AFRRI Scientists

AFRRI scientists published more than 25 original research articles in scientific journals in 2014, contributing to the general knowledge of the effects of ionizing radiation on living organisms. The research is critical to the Department of Defense for force protection and is also critical to the health and well-being of the population at large. The articles appeared in preeminent scientific journals, such as Health Physics, International Journal of Radiation Biology and PLOS ONE.

L. Andrew HuffThe institute’s most active research involves external penetrating ionizing radiation. The scientific efforts focus on discovering mechanisms of radiation injury in a search for potential drug targets and to guide medical treatment, assessing radiation injury severity, discovering and developing early preclinical radiation countermeasure candidates, and studying mechanisms and countermeasures for radiation combined with other injury.

Air Force Colonel L. Andrew Huff is the director of AFRRI. He is an alumnus of USU’s School of Medicine (Class of 1988).

Uniformed Services University

AFRRI Mission

The AFRRI mission is to preserve the health and performance of U.S. military personnel and to protect humankind through research that advances understanding of the effects of ionizing radiation. To these ends, the institute collaboratively researches the biological effects of ionizing radiation and provides medical training and emergency response to manage incidents related to radiation exposure.

Recent Achievements by AFRRI Researchers

Recent achievements by AFRRI researchers include:

Demonstration that radiation induces signals in cells that line blood vessels. These radiation-induced signals inhibit the survival of infection-fighting white blood cells.

Elucidation of intracellular signaling molecules involved in injury and recovery from radiation. These signals mediate effects of some of AFRRI's leading radiation countermeasure candidates.

Development of a panel of efficacious radiation countermeasures with low toxicity and practical routes of administration. These candidates are ready for advanced development by other DOD agencies when resources become available.

Establishment of a panel of blood biomarkers to assess severity of radiation injury and predict outcome. Rapid, easy assessments of radiation injury are required to guide medical treatment, especially in a mass casualty scenario. Successful biomarkers have been identified in a variety of species. Mathematical algorithms were developed that utilize multiple parameters to predict clinical outcome after radiation exposure. AFRRI is working with a private company to produce a portable instrument that can rapidly assess these biomarkers outside the hospital environment.

Expansion of knowledge of Vitamin E-related molecules (tocols) as radiation countermeasures. It was demonstrated that tocols can be used to mobilize blood-forming cells from bone marrow, and that these cells can be used to enhance survival after radiation exposure.

Identification of countermeasures that enhance survival in animals experiencing combined radiation injury and other injuries such as wound and burn (“combined injury”). This work is especially challenging because most countermeasures effective against radiation alone have been ineffective against combined injury. AFRRI demonstrated success for combined injury treatment with the following agents: ciprofloxacin (acting via mechanisms other than its well-known antimicrobial action), ghrelin (a gastrointestinal hormone), and tocol-mobilized blood cell progenitors.

A collaborative project, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, will test the radioprotective efficacy of a synthetic Mn-antioxidant peptide in mice. The research involves Dr. Radha Maheshwari and Dr. Michael Daly, both of USU’s Department of Pathology, and Dr. Juliann Kiang of AFRRI. The project is based on new insights implicating the proteome as the critical target in irradiated cells. Providing a remarkable example of USU’s scientific dedication, Daly’s group, which developed the peptide, has been studying the molecular basis of extreme radiation resistance in the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans since 1992.

The institute is also engaged in education efforts, providing medical training and emergency response capabilities to manage incidents related to radiation exposure.