THE SEARCH for a chemical agent which protects the body against ionizing radiations gained widespread practical significance with the atomic explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These fission reactions release large amounts of ionizing radiations, such as gamma rays, neutrons, and beta rays,* which can affect the eye. A total of 104 radiation cataracts were reported at Hiroshima,† and therefore the problem of chemical prophylaxis becomes of interest to the ophthalmologist.
In 1950 Bacq and his co-workers3 reported that sodium or potassium cyanide in small doses increased the survival rate in mice subsequently exposed to 500-600 r of x-radiation. None of the control animals survived, whereas 50 to 80% of the animals pretreated with cyanide survived. In 1949 Patt and his associates4 showed that cysteine hydrochloride given intravenously in rats was highly protective against 800 r of x-rays administered subsequently, raising the survival rate from 19%, in the unprotected
McDONALD JE. CYSTEINE PROTECTION OF THE CORNEA AGAINST BETA RADIATION. AMA Arch Ophthalmol. 1954;51(3):301-310. doi:10.1001/archopht.1954.00920040305003