December 3, 2015 / 10:47 AM / 2 years ago

Israeli biotech firm to test radiation therapy in Fukushima

JERUSALEM, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Israeli biotech firm Pluristem Therapeutics has partnered with Japan’s Fukushima Medical University to test its radiation treatment derived from human placenta cells, which it hopes will protect workers decommissioning nuclear reactors.

Following an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

While hundreds of deaths have been attributed to the chaos of evacuations during the crisis and because of the hardship and mental trauma refugees have experienced since then, Japan in October acknowledged for the first time a possible casualty from radiation poisoning.

The Tokyo Electric Power Co is struggling to bring the situation inside its plant under control. It has estimated removing the melted fuel from the wrecked reactors and cleaning up the site will cost tens of billions of dollars and take decades to complete.

Pluristem said on Thursday the collaboration will focus around a new placenta-based therapy for cases of Acute Radiation Syndrome, caused by exposure to high levels of radiation.

Pluristem’s PLX-R18 therapy is meant to combat potentially lethal damage to the lungs, skin, bone marrow and gastrointestinal tract. Fukushima Medical University will conduct studies to test the therapy.

“We anticipate that our work ... will help to maintain the health of those involved in decommissioning the Fukushima reactors. The decommissioning process is estimated to take about 40 years,” Pluristem’s Chief Executive Zami Aberman said.

Pluristem derives its cell products from human placental cells which it then manufactures in large quantities. (Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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