Thoughts in Honor of Atomic Veterans Day | Written by Jan Shultis
Atomic Veterans Day, first designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, recognizes and honors the select group of military veterans who served in or around nuclear operations and nuclear campaigns. “Atomic veterans” are American service members who participated in nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, served with United States military forces in or around Hiroshima and Nagasaki through mid-1946, or were held as prisoners of war in or near Hiroshima or Nagasaki. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Defense established the Atomic Veterans Commemorative Service Medal to commemorate the service and sacrifice of veterans who were instrumental in the development of our Nation's atomic and nuclear weapons programs. As many as 400,000 men and women may be eligible from approximately 200 nuclear occasions.
Often unaware of the dangers of radiation exposure and operating in classified scenarios, much modern dialogue surrounding atomic veterans focuses on providing medical and healthcare for a rapidly ailing population who did not receive healthcare support near time of exposure. Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes 21 presumptive cancers and diseases directly linked to the nature of their service, and encourages the largely silent group to seek medical care - in 1996, the Repeal of Nuclear Radiation and Secrecy Agreements Laws was passed, stating that atomic veterans are free to describe their military involvement in nuclear testing as necessary to establish the validity of a service‑connected disability and obtain medical care. Health impacts are generational, but scientists remain unsure how many generations are or will be affected by their atomic veteran forefathers.
An array of biotechnologies seem promising as responses to unexpected
radiation incidents, such as nuclear accidents or acts of terrorism. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, overseen by the U.S. Health and Human Services department, for instance, has brought to market four medical countermeasures in their radiological and nuclear investment area. It stands to reason, however, that after real-time interventions are offered, impacted individuals may require systemic support for a significant length of time after exposure, especially given what we now know about the direct link between radiation exposure and cancers. It is also time to have a conversation around prevention of acute radiation syndrome (ARS) in populations known to encounter notable radiation levels in today’s technologically-driven world, from astronauts, to the uniformed men and women manning nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, to the civilians working in nuclear enterprises, certain types of medical technicians, and cancer patients undergoing radiation-based therapies.
We know some types of stem cells are capable of themselves surviving radiation exposure, making them “radiotolerant.” In recent years, researchers seeking a way to help patients tolerate radiation-based cancer treatments have made progress in identifying biomarkers that could potentially determine radiation resistance. It has been confirmed that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), the type cultured at Hope Biosciences, may aid in the regeneration of radiation-induced organ lesions, and that MSCs harvested from adipose (fat) tissue, the way we do at Hope Biosciences, possess a significantly stronger radiation resistance capacity than MSCs derived from other sources. MSCs were discovered more than 50 years ago and since then have become one of the most widely studied cellular therapeutics by industry and academia, with an established and accepted safety profile.
Hope Biosciences uses proprietary technology to culture high volumes of MSCs to unprecedented levels of cell viability. In research, this capacity opens entirely new areas of exploration in new diseases states, with data-supported hope that an unprecedented degree of progress may occur in conditions commonly considered incurable, including complete eradication of symptoms in some cases. What, then, might happen if those we know will encounter radiation exposure bank their stem cells before known exposure? What if they begin receiving their own stem cells prior to exposure, and for some time afterward? What if those exposed to radiation over the course of their lifetime receive stem cell infusions as a matter of regular healthcare? What might the impact be to sustainment of life, quality of life, and as specifically concerns our atomic veterans and service members working in nuclear scenarios since their time, our nation’s duty to care for our military members (at dramatically lower cost over a lifetime than the fiscal burden of treating diseases once they manifest, especially if we consider utilization of allogeneic (donor) stem cell treatments)?
The questions asked here have potential to radically change the way humans manage exposure to high levels of radiation, for everything from cancer research and treatment to areas like space explorations, nuclear warfare or nuclear accidents. The best thing, then, that we can do at Hope Biosciences to honor our great nation’s atomic veterans, is our jobs. Thank you for the privilege of allowing us to work on your behalf. We think about you. You work for you. You are seen. Thank you for serving and protecting us.
About Hope Biosciences
Hope Biosciences is a biopharmaceutical company developing adult stem cell therapeutics for a variety of clinical indications, and the only clinical grade adult stem cell banking facility in the nation serving both adults and newborns. Hope Biosciences occupies a unique position in the regenerative medicine space, noteworthy both for patented cell culture methods and effectiveness getting cells to patients through robust collaboration with academic and clinical research organizations. Hope Bio’s proprietary cell culturing process makes Hope Biosciences the gold standard in producing high volume, consistent, repeatable mesenchymal stem cells for clinical purposes, and Hope Biosciences actively partners with organizations and teams in need of cellular products for in vitro, preclinical, and clinical projects.
Learn more about Hope Biosciences at www.hope.bio.
 Atomic Heritage Foundation, “Atomic Veterans 1946-1962,” https://ahf.nuclearmuseum.org/ahf/history/atomic-veterans-1946-1962/.  A quick online search reveals more than 400 nuclear reactors operating in more than 30 countries today.  Ningning He, et. al. “Radiation Responses of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Derived from Different Sources.” Dose-Response. Vol. 17 (4). Dec 9, 2019. DOI: 10.1177/1559325819893210.