NAGASAKI – Nagasaki University has been preserving DNA from cells extracted from cancer-stricken A-bomb survivors since 2008 in an effort to identify tumors caused by radiation exposure.
“It may become possible to find distinctive features in DNA mutated by radiation through a detailed investigation of cancer cells from hibakusha,” said Masahiro Nakashima, professor of pathology at the university’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
With patients’ consent, both cancerous and healthy cells are extracted from the affected region. DNA and RNA are then taken from the cells, frozen at minus 80 degrees and stored in a DNA bank at the university. The work is being conducted at Nagasaki University Hospital and the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital.
So far, the university has collected 365 samples — not enough to reveal any distinctive features of cancers related to radiation. The situation is further complicated by the city’s aging atomic bomb survivors, whose average age now stands at 77½ years.
Nakashima said it is necessary to “devote all energy” to the research, despite a lack of manpower.
According to a survey conducted by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation on 94,000 hibakusha in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, a high possibility exists that radiation exposure was connected to cancer in 61 percent of patients exposed to 2 or more sieverts of radiation from the A-bombings.
It has not yet proved possible, however, to identify the causes of individual cases of cancer.
On the risk of developing cancer from small amounts of radiation emitted during the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Nakashima said “the investigation may open a door to research the effects of low-level exposure.”
School may be listed
The government will list a section of an elementary school damaged in the Nagasaki A-bombing as an important cultural asset, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has indicated.
Noda voiced the plan during a visit to Shiroyama Elementary School in Nagasaki on Thursday, where part of the damaged building has been preserved as a peace memoriam museum. The school is situated about 500 meters west of ground zero.
The prime minister visited the school, where some 1,400 students were killed by the “Fat Man” A-bomb, before attending the peace memorial ceremony to mark the 67th anniversary of the Nagasaki nuclear attack.
If designated, it would become only the second structure damaged by the August 1945 atomic bombings to make the government’s list after the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. The school also would become eligible for state support to carry out preservation work.
“I again recognized the importance of passing on the story of the school to future generations,” Noda told reporters, adding he will instruct culture minister Hirofumi Hirano to initiate proceedings to officially register the structure as a cultural asset.
France dreams of peace
France is just as passionate as Nagasaki about creating global peace, according to the country’s ambassador to Japan.
After attending the annual peace memorial ceremony Thursday to mark the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, French Ambassador Christian Masset Masset said he feels that serious efforts are being made to creating lasting peace.
Like the United States and Britain, France sent its ambassador to the Nagasaki memorial ceremony for the first time this year.
Masset said it is crucial to continue such efforts so nuclear arms are never used again, adding the stories of atomic bomb survivors must be passed down from generation to generation to prevent them from fading away.
Although France possesses nuclear weapons, it is a signatory to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and is working to reduce its arsenal, Masset said.