National Security

Worldwide concerns about the potential for a nuclear attack or radiological terrorism (e.g., “a dirty bomb”) have escalated in our increasingly uncertain geopolitical environment. Individual health risks following exposure, as well as follow-up medical care and treatment, are directly related to radiation dose. One of the critical and, to date, unmet needs of emergency and medical care workers following such an event is accurately assessing the radiation dose individuals may have received.

Center scientists at the NIH funded CRR Center for High Throughput Minimally-Invasive Radiation Biodosimetry as well as CRR investigators funded by BARDA, The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are developing novel assays and rapid screening techniques to enable accurate determination of individual radiation exposures in large numbers of potentially exposed persons.

At the same time, the potential population-wide health risks from exposure to screening devices employing low-dose radiation exposures (e.g., airport use of backscatter X-ray machines) has become an area of increasing concern. The CRR has been at the forefront of efforts to evaluate individual risk and provide advice and guidance to regulatory and governmental officials.

Watch David Brenner testify before Congress on the matter.

Radiation Accidents

Recent events in Fukushima, Japan, as well as previous nuclear accidents in Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and elsewhere have heightened concerns about the human health risks from accidental exposure to radiation. Despite intensive research efforts, considerable uncertainty surrounds the long-term human health risks from prolonged and/or chronic low-level radiation exposure following such incidents.

Department of Energy and National Institutes of Health-funded scientists are working to better understand the human health consequences of low-level radiation exposure using a combination of approaches including laboratory investigations into cellular, molecular and biochemical mechanisms, genetically defined animal models and detailed analysis of human epidemiological data.

Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism

Detonation of a small-scale nuclear device or the more likely scenario of the explosion of a "dirty bomb" remain high-priority concerns of our government and regulatory agencies. Appropriate public health response includes rapid assessment of individual risk, which includes precise dose assessment. Work at the Center is directed toward the development of rapidly deployable, automated, large-scale biodosimetric devices and approaches suitable for screening large numbers of potentially exposed individuals.

Find more information at the Center for Medical Countermeasures against Radiation(CMCR)