StemRad: Innovation in Radiation Protection
Who is StemRad?
StemRad is a developer and manufacturer of personal protective shielding for nuclear radiation protection. StemRad is headed by Oren Millstein, PhD, a Weizmann Institute-educated expert in molecular biology and immunology. Millstein founded StemRad in 2011 and is head of its R&D efforts as.
StemRad’s team is also comprised of noteworthy researchers and physicians.
The Role of the Israel Innovation Authority
The research partnership between Israel’s StemRad and America’s Lockheed Martin was initiated and developed through the Israel Innovation Authority’s joint program with the State of Florida. Established in October 2013, the two bodies seek to encourage cooperation in aerospace and other technology and life science research and development.
Nuclear technology has brought with it some of humanity’s most stunning advancements, including the advent of nuclear power and space travel. However awesome these achievements, the products and byproducts of nuclear technology pose distinct threats to human health. Exposure to ionized radiation like the kind utilized and produced through nuclear technologies corrupts cell tissues, killing or mutating them. Acute radiation sickness (ARS), which occurs when a person is exposed to high amount of gamma radiation at once, can lead to death within weeks of exposure. Over time, the cell’s radiation-induced mutations lead to cancer, particularly of the thyroid or lymphatic system. For First responders, the fire fighters and police officers who will answer the call of a nuclear emergency, the risk of ARS is especially high, as is the likelihood of cancer diagnosis down the road. With over 400 nuclear reactors worldwide, and the looming threat of terrorism, the need to protect first responders from radiation exposure is salient.
Human space exploration has also been inhibited by the danger of radiation exposure. The unavoidable presence of radiation, protons, and ions beyond low Earth’s orbit stand to significantly damage cell tissue and catalyze cell mutations in space explorers. As such, deep space missions to Mars, Earth’s nearest neighbor, is projected to double an astronaut’s chances of developing cancer.
StemRad’s 360 Gamma is a protective belt that shields its wearers’ bone marrow stores and production center, namely, the hip bones. Bone marrow is essential to the regenerative processes that occur in the body after exposure. Partial shielding of the bone marrow’s largest regenerative center, the pelvis, minimizes the weight of radiation and increases survivability. The belt’s open design and relatively light weight (14kg) allow emergency responders to work unencumbered while the device protects viable bone marrow and its chief regenerator from toxic, high-energy gamma rays. The 360 Gamma dramatically reduces incidence of several cancers following radiation exposure and mitigates the fatality of acute radiation exposure.
StemRad’s singular technology has applications beyond nuclear emergency response. In 2016, StemRad partnered with space and aeronautics giant Lockheed Martin to design a vest to protect astronauts from space radiation. StemRad’s Gamma 360-inspired vest, named AstroRad, is scheduled to be tested on an upcoming NASA deep space mission aboard the shuttle “Orion” in late 2018.
For the thirty-one countries utilizing nuclear energy worldwide, StemRad’s 360 Gamma provides welcome protection for emergency personnel against the calamities which can sometimes befall nuclear reactors. StemRad’s development of the AstroRad vest for protection against space radiation has deepened the relationship between Israel, Germany, and the United States. If successful, the AstroRad and the human space travel it may just enable, could have truly earth-shattering consequences for humanity at large.