Celebrating 60 Years of Accomplishments of the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute

Balazs J. Bene, William F. Blakely, David M. Burmeister, Lynnette Cary, Suyog J. Chhetri, Catherine M. Davis, Sanchita P. Ghosh, Gregory P. Holmes-Hampton*, Sergey Iordanskiy, John F. Kalinich, Juliann G. Kiang, Vidya P. Kumar, R. Joel Lowy, Alexandra Miller, Mohammad Naeem, David A. Schauer, Lien Senchak, Vijay K. Singh, Aure J. Stewart, Elih M. VelazquezMang Xiao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1961, the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI) is a Joint Department of Defense (DoD) entity with the mission of carrying out the Medical Radiological Defense Research Program in support of our military forces around the globe. In the last 60 years, the investigators at AFRRI have conducted exploratory and developmental research with broad application to the field of radiation sciences. As the only DoD facility dedicated to radiation research, AFRRI's Medical Radiobiology Advisory Team provides deployable medical and radiobiological subject matter expertise, advising commanders in the response to a U.S. nuclear weapon incident and other nuclear or radiological material incidents. AFRRI received the DoD Joint Meritorious Unit Award on February 17, 2004, for its exceptionally meritorious achievements from September 11, 2001 to June 20, 2003, in response to acts of terrorism and nuclear/radiological threats at home and abroad. In August 2009, the American Nuclear Society designated the institute a nuclear historic landmark as the U.S.'s primary source of medical nuclear and radiological research, preparedness and training. Since then, research has continued, and core areas of study include prevention, assessment and treatment of radiological injuries that may occur from exposure to a wide range of doses (low to high). AFRRI collaborates with other government entities, academic institutions, civilian laboratories and other countries to research the biological effects of ionizing radiation. Notable early research contributions were the establishment of dose limits for major acute radiation syndromes in primates, applicable to human exposures, followed by the subsequent evolution of radiobiology concepts, particularly the importance of immune collapse and combined injury. In this century, the program has been essential in the development and validation of prophylactic and therapeutic drugs, such as Amifostine, Neupogen®, Neulasta®, Nplate® and Leukine®, all of which are used to prevent and treat radiation injuries. Moreover, AFRRI has helped develop rapid, high-precision, biodosimetry tools ranging from novel assays to software decision support. New drug candidates and biological dose assessment technologies are currently being developed. Such efforts are supported by unique and unmatched radiation sources and generators that allow for comprehensive analyses across the various types and qualities of radiation. These include but are not limited to both 60Co facilities, a TRIGA® reactor providing variable mixed neutron and γ-ray fields, a clinical linear accelerator, and a small animal radiation research platform with low-energy photons. There are five major research areas at AFRRI that encompass the prevention, assessment and treatment of injuries resulting from the effects of ionizing radiation: 1. biodosimetry; 2. low-level and low-dose-rate radiation; 3. internal contamination and metal toxicity; 4. radiation combined injury; and 5. radiation medical countermeasures. These research areas are bolstered by an educational component to broadcast and increase awareness of the medical effects of ionizing radiation, in the mass-casualty scenario after a nuclear detonation or radiological accidents. This work provides a description of the military medical operations as well as the radiation facilities and capabilities present at AFRRI, followed by a review and discussion of each of the research areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-146
Number of pages18
JournalRadiation Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


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