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StemRad is an Israeli-American company that develops, manufactures and sells personal protective equipment (PPE) for ionizing radiation. Its flagship product is the 360 Gamma, a radiation protection device which protects the user's pelvic bone marrow. It is the world's only company producing PPE intended to protect users from high energy gamma radiation and the first to employ partial shielding in its products. In July 2015 it was announced that StemRad would be partnering with aerospace giant Lockheed Martin to develop personal radiation protection for astronauts.[1]

StemRad Ltd. / StemRad Inc.
IndustryEmergency Preparedness, Aerospace, Personal Protective Equipment
Founded2011
FoundersDr. Oren Milstein and Daniel Levitt
Headquarters
Websitewww.stemrad.com

Contents

HistoryEdit

StemRad was founded in December 2011 by Dr. Oren Milstein and Daniel Levitt. They were inspired to create the company by the Chernobyl disaster where many of the firemen and engineers who were first on the scene died from high doses of gamma radiation in an illness known as Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS), also known as radiation sickness. This inspiration was fueled by a sense of urgency due to the growing nuclear threat on the state of Israel. Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011, the two joined forces with Nobel Laureates Roger Kornberg, Aaron Ciechanover and soon-to-be laureate Michael Levitt with a common vision of 'saving those who save us'.[2] The group was further bolstered by the joining of Prof. Richard Champlin of M.D. Anderson, who had treated the radiologically injured first responders of Chernobyl in the days following the accident.[3] In late 2011 the team secured funding from the venture capital fund Wanaka Capital and private investors and founded the company in Tel-Aviv. The US subsidiary in Palo Alto, CA was established soon thereafter.

OverviewEdit

According to co-founder Dr. Oren Milstein, “This is the first product of its kind that protects against gamma radiation, which has until now killed people who have been exposed to it.”[4]

In presenting its product, the 360 Gamma, StemRad has gone against conventional wisdom that in order to protect one must shield as much of the body as possible. The problem with trying to protect the whole body is the resulting weight, as outlined by Nobel Laureate Michael Levitt: "To make a full body suit with this level of protection would weigh something like 200 Kg".[5] Thus, pre-existing shielding solutions had always been made using only thin layers of inherently heavy radiation-attenuating material to allow for mobility. This type of shielding is effective only for blocking of alpha and beta radiation, yet is ineffective in blocking highly penetrating gamma radiation.[6] Existing shielding is therefore incapable of preventing the acute health effects of exposure to gamma radiation (i.e. Acute Radiation Syndrome - ARS). StemRad's product line differs markedly in that it does not attempt to protect the whole body of the wearer but rather selectively protects the bone marrow-rich pelvic region.[7]

TechnologyEdit

For the body to recover from the acute health effects of radiation, it is important to allow crucial biological regenerative processes to take place post-exposure. The human tissue endowed with the most regenerative potential is bone marrow. This tissue is critical for human survival, yet is exceptionally radiation sensitive.

It is well documented that upon human exposure to gamma radiation doses of up to 10 Gy (median lethal dose= 4 Gy), the life-limiting factor is damage sustained by the bone marrow tissue.[8] The radiation exposure levels in a nuclear catastrophe, such as in an atomic bomb detonation or following a nuclear power plant reactor meltdown, are largely within this range.[9] Thus, the thinking behind StemRad's approach is that a great number of the fatalities resulting from exposure to gamma radiation in a nuclear catastrophe could be avoided by preserving bone marrow viability.[10]

StemRad’s flagship shield, the 360 Gamma, is of a belt-like design, focused on the protection of bone marrow that is present in the hip bones (i.e. pelvis). The pelvis contains up to 50% of an adult's active bone marrow and is the site from which bone marrow is commonly extracted for transplantation.[11] While weighing in at about 14 kg, the belt allows for relatively unhindered movement of the wearer since it sits on the body's center of gravity.

 
The 360 Gamma is shown from the rear (left) and front (right). It is of a belt-like design, wrapping around the user's waist.

While StemRad is forthcoming about the fact that its product does not protect all of the body's bone marrow and that some radiation may enter the shielded region, it is claimed that the product can save the life of an individual even at very high doses of gamma radiation based on the unique regenerative potential of marrow tissue. The regenerative capacity of bone marrow is best demonstrated in transplantation where the donor donates only a small fraction (smaller than 5%) of his marrow and this is enough to replenish the bone marrow of a supralethally irradiated patient even at doses above 10 Gy.[12][13]

StemRad claims that it has determined the minimal amount of bone marrow required to allow for recovery post-irradiation, and through exhaustive anatomical study, has devised a product that is able to protect a volume of bone marrow that is in excess of this critical amount.

Being selective, StemRad’s shielding blocks high energy gamma radiation while remaining of a relatively manageable weight. For further weight reduction, StemRad’s product brings into account the natural shielding properties of human tissue, by being of a thickness inversely related to the thickness and radiodensity of the underlying tissue at each point surrounding the area being protected.

StemRad claims that its patent-pending shield, the 360 Gamma, has been tested against a cloud source of gamma radiation, representing a real-life situation.

