Four years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, Fukushima Medical University’s Global Medical Science Center has signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics to collaborate on further development of the company’s placenta-based cell therapy products to treat acute radiation syndrome (ARS) and morbidities following radiotherapy in cancer patients.

ARS is caused by exposure to dangerously high levels of radiation, such as occur in a nuclear catastrophe, and causes potentially lethal damage to the gastrointestinal tract, lung, skin and bone marrow, as well as other systems.

The Haifa-based company’s PLX-R18 cells will be studied primarily as a potential treatment for radiation-induced damage to the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. The Japanese and Israeli partners intend to develop preclinical models of radiation damage in these tissues, and then use them in trials.

Pluristem will contribute PLX-R18 cells and scientific knowledge, while Fukushima Medical University will conduct the studies and provide the required resources.

The collaboration will proceed alongside research supported by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is studying PLX-R18 as a potential treatment for insufficient blood-cell production by the bone marrow, which may be caused by various reasons including ARS and cancer treatments.

Data from a preclinical study published in the scientific journal PLOS One suggest that PLX-R18 cells may be a highly effective off-the-shelf therapy for bone marrow failure following total body exposure to high doses of radiation. The work with Fukushima Global Medical Science Center will further evaluate the efficacy of intramuscular administration for systemic treatment of ARS.

“The researchers at Fukushima have a strong interest in cell therapies that may offer a treatment for conditions caused by exposure to ionizing radiation. We are honored to work with the thought leaders in the field to further develop PLX-R18 for ARS-related indications,” stated Pluristem CEO Zami Aberman.

“We anticipate that our work with Fukushima Medical University, Fukushima Global Medical Science Center will help to maintain the health of those involved in decommissioning the Fukushima reactors; the decommissioning process is estimated to take about 40 years. We hope that this collaboration can advance efforts to safeguard populations around the world from illness related to radiation exposure,” said Aberman.