Mumbai, February 9: A new study has revealed that the wolves living in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) have developed unique adaptations to cope with the high levels of radiation in the area. These adaptations include altered immune systems and increased resistance to cancer, which could have implications for human health.

The CEZ is a 1,000 square mile (2,590 square kilometres) region that was evacuated after a nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl power plant in 1986. The disaster released large amounts of radioactive material into the environment, posing a serious threat to human and animal life. Cancer Is Striking More Young People: Everything To Know About Early Onset of the Disease- a Concerning Shift in Cancer Demographics.

Secret of Chernobyl Wolves' Survival

However, some animals, such as wolves, have continued to thrive in the CEZ despite being exposed to chronic radiation. A team of researchers, led by Cara Love, an evolutionary biologist and ecotoxicologist at Princeton University, has been studying these wolves for nine years to understand how they have adapted to the harsh conditions.

The study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting in the US last month, involved capturing and collaring 14 wolves from the CEZ and taking blood samples from them. The collars were equipped with GPS and radiation dosimeters, which allowed the researchers to track the wolves’ movements and measure the radiation doses they received. Cancer Cases in Under-50s Jump Drastically Worldwide: Study.

Amazing Adaptations of Chernobyl Wolves To Cope With Radiation and Cancer

As per the IFL Science, researchers found that the CEZ wolves were exposed to 11.28 millirem of radiation per day on average - more than six times the legal safety limit for humans. They also discovered that the wolves’ immune systems and genomes were different from those of wolves living outside the CEZ.

The CEZ wolves had higher levels of white blood cells, which are involved in fighting infections and diseases. They also had lower levels of red blood cells, which carry oxygen in the blood. These changes could indicate that the wolves’ immune system was constantly activated and responding to the radiation stress.

The researchers also identified specific regions in the wolves’ genome that showed signs of natural selection and resilience to cancer. These regions contain genes that are involved in DNA repair, cell cycle regulation, and apoptosis - processes that are crucial for preventing and eliminating cancer cells.

Love said in a statement that these findings could help understand how humans could also develop resistance to cancer. She said that the wolves’ genome could provide clues for identifying gene mutations that could increase the chances of surviving cancer or reduce the side effects of radiation therapy.

She added that the study also aimed to raise awareness and appreciation for the wildlife in the CEZ, which is often overlooked or stigmatized. She said that the wolves and other animals in the CEZ were not mutants or monsters but survivors and adaptors. “Our priority is for people and collaborators there to be as safe as possible,” she said. “But we also want to highlight the amazing resilience and diversity of life in the CEZ.”

The study also observed similar effects on dogs living in the CEZ, which were descendants of the pets that were left behind by the evacuees. The researchers said that they planned to continue their work on the CEZ wolves and dogs, as well as other animals, such as bears, lynx, and moose, that inhabit the area.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Feb 09, 2024 04:20 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website