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TRIO Study: Genetic Effects in the Children of Adults Exposed to Radiation from the Chernobyl Accident

Data on heritable effects following nuclear accidents are important for understanding fully the consequences of parental exposure to ionizing radiation. However, few studies to date have had adequate statistical power to detect effects of the magnitude expected based on animal data, and most have not been of low-dose, protracted exposures associated with nuclear accidents and environmental exposures. Moreover, they have not taken advantage of the new genomic technologies that are capable of surveying the landscape of both the genome and transcriptome, including somatic alterations.

In Chernobyl-exposed areas of Ukraine and Belarus, excess minisatellite mutations have been reported, by some but not all studies, in children born after the accident. To pursue this observation and to generate new data on heritable effects of parental radiation exposure, investigators are carrying out a study of parent-child trios in which at least one parent was exposed to Chernobyl radiation as a clean-up worker (mean dose>=100 mGy) and/or evacuee from a contaminated area (mean >= 50 mGy). The aim is to investigate the heritable and de novo mutation rates of the spectrum of genetic variants in trios, in particular looking at effects in children and mapping them to possible parental origin of the chromosome.

In collaboration with the Research Center for Radiation Medicine in Ukraine, REB investigators have collected blood and/or buccal cell samples and epidemiologic data for 220 out of the planned 450 trios of parents with preconception doses and their unexposed offspring to date. Doses to the gonads from the time of the accident to the time of conception have been reconstructed for all parents, both clean-up workers (also referred to as “liquidators”) and evacuees. The study is using state-of-the-art genomic technologies to characterize the genomes of the trios to determine whether parental radiation exposure is associated with genetic mutations in the offspring. Investigators are examinin de novo mutation rates, minisatellite mutations, copy number alterations, and variations in telomere length.

Read details about the dosimetry developed for the TRIO study.

For more information, contact Mark Little and Amy Berrington de González.