working towards understanding the mechanisms of radiation damage and ways to estimate individual radiation exposure using biodosimetric methods. The Mass Spectrometry facility in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences will use its state-of-the-art instrumentation and expertise to lead the group’s investigation to identify and characterize new biomarkers of early radiation damage.

“With radiation damage, the extent of the injury is not always obvious,” says Maureen Kane, PhD, co-director of the Mass Spectrometry facility and assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences. “As a member of this consortium, we will use our Mass Spectrometry facility to look for biomarkers of radiation damage, image tissue, and characterize what happens during the damage phase. If we understand that initial phase better, we can potentially target the damage with a drug.”

Through its involvement in the MCART Consortium, the Mass Spectrometry facility hopes to identify and validate several new biomarkers of radiation injury, recovery, and intervention in the hematopoietic, gastrointestinal, and lung systems. The consortium’s tissue imaging core group will be led by Kane and Robert Ernst, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis in the School of Dentistry.

“This consortium is an outstanding example of collaborative research among the schools on our campus, where Dr. Kane’s expertise in mass spectrometry has significantly advanced this critical issue in public health” says Andrew Coop, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The MCART Consortium is funded by a contract with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which spans drug development efforts from early development through approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) using the FDA Animal Rule. It is composed of 15 different research, development, regulatory, and administrative entities from the United States, Canada, and England. Working together as a drug research and development team, the consortium evaluates the potential efficacy of drugs and biologics that can be used to treat acute radiation syndrome(s), as well as the delayed effects of acute radiation exposure. The consortium is directed by Thomas MacVittie, PhD, professor of radiation oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“This is a terrific collaboration that combines the consortium’s existing expertise in radiation effects in multiple organ systems with the expertise offered by Dr. Kane and her colleagues through the School of Pharmacy’s Mass Spectrometry facility,” says MacVittie. “The Mass Spectrometry facility will be the foundation of the tissue imaging core within the consortium and will interact with all other research teams. It will provide us with the ability to use direct spatial visualization of relevant molecules as potential biomarkers for radiation damage and treatment in an unbiased manner.”

In November 2012, the MCART Consortium held its annual meeting to discuss current efforts to develop and characterize new models of radiation damage in addition to new avenues of investigation, including pharmacological interventions and the mechanisms of radiation damage and recovery. The second session of this two-day meeting was hosted in Pharmacy Hall and featured a presentation by members of the Mass Spectrometry facility about new approaches to identify mechanisms of action and biomarkers of radiation damage.

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