The mutant wolves roaming the Chernobyl wasteland have developed a new superpower that could have implications for saving human lives.
A team of researchers has discovered that animals in the Chernobyl Evacuation Zone (CEZ) have genetically altered immune systems that show resistance to cancer.
These findings gave researchers hope that the results could be used to find cures for human cancer patients.
Since the power plant explosion in 1986, humans have been evacuated from Chernobyl and its surrounding areas to avoid extreme levels of radiation.
The absence of humans allowed wildlife to flourish and thrive in the ECZ, which contains 11.28 millirem of radiation, six times the amount of exposure allowed for human workers.
Wolves developed mutated genes due to high levels of radiation from Chernobyl, making them resistant to cancer
Animals at Chernobyl have flourished and prospered despite radiation levels amounting to six times the amount of legal exposure for human workers.
Brown bears and bison stroll through the trees, lynxes and foxes slink through the tall grass.
Beavers, wild boars, elk, deer, raccoons and more than 200 species of birds inhabit this area.
In 2014, Cara Love, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University, set out with a team of researchers to understand how animals have been able to survive cancer-causing radiation.
Love and his team took blood samples from the wolves and fitted them with GPS collars with radiation dosimeters to get real-time measurements of where they were and their radiation exposure levels.
“We get real-time measurements of where they are and how much (radiation) they are exposed to,” said love.
The researchers examined genetic differences between the DNA of mutated wolves within the 1,000-square-mile radius of the ECZ and those found outside of it.
The results showed that, despite receiving daily doses of potentially fatal radiation, the wolves seemed remarkably resistant to its effects.
Analysis showed that several of their cancer-related genes had new mutations, suggesting they had evolved to protect against radiation.
It is hoped that the discovery could pave the way for experts to identify mutations in humans that reduce the risk of cancer.
The new research was presented last month at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington.
Researchers looked at a 1,000-square-mile radius of the ECZ to study wolf mutations and hope they could lead to the cure of human cancer.
Love said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, she and her team have not been able to continue their research, but they hope that in the long term the mutated wolves can help discover ways to cure cancer in patients. humans. .
On April 26, 1986, a nuclear power plant in Ukraine caught fire and exploded, releasing radiation and cancer-causing waste into the air, marking the worst nuclear accident in history.
The explosion occurred during a routine maintenance check when operators turned off vital control systems to test electrical systems, which was against safety regulations.
The explosion killed 30 workers and in the following months 50 more deaths were reported due to the radiation poisoning caused.
In the aftermath of the explosion, more than 150,000 people were evacuated from their homes, including those in the nearby city of Pripyat.
The mass exodus from the region resulted in an arid wasteland that, 50 years later, remains too toxic for human survival.
The United Nations (UN) predicted in 2005 that another 4,000 people would likely die from their radiation exposure following the power plant explosion.
The Chernobyl power plant exploded in 1986, turning the area into nothing more than a barren wasteland.
30 workers died when the Chernobyl power plant exploded on April 26, 1986.
For years, researchers have visited the CEZ to understand how the animals have been able to thrive.
Wildlife such as horses, lynx, moose, wolves and dogs, believed to be descendants of pets left behind when residents fled Chernobyl, have recolonized the area and developed various mutations over the past 50 years.
Researchers found that mutated tree frogs that normally have green pigmentation were dark or black and rare wild horses called Przewalski have doubled their population size since 36 were introduced to the area in 2002 to increase biodiversity.
Tree frogs typically have green pigmentation, but researchers discovered that the species in the ZEC was genetically altered to be dark or black.
Wild dogs were also found to have mutated genes compared to dogs living outside the CEZ region, but scientists need to conduct more research to understand the main pedigree differences.
Researchers from the University of South Carolina and the National Human Genome Research Institute said the populations could increase “understanding (of) the biological underpinnings of animals and, ultimately, human survival in regions of high and continuous environmental attack”.
Dr. Elaine Ostrander, a geneticist and author of the study, said, “We’ve had this golden opportunity” to lay the groundwork for answering a crucial question: “How do you survive in a hostile environment like this for 15 generations?”