As Japan struggles to recover from the crippling effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, workers at the Fukushima Nuclear Facility are still working around the clock to minimize the spread of radiation from the leaky reactors.
The adverse effects that these workers may suffer due to their radiation exposure are not yet known. To counter the bone marrow effects that may occur from excessive radiation exposure, some experts from the Cancer Institute, Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research and Toranomon Hospital in Tokyo, Japan, are suggesting — in an article featured in The Lancet — that the workers’ peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) be collected and stored, to be used later if needed to replenish their blood-cell production capacity. This form of autologous transplantation — using the patient’s own cells — is far safer and more likely to be effective than allogeneic (from an unrelated donor) stem-cell transplantation. Leukemia and bone marrow failure are possible maladies that may occur following excessive radiation exposure, therefore the stored PBSCs may be used to treat these ailments if they arise in the future.
Despite the fact that collecting and storing PBSCs is exceedingly simple and perfectly safe, some members of the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan are resisting the plan, stating that the procedure may be a “physical and psychological burden for nuclear workers,” as well as there being “no consensus among international authoritative bodies, and no sufficient agreement among the Japanese public.” ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom comments, “There must be a translation problem here since this one is such a slam dunk. How could anyone with working brain cells object to drawing a little blood to protect these workers from future lethal complications of radiation exposure?”