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Japan-US research group to conduct genome analysis of 1st, 2nd gen. A-bomb survivors

This Nov. 3, 2020 photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter shows the area surrounding Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in the city's Naka Ward. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)

HIROSHIMA -- A joint Japan-U.S. research organization which tracks the effects of radiation on atomic bomb survivors has announced that it will analyze the genomes of first- and second-generation hibakusha, or people affected by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    The Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), based in the two cities, announced the latest results of its analysis of a survey of birth disorders among second-generation hibakusha in an April 16 online press conference. RERF chair Ohtsura Niwa said, "This is necessary to clarify whether they (birth defects) are due to genetic factors."

    The survey on second-generation hibakusha was conducted by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, which was established when Japan was occupied by the Allies after World War II, and some 77,000 newborns born in Hiroshima and Nagasaki between 1948 and 1954 were covered in the study. Analyses published in 1956, 1981 and 1990 did not identify a causal relationship between radiation exposure and birth defects or perinatal mortality.

    This time, RERF used the most recent exposure calculation and other methods, spending five years from 2015 analyzing the radiation exposure doses of the second-generation hibakusha fathers, mothers, and both parents of about 71,000 people. In all cases, increased exposure to radiation resulted in a tendency toward more birth defects and perinatal deaths. However, RERF came to the same conclusion as the past analyses, saying, "It's difficult to interpret it as a result of genetic effects directly due to the impact of radiation."

    In response to the analysis results, Niwa said, considering ethical issues and other problems, "We must be very careful, but discussions on genome analysis as the most relevant personal information have progressed. We would like to utilize the results of research on first- and second-generation A-bomb survivors for treatment."

    (Japanese original by Isamu Gari and Misa Koyama, Hiroshima Bureau)

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