Countermeasures against radiation are critically needed. Ideally, these measures would be easy to store, easy to administer and have minimal toxicity. We used oral delivery of interleukin 11 (IL11) in mice exposed to lethal doses of total-body irradiation (TBI). Animals were given IL11 by gavage at various daily doses beginning 24 h after TBI, which continued for 5 days. At a TBI of 9.0 Gy, mice treated with IL11 had a 70% survival at 30 days compared with control group survival of 25% (P = 0.035). At 10.0 Gy, treated animals had 50% survival at 30 days compared with no survivors in the control group. Treated animals had significant improvement in intestinal mucosal surface area and crypt survival. In addition bacterial translocation of coliform bacteria was significantly less in the treated animals. Systemic absorption of IL11 was low in treated animals and effects on the hematopoietic cells were not seen. Serum citrulline levels rebounded significantly faster after irradiation in the IL11 treated animals, indicating quicker recovery of small intestine health. These data suggest that IL11 given orally protects the intestinal mucosa from radiation damage and that this compound is beneficial as a mitigating agent even when started 24 h after radiation exposure.
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Vol. 180 • No. 6