Compton scattering by internal shields based on melanin-containing mushrooms provides protection of gastrointestinal tract from ionizing radiation
There is a need for radioprotectors that protect normal tissues from ionizing radiation in patients receiving high doses of radiation and during nuclear emergencies. We investigated the possibility of creating an efficient oral radioprotector based on the natural pigment melanin that would act as an internal shield and protect the tissues via Compton scattering followed by free radical scavenging. CD-1 mice were fed melanin-containing black edible mushrooms Auricularia auricila-judae before 9 Gy total body irradiation. The location of the mushrooms in the body before irradiation was determined by in vivo fluorescent imaging. Black mushrooms protected 80% of mice from the lethal dose, while control mice or those given melanin-devoid mushrooms died from gastrointestinal syndrome. The crypts of mice given black mushrooms showed less apoptosis and more cell division than those in control mice, and their white blood cell and platelet counts were restored at 45 days to preradiation levels. The role of melanin in radioprotection was proven by the fact that mice given white mushrooms supplemented with melanin survived at the same rate as mice given black mushrooms. The ability of melanin-containing mushrooms to provide remarkable protection against radiation suggests that they could be developed into oral radioprotectors.