Molecular Hydrogen as a Potential Clinically Applicable Radioprotective Agent
Although ionizing radiation (radiation) is commonly used for medical diagnosis and cancer treatment, radiation-induced damages cannot be avoided. Such damages can be classified into direct and indirect damages, caused by the direct absorption of radiation energy into DNA and by free radicals, such as hydroxyl radicals (•OH), generated in the process of water radiolysis. More specifically, radiation damage concerns not only direct damages to DNA, but also secondary damages to non-DNA targets, because low-dose radiation damage is mainly caused by these indirect effects. Molecular hydrogen (H2) has the potential to be a radioprotective agent because it can selectively scavenge •OH, a reactive oxygen species with strong oxidizing power. Animal experiments and clinical trials have reported that H2 exhibits a highly safe radioprotective effect. This paper reviews previously reported radioprotective effects of H2 and discusses the mechanisms of H2, not only as an antioxidant, but also in intracellular responses including anti-inflammation, anti-apoptosis, and the regulation of gene expression. In doing so, we demonstrate the prospects of H2 as a novel and clinically applicable radioprotective agent.