Radiation countermeasures fall under three categories, radiation protectors, radiation mitigators, and radiation therapeutics. Radiation protectors are agents that are administered before radiation exposure to protect from radiation-induced injuries by numerous mechanisms, including scavenging free radicals that are generated by initial radiochemical events. Radiation mitigators are agents that are administered after the exposure of radiation but before the onset of symptoms by accelerating the recovery and repair from radiation-induced injuries. Whereas radiation therapeutic agents administered after the onset of symptoms act by regenerating the tissues that are injured by radiation. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals generated by radiation exposure by donating H atoms. The vitamin E family consists of eight different vitamers, including four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Though alpha-tocopherol was extensively studied in the past, tocotrienols have recently gained attention as radiation countermeasures. Despite several studies performed on tocotrienols, there is no clear evidence on the factors that are responsible for their superior radiation protection properties over tocopherols. Their absorption and bioavailability are also not well understood. In this review, we discuss tocopherol's and tocotrienol's efficacy as radiation countermeasures and identify the challenges to be addressed to develop them into radiation countermeasures for human use in the event of radiological emergencies.
Keywords: alpha tocopherol transfer protein; radiation countermeasures; radiomitigators; radioprotectors; tocols; tocopherol; tocotrienol.