Abstract Amifostine has been the only small molecule radio-protector approved by FDA for decades; however, the serious adverse effects limit its clinical use. To address the toxicity issues and maintain the good potency, a series of modified small polycysteine peptides had been prepared. Among them, compound 5 exhibited the highest radio-protective efficacy, the same as amifostine, but much better safety profile. To confirm the correlation between the radiation-protective efficacy and the DNA binding capability, each of the enantiomers of the polycysteine peptides had been prepared. As a result, the l-configuration compounds had obviously higher efficacy than the corresponding d-configuration enantiomers; among them, compound 5 showed the highest DNA binding capability and radiation-protective efficacy. To our knowledge, this is the first study that has proved their correlations using direct comparison. Further exploration of the mechanism revealed that the ionizing radiation (IR) triggered ferroptosis inhibition by compound 5 could be one of the pathways for the protection effect, which was different from amifostine. In summary, the preliminary result showed that compound 5, a polycysteine as a new type of radio-protector, had been developed with good efficacy and safety profile. Further study of the compound for potential use is ongoing.