SpaceEdit

 
AstroRad Vest

As designed now, the StemRad 360 Gamma is a wearable vest that protects first-responders and emergency rescue workers from dangerous gamma radiation. The design provides optimal protection of the wearer’s bone marrow stem cells, which is crucial in preventing harmful complications that can arise from radiation exposure.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor building Orion, NASA’s next-generation spacecraft designed to transport humans to destinations beyond low Earth orbit and bring them safely home. By providing radiation protection for long-duration missions in deep-space, a successful adaptation of the commercial StemRad 360 Gamma could be a key component for ensuring astronaut health and safety.

The joint project won the support of a bilateral research committee and is supported by grants from Space Florida, the aerospace economic development agency of Florida and MATIMOP, the executive agency of the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Economy of Israel. The AstroRad product when ready would be intended to protect astronauts in deep space.[14]

“We’re going to take our extensive knowledge of human spaceflight, apply our nano-materials engineering expertise, and working closely with StemRad, evaluate the viability for this type of radiation shielding in deep-space,” said Randy Sweet, Lockheed Martin business development director for the civil space line of business. “The Lockheed Martin team believes this could result in an innovative solution to enhance crew safety on the journey to Mars.”[15]

Dr. Oren Milstein, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of StemRad commented: “We are excited to be collaborating with Lockheed Martin on this important project. Our team possesses advanced capabilities in the areas of radiation biology and innovative shielding strategies, and we will now be applying those skills to the unique challenges in human space exploration.”[16]

In January 2017 it was announced that the Israeli Space Agency signed an agreement with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to test StemRad's deep space solution aboard NASA's Orion Exploration Mission 1.[17][18] The EM-1 mission, scheduled for 2019, is the first time a human-rated vehicle is sent into cis-lunar space since the Apollo missions.

MarketEdit

The 360 Gamma belt is intended for fire fighters, paramedics, police and members of the military, all of whom, as first responders to disasters such as earthquakes or 9/11 type attacks, would be exposed to radiation in the event of a nuclear catastrophe.[19] The AstroRad product when ready would be intended to protect astronauts in deep space [20]

Awards and recognitionEdit

 
AstroRad Vest, Houston Space Center
 
AstroRad exhibit at the Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Lockheed Martin and StemRad Studying First-Responder Radiation Shield for Potential Deep-Space Application Lockheed Martin.com
  2. ^ "Dismantling the Bomb: meet the scientists that will cause humanity to stop worrying about nuclear threats". The Marker.
  3. ^ "U.S. DOCTORS IN SOVIET SAY 4 MORE DIED". New York Times.
  4. ^ "Israeli Company Invents Nuclear Proof Vest That Protects Against Toxic Radiation". The Algemeiner.
  5. ^ Radiation belt a new line of defence in nuclear emergency Reuters.com
  6. ^ "National Planning Scenarios". Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  7. ^ Radiation belt a new line of defence in nuclear emergency Reuters.com
  8. ^ "Acute Radiation Syndrome: Fact Sheet for Physicians". CDC. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
  9. ^ "National Planning Scenarios". Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  10. ^ "'Anti-radiation belt' developed by Israeli firm for nuclear emergencies". RT.
  11. ^ "Donating bone marrow". Marrow.org.
  12. ^ Goldman, J.M.; et al. (1986). "Bone marrow transplantation for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia". N Engl J Med. 314 (4): 202–7. doi:10.1056/nejm198601233140403.
  13. ^ Thomas E.D.; et al. (1982). "Marrow transplantation for acute nonlymphoblastic leukemic in first remission using fractionated or single-dose irradiation". Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 8 (5): 817–21.
  14. ^ SPACE FLORIDA AND ISRAEL’S CHIEF SCIENTIST ANNOUNCE THIRD-ROUND WINNERS OF INNOVATION PARTNER FUNDING http://spaceflorida.gov/news/2016/06/08/space-florida-and-israel-s-chief-scientist-announce-third-round-winners-of-innovation-partner-funding
  15. ^ Lockheed Martin and StemRad Studying First-Responder Radiation Shield for Potential Deep-Space Application Lockheed Martin.com
  16. ^ Lockheed Martin and StemRad Studying First-Responder Radiation Shield for Potential Deep-Space Application Lockheed Martin.com
  17. ^ New Israeli radiation protection development to be launched into space www.embassies.gov.il
  18. ^ Protection from cosmic radiation – German-Israeli space cooperation www.dlr.de
  19. ^ "Stemrad Makes Belt to Protect Users From Radiation Exposure". Jewish Business News.
  20. ^ SPACE FLORIDA AND ISRAEL’S CHIEF SCIENTIST ANNOUNCE THIRD-ROUND WINNERS OF INNOVATION PARTNER FUNDING http://spaceflorida.gov/news/2016/06/08/space-florida-and-israel-s-chief-scientist-announce-third-round-winners-of-innovation-partner-funding
  21. ^ "ASTRORAD VEST ARRIVES AT SPACE CENTER HOUSTON".
  22. ^ "ASTRORAD AND THE MISSION TO MARS".
  23. ^ "Exporter's lost island". Globes.
  24. ^ "Science and Application of Wearable Technology". Harvard.edu.