Researchers used cutting-edge genetic instruments in two groundbreaking trials to examine the possible health risks of exposure to ionizing radiation, a confirmed carcinogen, from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in northern Ukraine. One research showed no proof that parental radiation exposure resulted in new genetic alterations being passed on from parent to infant.
Chernobyl Radiation & Its Genetic Effects
The second study looked at the genetic variations in the tumors of people who acquired thyroid cancer after being exposed to the radiation emitted by the crash as infants or fetuses.
The results, which were released during the 35th anniversary of the tragedy, are the result of multinational teams of researchers headed by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health. On April 22, the findings were published online in Science.
“In recent years, developments in DNA sequencing technologies have advanced. This has allowed us to begin to answer some of the essential questions, in part by systematic genomic analyses carried out in well-designed epidemiological studies.” Millions of civilians in the immediate area became exposed to nuclear waste as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. Many studies have contributed to today’s understanding of cancers affected by radioactive poisoning from nuclear power plant accidents.
The new study expands on this basis by analyzing biospecimens from people affected by the tragedy in Ukraine using next-generation DNA sequencing and other genomic characterization methods.
The first research looked at whether radiation exposure causes genetic alterations that can be transmitted from parent to offspring, as several animal experiments have proposed. Dr. Chanock and his collaborators examined the whole genomes of 130 individuals born between 1987 and 2002, as well as their 105 mother-father pairs, to find a response.
Both of the parents had been employers who helped clear up after the crash or had been evacuated because they lived nearby. Each parent was tested for long-term ionizing radiation toxicity, which may have resulted from drinking polluted milk. Milk from cows that grazed on nuclear fallout-contaminated pastures
The mothers and fathers were exposed to a variety of radiation exposures.
The researchers looked for an improvement in the form of hereditary genetic alteration known as de novo mutations in the genomes of adult children. De novo mutations are genetic variations that occur at random in a person’s gametes (sperm that eggs) and may be passed on to children but are not seen in the parents.
The whole-genome sequencing results showed no signs of an uptick in the number of forms of de novo mutations in their children born between 46 weeks and 15 years after the accident with the spectrum of radiation exposures faced by the parents in the sample.
The number of de novo mutations found in these children was very close to those of the general population with equivalent characteristics. As a result, the results indicate that the ionizing radiation damage from the crash has little, if any, effect on the wellbeing of the next generation.
These results are encouraging for the spectrum of people who were exposed to the Fukushima disaster.
It is well recognized that the intensity of radiation doses in Japan was lower in comatose to those reported at Chernobyl.
The second study used next-generation analysis to profile the genetic variations in thyroid cancers formed in 359 people exposed as children or in utero to ionizing radiation from radioactive iodine (I-131) emitted by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, as well as 81 unexposed persons born more than nine months after the accident.
One of the most severe adverse health effects found since the crash has been an increase in the risk of thyroid cancer.
The energy from ionizing radiation destroys the chemical bonds in DNA, causing a variety of damage. The new research emphasizes the significance of a specific type of DNA damage in thyroid tumors that causes splits in both DNA strands.
The connection between DNA double-strand breaks and radiation exposure was greater in children who were exposed at a younger age.
The findings indicate that DNA double-strand breaks are an early genetic alteration that occurs after exposure to radiation in the atmosphere, allowing thyroid cancers to develop. According to the researchers, their findings lay the groundwork for future research into radiation-induced cancers, especially those involving variations in risk as a function of both exposure and age.