According to a study, genomic sequencing of 130 children, born to parents exposed to the Chernobyl radiation, showed no additional DNA damage.
The 1986 Chernobyl disaster exposed millions of people to dangerously high levels of radiation. Hailed as the worst disaster in the history of nuclear power generation, it is estimated that the explosion released levels of radioactivity several times more than the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 35 years later the nuclear accident is still a topic of great interest among scientists.
For long researchers have wondered about the long-term effects of radiation on the human body. Previous studies have shown it to increase the number of germline de novo mutations in offspring. These mutations arise in the sperm and egg cells; therefore, resulting in genetic changes in children, but not the parents. Moreover, they play an important role in the development of several human diseases. However, there is a lack of data on the presence of these de novo mutations in children born to parents exposed to ionizing radiation.
To further explore the effects of ionizing radiation, a team of scientists at US National Cancer Institute (NCI) conducted whole-genome sequencing of 130 children. Researchers recruited children born between 1987-2002 to parents with Chernobyl radiation exposure. The parents had either worked as cleanup workers or lived around the accident site. Moreover, some of the parents had even experienced acute radiation syndrome due to exposure to extremely high levels of radiation.
Relief for Victims of Nuclear Disasters
Along with conducting whole-genome sequencing on the offspring, researchers also evaluated the parents for prolonged radiation exposure. Analysis of the offspring’s genome showed no additional increase in the number of genetic mutations. Moreover, the observed mutations were similar to those found in the general population. Therefore, indicating that exposure to ionizing radiation does not lead to transgenerational effects.
Moreover, the authors of the study believe the results are reassuring for people affected by the 2011 Fukushima accident. The evidence of minimal health impact provides a sense of relief for those concerned about having children because of their exposure to radiation from such accidents.
The results of the study are available in the journal Science.