Mutant wolves from Chernobyl may have developed surprising cancer-fighting abilities

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), created after the 1986 disaster, covers an area of ​​2,200km2. Deserted by human presence, nature seems to be slowly reclaiming its rights.

When wolves play guinea pigs

The wolves of Chernobyl have been studied for several years by biologist and ecotoxicologist Cara Love of Princeton University (New Jersey), reports an article published on the Newswise scientific forum. In 2014, she and her team of researchers traveled to the contaminated area to take blood samples and fit gray wolves with GPS collars to study their radiation resilience: “We get a real-time measure of where they are and how much (radiation, editor’s note) That leaves them exposed.Cara Love explains.

And the result is surprising to say the least: these canines are exposed to a daily dose of radiation six times higher than the average legal exposure of a professional, but at the same time can develop resistance to cancer.

Next goal: identify protective mutations

The work established that the immune system of the Chernobyl wolves had changed, compared to a patient undergoing radiotherapy to fight cancer.

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This tracing also provides important information on the genomes of these animals: through mutations, they will make the specimens less susceptible to disease.

The next step for Cara Love and her team will be to identify the protective mutations that cause this phenomenon. This work is potentially promising in terms of research and the fight against cancer.

Conflict in Ukraine neutralizes research

But to date, it is difficult to establish a timetable, research has been hampered by the Covid-19 health crisis and then by the geo-political context of the region: “Our priority is to keep people and staff on site as safe as possible” Insisted on reminding the biologist.

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